If you make a mistake with your business website strategy, you can tank the chances of your website bringing in qualified traffic, leads, and sales before you even hit your highly anticipated launch date.
For example, if you don’t perform keyword research, users may never find your site. If you don’t think through the pain points and needs of your audience, they won’t be able to relate to your content. If you don’t plan out a goal for each page along with user flow, the user won’t know where to go next.
As a designer, pretend developer, and website strategist for the past 10 years, I’ve seen first-hand how the seemingly smallest missteps in strategy can lead to catastrophic failure.
Without a strategy, your site is essentially an online brochure. It provides information about your product or service but is not set up for meaningful action or purchases to take place. Your website should be your best salesperson, working around the clock to attract visitors and convert leads — but without the right strategy in place, this is highly unlikely.
If you’re getting ready to redesign your business website or are trying to assess why your current site is not living up to its fullest potential, read on to learn the six most common mistakes people make with their web strategy that will hopefully prevent you from making similar blunders.
Mistake #1: An excess amount of low-quality pages in your sitemap
One of the first and most important steps in any web strategy process is building a sitemap. Sitemaps can play a major role in your site’s structure and how search engines rank it, so poor decisions made during this phase can have major implications on SEO and user experience (UX).
One of the most common website strategy mistakes relates to sitemaps full of pages with poor or minimal content.
This is an issue that’s largely seen on older sites. So, if you haven’t completed a website redesign in years, you may be a culprit of this bad practice. Multiple pages with a limited amount of text is a problem for a few reasons:
According to Yoast SEO, a popular WordPress plugin:
“A higher word count helps Google to better understand what your text is about. And, generally speaking, Google tends to rank longer articles higher. Also, if a page consists of few words, Google is more likely to think of it as thin content.”
Make sure when you are planning your sitemap that you will be able to write enough valuable content per page in order to give the user what they need and for Google to establish it as high-quality, original content.
The second problem with this outdated approach is that it creates a complicated and confusing user experience.
Users don’t want to click through an exorbitant amount of pages to find answers to their questions. By combining pages with similar content, users only have to visit and read one to two pages, opposed to several pages that only scratch the surface of their needs.
So, when you’re determining your sitemap, verify you have enough content to make a page that will be both meaningful for users and search engines.
Another mistake is duplicating pages in an attempt to improve your search engine ranking. Google sees duplicate content as low-quality content, and a lot of low quality content indexed by Google can cause what marketers refer to as index bloat.
“At best, index bloat causes inefficient crawling and indexing, hindering your ranking capability. But index bloat at worst can lead to keyword cannibalization across many pages on your site, limiting your ability to rank in top positions, and potentially impacting the user experience by sending searchers to low-quality pages.”
I’ve seen cases of index bloat many times in my career, and usually, it’s related to businesses that service multiple locations. Time and time again I see these companies clone one service page for each location they serve, merely changing the keyword-based on location, but keeping the rest of the content the same.
If your business deals with multi-location based offerings, it’s best to have one high-level page per service and reserve the location page itself for optimizing local search.
Mistake #2: You're careless with keywords
While it may seem premature to acknowledge keywords during the strategy phase, it’s actually the perfect time to begin your research. If keywords are not considered during the website strategy, chances are you will forget about them altogether or scramble at the last minute to make them work — and we know even a beautiful, well-functioning site is useless if the content is poor.
It’s vital to take a methodical approach to keywords in order to create a guide for copywriting and garner the most SEO value.
There are two big recurring problems with keywords during the strategy phase include:
Selecting the wrong keywords
Aside from ignoring keyword research altogether, or denying that they are still relevant, a common mistake you can make regarding website strategy is not checking the data to make sure you’re selecting the right keywords.
So, what is the “right kind of keyword?” you ask? It’s one that relates to what your business offers and reflects the desired intention.
While this is no groundbreaking revolution, website owners often mistakenly use keywords that are too broad or have a double meaning. The double meaning issue is especially prevalent when an acronym is selected as the main keyword for a potentially high-impact page.
An example I’ve run into for IT clients is the acronym MSP. To them, it stands for Managed Service Provider, but with a quick search, the first page of google reveals only three out of ten instances of MSP in the context of IT.
The first search result is “MSP airport,” followed by “MoviestarPlanet,” a video game for French and teens. In cases like this, it’s better to focus on the terms fully spelled out in order to target the proper audience.
Harness the power of Google search to guarantee your keywords will attract your prospects, not French kids, unless they happen to be your ideal buyer. Aside from simply googling words to get a gauge on general perception, you can utilize LSIgraph.com to search for keywords that are closely related to the ones you know are relevant.
