Your website is often touted as your “single most important marketing tool.” But this isn’t exactly true. Your brand is the cornerstone of all your communications. If it’s broken, those cracks will trickle down through the rest of your marketing efforts, including your website. This intrinsic connection can make it difficult to get to the root of the issues when it seems you’re having website problems.
When you’re struggling to reach conversion goals, connect with your audiences, and drive sales, it can be easy to place the blame on what you view as your biggest source of leads — your website. But it’s possible your website problems might be a symptom of something bigger. You might have, dare we say it, brand problems.
If your brand is broken, those cracks will trickle down through the rest of your marketing efforts, including your website.
We regularly have clients coming to us asking us to “fix” their website. But, sometimes, as we start to dig into their goals, challenges, and frustrations, we see the issues go a bit deeper. Maybe you don’t understand your audience or their perception of your brand. Maybe your positioning and messaging aren’t clicking enough to drive the conversion. Maybe there are inconsistencies in how you talk about yourself. If you’re struggling with these brand problems, they’ll likely show up in different ways across your website.
Moments after arriving at your site, visitors should have a clear sense of who you are and what it is you do. If they don’t, this isn’t necessarily a brand problem. Maybe you have a value prop and it’s just not present on your site. But chances are, if it’s missing from your site, it’s missing from your brand. A value proposition is a key component of your brand platform. It tells your audience why you exist and what you offer that no one else can. If you don’t have one locked down, it might be time to take a step back start the process of finding your why.
If every key message on your site starts with “we do this” or “we offer that” it could indicate that your brand has self-absorbed tendencies, but likely you just haven’t taken the time to understand your audience and what they want. A little bit of brand research could go a long way on this front. It’ll give you the opportunity to understand the problems your audiences are looking to solve and what they want to hear from your brand. Once you have a firm grasp on what they need to hear, you can take the time to turn “we we we” to “you you you” and then “sales sales sales.”
Another symptom of not quite understanding your audience is an impersonal website experience. It’s possible you simply haven’t taken the time to apply your buyer journey to your website. But, if you’re thinking “what buyer journey?” there’s a tool missing from your brand tool box. A buyer/user/customer journey will help you understand what your audience is looking for as they move through each phase of the buying process. With this in place, you’ll be able to make each visitor’s experience on your site more relevant to where they are on their journey.
If your website reads like it was written by 20 different people, it can likely be tied back to a brand problem. Even if 20 different people did, in fact, write your website, your audience shouldn’t be able to tell. The proper brand foundation would ensure the voice and messaging were clear and consistent on every page. Voice and tone guidelines help writers maintain a unified voice while your brand mission, vision, and pillars can guide key messages that need to be woven throughout your site content.
Of course, an outdated site may be nothing more than an outdated site. But for many companies, it’s actually the result of dated branding. Before you even think about devoting half your yearly marketing budget to a complete website overhaul, consider revisiting your brand visuals. Otherwise, you could invest in a complete redesign only to have that logo, palette, photo styles and other visual elements from 40 years ago drag your shiny new site right back to Web 1.0.
If you’re seeing some of these mistakes throughout the site, it might be time to rethink your brand foundation before moving into a website redesign. Without a solid brand, fixing your website won’t fix what’s really broken and any web efforts will be a waste of time and money.
Of course, sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. If you’re reviewing your site and you’re seeing any of these mistakes, chances are a full or partial website redesign will do the trick.
Five years ago you may have built the perfect site, but now your company has grown and changed and your website just can’t keep up. Things are becoming cluttered and disorganized and Janet, the web manager, is constantly telling you there’s no place to showcase your new product updates even if she had the time to make them. It seems you have outgrown your website and it might be time for a new one that’s built to flex and scale with you.
If you’re working with a site that’s difficult to administer and update, scalability isn’t the only issue you’ll run into. When you have to rely on Janet for everything, your website can start to feel like a ghost town pretty quickly. A new website with carefully planned workflows, templates, and permissions can make it easier to keep content fresh across your site while maintaining a cohesive experience throughout.
No matter who your audience is, you have a customer service (and legal) obligation to ensure they’re able to experience your site in a meaningful way. W3C has helped us better understand what this means for audience members with varying abilities. Review their Website Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) to see how your website performs in this area and develop a game plan to fix any issues that may negatively impact how hearing- or sight-impaired individuals experience your site.
If you can make a cup of coffee in the time it takes for your website to load, your brand is not to blame. There are myriad factors that can slow down page speeds—from oversized images to code density to plugins you’ve been adding every time Walter (he’s even worse than Janet) wants to throw another feature on the site. A website redesign is the perfect opportunity to clean up the clunk and get things running at a nice clip.
When users get to your site, there should be no question about what you want them to do next. This requires carefully planned conversion paths with clear (and compelling) CTAs. Your audience has come to your site hoping you can help them solve a problem, you need to make it easy for them to find what they came for or risk losing them. Think about where they are on the journey when they visit your site and serve up offers and CTAs your audience needs to move through each phase. From your homepage, invite them to dive deeper into your benefits; on a blog post focused on high-level industry developments, offer a year-end report download; on a product info page, offer a free trial or demo.
You’ve been in marketing for a while, so there’s no need to repeat what you already know. SEO is important (okay we repeated it anyway). There’s no counterargument, but there are details and nuances that often get overlooked, especially in older sites. Google’s algorithm is always changing. If your last website update didn’t factor in all these changes (along with shifting search habits), it might be time to retool some things.
As you’ve probably noticed, your brand and your website have one thing in common: they are never truly done. There’s no such thing as set it and forget it in the world of marketing and web. You should always be checking in, reviewing the data and finding opportunities to fix the problems as they arise. It can be exhausting, but it’s also worth it when you start hitting even your loftiest of conversion and sales goals.
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