Defining your audience is a key step in the web site planning process. Your audience is your customer who will be visiting your site for a specific reason, and it is imperative to know exactly what s/he is looking for. Your audience should have an affect on the features, functionalities, technologies, and overall flow of your web site. As you define your audience, consider their web surfing experience, age, interests, their browsers, etc. If your audience is the teenage market, your web site ought to look very differently than a web site created for baby boomers. Taking into account the characteristics of the audience will allow a valuable web site to be created that will deliver the desired content to your target audience.
Define your website audience by answering the following questions:
- What interests your target audience? For example, if you are a web designer, your audience will be interested in your design portfolio, customer testimonials, details about the website design process and related topics.
- What is the best way to communicate with them? The best way to communicate with your audience is through a mix of content. The best websites have a combination of content from blog posts to images to audio and video.
Your website is not a brochure. Let me rephrase that. If you want a website that drives new business and gets you more customers, you will avoid a brochure website. People are not interested in looking at brochure sites.
Your website should be about answering questions and helping people.
As you develop content, you are not just adding words to a page to fill virtual real estate. In essence, you are organizing materials according to your audience’s needs. Content is king! It is content that brings your visitors back to your site repeatedly. It is content that sells whatever you are selling not your credentials.
Performing market research is your first step in developing content. The simplest and most effective market research is asking questions. Ask your customers what interests them. Pay attention to the questions they have for you. Keep a history of the most frequently asked questions or concerns. In the process of learning about your customers, you can begin developing your content around their questions.
Valuable content helps your site visitors make better purchasing decisions based on content instead of listing features. In addition, content drives more traffic to your site. Search engines love content—the more the merrier. Search engines consider frequently updated content valuable. When search engines believe your site contains valuable content, they send you more traffic.
On the other hand, if you have the same content as other web sites, your site might be penalized. Too much duplicate content and your site could be banned. Getting banned is considered a death sentence for a domain because it is excluded from search engine results, thus losing out on visitors.
Content without organization is chaos, so be sure your site is optimally categorized. Name each category with a concise and descriptive title. The categories should be consistent throughout the site for optimal navigation.
Here is how to create the best possible content for your website:
- Search for competing content online and make yours better. By better, I mean make the content longer, better researched, and better optimized for your target keywords.
- The content you create should have a strong call to action. Do you want people to call you? Include your phone number and tell them to call you. Do you want people to complete a web form? Show them the form and tell them to complete it now.
- Use headers for your content. H1, H2, H3 tags should be optimized with your target keywords.
- Write in a conversational tone. You are not writing a college term paper or a technical manual.
- Make your content scannable by varying font size and spacing your content with plenty of white space.
- Use images that support your content. Include images that help you tell your story.
- Have your content proofread. Incorrect spelling and grammar can ruin the effect of even the best content.
Web sites with poor usability drive people away. You will lose money.
Ask yourself the following questions:
- What is the reason people come to my site?
- Are they able to do what they are here to do?
- Is it simple or complicated to do what they need to do?
For example, if they come to your site to get support for a product. How fast can they find the answers they need? Do they have to dig for it? You only have seconds to get them what they want. If you fail, they go somewhere else. Don’t think that you are the only game in town.
Your visitors might put up with smaller inconveniences such as a broken link or a slower loading page. Don’t assume that your customers love your site because they don’t tell you anything. Be proactive and communicate. Offer online surveys, email them with specific questions, and ask when you have them on the phone. Take every opportunity you can to get feedback.
In addition to your customers, take advantage of technology to improve usability. For instance, Google Analytics is a great tool to find out how much time people spend on your pages. Tools like that can help you gain insight into how people interact with your site. What’s popular and what isn’t.
Mobile is changing the way people shop, research, and make buying decisions. Responsive websites respond and adjust to the size of the screen of your mobile device, creating a much-improved user experience. When people browse your site they won’t have to zoom, pinch, or shrink their screen to be able to see what’s what. Responsive sites make it easier for your mobile users to participate on your site. Stripped down mobile sites often excluded key components of the main website. If you care about Search Engine Optimization (SEO), convert your site to responsive. Responsive is just another way for you to stay competitive. Don’t do it because it is cool, which it is, do it to get ahead of your competitors.
Here are some of the most important reasons to have a responsive website:
- Responsive website design is one of the most effective ways to take advantage of the recent boom in mobile devices.
- A mobile-friendly website is the easiest way to increase your audience.
- Responsive websites offer the best user experience because it works equally well on a desktop computer or a smart phone or a tablet.
- If you want to beat your competition, a responsive website will help. Many businesses still don’t have a responsive website.
- Responsive websites are cost effective because you no longer need multiple websites.
