Websites are popular platforms for digital marketing.
Online marketing campaigns, eCommerce, mobile apps, social media, even word of mouth referrals all rely on a sophisticated web environment that performs reliably.
Design alone can’t ensure an effective, secure, and scalable website – a web project must take technological trends, as well as marketing strategy, into account.
Building a website is an investment with a pretty big price tag. According to Improving IT Project Outcomes by Systematically Managing and Hedging Risk, a 2009 IDC report by Dana Wiklund and Joseph C. Pucciarelli, some 25% of all website projects fail to launch after the budget is spent – and some companies even go over budget by as much as 60%.
Web projects go over budget because the website fails to meet the business’s actual needs. So, when there are new project requirements, additional changes have to be made, which make things expensive.
It’s like adding a basement to a house after the house has already been built.
Why are the business’s needs so hard to predict?
As industry outsiders, company owners may not have a clear idea of what they need on a website before they start building one – because there are many factors they may not be aware of.
All too often, business owners think that having a new website means they will automatically be rewarded with more traffic and, as a result, more business.
But things don’t work out like that.
In order to get new business opportunities from the internet, owners have to constantly launch new digital marketing campaigns so that they can attract and retain their online traffic.
This is true even when a business relies heavily on customer referrals because other competitors can track down the people who go to that website and poach them with ads.
Fortunately, it’s possible to counteract this practice with some digital marketing techniques, but that’s another topic for another time. Here’s a case study about it if you are interested:
Digital marketing is a fast-paced chess game.
Unlike other traditional marketing channels, it demands that business people monitor competitors’ activities every couple of days in order to understand their results. This means businesses have to deploy and test new marketing techniques rapidly.
It also means a digital marketing team requires heavy technical support – which explains why the needs of the website are so unpredictable.
Even though digital marketing campaigns are always unique, the functionalities that they require from the website are predictable.
For example, if a B2B company wants to run a weekly newsletter campaign to educate its potential customers about industry trends, that company’s website must have a blog and a newsletter subscription function. The content of each newsletter will be different, but the functions required to issue it are the same for all newsletters.
One solution to the problem of unpredictability is to have a multi-disciplinary team of digital marketing specialists gather objective data to build a complete website strategy, including recommendations for features, functionality, content and digital marketing methods.
This way, business owners can foresee all the potential needs for the website and be confident that the completed website will be ready to do its job without delays, budget over-runs, or scope creep.
What’s In A Website Strategy?
A website strategy can take from two to four weeks. Here are the things that you or your agency should do.
Part 1 – Research your business and industry
- Preliminary Research On The Industry
Gain an understanding of how the industry works. Understand the business model, services or goods provided, and the common target customers segments.
- Preliminary Research On The Business
Oo identify your competitive advantage, you have to research it through the internet because this will help you or your agency understand whether people see the value of your company through your online presence.
- Competitors Discovery
Through industry research, your agency can see your most threatening competitors on the Internet and focus the competitive research around them.
Part 2 – Know what’s working, what’s not, and what should be working
Your agency should meet some key members of your company and discuss the current website, as well as the objectives of the new website.
- Business Owner Interviews
Besides having the website get more business, business owners sometimes have personal reasons for investing in a new website, e.g., some business owners rebuild their website in order to sell their company at a much higher value.
- Marketing Manager Interviews
To understand what’s required of the website in the original marketing plan. If your agency had implemented a digital marketing campaign before, they should know how the performance and how the new website will facilitate their execution.
Part 3 – Current Website Performance Audit
If there’s an existing website already, your agency should be able to unearth hidden issues on it that undermine marketing performance. Knowing this data will set a benchmark for your agency to surpass with the new website. Here are the things that your agency should check:
- Website Loading Speed
If your website has a long loading time, people are likely to leave the website immediately. It’s bad for the user experience. Due to poor user experience, ad networks will punish you by increasing your ad cost. Search engines will also rank you lower because they are trying to serve their users, a good browsing experience.
- Website Traffic Quality Analysis
You have 1000 people browsing the website from Australia, but if you only serve the Vancouver market, the traffic is not going to convert. Knowing the traffic quality let us find out if it’s your website that is not converting, or if we are simply talking to the wrong people.
- Search Engine Crawlability
This step will help your agency evaluate how search engine friendly your website is. If you can surf your website, it doesn’t mean the bot from Google knows how to serve your website. There might be coding issues blocking Google to fully index your website.
- Backlinks Audit
Backlinks are the most important factor that Google considers when they rank your website. A backlink audit analyzes your current links (also called your link profile) and evaluates how good they are for your site. It also reveals any risky links and shows you how you can improve your SEO strategy.
- User Friendliness Audit
Your agency can find out if a website is user-friendly by looking at the user’s behavior on the website. Usually, website with bad user experience sees a much higher bounce rate.
- Mobile Responsiveness
If the website looks good on your devices, it doesn’t mean it would look good on other people’ devices. You have to run systematic browser and resolution tests on your website to see if the website looks good on all devices.
