Principal Strategist, 7+ Years Of Digital Marketing Strategy & Project Management Experience
April 22nd, 2019
When creating a new website strategy or determining if your website is up to the new standard of inbound marketing, you might find yourself looking at competitors or industry leaders for inspiration.
Often the path of looking at competitors puts you in a place of “well their website sucks so mine is pretty great,” but then you look at industry leaders like HubSpot and say, “Ugh, my website could never be that good.”
But the truth is the best inbound websites come down to a few basic principles.
5 Things Great Inbound Websites Do
It is clear that not everyone is going to agree on what makes a website great or what even makes them “Inboundy,” but in our research and experience it has become very clear that there are a few principles that make a website “perfect” and these principles are going to be the foundation in which we judge every website.
1. It must be helpful and educational.
Can people find what they're looking for? Think about it this way, if you were a buyer, what questions would you ask that would lead you to buy something from your company?
In today's world where all buyers generally give websites just a seven-second time span before leaving, ease of use could not be more important.
A great way to determine this is to assess whether your navigation leads to the right pages and can people self identify on the homepage. If yes, GREAT work, if not, keep reading -- we’ll go through some websites that are great at this!
3. It must be visually appealing.
Now this is a very subjective opinion some websites can look really outdated and others could look like they were made in the future, but if the goal of the website is to resonate with the identified potential buyer, its ultimately their opinion that matters.
However, one thing that all websites must be diligent about is creating a design that relates to buyer.
If you are selling tech, show cool tech things, but if you are a financial advisor, show people that you want to work with and make them draw the conclusion that “oh that person is just like me.”
If you can do that, you are being visually appealing to your audience and that is the ultimate goal. In our examples today, we will show off some websites that are setting the 2020 standard!
4. It must be utilizing video.
With video becoming the number one consumption of media on websites, it is so important that every website utilize it. If you don’t, your buyers are likely going to leave asking more questions than were answered and you may even lose a potential sale.
The data bears that out -- 76% of companies who use video said it helped them increase sales, and use of video during the sales process has increased from 25% to 37%.
5. It must solve for your business needs
A lot of the time companies will fall in the trap of “this is my website and I am going to have it how I want it. Though, there is nothing wrong with having a unique website but we must remember the most important thing about all websites is that it's for our prospects and clients, not for ourselves.
We have a really hard time getting over our pride and remembering that our websites aren’t for US, they are for OUR CUSTOMERS.
River Pools and Spas (an IMPACT client that was founded by Marcus Sheridan) is the definition of educational, on their homepage they call out how much content they have to help someone make the right pool buying decision.
From their more than 700 articles and a pricing guide gives the user exactly what they are looking for and FAST! I would almost say that there is too much information, but they do such a great job of keeping the website organized that the user can find exactly what they want.
This is thanks to greatly to the learning hub.Why is this the best part? Because it calls out the most common questions that people are looking to answerIt allows the prospect to go into autopilot and start finding answers rather than getting frustrated by having to search for them.
Looking at the design of the website -- I want to get into a pool right now! A visually appealing website should relate to the persona and want them to take action. After being on this website for two minutes, I am ready to get into my swim trunks and make a big splash!
Lastly, not only does River Pools utilize video, it also has a whole page dedicated to it.
Rather you want to get into the nerdy details of what makes a pool work or just find out which one is best for you this website has done its job by educating the user through a video to an extent I have never seen!
The video above is a great example of how to educate your prospect on a subject that is very broad and situational but in such a way that is helpful and build trust.
Being in the higher education space, you would expect this website to be hard to use, maybe like a government website, but that is not the case here.
Visible Body knocks it out of the park when it comes to being educational by providing every resource you would need to learn about the product right on the home page.
Outside of that, they have a full resource center that links you to blogs, eBooks, videos, and so much more, but the way the approach their industry is refreshing. When most think about science or anatomy they might think white lab coats and stuffy professors, but they take that stereotype and replace it with animated skeletons and 3D images.
What makes this site so easy to use is the navigation menu. By having the navigation help self-select who the prospect might be it gets the right information to the visitors in the fastest way possible. Visible Body has done a great job of truly knowing and understanding their end users and providing the easiest way to find exactly what they need.
This website makes me feel like I am at the science museum looking at the Body World display. To be very honest some of the images and videos have a very futuristic feeling about and this is great for their targeted personas.
The video section on their website is called “Award-Winning” and I cannot disagree. When you find yourself on their YouTube channel, they do a very good job of making it relatable to anyone who might be watching by making it very easy to understand by not speaking in science lingo and using layman terms.
