When you started your business, you probably had some specific goals in mind. Whether they be short- or long-term, world changing or niche based; few people will embark on the journey of business ownership without some sort of plan. Why then, when it comes to creating the most powerful marketing weapon in the business arsenal, do so many people set out with no specific goals in mind? In short: They want a website, but they don’t know why.

Everyone recognizes that the internet is essential to business. Having an online presence is no longer a luxury or an afterthought, it is the first place customers look to legitimize a company as someone they can trust. It is the face of your business. Having specific ideas of what your website should achieve from the beginning helps ensure your visitors have the experience you designed. An effective website starts with clearly defined goals.

Step by step: Your best web presence through clearly defined goals.

Know what you want. It seems obvious, but the first step is to decide exactly what the website is for. Sharing information? Announcing news? Selling products? Generating contacts and leads? What do you want your visitors to do? Call you on the phone? Fill out a form? Buy a product? If you only have 5 seconds to convey one idea, what is it? These are your starting points. Ask yourself these questions and write down the answers, these are your website’s goals.

Know your audience. An important early step is considering who you are trying to reach. This can make a huge difference in not only the look and feel of a site, but in the way it functions as well. Gather as much information as possible about the people who will be your visitors. Know not only who your customers are, but who you want to become a customer. This is your current and target demographic.

Plan your content with goals and audience in mind. It’s easy to get caught in the “everything is the important” trap. Too often websites become cluttered with secondary, tertiary and irrelevant information because a business owner forgets the goals. Stay focused! Remember that one, prominent idea and let it shine. Create an information hierarchy by organizing your content from the most to the least important. Think of all the feedback, questions and comments your customers have ever provided and use that as a guide to your structure.

Be prepared. Once you’ve done all that thinking and planning and structuring, don’t forget to communicate it clearly to your marketing team. Make sure the people you work with understand your goals. A marketing plan is much more effective when it is well thought out from the onset. A good marketing company will work with you throughout the process to make sure your goals are met. You should be able to trust each other in the creation of your site. You provide content and knowledge about your business and they organize and present it in an intuitive and effective manner.

Be an active participant. Once that site has gone up, it’s up to you to keep people coming to it. Don’t “set it and forget it.” If you never look at your website again, neither will anyone else. Update your content, keep your information current, announce new sales/services/partnerships. Become an evolving resource and people will turn to you again and again. Talk with your marketing team if you are unsure of ways to keep your content fresh. A good company will have tested ideas and methods prepared to help you stay current.

Don’t forget the maintenance. Technology advances at an alarming rate. It’s a good idea to have a bi-yearly check-up performed on your site. This ensures that your investment continues to function properly and your visitors get the experience you designed. Regularly check the site for broken links, expired content, and areas that suddenly stop functioning. If you find something, call your developer immediately. Broken websites are a terrible blow to the confidence a visitor has in the business.

Setting goals for your website from the start is setting yourself up to succeed, so take your time. Plan, prepare and communicate every step of the way. By defining your goals and staying focused on them you can create a highly effective web presence and the best possible experience for your customers.

By Liz Abbey / Designer & Developer Extraordinaire