There are two marketing initiatives I hear about all the time: 1) Adopting more inbound strategies, and 2) planning a website redesign.
And both are great! But the big question most people face when both initiatives come up at the same time is ... which do I do first?
Redesigning your site first and then implementing inbound seems like the most logical approach. Why would you want to adopt inbound marketing strategies when your website is “not ready” for the public? Or you might flip-flop it so the redesign comes after you nail your inbound marketing strategy. Learn from the metrics and data first and then develop the site accordingly, right?
So ... which way is better? Inbound marketing before a website redesign, or after? It’s a trick question, actually. In my opinion, neither is better.
Why? To me, both “staggered” approaches have their own share of missed opportunities. I’m an advocate of the simultaneous execution of a website redesign and implementation of an inbound marketing strategy. Let's talk about why.
The Common Arguments Against Simultaneous Implementation
A very common objection that I hear for separating a website redesign from inbound adoption is resource allocation. Designers, coders, webmasters, and the marketing team are all involved with the finished product during a website redesign. The last thing someone would want to do is shove more work on the entire team’s plate.
But thinking of it as additional work is actually looking at it in the wrong way. Why? First, a lot of the assets built through inbound -- a business blog, calls-to-action, landing pages -- are actually components that should be developed to align with the redesign.
I also hear the wonderfully vague “marketing strategy” objection, which when I drill down, can typically mean a number of things. These are the most common:
“We don’t want to introduce inbound marketing until the website is complete.”
“The web designers don’t need to be involved with our inbound marketing strategy—it might distract them.”
“We want to see how the website performs before launching any inbound initiatives.”
All are valid reasons. But the solution is simple, and it applies to all three above examples: introducing inbound marketing at this stage helps foster team alignment with the inbound strategy. The designers, marketers, coders, webmasters, you name it, will all be involved with the adoption of inbound marketing, and in understanding of the overall vision. Rather than playing a giant game of telephone after the redesign, everyone will be on the same page from the get-go.
Luke Doran over at marketing agency Southerly explained this phenomenon really well with a cake shop analogy. (Yum.)
"You're walking down the high street, pass a cake shop, and you stop because something in the window display has caught your eye. You walk into the shop because the cake looks delicious and you want it. When you get into the shop, you see the cake immediately, a sign with a price, and an eager shop assistant with a large "Pay Here" sign. You leave the shop cake in hand, ready to indulge, and vowing to return again soon.
Now imagine the same situation, but when you walk in you can't find the cake you saw in the window. When you eventually find it there's no information about how much it costs; you have to ask a shop assistant for that information. And when you're ready to pay, you can't find a register or shop assistant. So you just leave and go to the shop down the road.
The goal of the first shop was to get cake out the door and into customers' bellies. And they did it. We all want a website like the first cake shop. So when we redesign a website for a client, we ensure that we fully understand their goals right from the start so we can build those goals into the redesign. This ensures our clients (and their customers) get a website that mimics the first cake shop. If we tried to bolt those goals onto the website after it was redesigned, we'd end up with cake shop number two."
Don't end up with cake shop number two.
Website Redesigns and Inbound Marketing: Friends With Benefits
Website redesigns and inbound marketing having a sort of symbiotic relationship. For the non-science nerds out there, a symbiotic relationship is an occurrence in nature when two organisms rely on each other for survival. For example, a clown fish will clean a sea anemone of harmful bacteria in exchange for protection from predators.
The same type of relationship exists between a website redesign and an inbound marketing strategy -- a shiny new website redesign makes inbound marketing look good and in return, inbound marketing helps a website become a functional, lead generation machine. The key to a successful symbiosis (and ultimately, marketing success) is to understand the different ways that each mutually assist the other.
What follows are three key areas where a symbiotic relationship between inbound marketing and a website redesign is absolutely necessary -- and ultimately beneficial -- when executing on both activities.
1) Website Structure
Have you ever been cooking something, only to realize you forgot to add a crucial ingredient to the mix after your culinary delight has been in the oven for a half hour? I have. It’s a huge bummer.
The same type of disheartening situation can emerge when you don’t incorporate inbound marketing assets in a website redesign. Deciding how you'll integrate key elements of inbound marketing into the site structure is critical in the first iteration of the new website -- it saves money and time, prevents wasted resources, cuts down on iterations, and most importantly, tees up the site for success upon launch.
