10 Tricks Successful Brands Use to Build Amazing Websites Have you ever wondered why your website isn’t performing better? The most successful brands in the world ask the same question, every single day but more as a challenge than just a passing thought. Successful brands understand that a highly optimized website is the most pivotal digital asset in their marketing portfolio. The desire for a beautiful, modern, sleek website is a lot stronger than the desire for a well-planned and -executed digital marketing strategy — and this has baffled me for years. Sure, an aesthetically gorgeous site may keep visitors coming and clicking through your site for a few extra minutes past your site’s average time on page … but if they’re not clicking through to pages that can transform them into leads and customers, then really: What is the point? Substance doesn’t trump style; it just won’t matter if your content isn’t right. It has to be optimized for search and your audience’s interests, needs, and pain points. I recently had a conversation with Orbit Media Studios Co-Founder and Strategic Director Andy Crestodina, and he confirmed a line of thinking I’ve held for a long time. He’s spent a lot of time exploring website best practices for lead generation and knows first hand the educational process required to get buy-in with the decision-makers in big brands and small team alike. You may be thinking, “Why does a designer need such a vast knowledge of the underpinnings of a modern online marketing strategy?” The answer is simple: Design is marketing. An elegant typeface and lavish graphic design work will only do so much to enhance brand awareness for any business. What it takes to “win” with your website: Accessibility Clear messaging Consistent content creation A rich understanding of SEO Here are 10 tricks successful brands use to build amazing websites 01. Don’t sell anything No one cares about what you have to sell. Focus on value beyond the product or service you sell; that’s the key to customer loyalty. Pitching the features and benefits of your products is all good and well, but the reality is that what you offer is not that different from the business down the street or across the country. If you don’t believe me, listen to Robert Rose break down the future of product differentiation. That reality is harsh for some, as we’ve been taught from childhood that we’re a special snowflake and different from all the rest. Advances in technology and communication have reduced the once competitive moat of features and benefits to a feeble stream. The sooner we come to understand that the experiences we create for our customers that surround and support our products / services are the real differentiators, the sooner we can focus our efforts on activities that will help scale the effectiveness of our marketing. The sooner we come to understand that the experiences we create for our customers that surround and support our products / services are the real differentiators, the sooner we can focus our efforts on activities that will help scale the effectiveness of our marketing. 02. Pretend you are the customer Solve problems for your customers & prospects. We are quickly coming to an age where the consumer want’s to speak to businesses only in rare instances. According to Gartner Research, customers will self-manage 85% of their relationships with companies without ever talking directly to a human. That means our sites have to become the subject matter experts that we have historically relegated to individuals on our team. In the short-term, this can all be boiled down to what my friend and marketer Marcus Sheridan coins as the “They Ask, You Answer” method of content creation on your website. In the long term, this will mean creating real-time dynamic website interactions that have our websites delivering unique experiences based on the consumers need at that particular moment in time. No more one size fits all approach to web marketing. 03. Use the words your customers’ use Sitemaps are great, but keywords rule. If you attempt to create a sitemap without fully understanding the intent of your prospects and customers, you will end up leaving countless dollars and profit on the proverbial table. Keywords are still the defacto representation of what seems to matter to a given audience. In search speak, it’s called semantic search and the impact it’s had on search engine optimization over the last few years has been nothing short of transformational. Search engines are smart enough to determine a searcher’s intent by understanding the relationship between the words used in the search queries and the searcher previous actions. Our job as a marketer is to predict how and where we can be competitive for the right terms in the right context, then build our site structure to support that. 04. Imagine all your salespeople quit, and your site has to do all the work Your website is your best unpaid sales person. A website should mimic the sales discussion you have with potential customers. Make the value proposition known. Too often we create marketing materials, websites and advertisements without listening intently to the conversations that our sales and support teams are having with prospects during the buyer journey. This is mission critical work. With 70-90% of the With 70-90% of the buyers journey happening online, a website needs to serve as a “uber-proxy” (pun intended) for phone and face to face interaction. Avoid just highlighting the words and features that the sales team may be into to hit quota, Be an empathetic listener with the goal of addressing problems like a trusted consiglieri, Use the language that the customer uses to describe their issues. (oh yeah, had to reference Tom from the God Father). Your communicating online via words, images, multi-media and calls-to-action in the ways that make the viewer feel like the site was designed specifically for them to serve their needs and solve their problems is the future of website marketing. When your communicating online via words, images, multi-media and calls-to-action are crafted in ways that make the viewer feel like the site was designed specifically for them, you are serving your customers needs and solving their problems. This is the future of website marketing. 