Image source: CEOWORLD Magazine

Website Strategy: Proven "Ingredients" for Online Presence Success

Within such a competitive digital landscape, a well-thought-and-well-executed website strategy is definitely a game-changer, setting your business apart from the competition and empowering you to ride on the crest of a wave.
By Kaley Nguyen | 10 min read
on July 13, 2020
Image source: CEOWORLD Magazine

Understanding that website is an invaluable asset to shape the business success within the digital landscape, having a stunning site up and running isn't cheap and it won't just magically appear overnight.

Actually, there are so many moving parts on a website that the building process is typically filled with sleepless nights, endless meetings, and second-guessing almost every decision.

Let’s imagine what happens if after you go through such a tough marathon, your website still doesn’t generate traffic or convert leads and sales? Or even, it needs to be extensively overhauled inside of two years. The best way to avoid these nightmare scenarios is to establish your website on a solid foundation – or in other words, to map out a sturdy website strategy from the very first beginning.

Website Strategy: A Brief Look

There comes a question: What is exactly website strategy and why does it matter to your business profitability?

A website strategy refers to a long-term strategic business plan indicating how to create and develop a company's online presence adhering to the business development strategy. Or, simply put, it is a well-thought-out plan to achieve a specific set of goals for your site. To be effective, such a strategy has to take your prospects’, customers’, employees’, and search engines’ needs into consideration.

Should you be getting ready to devote your time, energy, and budget into a new website project, then an effective strategy is the critical first step. It’s the guiding truth to drive all the content and design decisions.

Key “Ingredients” of a Winning Website Strategy in 2020

Whereas there exists a myriad of components to consider when crafting a site strategy, it's a "must" that you distill down the most crucial things which need to be done in order to tackle improving or revamping the strategy of your website.

#1. Three Most Vital User Paths

When it comes to mapping out a website strategy, the absolute first order of business should be to determine the three primary things you wish people to do on your website. Should you try to skip forward to any of the other steps without first doing this, there's a possibility that you create a strategy that is disjointed - or build a user journey that is confusing.

And speaking of these three things, be 200% sure that they are all in the service of your greater goals for the website. For example, if your goal is to generate sales from your website, your top three actions should all be steps in the process toward getting someone in the door as a customer.

Then, for each of these, back up and identify the different pathways a person might take to end up in that place. To make it simpler, if your goal is driving users to request a demo for HRM software, you might look at the ways that they’d ideally end up in a place where they are ready to request that demo, which may be:

  • Recognize that it takes them too much time to schedule employees for their business
  • Research the problem
  • Find useful information and handy tips about how to schedule employees more effectively and efficiently
  • Learn about a product that can help them do it more easily – effortlessly and smoothly
  • Read about how that product applies to their unique situation or specific pain points.
  • Read about how the product works, and the most outstanding features
  • Figure out how much the product costs once they think the features are a good fit
  • Watch a short video demo of the most outstanding product features
  • Request a live demo with a salesperson

Whilst you might have multiple pathways to get to the same endpoint, putting in some deep thought as to what a real buyer would go through and, most importantly, what they would like to see at each step, will let you obtain crystal-clear insights into how to build out your website strategy that strongly supports that journey.

#2. A Clear Vision for Site Structure

Beyond any doubt, the structure stands out amongst the most critical "ingredients" of your site strategic "packages". As regard site structure, your goal should be to create one which empowers the users to move as quickly and easily as possible to complete the three primary things you identified in the previous step.

Actually, website strategy almost always begins here, as it should. And what has to be completed is a map for how someone will navigate the pages of your website so as to know which pages to even create. A great strategy for website structure will definitely help you to see a couple of things:

  • How your navigation menu (or menus) will work
  • How your content is structured and organized in your website
  • What types of pages you need
  • Which pages you need to create that may not be represented in your navigation
  • What will be in your footer

By and large, the website structure documentation will outline a combination of pages you wish to create, balanced with pages that may already exist on your website. It is your opportunity to not only to take stock of what you already have and what works well but also layer in your plans for what new pages you may desire.

