Blog 2
Mar 31

Which Came First? The Strategy or the Website?

Here’s a common problem I see in the digital marketing world: Most business owners view their website as a necessity when having a brand presence online. They don’t need anything overly robust. They just want to mark an item off a checklist of things they know they need to have in today’s digital age. So, they call a local designer and have something pretty created and put online.

Then, they realize that “build it and they will come” is not an effective marketing strategy. So, they reach out to a marketing agency to use that pretty new website to drive traffic and ultimately make money.

That’s where we run into trouble.

The pretty new website is filled with flaws. It wasn’t designed with the business’s goals in mind. It was designed to make a good first impression and nothing more.

Does any of this sound familiar to your business? There’s still hope.

When creating a website, it’s important to infuse your strategy into the design and copy. This requires a full marketing strategy BEFORE you enter the design phase. All of the elements on your website that are directly influenced by your goals and the path you choose to take to reach those goals. By mapping that strategic focus out first, you can design based on the strategy and not based on aesthetics.

Here’s are some examples of website design and development factors directly influenced by your strategy.

Choose the Right Content Management System

There are a wide variety of content management systems (CMSs for short). WordPress,Shopify, Magento, BigCommerce,the list goes on.  The goal is to choose a CMS that has the ability to integrate and track specific capabilities. Your CMS must also support your marketing strategy. It should be flexible enough to support blogging, video, and any other type of content marketing strategy you deploy. Without having a strategy up front, you cannot know what type of integrations you need, and therefore, it’s impossible to choose the best CMS for your goals.

Have a Relentless Focus on Conversion

Your web designer’s core focus isn’t conversion – it’s branding. Your designer, if she’s doing her job well, is creating a website to make you look good. She will only take specific strategic elements into consideration if you outline for her in the process. This is essential if you want a website that leads your visitor to the action you want to take (the ones that’ll help you achieve your goals).

Here’s an example of a designer’s focus vs. a conversion focus: Have you ever seen a website with a carousel banner? The kind that rotates images and calls-to-action? These might look good on the surface but they’re some of the worst elements a website can have when it comes to conversion. They distract your visitor, making it harder for him to know what you want him to do on your pages.

Every website strategy must have a relentless focus on getting your visitor to take the next step with your business. Otherwise, what’s the point? By strategizing before the website is built, you’re creating a website built for conversion and your brand image.

Take a Mobile First Approach

A few years ago, the number of mobile users surpassed the number of desktop users.


Now, more people access the Internet on their smartphone or tablet instead of on a regular computer. If your website isn’t built to adapt to your visitors preferred way of accessing your content, you’re losing opportunities. You’re not only losing people’s attention because they have a hard time viewing your pages. You’re also losing attention because search engines will push you down in the rankings for having a non-responsive (or mobile-friendly) website.

If you rely on search traffic for conversions, having a mobile-friendly website is a must.

Master the Checkout Experience

Let’s say your strategy worked. Let’s say you got a visitor to find your product, consider your product, and decide to buy. Now, she’s sitting with her credit card in hand ready to buy. Is she able to without hassle? Is your return policy clear? Can your website securely accept a credit card, so your customers feel comfortable handing over their sensitive information? Do you have reassuring credentials on your website, such as an SSL Certificate or a BBB accreditation?  Or does your checkout experience make it so difficult that she exits out of the window and decides to nix the entire transaction?

The goal of the checkout experience is to remove any anxiety or confusion around the purchase. To accomplish this goal,  the checkout process as simple and straightforward as possible. The faster, easier and more enjoyable it is for the buyer to give you her money, the more likely you will be to see a rise in your sales.

Integrate the Right Tools and Apps

These days, there’s a tool for everything but not all tools are created equal. You must choose the right tools to further your goals. The strategy determines which tools you use – there are no set rules across the board. For example, a few popular integrations that may or may not be right for you include:

  • Subscription options at checkout
  • Apps to review your business
  • Apps to easily refer your business
  • One-click upsells

It’s also important to know which tools you’re using in your CRM and email marketing app. These elements will need to be integrated in your forms and popups before your website is live to ensure you’re gathering the right information.

Again, not all of them are required. There might be other tools that align with your strategy listed here. The point is to determine what you need before you build your website, so you’re sure to get all of the integrations to propel your conversions forward.

Adding tools to your website isn’t enough. The tools alone are not the strategy; they support your strategy. It’s worth doing a little extra legwork to find the right solutions to align with your strategy.

Track KPIs Efficiently

When designing your strategy, you must measure certain key performance indicators (KPIs) to track alongside it. These allow you to have a solid understanding of whether you’re getting a return on your investment from your marketing efforts.

Tracking these KPIs is essential. By defining them before you design your website, you can ensure you develop a site that tracks the right metrics. You can customize everything to ensure you’re able to monitor the KPIs that matter the most to your business’s success.

Support a Product Feed for Google Shopping

When someone searches for your product, does it show up in Google’s product feed? If not, you’re losing valuable opportunities to make a sale.

If Google Shopping is part of your strategy, it’s important you choose a CMS that can produce a Google Shopping feed in the merchant center. This integration will automatically update your sales prices and inventory in real time, so it’s critical to have if you plan to sell via Google’s product feed. Without knowing this is part of your strategy before you create your website, you risk losing this critical component of your strategy.

Landing Pages

Most design companies only take into consideration the main pages on your website:

  • Home page
  • Category pages
  • Product pages
  • Evergreen pages

However, in many cases, your strategy will call for a limited time promotion, sale, or another type of campaign outside of your normal mode of operations. Or, you might want to run a campaign specifically with the end goal of gathering email addresses for potential future customers. Here’s an example of what a landing page could look like.

There is only one end goal. In this example, it’s to gather email addresses. In yours, it could be to sell a specific product to target specific demographic. No matter what type of conversion you’re looking for, you need specific pages for specific promotions like these. The pages are known as landing pages and, if designed correctly, can have a dramatic impact on your campaign success.

On landing pages, the conversion point may differ, you’ll need a unique design. Most designers won’t include this type of design in their deliverable to you, solely because the designer didn’t know it was important for you. By having your strategy mapped out ahead of the design, you can include landing pages in your scope of work and get more out of your promotions.

The Main Takeaway

Before you move into the website design phase, you must have fully mapped out your strategy. By not infusing your website and development with your marketing strategy, you risk getting a pretty face that won’t bring you any new business.

The strategy you choose has a dramatic impact on every aspect of your website from design to layout to copy. Start here. It’ll pay off in dividends.