If you have a web site, then you know the incredible amount of time and effort it takes to develop, update, and manage it. Many web sites exist without a clear plan, without any real cohesive thought as to what they are trying to accomplish. As with anything in life, it’s hard to get somewhere when you have no idea of where you are going in the first place.
A web site strategy is very similar to a business plan in that it lays out the goals and key information that will guide online activities. A website strategy works hand in hand with a business plan by outlining how the web site will contribute to the overall business goals.
In “Web Design for ROI: Turning Browsers into Buyers & Prospects into Leads,” Lance Loveday and Sandra Niehaus detail the key principles for successfully managing a web site for optimal return on investment (ROI). They suggest starting with a web site strategy document.
List the primary objectives for the web site. Objectives are your goals and they need to be measurable. (Example: We will increase our website revenue by 35% over the next year.)
List all the prospective customers. Create buyer personas for all the different types of customers that may frequent your site.
Create a list of questions that your prospective customers might ask when they visit your website. (Your website needs to answer these questions.)
Do a competitive assessment of 3 to 5 of your major online competitors.
Analyze your current traffic sources and project out your future traffic sources. Where is your traffic coming from now and how will your new online marketing initiatives change where that traffic originates?
List all the metrics you’ll use to track your progress and use the right metrics. Who cares how many page hits you have? You want to measure your conversion rate, which online marketing efforts are converting, what the cost per conversion is, and what long term trends are showing you.
Analyze your current website and prioritize design changes that need to take place. You can’t change every bad aspect of your site in a day. Prioritize. The ones that could have the largest effect on your bottom line should come first.
The web site will never be done. Monitor results. Test for improvements with products such as Google Optimizer. Learn. Repeat.
Loveday and Niehaus have created a web site strategy template that really simplifies the process. Fill in the blanks and end up with a document that can help put your web site on track for success.
I’ve made this document a standard part of my consulting practice. I’ve altered it a bit to fit the needs of my clients. I think you’ll find once everyone knows the direction to head in, it’s a heck of a lot easier to get there.