When creating a website, it is important that you have all the necessary components for it to be successful, and it involves more than just the building of the website itself. From strategy, to building, to marketing, to monetization, and beyond.
In this article we will go over what things you will need to consider and incorporate into your plan. First I will list each in a bullet list, and then go over each in more detail below.
- Goals & Website Strategy
- Good Web Host
- Web Design and/or a CMS or Script
- Great Design
- Great Content
- Website Maintenance
- Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
- Marketing & Social Media
- Website Analytics
Now each item in detail:
Goals & Website Strategy
When building a website, any website, whether for business or personal reasons, it is important to figure out and understand your strategy. What are you trying to accomplish, and why? How do you measure success? This needs to be part of the planning process from the start, and should direct all the decisions.
Good Web Host
A good web host is important. You want your website to be as fast as possible and available to your customers 24 hours a day 7 days a week without fail. You also want a host that you can get a hold of when you have an issue, which eventually you will. At some point your website is going to crash, your website is going to get hacked, or you will need them to adjust some settings so something you are installing will work.
Unless you are very technical and can fix most things yourself, you probably should not got with a budget host. Budget hosts do not have large support staffs to help you, because they don’t charge enough to afford it. A budget host may be okay for a hobby website, but a business website should be a reliable hosting. After all, you can lose business when your website is down, much more than what you might be saving.
Web Design and/or a CMS or Script
You will also need a script or HTML code to make your website work. You have a lot of choices, and what is best depends on what you are trying to accomplish.
The most popular way to build a website is to start with a script such as WordPress, Drupal, Joomla, Magento, etc. which provide the basic framework for your website’s functionality. A web designer (or you) then customizes it to your needs and liking. This is recommended for most websites as it speeds up the development process, savings you money, and most of the features you probably need already exist.
Another way is using a site builder, which many web hosts now provide. These are good for do it yourself type websites with little or no functionality. Unless your website is super simple, it is recommended that you stay away from site builders, since you are limited to the features they provide, and it usually is difficult or impossible to export your website to another platform or web host.
If you want to create something unique that has functionality that is not available elsewhere (at least how you want it to work), then having a web developer create it from scratch might be the best way to go. This is, by far, the most expensive way to build a website, but the nice thing is that if you have a good developer or developers, then you can get exactly what you want, without compromising because a prewritten script does it differently than you want.
This encompasses both the look & feel as well as the functionality. Ideally you want your website to be both pretty and useful. But if you can only choose one, functionality always trumps looks. A website that looks good and does what customers want will outperform a website that is not pretty. But an ugly website that does what customers want will outperform a pretty website without the features they desire.
Make sure whoever is designing you website can do both. Unless one person is super talented, it usually takes a team to create a good website.
You must have content that your visitors actually want to read or view. It can be articles, video, images, sales copy or any other content your visitors would be interested in. Create for your visitor, not for the search engines. You visitors will love you for it, and you will get more search engine love as a result. You should keep search engine optimization (SEO) in mind when creating the content, but the content should not be driven by SEO, it should be driven by your visitor’s needs.
You can either write the copy yourself, or your can hire a copywriter to write the content for you. Sometimes the web designer will offer copy writing services as well.
After your website is created, unfortunately it is not done. It requires ongoing maintenance for it to be effective over time. Information becomes outdated, scripts need to be updated for security vulnerabilities, and new content needs to be added. Someone needs to be able to update the website as needed. These updates can be done by the website owner or their employees, or can be done by the web designer. But either way, they need to be planned for.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
Although most people reach for SEO as a crutch, the truth is, if you designed your website correctly, and write great content your customers want to consume, then most of your SEO is taken care of for you. Make sure your web designer is designing the site so that it is easy for visitors and search engines to find your content. If you web designer is not knowledgeable in SEO, then it may be useful to bring in an outside expert on how to optimize the site. Ideally good SEO is built into the initial site’s design, so you don’t have to make expensive changes later.
Marketing & Social Media
You will also need to figure out how to get the word out about your new website and make your website easier to find. The more effort you put into marketing, the more results you will get. You can promote your sites on social media, purchase ads on other websites or on ad networks like Google AdWords, participate on forums and have a link to your site in the signature, perform offline marketing, and a variety of other things to promote your website.
You will want to figure out what your strategy is, and determine how much time and money you want to spend on marketing your site. You can choose to do the footwork yourself, and manage it yourself, or you could hire someone to do it for you.
If you are a business, you will obviously want to make money off your website, either directly or indirectly. For personal websites, it is optional, but easy to do by placing some ads on your site. If you are trying to make money, you will want to figure our how you want to do that.
For a retail business, simply being found in search engines and maps on Google, Yahoo! and Bing would increase business because new customers can find you. For content websites, advertising or paid content may be the best way to make money. If you are selling a product or service, you could take orders online. Some people in niche markets make a lot of money with affiliate programs.
Don’t forget that one way to make money is to reduce costs. For example, if your company has to handle customer service for a lot of customers, writing self-help content and allowing customers to do certain things themselves via your website without contacting a customer service agent saves you money and increases profits.
There are a variety of ways to make money from your website. It is important to choose what is best for you and it should be part of your website strategy.
In order for you to know how your website is performing, you need to be able to analyse its performance. This is where analytics comes in. There are a variety of services and software available that allow you to analyse your website traffic. Most web hosts include website statistic in their basic package; Google Analytics is a popular service that can be added to most websites; and WordPress provides visitor statistics as well through their WordPress Stats which is now part of the JetPack plugin.
If you are aggressively trying to achieve certain goals, you will want to check your analytics regularly so that you can measure your progress. You may need an expert to set up some of the more advanced tracking, but a lot of this can be done by yourself with a little training.
The Whole Package
Whether you do everything in house, or you hire someone for all or part of this, make sure that all of these bases are touched. You will have a more effective, successful and interesting website as a result.
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net.