Their videos are not overtly selling their product, but they reference it enough to show viewers why they’d want to become a client. Nicely done!
Some of you might be thinking, “Well, DUH Salesforce is going to be on this list--they are one of the biggest tech companies,” but not so fast.
A lot of big companies struggle to be educational and just focus on revenue, but Salesforce is not one of those companies.
They have stayed true to being helpful and educational despite how large they have become.
From transparent pricing, inspiring testimonials, and a knowledge center that has more information than the Philadelphia Library, Salesforce is truly an educational resource for not only buying a CRM but for running a successful business.
I think for the first time ever I have seen a website that makes it almost too easy to find what you are looking for.
Salesforce’s navigation does an amazing job of calling out pages aligned with your role, need, industry, or your height, just kidding.
But in all seriousness, this navigation should be a standard for all websites.
A good rule of thumb is to make sure people can navigate to what they need in no more than three clicks from the homepage. Anything more than that causes frustration at best and could degrade trust at worst.
The last thing I think of when it comes to Salesforce is being an eco-friendly company, but they have me craving to go on a 14-mile hike in Colorado with their outdoorsy theme.
Not only is it really playful but it is relating to my generation by being cartoony and not boardroom executives talking about numbers! Salesforce counters their reputation of being hard to use and bulky with their youthful imagery and fun characters. This might just be enough to cause someone to forget what they’ve heard and dig a little deeper.
On the homepage, Salesforce has a video section about “trailblazers,” people they describe as drivers, innovators, leaders, and lifelong learners.
These videos make you want to buy the product today and take over the world.
This human connection empowers you to see being a SalesForce user as so much more than that; these videos draw out real emotion because it is clear that the Trailblazers are on a mission to change the world through their company. This is not a self promotion or testimony video, this is just simple SalesForce highlighting humans that are making change.
One of the first things that you will find on the OptiMonk homepage is a video giving you a 60-second overview of exactly who they are and what they do. This gives great context for what you are going to see on the rest of the site, along with their education center, where there are guides and blogs addressing some of their most common topics.
Some websites will try to over-complicate things, but OptiMonk does a good job of keeping it very simple by having everything you need on the home page. This makes it so much easier to find exactly what you’re looking for and if you can’t find something right away, they have a very helpful chat option that will lead you in the right direction.
One of my favorite things they utilize on their homepage is a slider of features that can educate the prospect right on the homepage.
OptiMonk’s drawings show they are a young, playful company that loves to provide great tech and help customers hit their goals.
One word that I think of when it comes to this site is that it is “clean.” The white and orange theme with pops of color is very well done.
The learn section of Vidyard’s website is nicely organized by role of the end user, which makes it easy to find the right content very fast.
One thing that really sticks out is the video inspiration hub. This is a great way of showing that normal people just like me, use their products, and see great results! Outside of that their content library is filled with blogs, videos, E-Books, guides in short there is enough to earn a master's degree!
The homepage is very simple, requiring the user to self identify who they are or what products they are looking for. Then this becomes a customized experience by talking directly to the buyer rather and general terms.
One thing I was worried about is that the speed would be slow on mobile, making it frustrating due to all the videos, but the way they have that set up it is actually very fast!
A lot like OpitMonk, this website is very simple, with a mostly white design with pops of color. . I find that my eyes do not get distracted by all the colors, pop-ups, or anything. They have done a great job of keeping the user very focused.
Considering Vidyard is a video company, I would be calling the CEO if they were not using video on their website. I would say they use video to such an extent that there really isn't need for text. You could just watch their demo video, and then make a buying decision, it's really that simple.
You can tell that they have thought of every question a prospect might have and have addressed it.
When it comes to doing buying research, you can likely find exactly what you are looking for right in the navigation.
They even call out the different warranties.
I never thought that a roof could look so good! By showing off images of houses and building with a nice metal roof, it gives them a sense of, “Oh, I know that place!” or “That looks like my house!” The visuals draw a real human element that is hard to replace.
When thinking of metal roof videos, you would expect to see guys on top of a building putting on a roof, but they reject that and provide videos that are fun and insightful. The best one is Buying a Metal Roof? Top 9 Things to Consider. This addresses some of the biggest questions, educates the buyer, and builds trust!
Now that we have looked at some fantastic inbound websites, what is next?
I would recommend you and your team to go through your website and break it out in the four categories, then rate yourself from a 1-10 for each one.
After you have done that, put a plan together of how to increase each category by one point.