Whether you’re building a website from scratch, or redesigning an old and tired static website, a strategy is an absolute must before you start. Website strategy tells your designers, developers, and account managers what the website is going to do and how it’s going to do it. In fact, if you don’t have a strategy — don’t build a website.

What goes into a website strategy?:

Information about the company:   Everyone and anyone building your website must know everything about your brand, business model, and goals. Your site has to work for all your business units: Sales, Marketing, HR, Shipping — everyone, as well as engage visitors and your key audience.

Who is your audience: This is a critical step people skip in the rush to build a website. You have to define your audience, what type of information they will want and need. You may have more than one audience. You need to understand how your audience will absorb information on your site.

Competition Research: The good news is the internet allows us to find reams of information about our competition within seconds of searching. Finding out what your competition is doing is important to help you find creative ways to communicate on your website. And discover what not to do!

Creative brief: Now you merge the previous three steps into your website strategy. You create an outline of website navigation, Call To Action (CTA) placements, marketing messages, and other factors. Keep in mind online visitors have short attention spans. Headlines must be sharp, CTAs easy to identify, and confusion limited.

Existing websites

If you have an existing website that you want to revamp with a new strategy, start with your current metrics. Metrics like visits, bounce rates, time on site, and time on individual pages provide a snapshot of what works and what doesn’t. Once you know what is working, let that direct the goals of your website, and craft your strategy around that.

Most websites are going to have a few pages that list high in the search engines. In order not to lose that ranking, those pages must be recorded and redirected properly. Your metrics will also tell you where people become disinterested and leave your website. Be aware that redesigns can also drop visitor counts at first because your targeted audience will change as your content changes.

New websites

New websites are always exciting — and always challenging to design. Proper research gives you an idea of what works for your competition and what they are not capitalizing on. Remember, all it takes is one search to start getting valuable market data.

Once you have that research, you have to determine who is your company’s ideal buyer. This is a buyer persona and it is a portrait of your idealized customer. Some companies only have one buyer persona, but most have several. By building these, you create a tool to guide you when you design your website strategy.

Different content channels can be created, or even different sections of a website. For instance, if you sell items to the public and to businesses, you would want to channel each visitor into the appropriate funnel rather than mix them up.

Whether it is old or new, your website needs to be directed by a strategy. And you build that strategy to drive your business forward. It sounds simple, but it’s not — and you have to do it.