Creating A Profitable Website

By Haydn Rowe

Sadly, many people approach the development of a website from completely the wrong angle.

Often, their first step is to approach a web designer (frequently a graphic designer with web skills) to get a website put together for their business.

From that point on, many decisions are made that significantly (and negatively) affect a business’s online marketing strategy by ‘fixing’ certain design elements of the website before such crucial factors as objectives, target market, strategy, marketing and ‘call to action’ are considered.

This can severely limit the potential of your business to compete and win online. Here is a better way to design or review your website…

1. Setting Your Objectives

Before you even think about what your website will look like, and ideally before you approach a website designer or developer, you should be clear about your objectives. What does your website have to do for your business to be considered a success!

There are up to four main objectives you can have for your website…

  1. To Generate Leads– your website provides a reliable stream of sales enquiries and/or provides you with a growing database of “opt in” prospects to whom you can direct future marketing activities.
  2. To Create Sales– if your product or service can be sold online then your website should be e-commerce enabled and able to complete a sale literally on autopilot while you sleep.
  3. To Communicate– your website educates and ‘inspires’ prospective customers and clients. It may be that your website could be a great source of valuable information for prospective clients, so much so that they return to it time and time again.
  4. To Establish Credibility – your website inspires confidence in your organisation, your products and services and your ability to deliver the outcomes you promise to clients.

Or, it may be that existing clients discover other products and services that they can buy from you by visiting your website, increasing the level of business you do with them.

For some organisations a website which achieves one of these objectives will be the perfect website, while for others, your website can and should achieve all four objectives.

By being clear about your objectives you can make good decisions about the development of your website.

2. Your Strategy

One of the biggest reasons that most websites “don’t work” is that a brochure website is created (usually by a well meaning graphic designer or website developer) when a website designed with good marketing strategy, designed to create and convert traffic, is required.

Here, we briefly outline some of the elements you may want to include in your online marketing strategy, and therefore into your website design.

Ways to Create Website Traffic

Search Engine Optimisation – if you want to generate as much relevant traffic as possible, then your website strategy must involve building a website that is search engine friendly. This includes researching and establishing ‘keywords’ that your site will be optimised for, and including them in the title tags, description tags, copy and other important areas within your website.

This is a big topic which we cover in more detail in other articles and resources, but in short, you will want to work with a search engine marketing expert, and a website developer who understand how to create a search engine friendly website.

  • Pay Per Click Advertising– Pay Per Click advertising using programmes such as Google Adwords and Yahoo Sponsored Search can rapidly drive relevant traffic to your website.
  • Online Directories– by subscribing to listings and links in high-traffic, relevant and high quality industry specific directories you can drive quality traffic to your website. For example, if you are a franchisor, you can list your franchise with a range of franchise directories.
  • Email Broadcasting– email broadcasting can not only be a very profitable marketing strategy in its own right, it can, with the right effort put into creating compelling and relevant emails or newsletters, become a strong source of traffic for your website.
  • Offline Marketing – integrating your ‘offline’ marketing with your online marketing and website can be a hugely profitable exercise. After all, even Google use direct mail and magazine advertising to promote their services.

If any of these traffic generating activities are a part of your online marketing strategy you will want to develop highly relevant landing pages on your website designed to convert traffic into database prospects, leads and sales.

Ways to Convert Website Traffic

Creating traffic is great, but alone will not change the sales revenue and profitability of your business. To do that you will almost certainly have to include traffic conversion elements in your strategy…

  • Compelling Landing Pages– many websites fail to ‘grab’ and convert visitors because they either haven’t created service or product specific landing pages, or fail to direct traffic to the most appropriate landing page.
  • Call to Action Copy & Banners– another of the most common failings of websites that fail to perform is that they make little or no use of call to action devices, beyond having a Contact Us page on their site. More on this later.
  • Packaged Information– creating valuable reports, buyers guides and white papers has long been one of the most successful ways of generating enquires in any type of marketing.
  • Newsletter Signup – for some businesses, an offer to send a prospect your newsletter with latest product developments, hints and tips, case studies, articles and special offers can generate significant ‘conversion’ with many of your website visitors.

3. Designing The Structure of Your Website

The next step is to design, or sketch out, the structure of your website. This should not be confused with ‘graphic design’ of your website, which is sometimes referred to as the “look and feel” of your website, this is one of the last things to look at.

Designing the structure of your website involves mapping out the pages that you will have on your site and the order in which they will appear.

Standard Pages

Almost all websites include a Home Page, so this is a good place to start your list. To this you will usually add Contact Us and that’s about it as far as ‘standard’ pages.

The next section is where the real work happens…

Landing Pages

The most important elements of your website structure are likely to be your landing pages.

You should have a separate landing page for each product or service that you wish to promote. This will ensure that your page is relevant to searchers, which minimises “bounces” and maximises conversion rates and will also play a key role in search engine optimisation.

