It may seem straightforward, but nothing trips up business folks more than the question, “What are the goals of a website?”
You see, these days, building a website for your business is one of those “necessary” steps. Most folks agree you need one and most businesses build them because they feel they should.
Unfortunately, building a website without considering why you’re building it often leads to a situation where the site becomes a constant drain on your time, attention and money.
Without goals your site is not living up to its full potential as a marketing tool.
Even worse, without goals your site is not living up to its full potential as a marketing tool for your products and services. What a waste.
So, to help you make the most of your site’s marketing potential, this post lists and discusses the 3 main marketing goals of a website. If your site is not achieving at least these three goals, it is not working as hard as it can to help your business succeed.
The “Front Line” of Online Marketing
Your customers are going to look for you online – believe it!
Your website is the online branch of your business. Even if you sell your products and services elsewhere online, or offline for that matter, your customers are going to look for you online – believe it!
Why? Because no matter what type of business you run, consumers often turn to the web to learn more about your company before they contact or visit you in the real world.1 This is true even for businesses that are completely offline:
If you own a restaurant, 53% of your potential customers want to research your restaurant online before making a reservation 2.
If you own a brick-and-mortar store, a detailed study has “found that consumers in all age groups tend to go online first for information about local businesses! In fact, 81% of the 18-34 year-old age bracket search online first, while 69% of the 35-59 year-old age bracket search for local business info online before venturing out.” 1
If you provide a service, you can’t depend on referrals alone. In fact, in 2011, after getting a recommendation about a product or service they may have wanted to purchase, 85% of consumers still went online to do additional research before deciding whether to purchase it and were more likely to make that purchase if they found additional recommendations on the web. 3
Since your site is typically the first exposure that potential customers have to your business, it becomes the “front line” for all of your online marketing efforts. If you do not have a site, you will not have a front line and you risk losing the battle for customers before it even begins.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Your potential customers expect you to have a website and, if you do not, you will likely pay the price by not winning their business.
Your Site’s First Marketing Goal
The first goal of your website is to build customer trust.
The first goal of your website is to build customer trust. Why? Because trusting people will buy your products and services; non-trusting people will not.
Therefore, it’s important for your site to be inviting and meet your visitor’s expectations. What do I mean? Let me use a real-world example to explain:
When you visit a store that is brightly lit and clean, you instinctively feel trust. Your trust grows when you can find what you’re looking for easily and then grows even more when you encounter helpful and friendly staff.
On the other hand, when you visit a store that looks abandoned and messy, you instinctively feel guarded and nervous. Your distrust grows if the store is organized poorly and it’s hard to find what you’re looking for and then grows even more if you encounter unhelpful and grumpy staff.
When it comes to websites, you want your site to be like the first real-world store, not like the second. You want everything about your site to build confidence that you are a great company with whom to do business. The table below shows how the real-world examples above translate to the online world and your website:
Good Real-World Store
Bad Real-World Store
Brightly lit and clean
Good design (fresh and up-to-date) with easy-to-read text and colors.Updated news, content and copyright dates assure folks that your business is alive and well.
Abandoned or messy
Bad design (or really old style) with hard-to-read text and colors.Old dates on news, content and copyright make folks wonder if you’re still in business.
Find what you’re looking for easily
Clear, consistent and easy-to-follow navigation that helps visitors achieve their goals.
Hard to find what you’re looking for
Confusing, inconsistent and hard-to-follow navigation that hinders visitors from achieving their goals.
Helpful and friendly staff
Provide 24×7 customer self-service through the use of frequently asked questions (FAQs), support knowledge-base and online chat.Provide a quick turn-around on all contacts from the site, even if it’s just an acknowledgement that you received their message.
Unhelpful and grumpy staff
Provide no way for customers to help themselves online.Be slow to respond to all contacts from the site. Do not update customers on the status of their message.
THE BOTTOM LINE
You only get one chance to make a good first impression and, these days, your site is often the place where that impression occurs. Make it a good one and build customer trust.