- Google prefers responsive websites and ranks them higher.
- A responsive website will increase your conversions.
- You can use WordPress which is the most popular content management system in the world.
It is important to create a uniform feel for your site. “Uniform” doesn’t mean, “boring”; rather, it means consistent. When a visitor lands on your home page, your goal is to engage the user. As the user browses through the site, a uniform feel is going to simplify the user’s experience. If your home page includes a left-side navigation, don’t change the navigation to the right side on a subsequent page unless you enjoy aggravating your customers. The worst web sites make every page look wildly different, so the visitor never becomes comfortable with the site. If you make your web pages utterly different, it is less likely that your visitor becomes quickly familiar with the site.
There is nothing more boring than a web site without images. A site with text only is dull and overwhelming at the same time. Images can create excitement and help spice up your content. The most important concern with images is file size. Images can be large files, slowing down the page-load process. If your images are too large, or you have too many of them, reduce the number of images or the file size. Images also help you keep people on your site longer. The longer people stay on your site the more likely they will buy from you or become your customer.
You can’t afford to lose visitors because they give up waiting for your entire page to load. The Internet is a fast-moving superhighway, and if your web site doesn’t keep up, it’s going to be left behind. Page-load speed is influenced by file size, server performance, and available network bandwidth. Although more and more people connect to the Internet through fast broadband connections, keep in mind the slower mobile data users too. It is possible to build a web site that loads quickly, even for a mobile device connected through a less than perfect mobile data plan. Faster websites rank better. Google rewards fast loading site, so improve your loading speed for people and search engines.
I have no idea why anyone would want a Flash site. Don’t do it. Flash doesn’t work on mobile. It is slow, and there a ton of more reasons you should avoid Flash. There is nothing worse than visiting a web site and having to wait for a clever Flash animation to load. Your customers are visiting your site because they are looking for a product or service. Please, don’t try to turn the Internet into television. Your customers, for the most part, could not care less about viewing a flash movie. Sorry, the “skip intro” button is not much help either. Flash intros are slow, obnoxious, and will result in loss of revenue. Don’t add flash as a cool factor. It isn’t cool now and it never was cool. Many Flash designers reduce the granularity of user control and regress to old-school presentation styles that resemble television-age media rather than present day media. Web sites that force visitors to sit through Flash sequences with nothing to do eradicate the single most important characteristic of the Internet: interactivity.
The most important differentiator is the ability to promote your website. Unfortunately, most business fail to even consider website promotion. For them, once the website is online their work is done.
Most of your website promotional success has to do with the work you do outside of your website.
Network with industry influencers and share your content with them. Don’t spam them. Ask them about your content. Get their input. Ask for a quote to include in your site. Create a list of the top 30 influencers in your market and build a relationship with them.
Networking with influencers helps you because you:
- Improve the quality of your content. When you quote influencers you improve your credibility.
- Gain exposure to a new audience. They might share your content and spread the word about your business.
Create shareable snippets from your best content.
You can create snippets fairly quickly by:
- Creating alternative article or post titles.
- Write short summaries of your strongest content.
- Collect the best quotes from your site.
- Use numbers from your research and findings.
- The list goes on and on.
Once you have collected 30-50 snippets, schedule them for the next couple of weeks. You can use tools like Hootsuite, TweetAdder, or many other programs to do this.
In addition, you can use some WordPress plugins such as:
- Tweet Old Post
- Tweet this – to encourage your readers to tweet snippets.
Keep in mind to mention your sources when you are sharing. For example, if you are sharing something that you have learned from an influencer, include it in your snippet. There is a good chance that when the influencers see this they will also share it with their network.
Use email to share and ask for your content to be shared. When you write about someone, quote someone email the person and let him or her know. They might share it with their network. Of course, don’t expect to get a share every time, but this is a great way to build your network.
Reach out to people who have shared similar content to yours. As you are researching to create your own content, you come across blog posts and articles. Take their link and search for them on Twitter. It is a simple way to identify people who have shared them. Network with them. If they have a website contact them there or message them on a social network.
You can do the reverse of the above by finding people who have linked to similar content. You can use tools like Ahrefs or Open Site Explorer.
Use video to reach a bran new audience. You can repurpose your best content by turning it into videos. Then, upload them to Youtube. It is important to properly optimize your videos to get maximum exposure.
Repurpose your content into slides. Uploading your content to SlideShare can be a great source of traffic. According to Alexa, SlideShare is the 152nd most popular site in the entire world.
Turn your most popular content into a PDF file and use it as a content upgrade. Offer it in your call to action to get people to subscribe to your email list.
In the comments section below discuss your favorite way to promote your website.