Corporations have Chief Information/Technology Officers (CIO/CTO’s) to ensure company technology, including the website, is properly aligned and able to support overall business objectives – a website alignment.
Why is this so important? If a car is out of alignment it drifts too far to the right or left without constant operator interaction. Not only is this a safety concern for the driver but also causes excessive wear on the car and tires and leads to costly repairs and early replacement. Operating a ship or plane can have disastrous consequences if a navigation compass is just one or two degrees out of alignment, resulting in a destination that is hundreds of miles off course over time and distance.
While a small business may not have the luxury of a CIO/CTO, that doesn’t mean it can’t rely on a website professional to keep a website aligned with business goals.
Before any alignment can happen though the business needs clearly defined long term and short term objectives. That’s beyond the scope of this post but something crucial to complete, document and communicate first. When ready, take a step-by-step approach to get the website lined up with the business game plan by looking at the design, content, strategies and metrics involved.
Trends in visual design and communications change all the time; styles, fonts, colors, layouts, etc. Does this mean a website’s design should change just as often? Not necessarily. Being in tune with your industry, your competitors and your customers will help drive this decision. Design trends can go away just as fast as they rise to popularity so a slow to adopt attitude won’t necessarily hurt you. But if for example the change is in response to a dynamic shift in technology, as with the rise of smart phones and tablets, and mobile responsive web design, a quicker response may be required. This doesn’t mean though that your ten year old website shouldn’t be changed, put yourself on a regular schedule to review and evaluate and using a theme driven content management system for your website makes transitioning to a new design faster and easier to accomplish.
This is truly the “bread and butter” of a website and often the most neglected. Google LOVES content, relevant content, content that is fresh and updated regularly. Increase the visibility and search relevance of your website by making sure it stays aligned with what your customers are looking for. Are all the products and services you offer up to date? Is the information about your company and your staff current? Is your contact information correct? Do all your content links work, do your outbound links work, or do they lead to missing and incorrect information? Is your sitemap correct, are some URL’s missing, are some URL’s incorrect? Schedule an annual audit of your website content and analyze how you appear to search engines.
With the design and content in place how do potential customers find the website and what actions and decisions are they encouraged to make? From Google AdWords to social media marketing and advertising there are many different ways potential customers can find your website. But what works best for your product or service? Does everyone get directed to the home page? Or do you have specific landing pages with targeted content based on an advertisement or link that gets a prospective customers attention. Once your website is found what specific actions do you drive, what next steps does a visitor take to becoming a customer?
What gets measured grows, what gets measured improves, what gets measured gets fixed. All of the above – design, content & strategies – are ultimately driven by the metrics gathered online from you website, social media and email interactions as well as internal business metrics regarding customers, sales, profitability and product, just to name a few. What a thorough analysis of these metrics can reveal will help build a better, more audience driven website and overall online strategy that aligns with where your business is growing and, more importantly, where your business wants to be in six to twelve months.