In addition, there is nobody who knows better than your sales team in regards to what your audience is looking for. Find out commonly asked questions and input common keywords into a keyword tool like SEMrush to find out their search volume and ranking difficulty.
Using the right keywords haphazardly
Once you know you’ve selected the right keywords, it’s just as important to establish the proper plan for them. Integrating keywords throughout the site without a solidified plan can render your hard work useless.
Instead, match up one primary keyword with one page in your sitemap. Then plan to use that keyword in the URL, H1 tag, page title, and body copy throughout the page in order to establish that page as an authoritative piece of content relating to the specific keyword.
Mistake #3: Your user flow sucks
Great websites turn visitors into marketing qualified leads.
In order to do this, it’s critical during the strategy phase to establish a goal and the route that you want users to take on your site to reach it. This is your user flow. The goal you set for each page should be the guiding factor when determining your page flow.
The two frequent issues with page flow when developing your website strategy:
Too many steps to convert visitors into leads
Each page a user must visit on your site on the way to becoming a lead is one more opportunity for them to drop off your site. If the road is long and arduous, the prospect will inevitably give up.
Reduce points of friction by making the path to conversion as short as possible while still including enough information for a visitor to take that next step.While there is no way to guarantee the visitor will follow the exact plan you map out, removing unnecessary pages from the funnel will help them get from point A to point B and ultimately into your contact database.
Setting multiple goals per page
Just as you should optimize each page with one primary keyword, you’ll want to set up one goal and one central call-to-action per page. This avoids confusion on what the user should do next and makes sure that everything on the page is working towards the same goal.
Mistake #4: You're not creating a strategy for each page (just the website overall)
Like many things in website strategy and marketing in general, if you don’t have a solid goal or purpose for each individual page (and each section on them), you may be setting yourself up for failure.
Selecting topics for your pages and getting content input from subject matter experts does not equate to a page strategy. While it’s certainly an essential aspect of a high performing site, the way you structure and position that content can make or break your efforts.
You must diligently think through the pages one section at a time, addressing the purpose of each one and the message you want it to convey.
Is the idea to educate your audience?
Are you trying to establish trust with social proof?
Do you need to highlight key benefits?
Is this section the next logical thing a user would want to see in their journey?
Determining this information early in the website strategy process will help you write the proper type of copy and dictate the best order to present the information.
Mistake #5: You put the needs of your users behind the needs of your company
Unfortunately, when strategizing a website, it’s all too common for the needs of a user to take a backseat to the needs of the company.
When a visitor arrives on your site for the first time, they are likely either in the awareness or consideration phase of their buying journey. They have a problem, are trying to identify it, and then looking for potential solutions. Their focus is on their needs.
If all they see is content boasting your awards and accolades and touting your expertise and any other facts about your business as a whole, they’ll likely go running for the hills.
Your website isn’t customer-focused.
Your website is for your customer, not you. It needs to be catering to what they need to see, read, and know in order to trust your company and want to do business with it.
Limit company information to your about page for when visitors are in the decision stage of their journey.
One way to ensure you don’t miss the mark in this is by developing compelling value propositions for your company, as well as a buyer-targeted messaging strategy. It will help you to acknowledge the visitor’s pain points and position your product or service as the solution.
Mistake #6: Sigh, you copy your competitors
It would be remiss if I were to complete this article without briefly touching on competitors and the role they should play in your website strategy. How much of what your competitors are doing should you emulate in your website strategy?
The answer is slim to none. While you likely want to reference competitors during keyword research and check their site to get an idea of how they structure their content, you cannot assume what they are doing is working.
Just because they have a high volume of visitors, doesn’t mean their tactics will work for you, or that it’s necessarily even working for them. Without the proper data to check bounce rate and other analytics, your decisions will be solely based on assumptions.
For example, while I happen to have a few rare Beanie Babies from my childhood and see others selling them on eBay for thousands of dollars, that doesn’t mean my beanie babies (or even theirs) will sell for that amount.
That’s just the amount another seller is trying to acquire for the same beanie baby that lives in my parent’s attic.
It’s time to right the ship
Do any of the mistakes above sound familiar? If so, have no fear. There are a couple of different ways you can turn this ship around.
If you don’t quite have the budget to embark on a full website redesign, we recommend tackling these issues step-by-step. Check your analytics for behavior flow, page views, bounce rate, and duplicate content. Perform keyword research to guarantee you are ranking for the right keywords, and analyze the content on your site to make sure you’re addressing the audience first.
If the time is right for a new site, the best option to consider is a refresh from the ground up. Work with an agency on website strategy to avoid any mistakes from the get-go and make sure the next iteration of your site is a high performing, lead-generating machine.
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