Your website is your business' most important inbound marketing tool. Think of it as an online storefront to draw attention to your products and services, just as a brick and mortar space would to passersby.
Here's a scenario:
You walk down the street with your child and you pass a toy shop. Your kid begs for one of the items in the window. You give in (it's just easier, right?) and buy the toy. The marketing strategy worked. Imagine the same store with the toy in the window, but when you go inside, you can't find the toy and there is no salesperson around to help you. The toy did its job to draw attention, but the store didn't execute the strategy and the end result is a screaming kid who couldn't get what he wanted.
An outdated website could be providing the same experience for your customers. They may be able to find your site, but once they get there, it's not clear how to get the information they are looking for so they go elsewhere.
That's why implementing an inbound marketing strategy at the same time of a site redesign is the best way to go about it. But what if you've already been sold on inbound marketing and have embraced a strategy? Can you successfully implement that strategy on an outdated website?
No. Not to it's maximum effectiveness anyway. You'd be able create your blog, landing pages and put in calls-to-action, but the overall flow of the site isn't likely leading buyers through the natural lead funnel.
Inbound marketing and your website strategy go hand-in-hand.
Your inbound marketing strategy should dictate how your website is built. Don't build a site simply for how it looks. You need to factor in functionality such as landing pages, calls to action, lead capture forms, etc. If you know you want to incorporate all of these into your site before you begin design, you'll save a lot of time rather than trying to add them into an existing site later on.
Content is the foundation of both your website and your inbound marketing. A redesign provides an opportunity to update that content and optimize it for the keywords you want to be found for. Refresh outdated copy, implement new keywords and create additional pages to support those efforts.
A website should be built and written for your company's core buyer personas. These personas should help develop the flow of your site map, determining how people will navigate through your website. By keeping those key personas in mind as you develop your site and its content, you'll end up with a site that clearly leads your personas through the buying funnel, offering helpful information, buildling trust and inspiring them to take action.
When considering whether it's time to redesign your website to better align with your inbound marketing goals, take a look at your current site and ask yourself these questions:
- Is the layout optimal for what I want users to accomplish on the page?
- Are my users seeing the content I want them to see?
- Are my users finding what they're looking for on the page?
- Are my calls to action motivating or visible enough?
- What links are users clicking?
If your answers aren't satisfactory, it's time for a redesign.
We recently consulted on a project for a recreational cooking school in Chicago. The Chopping Block has embraced content marketing with open arms since 2009. Their staff blogs regularly (Monday through Friday!), are active in social media and have an active email database of 20,000+ subscribers. However, the company's website was its achilles heel. The (gasp) 10+ year old website was designed on a CMS that required a developer, so changing "today" to "last week" on the site required a third party be involved. There were forms that captured contact information, but no way to nuture those leads. The Chopping Block was literally being held hostage by its website!
Were their inbound marketing efforts (email marketing, social media, blogging) successful? Sure. Could they be improved with a better site? Definitely.
Let's take a look at The Chopping Block's home page before the website design:
Yikes! That's a lot of text. But as one of the busiest recreational cooking schools, event venues and gourmet retail stores in the country, they have a lot to say about cooking. A challenge for website design agency Revenue River was to create a site that was visually appealling but allowed the school to regularly update their own content. What resulted was a beautiful homepage that still gives the user lots of information, but in a easy to consume way.
Revenue River designed the new site on the HubSpot Content Optimization System (COS), so that it is completely mobile responsive (the new site launched just days before Google's #Mobilegeddon) and allows The Chopping Block to make changes on its own.
The easily updatable modular design worked so well it was featured in HubSpot's Designer Inspiration board.
Not only is the design easier on the eyes, the site is much more user-friendly and contains tangible calls-to-action on each page that prompt the user to take the next step. The site includes landing pages and is integrated with email marketing so that each contact can be target marketed to.
This new design actually allows inbound marketing to work as it should, rather than being hindered by an outdated site. We understand there are many reasons businesses live with outdated websites: budget, lack of time, no one to manage the project, the list goes on. In fact, we are going through the website redesign process right now here at SPROUT Content.
But an outdated website sends the wrong message. Whether it's outdated design, boring content, a cluttered path or obsolete functionality, if a user has a negative experience on a website, it translates to the company, which could mean trouble for your credibility. Stanford’s Persuasive Technology Lab found that almost half (46%) of people say a website’s design is the number one criterion for discerning credibility. And no one wants their business to be considered uncredible.
Here are some possible goals to consider before you enter into a website redesign project:
- Develop a site that will complement inbound marketing goals, creating more opportunities to convert visitors into profitable customers.
- Ensure SEO best practices for optimal search results.
- Maintain a competitive advantage.
- Further solidify thought leadership in an increasingly technical space.
- Improve user experience.