The number one thought on every marketer’s mind today is how to build a site that sells. It’s the million-dollar question that every company is constantly thinking about– one that teams spend countless hours and resources working towards.
So how do you build a website that stands out from the crowd, draws visitors, and converts those visitors into paying customers? How do you represent your brand accurately and credibly?
We’ve put together a step-by-step guide to reach that end goal.
Before starting to work on your website, create a brand strategy that you can refer to and build on. Building a website without some sense of direction for your brand is like trying to build furniture without instructions – the result will be confusing and inconsistent.
The best brands spend months planning out exactly what their voice is, what their aesthetics are, what colors represent their company, and what message they intend to put out.
More importantly, your brand strategy will represent how you see your brand growing in the next 5 to 10 years – it is a blueprint for your success, and will differentiate you from your competitors.
Although a brand strategy can feel like an intangible and subjective process, there are quite a few resources to get you started; try these essentials document by Hubspot which goes in detail about the elements to consider in your strategy.
An important point to consider is which stakeholders will have input on your branding strategy. In general, you should involve marketing, sales, and other executive leaders in your company.
The goal is to come to a cohesive understanding of the vision of the company, and how you are going to present yourselves to your audience. Everyone’s input matters, and it will help shape the website.
Another crucial point in this process is creating content that represents your brand well (think marketing materials, website copy, blog articles, etc). Spend time creating content before the website goes live – it’ll save you time in the long run, and will help in the process of establishing your brand voice.
The content management system you select can have the potential to make or break your business in the long run. The reason for this is that once you commit to a specific CMS you have to consider the costs of hiring talent to maintain it. You don’t want to later realize that you have to migrate to a different system because what you selected is not flexible enough for your needs.
The questions you should ask yourself are – how often will I be updating my website, and how difficult is it to administer?
Let’s say you want to eventually undergo a major rebrand or integrate a complex new feature – is the CMS an open source system that has the capability to adjust to your new strategy or is it a proprietary software?
Some of the most popular open source content management systems include WordPress, Drupal, and Joomla!.
Depending on your resources, your company could also consider building a website from scratch. This decision is entirely dependent upon your business needs and where you see your company in the future.
Some factors to consider when selecting your CMS is how flexible you need your system to be (including the types of plugins that are readily available for you to use), what your budget, time, and resources are when building out your website, and what type of business you run (i.e. e-commerce, B2B, etc.).
One detail that is incredibly important to the success of your site is user experience (or UX design) – the way you visually present yourself to your audience and the ease of use of your site can be the deciding factor between whether someone chooses to engage with you or a competitor.
A website that feels old-fashioned or is not mobile-optimized is likely to struggle in today’s highly competitive environment.
Give your design team resources to understand the most essential UX design principles that can be applied to your website. A great resource is Usability.gov – they have documents and tutorials outlining everything you need to know about branding and visual design.
UX does not mean making something look pretty; it stands for user experience, as in giving your audience an all-encompassing web experience complete with functionality that is easy to understand and visually appealing.
Want to test whether your current website has good UX? Gather a room of ten people who have never seen your site and ask them to navigate it. Note where they get stuck and address those problems.
More than anything, a website today must be mobile optimized – in fact, over half of all traffic to websites today comes from mobile phones and tablets.
But if you already have an established site, optimizing it for mobile can prove challenging. Evaluate whether it’s a job that can be done with your development team or an outside agency.
Mobile optimization is also an important feature since Google now indexes by mobile-first. So build your website using responsive HTML5 which will allow it to render on any screen size and resolution.
On the backend, when it comes to designing mobile pages in HTML5 you will be able to stack various sections of the desktop versions of your pages right on top of each other, thus allowing the mobile version of the pages to render properly even on smaller screen sizes.
There are several component libraries facilitate designing for mobile, but the top-rated is Bootstrap.
So you’ve now built this gorgeous new website and you are ready to show it off to the world – but how do you know what users are doing, who they are, where they are coming from, if they’re completing your goals, and which of your marketing campaigns are generating revenue?
This is where analytics tools come in. Integrating tools like Google Analytics, Facebook Analytics, and Adobe Omniture will not only help you track traffic but also see whether your marketing campaigns are effective.
In order to make the platforms work you have to install a tracking script on all of your pages (one script from each platform). The problem with this method is that adding all these scripts to your website will slow down page load speeds.
This is where Google Tag Manager comes in.
GTM uses a single container script which can be used to fire the various scripts from the other tracking platforms. This ensures that the website page speeds are not hindered since only one script fires upon page load (the GTM container).
The GTM container should go on every page of your website, and should be placed as high up on the pages as possible (i.e. right after the opening <head> element). A secondary script is placed just after the <body> tag as well. This completes the installation.
If you would like to learn more about how to implement GTM and Google Analytics check out this blog post which goes into great detail.
Search engine optimization is the process by which efforts are taken to make your website in line with Google’s policies and guidelines. Generally speaking, this means that your website should present a good user experience for both humans and bots alike.
Most other search engines follow suit of Google, so if your website makes them happy, it usually is enough to make the others happy too. This results in more organic traffic to your website.
There are a plethora of things you have to do to your website to make it fully compliant with Google. Additionally, SEO is confusing and an often misunderstood field – luckily, there are SEO guides available that can help demystify it and help you find ways to optimize your site.
As a first step after your site has launched run a discovery audit.
To do this, go to Google’s Webmaster Tools Portal and enter all versions of your website (i.e. with and without www, and with and without https). Verify you’re the owner of each property using your newly installed Google Tag Manager script and set the preferred location of your target demographic.
Doing this will produce a list of recommendations for your website by Google. Repeat the process for both Bing and Yahoo using Bing Toolbox.
Even if you have 100,000 visits per month to your website each month, if none are converting into customers then you’re just wasting your time.
Converting users into paying customers is the most important part of web design, and squeezing as much revenue out of your traffic is one of the key components to success.
The process by which you tweak your website to increase these visitor to customer conversion rates is what is called conversion rate optimization (i.e. CRO).
Give more time and effort to this aspect of your web development – even nominal increases in conversion rates yields large revenue sums.
Be sure to display your signup forms and contact phone numbers in places that are easy to find. Present offers that are easy to understand, and use enticing colors and call-to-action (CTA) buttons everywhere.
The goal is to build a website where the architecture and content should guide users to complete an action (think of a prospect journey to an end destination or a sales funnel). Additionally, testimonials and case studies that build credibility are a must.
Another crucial part about CRO is page speed and load time – in general, you have less than a minute to generate interest after someone lands on your site. If ten of those seconds are spent on your site loading then your chances of converting the end user are lowered.
Once your website is up and running start tracking user behavior. Use your GTM instance to install heatmap analytics tools like Hotjar or MouseFlow.
These tools will help you understand exactly how users are interacting with elements on your page (i.e. how far are they scrolling, are they clicking on buttons, are they hovering over forms, are they reading your content, etc).
Personalizing your website is also very important. Adding “About the Company” pages, “Meet the Team” pages, etc help bring the human element to your website and builds trust. This increases conversions because it makes users feel comfortable knowing there are real people on the other side.
At the end of the day anyone can build a website (that’s easy), but not everyone can build a website that represents your brand in a credible light, draws traffic, and converts that traffic into customers.
The only thing that matters is; how much revenue is your website is generating? At Xoobo, we live by this mantra. If you are looking for a partner to help you build a profitable website (or rebuild an existing one), then please don’t hesitate to reach out to us!
Join the discussion below and tell us about your experience building websites!
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