Developing a web site strategy

Many companies and organizations have set up a site on the web and have given very little consideration to developing a website strategy for promoting the website.
Here is a simple six-step guide to developing a successful website strategy:
1) Define your target audience.
Probably the biggest mistake made by website newcomers is failing to consider the make up of their potential audience when designing their site. The design and content of a site will normally attract certain types of visitors. New webmasters make a serious blunder by thinking that by simply attracting more visitors to their site that they are achieving an appropriate goal. The goal should be to attract more visitors who fit the particular profile of a potential customer for a company or a new member for an organization. Savvy webmasters call this person their "target".

2) Develop content that's appropriate for your website.

Visitors will continue to return to visit a website that provides interesting content. In general terms, content is usually broken down into two categories: links to other sites and topic specific information. If one visits several sites on the same topic or subject matter, he/she would clearly see that many sites would probably have the very same links to other sites. This fact tends to confuse people about the relative value of a site. Therefore, the issue of topic specific information that is useful to the visitor is extremely important. After you assemble a profile of your target, you should develop your site's content to satisfy the specific needs of your target. In some cases, this might involve providing specific information within a very narrow focus. In others, it might involve providing a broad spectrum of information about a topic. Whatever the case may be, remember that once you have satisfied a need of your target, you have developed goodwill that makes a buying or joining decision much easier. By continuing to add new and interesting content and keeping the site updated, you will continue to increase the goodwill and also develop your site's brand loyalty.

3) Align your site with online communities and where possible website partners.

If you want very high visibility for your website, it is essential to find and participate in the virtual communities on the Internet that pertain to the topic or subject matter of your site. These communities provide a forum where one can learn and exchange ideas with people from all over the world who have a mutual interest. Increasingly, these forums are also being used to provide business leads and enhance global business outreach because the quantity of collective resources available tends to attract many visitors from around the world.

4) Develop an intra-company support network.

Somebody in the company will have to assume responsibility for answering e-mail inquiries generated by the website and also periodically visiting the WWW to look for new sites and/or virtual communities that might be of interest to your company or organization. Somebody will also have to assume responsibility for maintaining the website (adding new content, fixing broken links and updating its features). Companies and organizations that have set up an internal network to handle these tasks in a coordinated manner have a better chance of deriving greater benefits from their website. The fastest way to diminish the credibility of your website and in turn your company or organization is to fail to respond to inquiries properly and in a timely fashion and to not fix broken or dead links at the site. Regularly adding new content is equally important.

5) Refine your collateral marketing & promotion materials.

This is a no-brainer. Simply stated, if you set up a website, tell somebody. It is very surprising to see the number of companies and/or organizations that have set up a site and then failed to adequately promote it. Your company's letterhead, all brochures, any print ads or radio & television announcements should include mention of your new website. In fact, you should send a press release to all appropriate media organizations. Avail yourself of every opportunity for personal appearances on radio, television, meetings, and trade shows to publicize your new website. Setting up a website is a wonderful opportunity to contact all of your current customers/members to show them that you are looking for new ways to satisfy their special needs. It is also a fantastic opportunity to reach out to new customers/members. Some companies use the announcement of a website as an opportunity to offer special discounts to attract new customers. Organizations can offer limited time discounted membership fees to attract new members.

6) Obtain appropriate feedback.

Feedback is the life force of any successful website. You need to know what your visitors think about your site. Is the content useful? Is the content appropriate? Does it really fit the subject? Is there enough content? Probably the best way to obtain feedback is via an online feedback form. Some webmasters also like to e-mail questionnaires to site visitors who have communicated with them. Feedback will often offer clues as to how visitors rate your site against other similar sites. This can be very helpful in your decisions about what to delete, add or change.
Nothing in this six-step guide seems extremely complicated. As a matter of fact, some of the steps seem almost too simple. However, simplicity is too often under-rated. Our experience has been that some companies and organizations looking to develop a successful website strategy are very frequently looking for gimmicks. Unfortunately, gimmicks do not work very well as an overall strategy for promoting your website. Lest we forget, the most important aspect of developing a website strategy is the necessity to write it down on paper and post it where everybody can see it. Then make certain that the entire staff is responsible for following each step carefully.