It’s great to have an idea of what you want your website to do before diving into the building process, but it can be hard to know where to start. There are decisions to make about design, search engine optimisation, content and – perhaps most importantly – how your website will deliver business results.
This article will list the top five things to consider before you build a website, and explain why these five tips will ensure your website is planned and designed in a way that ensures success.
1. Brand Strategy
Before you set up your website you need to know your brand inside and out. That means knowing what it stands for, who your target market is and the best way to communicate with them. This brand strategy will act as the foundation for all of your website’s content decisions. If you don’t know your brand’s strengths and weaknesses, you’ll struggle to produce compelling content. Your brand is how you communicate to your customers and potential clients so, before start building something like a website to promote your company, your brand strategy needs to be solid.
Your brand also needs to be original to stand out – something that a brand strategy helps with. If you try to follow in someone else’s footsteps (i.e. base your brand off another that has already filled a niche in your market) then there’s a good chance your brand will be lacking the thing that attracts buyers and your business won’t get off the ground. Having said that, industry research is a fantastic way to develop your brand. Researching what other businesses in your industry are doing will help you identify what works and what doesn’t.
2. Competitor Analysis
Just as with industry research, competitor analysis is a freely available resource to support the setting up of your business. Search out the websites that do what you want to do, and are doing it well. Analyse what search terms they’re targeting, how their website is structured and what kind of messages they’re putting out there. This will give you an idea of exactly what you need to do in order to stand out from the crowd and get ahead of your competitors.
Analysing your competitors and the market at large will inform you on how best to position yourself in the market but more importantly, it will help with search engine optimisation (SEO). You want to appear as high up Google search results as possible so make sure that everything from keywords, metadata (such as meta titles and descriptions) and links are thoroughly researched. Don’t limit yourself with what’s around now; think about things that could be relevant in 5 years’ time – don’t predict them but keeping an eye on trends in technology and society is a great practice.
3. Sitemaps And Navigation
Once you’ve done your competitor analysis, you should have a good idea of the search terms that people are going to type in when they’re looking for your services. Planning the best way to organise this information on your website will make search engine optimisation as simple as possible. If search engine optimisation is not factored into the sitemap, search engines won’t be able to access the full potential of your website.
An effective sitemap will allow search engines to crawl your website more efficiently, resulting in a better search engine ranking with fewer resources from you. It’s important that your sitemap is detailed with accurate page titles and meta descriptions so search engines can understand what each page on your site is about. If you need some help then there are plenty of online tools that can generate a sitemap for you, just remember that it needs to be done by hand rather than letting a robot do the work (a robot doesn’t know your business like you do).
4. Content Strategy
Having a search engine optimised website is all well and good but without any content it’s basically useless. To say that search engines are now fully dependant on the quality of your content would be an understatement; search engines are now intelligent enough to know whether or not what you’re writing is helpful or relevant to someone searching for that term. Plus, it’s not enough to have search terms on your pages, you need to know how they’ll work together. You can’t build links if search engines don’t understand what the content is about. So planning the types of content you want to produce (whether that’s a service, a consumable or written content), where this will fit in the market and with which web users, and where search engines will go when they crawl your website is essential.
A website succeeds when it responds to and grows with the market it’s in. The best way to do this is through analytics. This tip is one to look at as you build your site as you need to generate the information first, but you should have worked out who is responsible for monitoring and responding to this data ahead of time.
When your website goes live, you need to listen to what your site data is communicating. This means looking at how many users are clicking on your site, what pages are getting the most traction, how high your bounce rate is and are clicks converting to sales. This data helps your site grow, determine what search terms work best, and help you decide where to put your energy. There are plenty of services you can use to collect this data, Google Analytics being the most popular one by far. If the idea of analytics stresses you out don’t worry! You don’t need to become an expert overnight; you just need to be aware of what’s happening on your site will keep search engines happy and hopefully improve search rankings over time.
Once your site is well established you should carve out a few hours of every week or month (depending on how much data your site is generating) to go through reports so you know when changes need to be made. If the data starts to become too much for you to monitor, it might be time to consider getting the help of a digital analyst to keep you on track.
Once you have considered your digital strategy, performed competitor analysis, planned your site maps, worked out your content strategy and considered how you will manage your site’s analytics you are ready to build your site!
For more information about site building, digital strategies and content planning, contact us here to see how we can help your business.