Director of Web Strategy & Design, Team Lead, Speaker, 10+ Years of Project Management and Digital Marketing Experience
October 18th, 2019
So, you’re not getting the digital sales and marketing results you were hoping for.
All too often, we have clients come to us who have been pouring energy into their websites but encountering this problem.
They struggle to sift through the sea of guidance out there about the right content creation strategy, how to structure or build their website, and ultimately drive those inbound leads, but are met with lackluster results.
What could the problem be? You may think it’s your website, but what we’ve gathered over the years is it may actually be your content — or, honestly, it could be both.
The good news is, there is any easy way to determine which culprit is afoot and what you need to do.
Find your maturity level
As you move through your digital journey (especially with They Ask, You Answer), there are some very clear maturity levels you will hit.
At each one, you’ll need to focus on different things; sometimes it will be your content strategy, and sometimes it will be your website.
We step through each of the maturity levels below so you can identify where you are. In each, I will explain which of the two areas you should be focused on and what your next step should be.
Step 1: Secure content production & platform
In order to drive real results, your website must have a method for regularly and consistently producing content.
This is the #1 indicator of success on a website. There are no ifs, ands, or buts about it.
If you don’t have an easy way to regularly produce articles or content, then that needs to be the first order of business, but you’ll also need to create the place to house that content.
Set yourself up with a blog template, or something like our learning center.
Even if you think you should completely redesign your website, start with this, as you'll need a place to publish all of the content you're working on.
In this particular step, you'll be laying the foundational pieces for both your website and content strategy.
Step 2: Identify the right content topics
Once you have a way to regularly produce content, you need to focus on the type of content you are producing.
The results your website generates are based on a foundation of creating the right kind of content.
A beautifully designed website is important (obviously, given my role as the Lead Strategist for our website team, I feel that way), but it absolutely comes second to delivering the right messages.
A beautiful website that doesn’t talk about the things your buyers care about will never produce results. It will have just cost you a lot of money to get.
A website that looks “ok,” but has all the right content, on the other hand, can still deliver great results.
So, you need to start there.
Having the right kind of content will also make a redesign and restructure of your website so much easier in the future.
These are the topics that buyers care about most, and work like a magnet to draw visitors to your website.
They are also the foundation for what you should talk about on all of your website pages. So, having this content written, means reorganizing and redesigning your website will be a breeze (because you’ll have all the content you need!).
In this particular step, you’ll be focusing 100% on content strategy. Once you’ve done a great job of covering these topics and have found yourself in a regular content production cadence, you’ll be ready to tackle the next step.
Step 3: Evaluate your content organization and user experience
Now that you are regularly producing the right content, it is time to focus on their experience navigating your site.
If you are doing a great job answering buyers’ burning questions, then they are more likely ready to trust you, learn more from you, or do something more bottom-of-the-funnel like buy something or sign up for a consultation.
Often, this exercise requires an outside perspective to really get right since most of your team will have a hard time viewing the website from the viewpoint of a user who knows nothing about your product, service or business.
In this step, you’ll be focused on updates to your website to organize the great content you created in the previous stage. And, using something like our learning center, you’ll be able to organize that content in a way that users can filter, search and find what they need (rather than trying to hunt it down).
Oftentimes, it makes sense to combine the efforts in this step with those in Step 4 given that most websites suffer from problems with both organization and ease of management.
As such, many businesses choose to alleviate both problems at the same time (and save time and money) with a redesign.
Step 4: Evaluate your website management
Is your website difficult to update? Do you avoid making changes, and let information go stale?
If so, then you have a big problem.
Along with regular content production, it is incredibly important that you be able to easily and instantly update the messaging on your website pages whenever it is necessary.
Stale, rigid websites are where results go to die.
We’ve seen it too many times and have watched the same issues result.
You’ll likely allow old content to live on your site because it is too hard to change it and your user journey will become convoluted and confusing as you work with a developer to constantly retrofit old templates to meet your needs rather than addressing the real problem.
Your website should be built to allow you to:
Reorganize and restructure website pages as needed
Launch new pages instantly, with any structure required
Easily edit and change content within minutes
And you shouldn’t need to dive into code, or contact a developer to do these things.
If you find your website doesn’t allow you to do any of the above, you will suffer reduced results.
If you’ve mastered the first three steps, this is definitely your next project. In this step, you are focused on your website strategy. Looking for help? We can certainly support your growth!
Step 5: Get more advanced with your content creation
So, you’re doing a great job humming along creating awesome content that answers your buyers’ questions and your website is super easy to navigate and update.
Now it is time to flex those content strategy muscles and start to really dig into some of the more advanced pieces like pillar content. You’ll get to a point where you’ve produced a great deal of Big 5 content and you are ready to take things to the next level.
Tackling pillar content will help you drive even better traffic results from organic search, provide a ton of helpful information to your buyers (and your sales people), and ultimately help you take your content to the next level.
This step is focused 100% on content strategy again, just at a more advanced level!
We have loads of great content about how to take this next step in your journey if this is where you find yourself, but this article is the perfect first step.
Step 6: Overhaul your website design
If you have gone through steps 1-5 and feel super confident about all of them, then you are ready to start focusing on the aesthetics of your website.
I know, how is this the last step? Easy, the other steps you see first will all be more important in driving your results than this step.
Strangely enough, when people aren’t happy with the results their website is generating, they always jump straight this step as the thing that will fix all their problems, but, I have news for you: it won’t.
As the old saying goes, you can put lipstick on a pig, but it will still be a pig.
If you fail to provide the kind of content that will answer buyers’ questions and draw great traffic to your website, it does not matter what your website looks like; it will always fall short of your expectations.
Now, don’t get me wrong.
I’m not saying that your website shouldn’t look beautiful and modern. It should. But it shouldn’t be prioritized over creating the right kind of content for your website or building a simple and effective user journey through your website. “Creative” design should rarely top function.
Most of the time this will likely end up being tackled when people are fixing steps 3 and 4. (If you need a website redesign to fix those issues, you might as well make sure your redesigned website also looks great).
And that is perfectly fine. In fact, it is great. It is more efficient to tackle as many of these problems as you can with a single project. So, by all means, if a website redesign is the solution needed for those steps, then go for it.
All I ask is that you don’t start with this step. If you are concerned about your results, start from content and strategy, don’t start from aesthetic.
If you are all the way up at this stage, it is perfectly fine to focus your efforts on your website. Just promise you won’t stop producing content. Keep doing what you’ve been doing!
What should you do now?
Content strategy or website redesign?
Now that you’ve read through all the steps, it’s your job to really evaluate where you sit —I don’t mean lying to yourself.
If you’re considering a website redesign, take a moment and evaluate your content (both educational and website messaging) first.
You may think you create the right kind of content, but quite often we find that people aren’t really producing The Big 5 even though they think the are.
Honestly rate yourself on all of the aspects listed above and see where you fit.Then make a commitment to tackling that step.
Don’t split efforts, don’t try to do too many things at once. Really go all in on the step you find yourself in.
Do it well, do it right.
And please, I beg of you, don’t half-a** your efforts. That will lead to half-a** results. And who wants those?