So you’ve decided to build a website or refresh your existing one. That’s great news. A website is a marketing tool that can help support your marketing and sales process saving you lots of time and money.
But it needs to be done right and that means getting the foundations right so you don’t need to rebuild it later on. And no, you shouldn’t have to completely rebuild a website every few years. Build it right from the start and you can just tweak it for the rest of it’s life!
That’s exactly where you need to start, at the bottom, the foundations.
Just like building a house. If you start on weak foundations, the building will eventually crumble and you will have more work to do later.
Building strong website foundations takes patience and research.
Your website is a marketing tool and building it shouldn’t be rushed.
Look, I know you want to get your message out there, tell the world you are open for business but please, don’t rush into it.
Rushing your website and making decisions based on what others say rather than on what is right for you will cost you in time and money later on.
Example. My client rushed into buying her own hosting account. She didn’t know what she was doing and ended up buying ‘add on’ services that cost a few hundred pound that she just didn’t need. Once she signed up for my coaching services I was able to tell her exactly how to set up her hosting account and exactly what to say to get her money back even though she was months over the refund period.
Example. Another client started building a website with a ‘free’ WordPress’ template. 2 months of effort later she came to me with a stack of problems that she couldn’t fix. It turns out she needed to upgrade the theme to access some extra features. Even if she upgraded the theme still didn’t give her the look and feel and she wanted. Once she signed up for my coaching services I as able to give her lifetime access to the WordPress theme ‘Divi’ which was about to make her life much more easy!
Example. One of my SEO clients had built his site on Wix. With my help he was able to improve the visibility of his website for his chosen keywords but it came at a huge cost in both time and money for him. There were some things he just couldn’t do in Wix without custom coding (adding multiple schema data was one). I had to write him extra code that he had to add manually. In WordPress, this code is added in a plugin (for free) no time or extra cost to get a developer involved.
So, back to the one thing you need to know before building your website
The answer is…. your marketing plan. What sort of visibility do you want and how do you want to get it?
You need to understand why you want a website and how you will be using it. This will help you make some important decisions that will dictate the ease of your website build and how much it will cost. The features you need on a website vary according to how you market your business. Depending on your marketing plan and business goals you will either need a basic ‘information’ website or flexible ‘marketing’ website.
A basic information website
A basic information website can be one page or a few pages. It has no blog. Its only job is to provide information on your services and your contact details.
You only need a basic information website if:
- You don’t have much competition
- You only want to work with a few clients each month
- You can find clients easily in local networking groups and social media
- You have no interest now or in the future to do any ‘digital marketing’ beyond posting occasionally on social media
- You don’t need many people to look at your website
Don’t expect this type of website to generate enquiries and new clients because it is unlikely to be found in search engines (there is no SEO strategy). It has no landing page because you are not running ads. In fact, you can argue that you don’t really need this type of website at all because people will get to know you from meeting you face to face and quite often this is enough to sell your services.
A marketing website
A marketing website is website for businesses that want to have more visibility beyond their current social media circle and local networking groups. You will need this type of website when you realise you need to put a bit more effort into your marketing. This happens when:
- You realise you are in a competitive market and you need help to stand out
- You want to reach more people with your marketing than you can do in local networking groups
- You want to scale your business to work with more than just a few clients each month
- You want to reach people nationally or globally
- You want to use ‘digital marketing’ tactics
What are ‘digital marketing’ tactics?
These are tactics such as:
- Blogging -> You are blogging and want to be found in search engines
- Paid ads ->You want to use digitals adverts, such as Facebook or Google ads
- Email marketing -> You want to grow an email marketing list and offer downloads on your website
If you want to be digitally marketing your business you need a website with stronger technical foundations that enables your website to grow as your business grows.
What does ‘strong technical foundations’ mean?
When you start to really think about digital marketing you need a website where you can:
Create landing pages: If you are running ads or have something you want people to download, you need to create landing pages. This is a page without your typical website header and footer and focuses on action they your visitor needs to take. E.g download a PDF or book a strategy call. The design needs to be flexible. Having the ability to create landing pages quickly easily is important. LeadPages is an online tool for creating landing pages that are not hosted on your website. There is a reason businesses like ‘LeadPages’ are successful. Because many people have realised the importance of landing pages but their website only allows them to create normal pages with headers and footers. LeadPages is $79 – see price on website here per month but you can create landing pages for free in a WordPress site. If you are considering another website builder, make sure you can build landing pages.
Improve the speed of your website: For every 30 seconds it takes your page to load you loose a percentage of your visitors. Fast loading pages are essential for a good user experience. This is important if you want people to stay on your website once they have found you. Fast loading pages are also essential for search engine optimisation. Google won’t promote your page in search if it is slow to load. There is a free online tool you can use called https://gtmetrix.com/. Find a few sites that are built using the platform you are considering and put them in the tool to see how fast they load. Most sites are quite slow without optimisation. They need something called ‘caching’ set up and the page needs to structured well to improve the loading time. With a WordPress site you have control over the hosting environment and how your page is structured so it is possible to get your site to load in under 2 seconds. Other builders give you much less control. You don’t control the hosting environment and you don’t control the page structure. This might not feel important to you when you are starting out but when you run ads to your website a slow loading page is loss of ad spend. I know because I worked on conversion rate optimisation of adverts and landing pages. If you are paying for people to click to your website you want your website to load as soon as they get there. If they have to wait more than a few seconds they will leave and that is a waste of a click and a waste of a few pounds of your ad spend. Make sure the web builder you choose has evidence of pages loading in less than 2 seconds, just so you know it’s possible. Ask the company and see what they say – ask for evidence.
