I often talk to people – friends or even just people I meet at parties or dinners – who are really excited about getting a website up. They have identified what they want to do – perhaps it’s a career change, or something they want to set up on the side until they can afford to quit their job.
Alternatively, they already have a thriving physical/retail business and they just want a website (often only 1 page) to open the door to new markets or non-local customers.
Sometimes people don’t want to spend the time to map out their business and website – they are excited, or, they are already swamped with work, and they just want to get something up!
I totally understand this and I’m a BIG fan of striking while the passion is hot. But as someone who knows what it takes to be successful online, I also cannot condone this approach and it is a sure way to waste a lot of money and time for something that will not bring you the results you want.
I had one of the first dating websites on the web, my online health business ranks on page 1 of Google for multiple search terms, and I am in the top 1.8% of women-owned businesses in the world. Please believe that I know what I’m talking about and the advice I’m giving you is rock solid.
So if you’re currently in that space where you’re super excited about your new business idea, or you’re sure you’ll be instantly successful if you just have a nice/cool-looking site, or you don’t think it’s really important to have a plan or structure; just throw a 1-pager up there… Well, I really encourage you to avoid spending money on a website, or hiring a website designer, until you have worked out these basics:
Define Your Brand
1. What makes you unique? What sets your service or product apart from all the others out there? What is your point(s) of difference?
Then, to have an effective website – that can communicate this in the 3-6 seconds typical visitors will spend on your page – you need to have this USP distilled down into a Tagline: ONE sentence that encapsulates the answer to the question: What do you do? In the way that also conveys your unique benefits.
To get to this tagline (that is the foundation of your homepage), you need to work your way through questions like:
- When someone comes to my site, what are they wanting to feel?
- What is their top need?
- What is their greatest desire? (note: desire is a ‘want’, different from a need)
- Why do they have this desire? What will change if they get what they want? (answering this question will give you the benefits of your service or product)
- What is the ultimate benefit to someone from becoming my client/customer? How do I meet their need, solve their problem, or change their life?
An easy example of this is, let’s say you’re a mortgage broker and someone asks you (or comes to your site because someone else referred them): What do you do?
Answer #1: I’m a mortgage broker
Answer #2: I help people buy the house of their dreams
You see what I mean? Which one is likely to prompt the questioner to ask you more questions – to engage in relationship with you?
2. WHO is your IDEAL client? Your ideal client will be defined by your own story – who are YOU, how did you get from there to here, how did you turn your own frustration/pain/difficulty into something that makes other people’s lives better? When your story resonates with a referral or site visitor, they will self-select themselves as your client by thinking/feeling, “That’s just like me!” Or, “Wow, that really resonates with me.” And so on.
3. And who is NOT your customer/client? It is equally important to have a solid profile of the people who should NOT hire you. Not only does this help you define further who you are and what you do, but it also prevents negative reviews from people who are never going to be happy with you or your stuff, because they shouldn’t have hired you, or bought from you in the first place! Being clear about this on your site protects both of you from a disappointing experience. Yet another reason you don’t want your site to speak to “everyone”. You only want it to speak, attract, and ‘click’ with your ideal client.
Your Website Funnel or Customer Experience
Now that you have established your unique brand story, you need to figure out: What do you want people to DO when they come to your site?
If your answer is: I just want them to browse around, and find what they’re interested in. Well, you have just lost that visitor. Remember, eye-tracking software shows you have ONLY 3-6 seconds to capture that site visitor and make them feel, “Yes! This is for me.” So you need to have your intake pathway (or funnel) mapped out. In that 3-6 seconds, what do you want your visitor to see and do? How do you want them to navigate around your site?
So here are three crucial points to take into account when deciding what your website design should accomplish, or, what your customer funnel should look like:
1. Where do your site visitors land on your site? Organic search engine traffic will likely not come to your homepage. Those visitors will usually land on a blog post because it contains the keywords or phrase they just typed into Google. So how is your blog set up – and will that visitor then do what you want them to do (to get the best experience of what you have to offer) or go where you want them to go next?
However, referrals (from people, or other websites, blog posts, Facebook page, etc) will likely come to your homepage – so what is the best way to set up your homepage to communicate the 3 points we talked about above?
2. Your ABOUT page is crucial. Regardless of which page they initially land on, one of the top places site visitors click next is your ABOUT page. So make yours tell the most compelling, authentic story about you and your journey that you can. This is where even the whiff of inauthenticity will cause someone to click away and keep searching elsewhere. So be as vulnerable as you need to be to tell your REAL story.
