Your Business Website: Avoid Cost-overruns, Late Deliveries With Advance Planning, Clear Direction

This evergreen post was originally published in 2012. We continually update it to keep it fresh and applicable.

Your business website can be completed on-time and on budget, but only if you are clear about the website’s goals. You and your planning team must be able to tell the website developers what you want the customer’s experience to be and what outcomes you expect the website to deliver.

Poor business website planning, confusing coordination make waste

 

In 2012 the FBI unveiled their new computer file system, Sentinel — far past its due date and with significant cost overruns. 

We can postulate on the reasons for such terrible cost-overruns and missed deadlines—poor planning, plain and simple. Many people focus on the final result and expect a website to magically appear, when in reality, the finished product, a fully-functioning website, is the result of many hours of observation, conversation, strategy and finally, design and coding. Many business websites are designed by committee, rather than a team that is close to the customer/user. The very best business websites come from absolute clarity about customer needs and business goals.

Business website strategy first

There is a great amount of strategy behind a good website. Very few products or services are sold upon first look or first visit. Those that are, are generally consumables. Know how long it takes a customers to make a purchasing decision. 

During your product’s life-cycle, your customer seeks information about the care of their product or they seek advice to evaluate options and purchase a replacement when the product they possess wears out or passes it’s useful life. Understand this path to purchase and you can map out the kinds of content needed on your website.

Plan your conversions now. For example, a brand new customer may want to watch a video on how the product works. A customer who purchased a product two years ago might like information about how to maintain the product or how to get the most value out of it. Someone whose needs have expanded might be looking for the next generation of their current product or they might be making a dramatic shift leading them in a new direction. Expansions or changes lead to new requirements. When you comprehend the life of your product and the needs of your consumer, you can develop content and materials to bring them to your site. Your company becomes the authority about the issue they are trying to solve.

If you ask them, they will tell you

You must to speak with your customers to understand their purchasing path in order to have the most useful website. And you must have insight from the sales team who hears every day what customers say is most valuable to them. And don’t forget to speak with the customer service team. They have highly useful advice for your business website planning team. Their customer insight will make your website better.

Budget appropriately

As web designers and developers, we frequently hear from customers who have no idea what they can spend on their website’s development, yet have a wish list that is miles long. It is better to proactively budget what your firm can afford, and prioritize your must haves; nice to haves; and next phase items so your web designer / developer can help you achieve your goals and provide the most for your money.

Realize that a business website that generate leads, moves customers toward purchases and helps customers find information is a very important investment. Built correctly, your business website is a valuable asset. Planned and built poorly, it’s a money pit that does nothing to help your business grow.

After the planning team has charted out what the website requirements are, then it’s time to meet with a website designer. Provide the findings and requirements to the website designer. This is where the collaborative work of building your business website begins.

Business website planning tips:

  1. Know who your business website customers are.
  2. Understand what “triggers” send them to the Web for information, products and insights.
  3. Know the “fit” your products and services have with customer needs and triggers.
  4. Know the life-cycle of your product and the decision path customers take to reach the decision to purchase. For example, if you sell a product that normally wears out after three years, you must create website content that feeds customers’ need for care information for the product and information that helps them make a buying decision.
  5. Know your “sales funnel” and the discrete steps your website users will normally take to convert to a sale.
  6. Plot each step you want your customers to take as they advance towards a purchase. For example, a.) visit site b.) view video c.) request information d.) review product specs e.) purchase product
  7. Know common customer frustrations and most frequent reasons customers call your service staff. Develop services in the website that address these needs. For example, if your product requires assembly, and customers frequently request additional assistance on how items fit together, you can create videos showing exactly how items are assembled, lessening customer frustration and decreasing call volume.
  8. Have a budget and priorities in place.
  9. Enter the web design and development process as a collaboration between you and your web developer.
  10. Invest in your business website, your online business asset. Very few “get a website tonight” products will help you achieve exactly the look, feel, function and results your company needs.

If you want to get started planning your business website, you may find our business website planning survey helpful. You may download it here.

And if you need help planning your website, we would be glad to work with your company and team. Contact us.

Photo by Bram Naus on Unsplash

Critical Website Content Decisions to Produce High-Quality Search Ranking

You don’t have to be an expert to rank well

Every person who wants their business site to rank well with search engines has essential tasks to undertake in order to have their site be ranked well and to show up in search engines.

As the primary search engine, Google has said that they want to give searchers the answers and the help they seek within one click.

In order to do that, Google has developed algorithms that prefer fresh, well-written, focused content that has a clear purpose. In addition to this, Google prefers websites which are responsive to device type: meaning that your site responds and formats content sized to display best on the device the searcher is using. Content must be free of spelling and grammatical errors and needs to be linked to other on-site content and reference by hyperlink authoritative content external to your site. Google prioritizes content with substance. “Thin content” or content without substance is demoted in search results pages (SERPS).

In years past, people frequently thought that they were able to game Google and other engines. Those days are gone. So, abandon any expectation that you’ll stuff pages with repeated keywords, or phrases. Instead, author content which is focused on the reason that page exists on your site and is customer-centric. Keep your content fresh and up to date with revisions and updates.