All too often, I’ve seen marketers bring on a slick new website that’s built for design -- not functionality -- before adopting inbound tactics. Suffice to say, we end up making a lot of changes (all for the better) that could have been avoided if we strategized before, and integrated during, the website’s facelift -- like CTA placement, landing page creation, and lead capture form integration.
Instead of waiting to add inbound marketing best practices to the website after launch, do it throughout the process. Do it right. The results of your redesign will be much more satisfying.
2) Content Alignment
Content creation is obviously a cornerstone of any company's inbound marketing shift, and most companies start (smartly) with a business blog. And anyone who has started business blogging knows there's no time like the present to begin. Search engines take a while to index website pages, so the sooner you can get pieces of content up, the less likely you’ll be starting from ground zero once the website redesign is complete.
Don’t wait until the site launches to begin blogging -- start yesterday.
To hold up its end of the bargain in the symbiotic relationship, a website redesign will provide the opportunity for a keyword- and topic-focused inbound strategy. Old copy can be rehashed, new keywords and topics can be researched and integrated, and additional pages can be created to support opportunistic keywords. The redesign is the blank slate and inbound marketing is the chisel.
3) User Experience
I can confidently say that the companies that utilize inbound marketing most effectively are ones that develop unique buyer personas, define the customer buying process, and adapt the website’s user experience to best suit both variables.
Structuring a website to suit buyer personas is no easy task -- it takes research, planning, and careful consideration to create web pages that are suited to different audiences. As you can probably assume, this is the hardest piece to put in place retroactively after a website redesign.
And if buyer personas weren’t enough to consider, it’s also important to structure the website to facilitate the buying process of a target customer. Not everyone is ready to buy when they land on a website’s homepage, so tailoring the content here (and other key places) is imperative to fostering a high visitor-to-lead conversion rate.
If buyer personas and the customer buying process are clearly defined and implemented throughout the website’s redesign, it saves a lot of headaches once the site goes live. No one needs more headaches.
Website redesigns and inbound marketing have a lot more in common than you might think -- and each commonality holds the opportunity to benefit both as a whole. So if you’re considering both but are unsure how to scope them out, I strongly recommend executing simultaneously, so you avoid any missed opportunities and wasted resources later on.
It may seem like more work up front, but it pays off. Trust me, I’ve been there.
What other ways can a website redesign benefit from inbound marketing perspective? Or vice-versa?
You're walking down the high street, pass a cake shop and you stop because something delightful in the window display has caught your eye (a monstrous and very tasty looking chocolate cake). You decide to walk into the shop because the cake looks delicious and you want it (or any of its brothers and sisters). When you get into the shop, you immediately see a big display that features the cake you saw in the window. The display clearly tells you what the cake is made of and how much it costs. Immediately next to the display there is a large sign that says "Pay Here" under which stands an eager shop assistant ready to take your money and give you your cake. You leave the shop cake in hand - ready to indulge yourself, vowing to return again soon. You have had an enjoyable experience which clearly directs you down a linear path that results in a transaction
Now imagine the same situation as before, but when you get into the shop you can't see the cake you saw in the window and you have to search high and low for it. When you eventually find the cake, hidden at the back of the shop, there's no information about how much it costs and what it's made out of; you have to ask a shop assistant for that information. You're ready to pay, but you don't know where to go as there's no "Pay Here" sign, so you have to search for the till (cash-register) and can't find it. You decide to leave the shop and vow to try the cake shop over the road. You have had a frustrating experience that results in a shorter visit than you intended.
The first shop has been built with a clear goal in mind - to get the customer to buy the cake in the window and as such that's exactly what the customer does. It's inbound in action and working like a dream. The second shop clearly hasn't been built with a specific goal in mind and it shows; the customer leaves before they buy a cake. It's inbound gone awry.
We all want a website like the first cake shop, what inbound marketer wouldn't? So when we redesign a website for a client, we ensure that we fully understand their goals right from the start so we can build those goals into the redesign. This ensures our clients (and their customers) get a website that mimics the first cake shop. If we tried to bolt those goals onto the website after it was redesigned, we'd end up with cake shop number two. And who would want that? I know our clients wouldn't!
Originally published May 31, 2013 9:00:00 AM, updated August 25 2017