For business owners and their marketing managers, the role of the firm’s website has fundamentally changed. A firm’s website is a key asset in generating a consistent stream of leads for the sales team. A site is no longer just an “online brochure”.
This blog outlines the seven “must haves” for today’s websites. If your site is missing these capabilities you’re missing out on revenue. Plain and simple.
Why the big changes? The main reason is the buyer is in charge of the buying process like never before. Research (Forrester and Corporate Executive Board) consistently shows that over 60% of the buying journey is completed before a buyer reaches out a vendor and its sales team. Even if they complete their purchase off-line with their favourite salesperson, you can be sure that earlier decision stages have been heavily influenced by online searching and your online presence. Not only the way your present yourselves to visitors but the ability of your website to capture leads and continue to nurture them until they are ready to speak with sales. Your website is a key part of your ability to generate a healthy consistent stream of quality leads for your salesteam.
So, without further ado, here are the 7 pieces of core functionality your website must have:
1. Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
You can have the greatest looking website on the planet but it’s not going to matter if it can’t be found. SEO uses techniques that get your website listed on Google. SEO is a science in its own right and is subject to regular and sweeping changes by Google. Business owners and marketers should engage with an expert they can trust to keep their site optimised. Without effective SEO, the only people that will see your webpages are those who already know your company name and type in your URL. SEO ranking is determined by keywords, content you write, how your content is shared on social media platforms, and a wide variety of other factors. Your site needs to be optimised to tick all these boxes. These are table stakes.
2. Powerful Landing Pages
A landing page is where searchers end up when they click on a link in their searches. Powerfully written landing pages engage the visitor and draw them in. If you do a great job they will stick around; if you don’t, they will be gone in a flash. Make sure your site has the ability to build landing pages easily and create content quickly to reflect the latest changes to your business. They must be able to capture a visitor’s information via easily created and embedded forms.
3. Exciting & Engaging Content
Good, interesting, relevant content has always been, and always will be, king. All your SEO efforts, fancy website technology and killer landing pages are all useless without interesting content that grabs people’s attention.
Creating content can be challenging, but the basic rule is to focus on your buyer’s problems and needs. Avoid the temptation to talk about how wonderful your own products or services are, unfortunately your buyers really don’t care! Content can come in multiple formats from the website page copy itself to blog articles, to downloadable items such as whitepapers, eBooks, short videos, Infographics, customer case studies, demos and free trials.
Put your most valuable content behind a form and ask your visitors for their contact information. Guess what…you have a new lead! Read more in our free eBook on the content marketing revolution.
Note that as a buyer progresses through their buying journey their information needs shift from informative, educative content to more specific business needs based content. Its very important you develop content that matches your buyer’s requirements at these different stages.
The statistics around blogging are undeniable. Companies that blog generate 55% more website visitors, 97% more inbound links, and have 430% more indexed pages by Google according to recent research. Blogging works because it adds lots of indexable content to your site (think SEO) offering the search engines and more importantly your visitors, engaging content that is fresh and up-to-date. It is vital to build a blog that is fully integrated on your site and not sitting off to one side on another domain name. Otherwise all that valuable “SEO juice” you create by your regular blogging simply leaks away.
Blogging is probably the single most important activity you can engage in to attract visitors to your site. But be warned, it requires commitment. Once per week is really the minimum. Ensure you allocate the role of “blog publisher and editor” to someone. They don’t have to do all the work, but they are the one responsible for making sure blogs are posted on time and on topic.
5. Social Media Integration
Social media is here to stay. But exactly how each industry and each organisation uses social media varies widely. Social media should be viewed as a communication channel for your business. It’s a way of extending your web presence beyond the pages of your website. Social media works best when it can feed on quality content and so works particularly effectively when combined with points 3 and 4 above. Make sure your site is social media enabled. Make it easy for your visitors to follow you on various social media platforms in a single click. Ensure you have social sharing buttons on your website pages so visitors can share a blog post on LinkedIn or retweet it easily to their own networks.
6. Calls-To-Action (CTAs)
Calls-To-Action are critical elements in creating action in your visitors and leads. They invoke your buyers to “click here”, “download” or “register”. They are the oil that lubricate your website lead engine, facilitating easy movement between stages of their buying journey.
Use your CTAs as links to core content on your site. For example use CTAs to link from your home page to core content offers on your site such as “download this free eBook” or “Take a free 30 day trial.” (see the CTA and the end of this blog for an example!)
Test the effectiveness of your CTAs. Try different wording, different placements, different colours and imagery. A/B testing is an excellent structured process for figuring which CTAs convert best.
7. A Good User Experience
You can nail points 1 through 6, but if site visitors have a bad experience (such as broken or slow-to-load site pages, poor design, or confusing navigation), then all your efforts were for nothing.
Mobile devices are pervasive these days and many of your visitors will access your site from their smartphone or tablet. It is crucial your site employs responsive design. That means the user is shown content that is optimised for that screen and device. The difference in experience between a non responsive and responsive site is very significant and can make the difference between a lead conversion and a visitor who clicks away, frustrated with their user experience.
Whilst its important your website redesign reflects the values and messaging of your business, its really important not to let the appearance of the site get in the way of its functionality. Form should follow function.
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