3. Your email list is #1. So when you look at these top entry points for a visitor to your site; are these pages set up to offer something tempting to immediately capture their name and email address? This is because virtually NO ONE buys on their first visit to your site. Buying happens AFTER a relationship has been established; after you have given them great, helpful stuff for free. After you have shown them that you walk your talk. After you have established some trust.
If you’re a successful businessperson, you can likely take the action steps above and have your designer create a site that works; i.e. a site that captures your visitor’s name and emails so that you can develop a relationship with them, that ultimately results in a sale, or at least an awesome referral.
But if you would benefit from being walked through each step, or really drilling deeper into each of these foundational elements for a successful business, then I urge you to consider doing the Listen To Your Freedom program – where I give you lots more examples, questions to help you explore your truth, and a printed Workbook where you map it all out. Because I’ve done lots of split-testing of websites (same info, different positioning, or different call to action) along with running 13 different ongoing websites – I know both the big and small tweaks that will set you up for maximum impact in your market. And I walk you through each one of these pieces to make sure you don’t miss anything.
Remember, your website designer is not your brand developer or business consultant! Your designer can’t make these decisions about your customer, nor can s/he take responsibility for creating a website that results in sales, commissions, or contracts. That’s your job.
Or, you need to hire a separate consultant to brand you and then map out a customer funnel for your site – and they will charge you a nice fee if they’re any good. If you want to go this route, then I can recommend Bernadette Jiwa, Mark Silver or Janet Switzer. And yes, each of these fabulous consultants have contributed their talent and expertise to the Listen To Your Freedom business-building program – because they’re just that good 🙂
Your last option is to hire a “full service” web designer. This is a company who will design your site, but they will also help you map out your WHY, WHO your ideal customer is and WHAT the benefits are from following/buying your stuff. Companies like this usually charge $3000 – $150,000 – depending on which customer they are targeting (eg. solopreneur, or corporation). Pixel Me Pink and RKA Ink are good examples of affordable web designers who will also walk you through the basics of the process I mapped out above.
A Word About SEO
SEO – search engine optimization – is a nice promise that many web designers like to throw out there to make you feel you’re getting some extra bang for your buck. Or to make you feel secure that your website will actually receive some visitors and not just rotate out there in cyberspace. However, how can I say this… there’s actually not much to it.
In the old days, SEO (optimizing your site keywords, metatags and text to appeal to search engines) was a bit of a science. But then the ‘internet marketers’ and spam sites got in the game and ruined it for all of us. Think about it: Google, Bing, Yahoo and other search engines have ONE goal. And that is to provide the person who’s searching with exactly what they’re looking for. I mean, isn’t that what we all want?
So any “trick” a web designer or SEO consultant may come up with will soon be figured out by the search engines, who will reconfigure their search algorithm to ignore it. In certain cases, overuse of a technique will actually get your site blacklisted and that can take a long time to get out from under.
Here’s all you need to know about SEO:
- Learn how to use keywords and keyword phrases – if all you do is think about what YOU would type into Google if you were searching for X, that alone is going to get you pretty good results. Or ask your friends, for example: Hey, if you were looking for the how to toilet train your puppy, what would you type into Google?
- Take those keywords and phrases and use them for your blog post titles, your page titles and the copy/text that makes up your web pages, posts and metatags. BUT do not use the same word or phrase more than 3 times on a page. Otherwise you risk getting a lower search engine rank for “keyword seeding” – which search engines interpret as you deliberately trying to mislead them, rather than you just providing great content. Which brings us to the next power SEO step…
- Write awesome content! Answer questions in as much detail as you can, give examples, graphics, video etc. Write about everything you can that relates to your niche, giving as much helpful advice and how-to as you can.
- Install a plugin on your blog called All In One SEO Pack – fill in the title (put a keyword in the title), description (put another keyword in the description) and the keywords box – but don’t use more than 3-4 keywords or keyword phrases – show Google your text is actually about something specific that’s likely to answer the question of the person who’s searching for info.
- Have an XML sitemap for search engines to index quickly – Have your web designer or programmer create an XML sitemap for your site that is WC3 compliant – or pay someone from Fiverr.com about $20-40 to do it for you.
And that’s it! That’s the big deal about SEO – and as you can see, most of it your web designer cannot do anyway. Most of it is the quality of your text/copy that follows the guidelines above, along with your ongoing blog posts. And yes, you do need to have a WordPress blog if you want to generate organic (non-paid) search engine traffic.
Although a good web design that really communicates visually who you are is great, it is only one piece of the online success puzzle. So before you spend $3,000 – $15,000 on a great design, make sure your site is mapped out properly so that you can actually earn money from that site, and not have it just sit there looking pretty 🙂
If you have any questions, just leave them in the Comments section below!