The preflight check list prepares all kinds of flights, from gliders to spaceships, for a successful mission. The completion of the checklist is complex work, involving many specialized resources and accurate inputs.
“If you truly understand that your Web presence is strategic to your business, then preparing it for a successful site launch and ongoing performance requires the completion of a similar pre-launch exercise,” advises Kevin Hourigan, president and CEO of Web design, Web development and Internet marketing agency, Bayshore Solutions. “Strategically addressing these points up front can often make the difference between a business’s online return on investment reaching the stars, or blowing up on the launchpad.”
Smart Business spoke with Hourigan about the mission-critical points to cover in order to have a best performing business website.
What is the formula for a successful website?
The mission of a website is to reach its target audience(s), resonate with them and catalyze them to take action (usually converting to a lead or customer). A prerequisite to all of this is knowing your target audience and how to connect and communicate with them in order to motivate the desired response. When this is complete, then you are ready to start designing and building your website.
Building a website combines a variety of technical specialties. Often the ideal approach for one specialty, say programming code efficiency, is a less than ideal tact for another, like allowances for visitor experience or customization for best SEO. There is a very real synergy and sweet spot among aesthetics, functionality, programming complexity, interface and usability that every website needs to attune to so it is primed for maximum success. This balance is unique to each business’s combination of target audience, product or service, and business model.
As you are designing, developing and preparing to deploy your website, putting it through what I call the ‘Easy’ checklist will help ensure that the correct and comprehensive preparations are taken for its successful business launch. But be warned: as with most things that look ‘easy,’ there is a lot of disciplined hard work that brings together the final polished result; in this case a fine-tuned, high performance business website.
What is the ‘Easy’ checklist?
The essence of the ‘Easy’ checklist is to be able to affirmatively answer that your website is clean, efficient and easy to interact with at all check-points. It must be:
- Easy to navigate: Is the navigation clear and consistent? Can your visitors find any piece of information they want in the least amount of clicks?
- Easy to experience: Are you using language, visual content and design aesthetics that resonate with and motivate your visitors? In less than five seconds will they understand: who you are, how you can help them and how they can take the next step or contact you? Do you have a mobile website customized for your mobile audience and their specific needs? Don’t waste your great, compelling content by making it not ‘easy’ to experience!
- Easy for search engines to read: Have you properly researched and identified your keywords? Are your correct meta data and search engine verification tags in place to promote them? Do you have HTML and XML Sitemaps, and are they linked in your site’s footer? Also, use Flash sparingly because search engines don’t read or interact well with it. When you do use it, make sure you incorporate underlying content that is search-engine friendly.
- Easy to transition: When launching a site that replaces an old one, are all your 301 redirects accurate and deployed to prevent visitors from finding themselves in a black hole instead of the page they thought they were hyperlinking to?
- Easy to monitor and review: Do you have analytics correctly attached to your site and all tracking and goals set up appropriately to help you make ongoing improvements and Web marketing decisions?
- Easy to edit: Do you have a good Content Management System (CMS) administrative interface to your website? Do you know how to effectively use your CMS so non-programmers (i.e. you and/or your marketing staff) can instantly make the edits and updates needed to keep your website current?
- Easy to convert: Are your calls to action clear and bold enough to take your visitor on your desired directed path (to becoming a lead or customer)? Are the forms you require them to complete made as easy as possible by only asking what you really need to know to convert the visitor or process their request? When forms are barriers, are they only set up where absolutely necessary? When they are lead or purchase gateways, can the visitor find them in one (or even zero) clicks?
- Easy to integrate: Is your website integrated with your Client Relationship Management (CRM) system, e-mail manager, and internal business process workflow and communications? Doing so will facilitate ongoing relationships, nurturing and service levels to your clients and prospects that are smooth, accurate and complete.
- Easy to find: Do you have your SEO website basics in place, and, more importantly, do you have a search marketing strategy and ongoing plan to keep and build your website’s best performance?
- Easy to connect and engage with: Is your website cohesively aligned and connected to your social media properties, local search profiles and other online presences? Again, do you have an ongoing strategy to maintain and make the most of this marketing channel?
As new pre- and even post-launch items arise in your Web presence, a great way to address them is by analyzing them in this light and then doing the needed work to make them ‘Easy.’ When these check points are addressed so that the interaction with your site is ‘easy,’ your website has a strategic ‘Go for Launch’ for a successful mission of bringing you leads, sales and measurable results.
For a snapshot of Bayshore Solutions’ Web marketing methodology, click to: www.BayshoreSolutions.com/method.
Kevin Hourigan is the president and CEO of Bayshore Solutions. Reach him at (877) 535-4578 or www.BayshoreSolutions.com.