What is a website strategy, why do you need one, and how do you create one? While these may seem like easy questions, they do not necessarily come with easy answers or ready-made workflows.
Managing a website effectively and ensuring your website strategy is on-point is a hard-won skill.
You will need to get comfortable with collaboration, breaking down silos, and probably pushing the boundaries of what people in your organisation think your website is.
Let’s break down website strategy so you don’t get stuck in common website mismanagement traps.
Busting website strategy myths – hint: it’s not a redesign project!
Websites tend to be dealt with in a very reactive way. There is a need for a website redesign, and everyone is suddenly called in a huge flurry of panic. It seems like everyone in the organisation is involved, and once it’s live, the CMO does not want to hear another peep out of anyone. Sound familiar? While it’s clear that a website redesign project requires a lot of energy, working in such a reactive way is not productive or conducive to long-term digital goals. That is NOT a website strategy.
A website strategy is not:
- A website redesign project
- Hosting, SEO, web development, or content management; rather, it is a dynamic combination of all those things (and more)
- In the hands of one single person. Website management is a team sport, and it’s highly unlikely that one single person would have all the necessary skills
- Just a technical website project. Your website is an essential commercial asset
- A brand strategy, or even a digital brand strategy. Websites are a dynamic environment where branding meets purpose, content, and technology. Websites are not just for branding, they are also for sales, recruitment, media relations etc.
Website management is an ongoing process
Probably the most underappreciated element of good website strategy is the importance of ongoing website management. This means the ongoing management of your website in both a reactive and a proactive way. Website monitoring tools and analytics can help you spot problems before they occur, and frequent content audits are necessary for your website’s proper indexing and an aligned content strategy.
- You need to have both a budget and a workflow for ongoing fixes and website changes. There needs to be a clear way of ordering and prioritising work – website amendments are often best done in sprints
- Website audits and health checks should be written into your marketing plan and calendar. You can easily order this from external agencies or stakeholders or use a combination of paid and free tools to create your own
- After an audit, implementing those findings should also be a priority, as too many good intentions are left on the auditing room floor
- Look at your website across the board: performance and speed, content and indexing, branding, traffic and conversions, sales and engagement. Consider all the different user groups carefully when doing your audits. Perhaps you are overservicing your new customers and not creating enough content or conversion points for loyal ones?
Website evolution is essential to combat stagnation
Business is constantly changing, and your website should reflect that. Be on top of content amends and removals to ensure your website is a good reflection of your current organisation. At its worst, poor website management can get you in hot water – for example, not updating cookie consent policies and tracking your users.
Here are some common things to look out for:
- Broken pages and 404 errors
- Broken links
- New team members and staffing changes
- Cookie consent and privacy policies
- Multilingual amends and new pages
- Legal elements that need to be updated, e.g. terms and conditions.
These things are just general digital housekeeping – you should also be benchmarking your website against industry competition. Review your online brand in its competitive context to see how you stack up – including where you stand when it comes to online search results.
Say no to silos, website teams are dynamic
Many different departments should be involved in your website strategy, but you will have to work hard to break down silos. Working in a siloed way is probably the top reason why website strategies fail, especially when it comes to content management.
- The problem of ‘too many cooks’ can work against you and dilute your website goals. Having a good team dynamic and clear ownership and leadership roles can massively help here. Seek clarity and form focus groups to keep things moving
- Documentation and processes will provide clarity when there is confusion, but remember the old adage of picking up the phone – sometimes it is just easier to talk things out
- Websites are a dynamic interplay between content and technical elements, and those two departments need to get good at speaking to one another. Encourage web designers, developers, and content managers to work together
- Brand management is an ongoing process. Design is not just your brand book and static graphics, but an evolving work in practice that flows throughout your digital brand.
Part of your wider tech environment
Your website is not an island and is likely to be in communication with your CRM, ERP, ordering system, email client, and many more! It is a good idea to integrate where you can, as well as automate, but understanding the relationships between systems can be challenging.
- Integrations are increasingly essential to modern business. See your website as part of a technical architecture and system that helps your business function, and be ambitious when it comes to quality and security
- Data management is an important part of website strategy. Avoid having the same data in two separate places and automate data management where it makes sense. Be on top of data processing and protection
- Performance issues on websites are often the result of too much complexity, whether that’s in the design or in back-end integrations. Be careful of running duplicate scripts.
More results with a better strategy
Justifying your website strategy using commercials is good business sense. Learn how to see your website as a digital asset and treat it as such.
- Having a website strategy will make your business more aligned. It will help you maximise your brand, content, and technical strategy. It is about investing in an all-informed system
- Constantly tinkering with your website and getting “stuck in the weeds” is also not a productive way to do business. Don’t confuse small amends and changes and constantly updating your blog with website strategy
- Less page errors mean a better indexing environment, which leads to better SEO results. SEO should be a big website health driver, but you also need to talk about progress in the context of user experience and conversions.
How to get started with your website strategy
- One of the first things is to acknowledge the fact that you need one – and start mapping out a plan for implementing it. This could be setting up focus group meetings, creating a Jira board for bug fixing, ordering in new copy from other departments, updating and optimising product photos
- Delegate out roles and map out what skills you are missing and may need to outsource. Having schedules and goals will help you maintain accountability
- Starting with a comprehensive audit and a roadmap is a great way to get going on the right track. Remember, things are likely to change quite quickly, so an agile approach is best
- Honestly, every website strategy is likely to look a little different and reflect your individual business goals. For example, a website that is pushing for sales, should be rigorously tested for performance, possibly optimised for individual local markets, and tested for conversions on a regular basis.