Earlier this year was the 25th anniversary of the world’s first public website going live. In case you’re like me and forgot to celebrate this momentous occasion, let’s take a forward looking approach and start talking about the second quarter century of the life of the website.
For business owners or in-house marketers who manage websites, it’s no secret your company’s website is your most powerful marketing tool. But what should it function like, look like and sound like to stand out in the digital crowd? The Forward Level team has been talking about the future of websites (especially with the launch of our new site) and here’s what we think.
Your forward-looking website is…
1. Aligned with your marketing strategy.
Your company should have a marketing strategy with marketing goals, target audiences, brand/key messaging and other important sections. It provides direction for all your marketing initiatives, especially your website. From defining who you’re trying to reach, to what specifically you want to promote or grow, to how you say it on your website, your marketing strategy is your true north.
A responsive website “responds” to the device it is being viewed on, changing elements to adapt to the size of the phone, tablet or other mobile device, thereby improving the user’s overall mobile experience. Today, mobile accounts for 38% of total worldwide daily Internet use and this number is expected to rise each year. This fact, combined with Google’s algorithm change in 2015 to rank responsive websites higher in search results, means if your website isn’t responsive, you could potentially be losing out on a lot of business. Now is the time to make it happen.
3. Designed for conversions.
The forward-looking website is a clean, sleek, and modern creature. When I look at my favourite new websites, I marvel at the creativity, simplicity, and beauty of what web designers are capable of these days. Your website should be visually engaging with original design elements that provide easy navigation and entice the user to browse the site – anchoring them until they take action to reach out and connect.
With so much noise on the Internet these days, how do you make your content stand out from your competitors? Focus on making it highly engaging. Speak directly to your target audience and communicate your brand and business’s purpose with compelling, informative, inspiring, and educational content – the kind you don’t see on your competitor’s sites. Google values content-rich sites, but how do you pull off a website that accommodates a lot of content without overwhelming your audience? Make it easier to digest by breaking it up with design, bullets, varying font sizes, and shorter line breaks. Website content should also include your brand messaging, keywords (see #5), and clear calls to action.
5. Search engine optimized.
When it comes to keywords, link building, H1 tags, meta descriptions, and other technical SEO jargon, a SEO expert is your best friend. If ranking high in search engine results is important to you (which it should be), being the best in your industry simply isn’t enough to ensure your site is listed on page one of search results. You will likely need to invest money and time into SEO to rank high, but it can pay off in spades.
6. Dynamic and evolving.
The forward-looking website is far from static; in fact, it’s like a living, breathing organism. Through multimedia or updates such as videos, blogs, a portfolio of your work, original photography, motion graphics, podcasts, team/news/event updates – on a regular basis – your website will be alive and thriving. We believe the use of multimedia offers a more authentic user experience, forging a connection that encourages your audience to keep coming back. Consider options such as video or blogging as creative outlets to set you apart, educate your target market, allow your personality to shine, and increase your search rankings.
Google Analytics is a powerful tool, and if you’re not currently taking advantage of it, now is the time. It is your complete analytics overview of site activity – how many visits and to which pages, where people are coming from, which campaigns are doing best, how long people are staying on each page… the list goes on. Create key performance indicators (KPIs) and allow the metrics to help you continually improve your site.
Like a marathon runner who is always pushing to be better, you too can push to continually improve your website. If you put in the work, your website can be everything from your company’s first and lasting impression, to an often-visited resource, to a tool that helps your business grow. Make it count.