Given a ton of various page types you may have, there remain some particularly indispensable pages for a well-functioning site as follows:

  • Home page 
  • The product/ service pages describing an individual product or service offerings you provide
  • Product/service listing pages walking visitors through an overall category or grouping of products/services; then, helping them to determine which is the right fit for them
  • Pricing pages breaking down pricing for your products/services
  • Comparison pages enabling people to compare your brand, your services/products to other alternative options that exist
  • Self-identification pages existing for a single unique type of visitor to get all the information that applies to them
  • A learning center allowing visitors to filter through and figuring out helpful or educational content you’ve created
  • Bottom of the funnel offer pages primarily for the purpose of converting visitors into known contacts and allowing them to initiate the sales process
  • Self-configuration tools helping visitors to narrow options as well as receiving customized recommendations

#3. An All-Round Vision for Your Pages

Once you’ve determined the types of pages you need, it is time to think about the kind of information that goes on those pages – which, again, should lean heavily on the user pathways you already formed.

To be more concise, on each page, you’ll wish to think through what piece of content a visitor will want to learn on that particular page, what their next step should be, and how to move them to that step.

You’d better off focusing on reducing noise as well as making the next step in the path as clear as possible to the visitor. To decide what to put on each page, let’s ask yourself …

  • Why did they choose to come to this page?
  • How did the user end up on this page?
  • Where should they be going next?
  • What information do they need in order to be comfortable taking the next step?
  • How can I make that next step as clear as possible for them?

An obvious insight into these questions will then let you come up with a pretty good idea of what kinds of information should live on the page, what calls-to-action you should feature, and how to keep the user moving through their journey.

#4. A Well-Thought Video Plan

Video is no longer just a “nice to have” but emerges as an “absolute must.”  Hence, ascertain that you have specifically outlined a strategy for what videos you need to create for your website as well as what pages those videos will live on.

Should you still vague about such a content format, there are some proposed “selling” videos that should be making an appearance on your website.

Video typeWhat it isWhere to use
80% videoVideo answering the most common questions of your prospectsIdeally put on FAQ pages or “how it works” types of pages
Employee bio video  Short videos where your team speaks directly to the camera and introduces themselvesIncluded on team or employee bio pages  
Product/service page video  Videos describing your product /service - the pains it relieves together with the benefits it offersHave a product/service style video on every product or service page
Landing page video  Videos to use on pages where you are asking visitors to fill out a form to help increase the conversion rate on those formsHave a landing page video on every page where you are asking someone to fill out a form or take the next step  
Cost videoVideos describing your pricing or how much a typical purchase might cost  Great for pricing pages
Social proof/testimonial video  Videos depicting a successful customer journey from beginning to endActually useful in a variety of places, but particularly impactful when discussed on the page about the product or service the customer is discussing
The “claims we make” video  Videos to demonstrate the claims you make as a business that tell you apart from the competition  Commonly shown on the home page and/or about pages  

#5. Detailed Technical Setup & Launch Plan

These “ingredients” are of utmost significance especially if you’re planning on redesigning your website.

To make it effective, it’s a “should” that you go through all of the previous steps in your strategy and clearly define any important functionality needs to accomplish the items in your strategy. Some common things that come up are:

  • Support for e-commerce
  • Integrations between tools
  • Interactive functionality (e.g. clickable maps, self-configuration tools)
  • Forms and contact collection
  • Database functionality
  • Subscription and email follow-up
  • Video hosting platforms and tools

Should these things be just too overwhelmed for you to handle, just seek a lending hand from someone with a bit more technical expertise to recognize all of these items or identify areas of your strategy that would require them.

Noteworthily, it is particularly critical to gather all of the functionality needs you have - or potential desired future functionality - and determine the best platform to manage your website that allows for those things.