Landing pages should be product or service specific – so for example a supplier of bikes and cycling products may include the following…

  • Mountain Bikes
  • Road Bikes
  • Comfort & Leisure Bikes
  • Kids Bikes
  • Racing Bikes
  • BMX Bikes
  • Custom Bikes
  • Folding Bikes
  • Commuting Bikes
  • Sports Utility Bikes
  • Jump & Trial Bikes
  • Touring & Trekking Bikes
  • Cyclocross Bikes
  • Cycling Accessories
  • Lights
  • Helmets
  • Body Armour
  • Cycling Clothing
  • Cycling Glasses

In essence, you will want to include any and every product or service that you want to promote.

While this may seem daunting at first, especially when you consider how much copy and content will need to be created, the good news is that you don’t have to do it all at once.

Call to Action Pages

While every page should have a strong call to action in the copy and in “on page” banners you will also need to consider including specific call to action pages.

Call to action elements are the key difference between a brochure site and creating a lean and mean website designed to create sales leads, win orders and grow your prospect database.

Your call to action pages could include…

  • Contact Us
  • Free Reports
  • Free Newsletter
  • White Papers or Buyers Guides
  • Order Online
  • Shopping Cart
  • Your account

Credibility Pages

Credibility pages are required to enable often cynical, cautious and careful prospects to ‘check you out’ online.

Credibility pages include…

  • About Us
  • History
  • Case Studies
  • Testimonials

Authority Pages

Authority pages are often used by search engines to evaluate how authentic your website is (its authority). The absence of these pages may result in lower positions on search engines.

These pages are also sought by some website users when they are assessing the integrity of your company.

They include…

  • About Us
  • Site Map
  • Terms & Conditions
  • Privacy Policy
  • Contact Us (specific details such as a phone number included within the copy enhances authority)

Squeeze Pages

Squeeze pages appear as one page websites as they do not offer the visitor any navigation options other than to complete an opt in form, or purchase online.

While they are not appropriate for the majority of businesses, these specially created sell pages can signifcantly improve conversion rates, opt in rates and sales.

Typical sqeeze pages include…

  • Packaged Information Offers
  • Newsletter Subscrition
  • Information Products (such as e-Books)
  • Product Sale

By creating a list of pages, you will be 90% of the way to developing the structure of your website. All that remains now is to merge them together in the order that you want them to appear on your website navigation structure.

4. Page & Content Design

Next you need to consider how you design the content for each page on your website so that your strategy works and your objectives are achieved.

We don’t have space available to go into every nuance here, but here are some key pointers.

Content is King on the internet. The vast majority of searchers want one thing from their search – information. And the more relevant the information the better. Your key landing (selling) pages had better do one thing well – and that is to provide relevant, useful, compelling and well written information.

Everything else is secondary – graphics, banners, images, fonts, page length all have a role to play of course, but they fall far behind content in changing outcomes.

5. Creating Your Content

Ironically, many businesses spend months working with a graphic designer getting the look and feel of their new website resolved, yet many searchers have “banner blindness”! Their eye falls to the start of the information and begins scanning and if the information is good, reading.

Far better to have a modest, appropriate look and feel and invest your time in creating relevant and compelling copy and content that gets scanners reading and taking the action you want (to subscribe, to enquire, to purchase or to read on).

Home Page

Contrary to popular practice you probably don’t want your site visitors landing on your Home Page for the reasons outlined above (you want them to land on the appropriate landing page). However, many visitors will.

Therefore, the primary purpose of your Home Page is usually to direct the visitor immediately to the page that has the information that they are looking for (searchers are always looking for information).

To do this you will want to ‘sign post’ visitors to your most important landing pages in several ways to avoid the dreaded ‘bounce’ back to the search engine…

  • Navigation Link– many people scan your navigation links to see if the topic they are interested in is listed.
  • Internal Link– linking to your key landing pages in your copy is an excellent way to direct searchers to your landing page (this is also great for Search Engine Optimisation if the full name of the landing page topic is highlighted in the link).
  • Banner Ad Link – creating a small graphic or ad promoting your landing pages is another good way to signpost visitors to the information they are searching for.

Landing Pages

Your landing pages are the most critical on your website and their design and performance will determine how effective your website is at converting site visitors into database prospects, sales leads, sales (if applicable) and establishing credibility.

A landing page is a topic specific page relevant to the searcher. In the bike retailer example above Mountain Bikes is one of their landing pages. Your objective through Search Engine Optimisation and Pay Per Click advertising is to get people searching for Mountain Bikes to land on this page.

Many people mistakenly believe that the ideal solution is to get visitors to the Home Page so they can ‘start at the beginning’. However as a searcher you want to get straight to the information or product that you are searching for, and what you see in that first second or two determies if you “bounce back” to Google to search for another site, or stay and scan, then read and finally take action.

Which is why the content of your landing page is crucial. Testing shows that the headline, offer/s copy, pictures, captions copy and call to action make a huge difference to results.

Fortunately, with a website you can rapidly and frequently change headlines, copy and content – and this is the key to success.

Test different headlines, long copy vs. short copy, different offers, different pictures, sub headlines and calls to action and you will find the most effective combination – the one that maximises your sales revenue and profitability.

Many website pages are never changed – that’s fine if you don’t want to change results. If you do however, then a good rule of thumb is to spend 20% of your time creating new content and 80% of your time testing, refining and fine tuning.

By following these 5 steps you will be well on the path to revitalising your website’s performance, or creating a great new website.