8 Crucial Steps to Building an Inbound Website

by Remington Begg

Date

September 18, 2013 at 1:00 PM

website-redesign-cartoonToday’s websites have changed when compared to those of even three years ago. Advancements in technology combined with wiser consumers have made closing sales harder for those businesses stuck in a more traditional marketing mindset. For instance, a recent study concluded that before the consumer picks up the phone to talk to a sales person, they're already 57% through the buying cycle. Every business needs to start paying attention to how the buying process has changed.

What does this mean, practically? This means that we have to become the authority in our space, and provide relevant, helpful information to delight our prospects and guide them to become customers and evangelists. If we don't, we risk losing the race with our competitors.

Many businesses get caught up in the "look" of a website design or redesign, but we find that almost all of our clients need to pay more attention to “how inbound their website is.” For this to be achieved, we always ensure we've hit these 8 key steps that result in good inbound website design. We recommend to always check for the following to transition over to an inbound-friendly website.

1) Who is your website talking to?

Too many times, we see this being the first downfall of a website. There is no consideration of "who" your website is actually supposed to be talking to. If you send out direct mail, for instance, you think about who we're targeting. Before you advertise in magazines, you think about the demographic you're going to reach. But many websites get stuck on talking about "what" and not clearly defining the actual people who are interested in the product, service, or company.

Fundamental starting points are buyer personas or target market segments. (If you don't have buyer personas, grab this free template to create them for your business.) What are the buyer personas and target markets you're trying to reach with your website? Once you outline who these people are, only then can you start to create messages, pages, and content for them.

(Note: Be sure to also consider where they are in the buying cycle. We'll talk more about that in point number three.)

2) Which content is needed in order to be a thought leader in the marketplace?

Odds are, you have competitors in your market. So when re-structuring your website, it’s important that you pay attention to the frequency and quality of the content being produced by your competition. This doesn’t mean to copy (or steal) it. But in order to be a thought leader, you need to ensure you get found by the consumer. And for your website to break through the "noise" of your industry, it will require providing the right content, to the right people, at the right time. It doesn't mean you make decisions based solely on your competition, but it does mean you have your pulse on what your industry is saying, and what information consumers are looking for.

3) Build your site for Learners, Shoppers, and Buyers.

Too often, marketers go "straight for the throat." Typically, they only include CTA's (calls-to-action) that are for prospects that are ready to buy now (i.e. “Buy Now,” “Request a Consultation,” or "Call Today"). By modifying your website to have a balance of content, CTAs, and lead generation opportunities for every step of the buying cycle, you will find a huge increase in engagement and conversions on your site.

Inbound marketers often refer to the steps of the buying cycle as:

  1. Top of the Funnel, or TOFU
  2. Middle of the Funnel, or MOFU
  3. Bottom of the Funnel, or BOFU

When talking to new clients we like to describe each of these buying cycles as Learners (TOFU), Shoppers (MOFU), and Buyers (BOFU). Call them whatever makes the most sense to you.

  1. An example of a Learner or (TOFU) prospect is someone searching Google for "best midsize family car."
  2. An Example of a Shopper or (MOFU) prospect is someone searching Google for "crossover SUV reviews."
  3. An Example of a Buyer or (BOFU) prospect is someone searching Google for "Ford Edge for sale."

Think about what content you've created on your website that helps the "Learner" learn about why there is a need for your product or service. Think about what pain points it addresses. Now, think about opportunities to nurture your prospect to the Shopper stage, and then the Buyer stage, and then rinse and repeat for each of your services. Each step of the way there are opportunities to convert leads, with tools from the inbound content toolbox: ebooks, whitepapers, webinars -- you name it.

4) Finish with SEO, but don’t start with it.

Ensure that each page has its own purpose and context first. Then, once you've created the right content for your buyer persona, see if there are opportunities to naturally optimize your copy, URL, title, etc. with keywords based on your experience of what they will be looking for. Be sure to consider what "learners, shoppers, and buyers" will be searching for. In short, SEO should solve for the reader, not search engines.

5) Make sure you talk about "why" more than "what."

When we talk with businesses about a website redesign we find that often almost 90% of the existing websites talk about "what." The problem is, if you're talking about blue widgets and red widgets (and so are your competitors), there is usually a large segment of your website visitors who are still in the learning phase about how those widgets will help them solve their problem and whether it will be a wise purchase.

If your website starts off with "why," then it's going to be much easier to convey the value of your widgets to the consumer. And if you craft the "why" the right way, then you will also have a greater chance to create an emotional connection with your prospects. Reach them on an emotional level. Simon Sinek does a great job of explaining this with his TED Talk on the "Power of Why."

If your website connects the dots between "Why do I even need this product?" and "This product will help me take over the world!" then you're on the track to not only delighting your new customer, but also delighting your sales team with an easy sale. And isn’t that what a business website is supposed to do?

6) Create stupid-proof navigation.

So, I usually make this case with stating "people are stupid" to get my clients’ attention. People aren't stupid, and it's not meant to offend anyone, but think about your own website browsing behavior. If you're like most people, you'll do a Google search to get started, then you'll choose one of the listings on the first page, and if that destination doesn't show you what you want relatively quickly, you're back to Google, right?

It's easy to think about complicated menus, submenus, and sub-sub-menus -- you get the point -- but the fact is most people won't take the time to navigate that complicated jungle. The opportunity for context, however, is luckily quite large in web design. Not only having navigation that's easy to use, but also considers the path that a viewer might take to get to the content they want, is critical. The old motto still holds true: make sure the viewer can get where they want to go with the least possible number of clicks. This includes having a few different ways for viewers to navigate. In my opinion, the days of site maps (for viewers) are long gone. But popular ways to provide some stupid-proof navigation are:

  • Providing footer links on every page for the content you "want" people to find
  • Having a menu that makes it simple to understand what the next step should be
  • Including anchor text within content to drive the visitor deeper into your website

Find a good balance of all three, and you're on your way to making your website "stupid-proof".

7) Use responsive design.

Our culture is hyper-connected to the internet, and this is only going to increase. For marketers, however, this is a great opportunity. It's more important than ever for websites to be responsive due to various screen sizes of desktops, laptops, tablets, and mobile phones. A recent study found that tablet users spend 50% more than PC users. This shows that we cannot ignore mobile and tablet users, and your new website shouldn't either. Ensure that your website is responsive, and caters to that mobile audience that is growing by leaps and bounds. It's about more than just having a site looks good -- it needs to be easy to read and navigate, too!

8) Make it remarkable.

In order to stand out against your competition you've got to be remarkable. Everything you do, and especially your website, needs to represent how remarkable your company is. Make sure that your website communicates the mission, vision, and goals of your company. By definition, remarkable means "worthy of attention." Is your company "worthy of attention?" Figure out your company's "why" and make sure that it's displayed on your website.

If you address these eight key points while planning your website redesign, you're well on your way to delighting your audience -- and your sales team -- with an inbound website. If you build your company website correctly, you will find that it will not only become a natural sales tool for your sales team, but every page will become the best sales person in your company that will represent you 24/7. Just think: How can my website start helping my prospects, leads, and customers? Start looking for opportunities, and remember to test, analyze, and repeat.

Remington Begg is the CEO of Impulse Creative, a branding and inbound marketing agency that leverages a strategic blend of marketing awesomeness to create a consistent message for their clients. Impulse Creative helps you achieve your goals, grow your business and be remarkable! Connect to Remington on Twitter @remingtonbegg.

 Image credit: dullhunk

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