No matter how obvious it may seem to be, this step usually gets overlooked - several people just try to do this first or otherwise separate from the rest of the strategy. Be 200% sure that you will never make such a mistake. After all, your business strategy and the technology you need to support it are always intertwined; thus, the related decisions must be made together.

Actually, choosing to leverage a certain technology platform without crafting strategy means you will likely pick something that will not allow you to do the things you need. Conversely, establishing a strategy without thinking of technology means you'll likely end up with a laundry list of things you simply can't execute without spending more on tools or using them completely wrong.

The Cost Breakdowns of a Website Strategy

When hiring an agency to lead your website strategy, the budget spent can vary substantially, ranging from roughly $2,000 to upwards of $12,000. The two overarching components that can drive the price either up or down are deliverables and packages.

A. Deliverables of a Website Strategy

As fore-mentioned, the website strategy for your business can consist of various moving parts as well as a multitude of different exercises. Such a list will vary depending on the amount of time you have and how in-depth you wish to go.

Understandably, the more deliverables you receive from your agency, the more your site strategy will cost. Following are the most common deliverables of a website strategy, divided into four key phases:

  • Discovery
  • Planning
  • Inspiration
  • Scoping

1. Discovery

Developing any strategy starts with discovery, which is the process of exploring the current state of your company, your clients, your competitors, and search engine data. Below are four exercises you may encounter during the discovery process:

Company and needs assessment

Extensive research can be conducted, which typically covers:

  • An analysis of your past, present, and future as a business
  • A list of your products and/or services
  • Top competitors and their differentiators accordingly
  • Target audience, their goals and pain points
  • Website goals

These pieces of information are typically collected in the format of surveys as homework before any strategy work begins, with a follow-up chat on the kick-off call. This type of assessment should come standard with any type of strategy package you purchase.

User interviews

Should you wish to take the discovery of your customer and sales history a step further, your web strategist may conduct interviews with past and current customers, as well as prospects who never bought from you. It’s a “should” to have a neutral party administering the interviews to ensure the gathering of honest, unbiased feedback.

And since it is time-consuming in nature, generally, user interview is only included in the more expensive strategy packages.

Customer empathy & value proposition maps

Amongst the biggest issues when evaluating a prospect's website is the one regarding their content - actually, several businesses’ website information is all about them, which is a telling sign that their current website strategy may be broken.

Simple yet super-powerful ways to address these issues are to leverage customer empathy and value proposition maps. As regards the empathy map, this is a tool employed when collecting data about customers to better understand the business's target customer base. Quite similar to a user persona, empathy maps visualize customer needs and condense customer data into a brief chart, enabling you to know what your customers actually want - not what you think they want!

The strategy covering these exercises typically begins at the mid-level price range of around $5,500 and up.

Keyword research

For those who are not in the know, each core page of your website will be strategically assigned a unique primary keyword. This primary keyword may be used in the page title, header tag, URL, meta description, and page copy.

Whilst it is imperative for search engine optimization, keyword research is not ordinarily a part of lower-end strategy packages. As the word “research” implies, it’s a labor-intensive undertaking.

2. Planning

when it comes to website strategy, the planning phase assumes an important role since it’s where you begin to get a visual idea of the structure taking shape.

Sitemap

A sitemap is a fundamental step in any website strategy project, which consists of your main site navigation, as well as any other pages on your site that don’t live in the main menu.

Ideally, your sitemap will be set up as a diagram, with boxes representing each page. Being able to see exactly how the pages link together allows for a greater understanding of how the finished site will look.

User flow

In addition to sitemap, user flows are a brilliant tool for planning the paths you’d like users to take on your site. A strategist will start by considering the top entry pages, which are usually blog posts, and then think through the next steps a visitor might take. How can you lead users from point A to point B in a way that works for them and you? While there are many ways to reach the final destination, which is typically a lead conversion, the goal here is to highlight the ideal flow.

