Creating and Maintaining a Website Strategy
I spend a lot of time talking about operations. Getting all the moving parts moving together, improving a website or product for customers while also driving business value, saving time and money along the way.
Today I’d like to focus on strategy a little bit. Strategy looks at how well your website is aligned to its vision and customer needs, and whether the right initiatives are planned to keep the website relevant, high-quality, and useful.
Strategy is how you know that all those efficient operations are doing the right thing, toward the right end goal.
Culture & Organization
Like so many things, it starts at the top. The website needs executive sponsorship from the highest possible level.
Too many companies put their website firmly in the hands of one marketing department. The way budgeting happens, that department has no incentive to consult anyone else about what goes on the site. They have no resources to implement anyone else’s initiatives even if they wanted to.
On the flip side, departments that may have valuable content and features to add to the site are often not resourced to do so. So even if that one marketing department reaches out, they may be greeted with “not my job”.
The problem here is that a successful website represents the entire organization; it’s no longer just a simple marketing tactic. Even though one department may “own” the site – and obviously someone needs to be in charge here – that department needs incentive and resources to create a company-wide experience.
So senior management must set the stage, by instilling a culture of digital throughout the organization. Just as everyone shares responsibility for representing the brand in their own job, they also should share responsibility for representing the brand well via the website.
To enable this, senior management also must establish a way to fund the website so that the implementing department is able to handle any needs as appropriate, that they’re empowered to prioritize, and that they are incentivized to reach out to others.
Set some goals
These goals will drive the design, content, and features for the site. You’re likely familiar with SMART goals: those that are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound. Your website goals should meet those criteria as well.
These goals will be the primary driver of website projects, content, and even metrics. Every activity around the site should tie back to one or more goals. Any time someone asks me what metrics to track – and this is a common question – my answer is “well, what are your goals?” Because beyond a few bellwether metrics like page views, you’ll want to look at the measures that relate to what you’re actually trying to accomplish.
Plan it out
Once you have goals, you’ll need to translate them into actions that achieve the goals. My personal favorite tool for this is roadmapping. This post explains roadmaps in more detail. In a nutshell, you list out the initiatives you’ll need, then plan them on a timeline.
The key is to keep the roadmap updated, and keep using it as a reference.
Continuous Feedback and Improvement
No website should stay the same forever. The beauty of digital is that it is always changing, but that does mean you need change with it.
Listen to your visitors and customers. Solicit feedback in the form of surveys, interviews, focus groups. Incentivize people however you need to in order to obtain real-world feedback from real website visitors.
In between feedback, track your analytics. If you look at them the right way, they’ll tell a story.
Then, feed those learnings into the next cycle of content, design, or functional updates as appropriate.
Keep it moving
These activities should form a loop – goals, planning, feedback, improvement. All enabled by the culture and organization.
Strategy is no more a static thing than operations. It may move more slowly, but it still moves. By forming a sound strategy, you can ensure the website is successful by your standards.