February 20 2014

Sink or Swim? Start Thinking About Your Digital Plan.

A great website that launches without on ongoing digital plan is like having a wonderful pool that no one swims in. Take the plunge and don’t make the mistake of thinking that of your website is ever “done.”

Websites have evolved into multifaceted powerhouses
Websites have come a long way since the days of “brochure ware.” Visitors expect more out of websites, and so do businesses. What once was the mentality of “we need to have a website” is now “what can my site do for my business?” As such, thinking about how your website fits into your overall business plan is critical. Developing a great, strategic website is the first step, but the moment it launches marks the start of a new beginning for your business.

Establishing a continual publishing model
Great content has never been more important to a successful digital presence. According to the Content Marketing Institute, 73% of marketers plan to increase their investment in content marketing this year. Well-known consumer brands like Coca-Cola transformed their first generation sites into virtual online magazines. Savvy financial companies like American Express and many banks and credit unions have established microsites and blogs with custom content to educate audiences, attract them to their sites and support their brand. Even local mom-and-pop businesses understand that connecting to their audiences with the right kind of content is vital to the sustainability and uniqueness of their businesses.

Search engines prioritize good, fresh content. Social media thrives on great, shareable content. And your business and marketing needs should be continually evolving. Your website is the centralized tool to make that all happen. Begin by defining your target audiences, content types, internal/external resources, budget, legal parameters and publishing schedule. A carefully constructed and realistic content plan will serve as your blueprint for your business, so don’t overlook the importance of this effort.

Search engines change, so your site should follow suit
We use search engines every day, so we can’t help but notice their constant evolution. Their goal is to deliver the most accurate/relevant results so that people will continue to use them. The organic (free) results are produced based on ‘secret’ algorithms. Discovering the latest and greatest tricks is what keeps the SEO industry thriving. However, the one thing that has remained consistent over time is the continual process of evolving your SEO strategy to suit both search engines and users. A well-optimized site at launch is super, but rankings will slip as competitors do the same and deliver fresh, relevant content matching searchers’ needs. Partner with an SEO professional or agency that takes the time to understand best practices, separates trends from facts, and truly understands how SEO fits into your broader business goals. Additionally, consider investing in pay-per-click (PPC) advertising through Google and Bing to supplement your organic rankings. Google and Bing have both evolved their platforms to deliver highly advanced, targeted campaigns that deliver fantastic results for advertisers.

How will your site deliver a return on investment?
There are few things that disappoint us more than when a client wants a nice looking new website, but doesn’t ask how it’s going to be a valuable tool for their business and lead generation. The need to have a website is a no-brainer for any business these days, but understanding how that website can be a revenue-generation tool is so often overlooked that it has spawned a new generation of template, eye-candy websites.  A lot of freelancers and agencies can give you a fantastic looking website. But how is the website going to support your ongoing business goals and be a revenue-generation engine? That’s the real question you need to ask.

When planning your website, evaluate every single page against what action you want visitors to take. Some goals are going to be more measurable than others, but every page collectively contributes to the value of your digital presence. An FAQ page should alleviate customer frustration and support your brand likeability. A product page should make next steps crystal clear. Even a location finder should inform as to where additional information and resources can be accessed. Once you deliver the right experience, reference your site analytics for insights that can help fine-tune your efforts. A page that has a lot of visitors but few conversions means that it’s not resonating with the audience. A non-transactional page that has a high bounce rate needs some love. The bottom line is that understanding how your site is performing – even in less quantifiable ways like brand favorability – is essential to whether your digital experience sinks or swims.

It wasn’t raining when Noah built the Ark
Richard Cushing wisely noted, “It wasn’t raining when Noah built the Ark.” Translated to digital terms, plan your website for what’s to come. Think beyond the project and make sure you know exactly the role your site will play in your business and marketing plans. And don’t assume you can handle this all on your own. Great digital agencies do this every day and can tell you where to begin. So, before you navigate the waters of online marketing, place more emphasis on your digital planning to get more value out of your website.

Don't sink, swim. For more information about developing a comprehensive digital plan, contact ZAG Interactive.

posted by
Michelle Brown
Michelle Brown
VP of Sales & Marketing

ZAG Interactive is a full-service digital agency in Glastonbury, CT, offering website design, development, marketing and digital strategy to clients nationwide. See current job openings.