Because user flows are mostly assumption-based, they tend to fall into the nice-to-have rather than the must-have category. Oftentimes you’ll only see them included in the higher end strategy packages.

Page strategy

Another critical move is to craft page strategies – the smarter your page strategies are, the closer you get to understand how your new website will lay out before wireframing and design.

To make it impactful, your strategist shall note the main goals of the site as a whole and then get more granular on a page by page basis by defining the following for each:

  • Overall page goal
  • Section name
  • The primary goal of each section
  • Content notes
  • Visual notes or inspiration

3. Inspiration

To put it simply, design inspiration is an advantageous add-on to lower and mid-range packages. Its ultimate aim is to keep your team aligned on aesthetics from the outset. As a rule, it will start with a web designer sharing example sites to gain an understanding of your likes and dislikes.

Based on the information garnered, the web designers may then create an element style guide - or mood board. Employing your branding guidelines as a base, they may provide you with sample font pairings, icon stylings, photo treatments, background textures as well as other graphical samples. After a design direction is agreed on, the web designer will move into a high-fidelity mock-up of your home page, adopting the page strategies already determined by the web strategist.

4. Scoping

The last but obviously not least deliverable that should be part of all website strategy projects is a scope for the website redesign project.

On top of forming a solid strategic plan for your site, one of the most valuable aspects of a website strategy is to determine how much the project is going to cost, which is subject to your specific needs and requirements.

Another notable element that’s commonly included during the scoping phase is a project timeline – which will point out what needs to be completed by specific dates as well as who is responsible for each task.

Up to this point, your strategy work seems to be already complete; thus, you’re more likely to receive an accurate and realistic time frame for the project.

B. Website Strategy Packages

There goes without saying that the particular package you pick does perform a pivotal role in driving the price of your website strategy.

And speaking of site strategy packages, there are some common ones that are worth your close attention: workshops, a separate strategy project prior to the website design/build starting, or they include strategy as the first stage of the website redesign project.

Let’s take a look over the following table to grasp a better understanding of these already-mentioned packages as well as the remarkable benefits and drawbacks of each.

 Website strategy package
Strategy workshopBrief description
- Generally, a half or full-day intensive hands-on collaborative effort for creating a website strategy
- Typically run between $1,000 - $4,000
- Deliverables included are a company and needs assessments, sitemaps, and scoping

Benefits
- Quick turnaround time
- Cost
- A chance to work with the team before making a larger investment
- A general idea of the website project cost

Drawbacks
- A limited number of deliverables included
- No time for reflection
- No design inspiration
- The remainder of the strategy work will be added to the price of your site  
Separate website strategy projectBrief description
- Often takes place over three to five weeks, depending on the number of deliverables and their complexity
- Typically run between $5,000 to $12,000

Benefits
- A true deep-dive into strategy
- A chance to work with the team before making a larger investment
- A full home page design before the web redesign project starts off
- The most accurate project scoping method

Drawbacks
- Higher upfront cost
The first stage of a website redesign projectBrief description
- The cost of the strategy is typically baked into the main website project; thus, rather than paying ahead of time, it is added as part of the overall project scope.

Benefits
- No upfront costs

Drawbacks
- Scoping may be based on the existing site, not your specific needs
- Possibility of making a large investment without “trying before you buy”

The Bottom Line

Within such a competitive digital landscape, a well-thought-and-well-executed website strategy is definitely a game-changer, setting your business apart from the competition and empowering you to ride on the crest of a wave. After all, a solid foundation has to be laid if you expect your website to reach its maximum potential and help you ignite your online success.

Should you find these site puzzles too overwhelmed to handle, we’re here with a lending hand.  Should you need any help with a dedicated team to eliminate the guesswork and get your business exposed to the digital world, don’t hesitate to get an online presence manager.

This article is also credited to Erica Pierce and Stacy Willis.

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