05. Play “Simon Says” with your ideal customers Get comfortable with serving multiple masters. While we want to use our website to address the needs of our primary customer, humans come in all shapes and sizes. We call this multi-niche marketing . Great tools have long existed that allow us to segment our mailing lists, Digital tools have long existed that allow us to segment our mailing lists. Allowing us to hyper-target our advertising and utilize custom variables (url, name, location, etc..) to present a unique experience based upon the data we glean from our customers. Your website is the next phase in the evolution of using data to present custom pages and content to consumers who might benefit the most. We’re talking about increasing click-throughs, reducing bounce rates and creating relationships at scale one-to-one-to-many. The holy grail of real-time marketing: right content and the right time for the right person. 07. Act as if your customers hate social media Don’t just use social media as a place to dump promotional links. I’ve come to view social is a veritable playground. While we may not always love it, there’s no denying that for research and experimentation, it’s one of the cheapest customer listening mechanisms ever devised. where else can you identify people who may have Where else can you identify people who may have interest in your products and services, listen to what they have to say, observe everything they choose to share publicly, gather demographic and psychographic information on them and then make calculated guesses by placing appropriate content in their path to see how they respond? Then.. measure the results, rinse and repeat. This is why I love social media marketing. The problem is that many marketers look at social as one dimensional, thinking only about how they can use it to promote themselves. That’s all fine and dandy. And to be honest, I highly recommend using automation / social sharing tools to help promote content in the right places to the appropriate audience. But… Social is also a tool for networking, much like the phone, or text, or saying hi to people in a coffee shop. Don’t miss the forest by focusing on the trees. 08. Pretend you don’t know anything Plan to learn, learn to iterate. I can promise you with 100% certainty, that the website you set out to build will not end up exactly how you imagined it nor will it keep pace with technology or your customers. The nugget of learning here is not focusing on this fact as a negative thing, but using it to shift your mindset to one of a ‘Beginners mind“. Your website and all of the activities that surround Your website and all of the activities that surround it’s successful operation are just a one non-stop experiment to see what works and what doesn’t, much like life itself. The biggest trap that business owners, marketers, and entrepreneurs fall into is the checkbox mentality. We become lulled into believing that launching a website or signing up for a new marketing automation tool will make everything right as rain. Nothing could be further from the truth. Those tools are just like the shoes you put on before you run a marathon, quite critical no doubt, but they don’t run the race for you. 09. Move the finish line of content created to content promoted Content promotion for a brand isn’t (and shouldn’t be) an afterthought. If you build it they won’t come… at least not without promotion. We are in the age of content overload where there is way more content than any human could consume in their lifetime, just ask Joe Chernov, formerly of Hubspot fame, or Chad Pollitt, the content promotion sage at Digital Relevance. Content promotion is the fuel that helps your content creation get found and everyone needs to help promote their content. For many marketers, content promotion is the last thing on their mind, because let’s face it, content creation is hard work. There are many ways to think about content promotion: There are many ways to think about content promotion: Choosing content that is exactly in line with trending topics that are important to your audience leveraging influencers to help spread your message Developing a strong personal brand to amplify and add credibility to your content. If you want to learn how a small marketing team makes it happen, listen to the content promotion playbook of Brian Dean at BackLinko.com, he’s exceptional at it. 10. Imagine you are the first one on Mars and it’s a land grab Invest in your online presence and domain authority. There doesn’t seem to be a shortcut to establishing a powerful online presence and domain authority. There are ways to do it quickly, though spoiler alert: they all involve hard work and the right marketing strategy. Consumer behavior has forced our hand as entrepreneurs. Our skill on the web is directly related to our business success today, and if all indicators remain, it will be mandatory in the years to come. (if that isn’t clear, do not pass go and take a moment to reflect on the plight of traditional newspapers, travel agents, bookstores, taxi’s and hotel rooms). Building a website and all of the content that goes with it is an investment in asset creation. Each piece of content, each landing page, every keyword, video, and photo becomes part of your online discovery machine. Assets in your online marketing portfolio that will reap benefits for years to come. Don’t wait until it’s too late to start preparing for your online success. Seth Price I’m on a mission to transform the way you think about personal branding to empower your life’s work. My keynote speeches connect me with audiences all over the world. Join me in creating ideas for bringing your brand to market.