After all of the time and money you will invest, what you should get from a new site is this: a high-performing website. What exactly does that mean? What are the criteria that you will use to sit back after launch and say ‘ahhh, we done good!’?
This is what companies typically report that they are happy with after they launch a new site:
• It looks better
• It is easier and faster to update content
• The content is more organized and consistent
• It functions and navigates better
• Ease of highlighting social activity and videos
• It integrates better with our database and/or other third-party software
All important criteria and if you can say yes to them then you are well on your way. So why then did we give an “F” to a newly launched site that had these qualities? Well, it comes to what defines a high-performing site.
If you want the bottom line right now as to what a high-performing site is, jump to the Pass/Fail list below. For those who are still with me, think about these scenarios:
Jen chooses a doctor: Go to the local list serve and search archives and postings that mention pediatricians. Go to doctor review sites, then the Facebook page for the practice that most people were positive about. Narrow your options, check out their website, book an appointment. Ask brother-in-law if he has heard of the doctor.
Mack buys a printer: Read about what the printer manufacturer does to help the communities where their products are made. Check out their tweets. Go to comparison shopping sites, identify a model and best option for where to buy. See if there are a lot of the same model you are considering selling on Craig’s List. Figure out the sales cycles for printers, buy when it goes on sale or is offered bundled with other products.
Dante selects a restaurant: Walking down a street in NYC, hunger hits. Luckily, there are no less than 20 restaurants within sight. He scans the options, selects a cuisine and pulls out his mobile to check Yelp and Zagat. Done, selection made from many customer reviews that are very positive and a quick review of the menu online. Only five minutes from hunger pang to sitting at a reliably good restaurant enjoying salmon nigiri drizzled with lemon and a cold carafe of unfiltered sake.
It’s easy to see from these examples how the customer has all the power; easy access to information about you and, more than likely, others’ opinions of you and to your competitors as well. This is true for all businesses, from product sellers to professional service firms. How people choose to buy has shifted. That means that your site is all that more important, and it means that it must deliver results.
So back to high-performing sites.
A website is a marketing tool. It functions as a hub for your content to attract and inform your customers/members/volunteers. It’s the place where you can continue the ‘conversation’ about who you are and what you believe in. That hub is connected to your social channels and, hopefully, it has a lot of links back to it. But it should also deliver information to you about your visitors, more than Google analytics will give you. Your site should be nimble, with an ability to be modified easily, affordably and quickly.
Here is the scorecard for the site that we gave an F:
1. Fail — Did the site help move us to a new level in our marketing?
I don’t see the necessary technologies or inbound content processes that enable this site to provide a customized experience to their varying audience segments, or generate leads. In 2013, this is a big fail for a professional services business.
2. Fail — Social integration
The firm’s social footprint is not integrated throughout the site, nor is social sharing encouraged by making it easy for visitors to do. Placing social media icons at the top of the homepage is not sufficient social integration.
Social Media Examiner: If you use social media to keep your customers or clients apprised of your recent happenings and are actively managing your outlets on a daily or bi-weekly basis, it might be wise to showcase your Twitter feed or Facebook posts directly on your website.
Smashing Magazine: Your website should be the hub of social interaction, not sitting on the sidelines. It has the potential to draw together conversation across multiple networks and allow users to interact with friends, whether buying a camera or sharing an inspirational quote.
3. Fail — Automating and Customizing the Experience
We all know the import of the customer experience and at this site I get the same calls to action copy every time I visit, regardless of my past actions (or inaction). Only with an automation system can you avoid this annoyance and display content that comes from the advantage of knowing more about your visitor. With an automation system in place, calls to action and content can be effectively delivered to measurably increase business in addition to improving the user experience.
Inc.com: Using marketing automation software is like working with thousands of couriers who deliver the right content at the right time to all of your Internet-based prospects. All your team needs to do is pre-build great content into your marketing funnel, and the software takes care of the rest.
Hubspot.com: Despite an increase in traffic due to their blog post, Main Line Family law didn’t see many conversions of that traffic into leads. Then came an ‘aha moment.’ After attending a webinar series from HubSpot,