Which Way Does Your Website Face?
Perhaps it’s true that there are no compasses in cyberspace. (It’s certainly easy to think there are no moral compasses in some corners of the Internet, but that’s an entirely different conversation.) But your website points in one of two directions: Toward you or toward your customer.
Too many companies' websites are oriented toward themselves. You see this in the language they use and in the way they’re organized. And while these websites can and frequently do have high traffic numbers, the traffic is usually being driven by factors other than the site’s own strength. That means, as positive as high traffic might be, the site is actually losing opportunities.
The lost opportunities occur because the site isn’t addressing the concerns of the target audience: Namely, the business problem they are trying to solve. A site that focuses on “me" and w"e” is never going to grab your audience’s attention the way a site focus on “you” — meaning prospects and customers — will.
Read through your website and note how frequently those pronouns are used in comparison to one another. Are you talking about yourself and what your company does? Or are you talking about your prospects and clients, their problems, and ways to address those problems?
It had better be the latter, because that’s all your prospects care about. As I say in planning meetings for nearly every project we work on, your prospect doesn’t care about you. They don’t even care about what you do. They care about what you can do for them. Your website had better make it clear that you understand this.
Of course, it’s not just the “your/our” split that matters. Content on the site has to be engaging enough to get people to dig more deeply, return to the site, subscribe to your newsletter, and share content with colleagues.
The key word in that last paragraph is “engaging.” That’s the key not only to traffic but also to conversions, which is really what we’re interested in. Because as gratifying as it is to know that people are reading your website, traffic numbers don’t pay the bills for most of us. We need to convert those visitors into clients.
There’s more to consider beyond the language you’re using and the topics you’re addressing. Review your site again, paying attention to navigation and structure. Is the site organized along departmental lines that make sense only to people who know your org chart? Or does it group information in ways that make sense to a prospect or client?
Obviously, your site should be organized from the client’s perspective. All the information that might be of interest to them should be accessible to them without a lot of searching. Your sidebars and calls to action should lead naturally to the next question your prospect might have after engaging with the main content on any particular page.
The goal is to take baby steps towards that conversion from visitor to customer. Each page should have a call to action that moves them closer to a level of comfort that allows them to invites you to connect with them more meaningfully, from signing up for a newsletter to attending a webinar to actual human contact between the prospect and your sales team.
Once you’re paying attention to the symptoms of a website pointed in the wrong direction, those symptoms are shockingly obvious. Treating those symptoms can take some time and effort, but is well worth it in the returns a more effective marketing tool can generate.
One last caution: there is a third direction your website might point, and it can be harder to detect. Your website can be pointed toward the search engines. This means the site might seem as if it is focused on your customer, but a slightly deeper dig makes it clear that a reliance on repetitive keywords and stilted language was probably the result of an overzealous SEO “expert.” Make sure that content and information of value to your prospects is driving each page of your site. The SEO almost takes care of itself after that, as does your website’s performance.
Since 1996, Andrew Schulkind has asked clients one simple question: what does digital marketing success look like, and how can marketing progress be measured?
A veteran content marketer, web developer, and digital strategist, Andrew founded Andigo New Media to help firms encourage audience engagement through solid information architecture, a great user experience, and compelling content. A dash of common sense doesn’t hurt, either.
His work touches social media, search-engine optimization, and email marketing, among other components, and he has presented at Social Media Week NY and WordCampNYC, among other events. His writing appears in various online and print publications.
Andrew graduated with a B.A. in Philosophy from Bucknell University. He engages in a range of community volunteer work and is an avid fly fisherman and cyclist. He also loves collecting meaningless trivia. (Did you know the Lone Ranger made his mask from the cloth of his brother's vest after his brother was killed by "the bad guys?")