Register for and use Google Analytics and link this with Google’s Search Console, which was previously called Webmaster Tools. The search console allows you to understand how Google “sees” your site, how people find your site, and which of your site’s content is indexed by Google. You can also see when Googlebot last crawled your site. It will identify search phrases and variants used to access and index content within your site. As you learn more about how your site is indexed, accessed and displayed in search, you’ll be prompted to continually improve your website and help increase its search presence.

Website content decisions before you develop your site:

  1. Understand and map out the challenges, needs, and manner in which you intend to provide services or solutions to your customers. Personas or typical customer bios are great to help keep you focused.
  2. Prior to any development, create a wireframe of your content’s organization and relationship within the site. A simple spreadsheet with top level content named in the first row and child or sub-page content identified in cells within columns below works well, or you may wish to create a more visually rich flow chart.
  3. Have a purpose and goal for every page within your website.
  4. Create anchor content for each page of your site. This content will be fundamental to that section of your site and will serve as an anchor or reference point.
  5. As you create this content, identify which phrases and words will become internal links, referencing other sections of your site.
  6. You will also need to determine visual elements to illustrate content. Powerful images help the visitor relate to your content and provide graphical elements visible in shares across social media.
  7. Decide how frequently you’ll be adding content to the site so that you continue to present a fresh, informed presence to both search engines and potential customers.
  8. While creating content, understand that readers will respond best to blocks of words which are tightly focused and easy to skim. These blocks of content on the page need to be separated by section heads which help identify the most important idea in the following section. Called sub-heads in magazines and newspapers, these are also critical to helping signal to Google the importance and flow of content on your site/page.
  9. If you’re using a CMS (content management system) as a site foundation, thoughtfully organize categories and tags (micro-categories) to be relevant to your customers’ needs as you’ve previously outlined them.
  10. Plan how you’ll be promoting your site’s content via social media and offline.

Post launch must-dos

Evaluate the success of content/performance by regularly reviewing Google Analytics to comprehend how visitors move through your site’s content and how long they remain on each section. These critical indicators will inform and help you improve each page’s rationale within the site.


If you find you need assistance with the development of content for your website, we can provide assistance from strategy to optimization to promotion. Call us at 843.628.6434 to discuss how we may assist and support your goals.

Thoughts on Stale Websites and Cold, Outdated Content

Content development leads to white page syndrome

For many years I’ve been working with small businesses and entrepreneurs. A great amount this work is assisting them with the development of websites and content.

Content is the single most toe-stumping, road-blocking obstacle for every single SMB owner I’ve worked with. Whether at the start of the web building or later after outdated content is on the site, keeping a business’s web presence fresh seems to stymie most business owners.

Slow to start

During the web development phase content is what takes longer to determine, author and edit, especially if owners wish to pen their own page text. Most get “white page syndrome” and stare at the blank screen and produce nothing. Cure: Hire a content development expert.

Set it and forget it yields outdated content

After a site is launched many entrepreneurs simply forget their sites and never look back, overlooking the fact that their business website is their always-on, always-open office. Outdated content makes your business look out-of-date. Cure: Develop an editorial calendar to keep you on track.

Most websites we develop are based on a content management system (we prefer self-hosted WordPress), allowing the easy modification of existing pages, and quick publication of new pages or posts.

Yet despite these easy to use tools, most website owners neglect their sites. It is so easy to get caught up in the other activities of managing your business. However, I’d ask you to consider this: almost every single small business I’ve ever worked with has very little disposable cash to spend on paying for advertising placements, or pay per click ads.


quotation marks
The single most effective marketing spend is that of time and thought to keep your website updated.


From listing new testimonials, to new clients to new business accomplishments to insights designed to help your customers solve problems, you can find many sources of fresh content for your site.

Has your content grown cold?

If you find yourself suffering from white page syndrome, and lack inspiration on how you might update content, use these tips from Site Pro News blogger Adrienne Erin:

    • Make sure every page has some call-to-action. This can be to pick up the phone for a consultation, email for an appointment, download a white paper, join an email list, set up an account, add items to a wish list, etc. Think about what you want to get from every visitor to your site.
    • Rewrite the content on all the webpages. Just as the appearance of a site can become dated, so can the readability. You don’t have to majorly rewrite all the content; even minor tweaks can alter the way a piece reads.
    • Delete pages that no longer apply to your company. Has your business changed its direction? Do you have pages that make zero sense to keep? Remove them or risk confusing your guests.
    • Add pages for new products or services. Just as you deleted some pages, you may want to add others for the same reasons.

Want other tips to develop your website content? A few of our previous articles may help you find exactly the topic or trend or type of inspriation you need.

Blog Post Inspiration Sources

Avoid Writing “Click Here” When Authoring Your Website or Marketing Email Content

WordPress Blog Post Development Checklist


Give me a call. We’ll help get you focused and on track with an editorial plan and if you need it, professional content development assistance.