Part 4 – Research & Compare Competitors Marketing Activities
Your agency should gather data on your competitors’ digital marketing activities and their performances to see where they should invest their digital marketing budget. Once you get to know your marketing channels, you and your agency can complete the website feature list and set priorities on the features based on the potential return of a digital marketing campaign.
- Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Audit
SEO audit checks if your website is structured in a way that search engines understand. There are many aspects to SEO, from the words to URL’s, all these have to be structured correctly. This step helps us evaluate your website and competitors’ search engine friendliness and visibility.
- Search Engine Marketing (SEM) Audit
If you had a plumbing company and you googled the keyword “Vancouver Plumbing Service,” which position would you see yourself on Google? Front page? Second page? What about your competitors? Are they ranked higher or lower than you with that keyword? Through SEM audit, you can see what keywords are associated with your website and your competitors’, as well as where you and your competitors rank for those keywords on search engines.
- Content Audit
Conducting a content audit for SEO purposes will help you to identify any weak spots in your site’s search engine optimization, as well as in your competitors’. Some business competitors cover only a bare minimum of services on their website. A good agency will take advantage of this and help create multiple location service pages for your website.
- Social Media Audit
A social media audit is a process of assessing what’s working, what’s failing and what can be improved upon comparing your competitors’ social media channels.
- Backlinks Portfolio Audit
First, you or your agency should examine your competitors’ backlinks portfolio to get a sense of their backlink sources. Then, you can see if employing a strategy to build backlinks from other relevant, credible, and authoritative domains is financially feasible.
- Moz Domain Authority / Page Authority Audit
Moz developed Domain Authority (overall website ranking) and Page Authority (individual pages) to predict how well a website ranks on search engine result pages using numerical analysis. It gives you a score for your website’s domain authority and page authority. Knowing these numbers will help you know the potential challenge to executing certain marketing strategies with the new website.
- Pay-Per-Click Campaign Audit
This will help you see what keywords your competitors are bidding on, how much they are bidding for each keyword and also what their ad copy is like. Through this, your agency can see if PPC is the right channel for you because you can see whether you can outbid them or write a better ad copy.
- Facebook Ads Spy
With the right elements in place, using Facebook ads can bring your business truckloads of leads and sales. By spying on your competitors, you can see what the right Facebook ad elements are for your industry. You can see if you can replicate similar elements or exceed the current standard by looking at the required effort and resources to do so.
- Competitors’ Websites Traffic Audit
Last but not least, after getting a sense of the marketing activities of your competitors, you and your agency would want to know how much traffic your competitors get. This way, you’ll know what’s working for them, what’s not, their digital marketing spend and the results. From this, you can also predict the results of your future digital marketing campaign results.
Part 5 – Audience Definition and Research
Knowing your audience will help your agency identify the key features that must be included on your site. You’ll need to make sure you include whatever it is that your target audience will want to be able to do on your website. It is also a way to help refine the digital marketing methods selection because different people have different ways to look for services and products.
Part 6 – Digital Marketing Methods Recommendations
Following on from the previous steps, your agency should formulate a set of digital marketing methods specifically for your company. It should prioritize the digital marketing methods by its potential return on investment. For example, if your competitors do not run any pay-per-click campaigns at all, running one would be the easiest and quickest way for your company to attract traffic.
Part 7 – Designing The Ideal Website Structure
Based on your company’s goals, your audience and our marketing recommendations, your agency should develop a full set of requirements for features functionality and content.
The first phase of your website may not necessarily have everything yet, potentially due to budget constraints, then in the case, you will just have the major features implemented first.
In the future, when things allow, your website can easily expand to have the remaining required pages without making big changes to the site, which, again, could be expensive.
Part 8 – Website Strategy Presentation
Good digital marketing agencies will go through the whole website strategy with you. During the presentation, they will discuss and set the priorities for the features and pages.
They will leave out things with lower priorities to make sure they can complete the project within the given time and budget.
Once this strategy is refined, they will begin the website design and development project. See how they might proceed with designing and developing your website.
What to do now?
A website strategy is seldom mentioned in a web design and development project because it’s time-consuming and require multiple marketers with different disciplines to look at it. The extra time and talent will drive up the project cost, but its value is seldom appreciated by their prospect – if not explained well.
If the strategy is included in the quote, it will reduce the quote’s appeal because people are price-sensitive.
At the same time, a web agency’s job is to draw and build a pretty website. Marketing is off the scope. They aren’t responsible for the marketing results, so it makes a lot of business sense to just ignore the strategy in the web development project.
However, our company’s mission is to provide highly accountable and reliable marketing services, so businesses better serve their communities.
Hence, we have created this performance guarantee:
If for any reason, your users don’t find the new website engaging, we will fix it for you – free of charge – until they do.
and to fulfill this guarantee, having a website strategy in place is fundamental. You can read more about our guarantee here.