Just because your site needs to build trust by making a great first impression, you do not need to spend a ton of money and time on a website that wins awards for amazing-ness. That’s a mistake many businesses make, much to their regret.
You can build an inexpensive site that is clean, inviting and provides easy ways to get in touch with you, and just leave it at that.
You do not need to spend a lot of time and money to build and maintain an effective website that meets the expectations of your customers and allows you to reach your business goals.
Your Site’s Second Marketing Goal
The second goal of your website is to encourage and enable customers to take action.
The second goal of your website is to encourage and enable customers to take action. What actions you want your customers to take on your site depends on your business goals, but the three most common types of actions are:
Purchasing products or services,
Contacting you, and
Submitting forms (newsletter signups, contest entries and anything that allows you to capture personal information such as e-mail addresses, gender, age, income and any other info that can be used in further marketing efforts).
The key to getting your customers to take action is to include “calls to action” in every appropriate spot on the site. These calls to action should be:
Kept to as small a number as possible can so your customers do not become overwhelmed and end up taking no action. The calls to action you should make are the ones that best help you achieve your business goals.
Made as simple as possible. For example, if you want customers to sign-up for your e-mail list, make the form as simple as possible by asking for only the e-mail address and maybe the first and last name.
If you get over-ambitious and also ask them to fill in their gender, street address and more, many of your customers will see the form, get overwhelmed by how much they need to fill out and stop before they even start, even if the fields are not required.
Placed in appropriate spots in an attention grabbing, yet not gaudy, manner. Stay away from flashing banners and marching text.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Driving customer action is the goal of all marketing and that’s no different online. Enable your website visitors to take action with simple and clear “calls to action”.
As with any marketing tactic, you need to track the effectiveness of your calls to action. When a customer takes an action, this is called a “conversion” and it’s more important than any other metric you track online.
Many times, I’ve worked with clients who have a lot of traffic to their site, but do not see a lot of customers taking action (i.e. a low conversion rate), whether that’s sales, contacts or newsletter signups. After analyzing their site design, content and visitor analytics, we were able to make changes that increased conversions.
Some of these changes were as simple as moving the call to action to another spot on the web page, others were as complex as redesigning their marketing messages from scratch. Whatever it took – the goal was always to increase conversions because that’s what businesses need in order to achieve their goals online.
You need to track conversions to measure the effectiveness of your calls to action. If conversions are low, you need to adjust your site’s design and/or content to raise the number
Your Site’s Third Marketing Goal
The third goal of your website is to serve as a central spot to house your content.
The third goal of your website is to serve as a spot where you house your useful content so that search engines can find it and thus direct interested folks to your site (learn more in my small business guide, “Content Marketing”). These potential customers then read the content and are exposed to your products, services and marketing messages at the same time.
Of course, this goal is only applicable if you make use of inbound marketing. However, if you do, your site lies at the center of it all because that is where your content can be found.
Even if your content exists on other websites, you should always include that content somewhere on your site (see the table below for a couple of examples). This way, all of your content lives in one place that serves as the ultimate information resource for your potential and existing customers.
Where Content May Live
How to Include Content On Your Site
YouTube (you should host your videos here to gain better search engine exposure)
Use YouTube’s code to embed videos on your site.
Guest Posts and Articles
On sites that target the same market as you
Create a spot on your site where you link to these posts and articles.
THE BOTTOM LINE
A company’s website lies at the heart of any content marketing strategy. It needs to become the ultimate information resource for both potential and existing clients even if your content lives somewhere else online.
It’s important to remember that getting your target audience to your site using content marketing is only the first step.
If you do not achieve the first two marketing goals of a website, building customer trust and successfully encouraging and enabling customers to take action, all your work to get them there via content marketing will be for nothing.
THE BOTTOM LINE
High traffic to your website means nothing if your site does not successfully encourage visitors to take action.