Frequently update your website: When you use your website as a marketing tool you will realise that you need to keep it updated regularly. You will want to update your offers. Add ways to get people onto your email list. You will want to create landing pages for ads. You may even want to create courses as part of your offerings. You don’t have a crystal ball so you wont know exactly what you will need to do yet, but you will need to make changes, that is certain. Many people don’t update their website because they find it too hard or they don’t want to keep paying a designer or they know the changes they want wont happen in a certain timeframe. So it is important to be able to quickly and easily update your website yourself and not feel limited. You need to be able to react quickly to external conditions such as, put a notice on your website or write a landing page for an amazing you advert you have just thought of. If you are experimenting with services and offers you want a website where you can quickly create new services pages. The quickest way to do this is to duplicate existing pages on your website. This keeps your website and branding looking professional and consistent. When checking out website builders check to see how easy it it to duplicate existing pages and tweak them. How quick can you create a landing page? You don’t want to feel like you have to buy a tool like LeadPages to cover the limits of your website builder.
Implement SEO: Many people blog without really thinking about what is technically needed to keep Google happy. Only after blogging for years they might realise they are nowhere to be found in search engines. There can be so many reasons for this but one in particular is the technical set of your blog. The one example I am going to use to explain this is the problem with ‘thin’ content. For Google to see your blog as a useful resource it judges the overall quality of your site. One way it does that is by looking at all your pages and determining how much of it is high quality content. If Google sees lots of pages with just a few words, or duplicate content on your site I will give you thumbs down and if you are in a competitive market that could mean bad news for your search engine visibility. It’s an easy fix – you just hide your low quality pages from Google. I did this for a client and doubled their traffic. I have a case study about it. This is just one thing you can check when choosing your website builder. How easy it to to hide ‘groups’ of pages. You will be able to able individual pages but groups is more tricky but more important. E.g When you write a blog, you may be using tags. This causes a page to be created called www.mysite.com/tag . Quite often its a low quality page, either through word count or because it is duplicating content. It’s a good idea to hide these from Google. Ask your potential website builder provider how you can hide tag pages from Google. (Not individual pages). In WordPress, it’s just the click of a button!
The other really tricky thing to implement is multiple schema. Schema gives Google more information about what is on your web page. Now, this is quite an advanced SEO tactic and only really comes into play if you are in the top few pages in google and you want to rise to the top. You may be able to add one schema, eg, for a product, but you cant add two, e.g for a product and for a review. Again in WordPress this is easy and needs no custom coding but in Wix it takes custom coding. Well, it did a year ago when my client wanted it done. It wasn’t impossible, but it cost my client more money and time, than if it was done on WordPress.
Implement tracking: If you are putting time and energy into digital marketing, you need to track the behaviour of your users and track your marketing goals on your website. E.g How many times was your PDF downloaded from the campaign you ran on Facebook. One of the most valuable tracking activities you can do is set up website goals in Google analytics. The ease at which you do this depends on the way your website is built. You may wish to track which social media campaign generated the most button clicks, video views or pdf downloads on your website. This is called event tracking. There are a few ways to track events, if you are a coder like me, it’s easy enough to add extra code to buttons (providing you have access to the code of the button) but some website builders might make this more difficult than it needs to be. If you want to stay away from code then make sure your website builder lets you easily add ‘event tracking’ to your website. In WordPress – again – there is a plugin that lets you do this easily.
Can you start with an information website then move to a marketing website later when your business is ready?
Of course you can, and I highly recommend this approach to businesses that are just starting out. A marketing website has so many moving parts it can become really overwhelming to plan and build. It should be done in stages and that is what my website coaching services are based around.
The stages are;
- Defining your ideal client avatar
- Defining a simple marketing plan
- Planning your website
- Maintaining your website
- Adding a simple lead generation funnel (PF download / email sequence / landing page / thank you page)
- Adding a search optimised blog
- Amplifying your content using retargeting ads
I believe every marketing website should go through those stages at least.
Start as you mean to go on… making your website future proof using WordPress
If you build your website quickly without thinking about your marketing plan you may find yourself in a bit of a pickle when it comes to updating your website later, when you want to increase your online visibility.
Many ‘closed’ website building platforms (such as Wix and Squarespace) have limits on what they can do. They are best suited for ‘information websites’.
Yes they have tools for SEO and other features you may need but these are of a much lower standard than what you can find on WordPress. This really does matter when it comes to wanting more online visibility.
Things you can do in WordPress by using one of the many plugins available, can be really, really hard to do in other website builders, sometimes it can be impossible.
Eventually, you may become frustrated with the limitations and after some research you will come to understand that WordPress has everything you need.
Then you are faced with the decision, stick with what you have or rebuild on WordPress. This decision alone can feel so daunting that I’ve witnessed people agonising for months and years about it.
That is a lot of time wasted with marketing, just when your business needs it most.
Should you choose WordPress for your website?
It really comes down to the type of website you need. Just a low visibility information site or do you want a higher visibility marketing site?
Do you want to make your life easier in the long run or risk having to redesign everything when you feel limited by your current website?
Some people may recommend other platforms like Wix etc because it has been easy for them and their website works for them and that is where you are at risk of making the wrong decision. Their marketing strategy and business goals may be different to yours. Their business may be very niche and they do a lot of face to face networking or they may be very active doing organic social media. In which case they can just use an ‘information’ website as described above.
I love WordPress because of it’s flexibility, so I say yes. Start with WordPress but keep it simple. Then add to it as you need to. It takes time to build your skill and knowledge so it helps to have a mentor at hand.
I teach people how to use WordPress through my workshops and I do a lot of hand holding because for some people it’s not easy. But after my coaching program, they can build a website with ease and they always know they can rely on me to get them out of any WordPress pickle they may find themselves in.