The first step to reimagining your website is to look at it through the eyes of the people who visit it.
And, as we mentioned last week, that’s how you have to look at your web presence if you really want to connect with your audience.
While not everyone visits your site for the same reason, there are probably several common types of users who are coming for to you for specific information – David Meerman Scott calls them "buyer personas." Once you identify these personas, you can create content hubs for them, accessible through both your homepage and through dedicated landing pages they can find via keyword searches.
So, how does that work?
For a buyer persona who’s just grazing at this point, the hub they interact with should include content that helps them understand their needs, as well as thought-leadership content that establishes you as a trusted industry resource. For another persona further along in the sales cycle, a hub should include detailed product and pricing information, as well as product comparisons and user reviews. The buyer persona representing your existing customers would want to find a community-based hub where you and your customers can share ideas and tips to get the most out of your product.
Knowing what your target audience wants and getting it to them quickly and easily helps you build and maintain relationships. And the trust and value created through these relationships are what turns browsers into customers and customers into evangelists.
This is the biggest single thing you can do to rethink your web site, but it’s not the only thing. Here are four other crucial things to consider:
First impressions matter. As Lisa Barone of Outspoken Media points out, your home page is like a first date. It’s where customers get a quick read on their suitors and make snap judgments. Your home page can’t – and really shouldn’t – attempt to be everything to everyone, but it should quickly and effectively point your visitors to the specific information hubs they are looking for.
Don’t just be a pretty face. Sure, eyeballs may stick to an attractive site a few seconds longer, but design isn’t the be-all and end-all of your marketing efforts. Content is really what keeps people there and keeps them coming back.
Track it. This isn’t about gut feelings. There are ways to learn how people are interacting on your site. Use them. Your analytics should be able to tell you whether you developed accurate buyer personas and created relevant content for them.
Stick with it. This isn’t a widget. This isn’t a campaign. This is a way of life. You’re going to need to periodically refine your buyer personas, regularly create fresh content for search engines to find and always be ready to make adjustments based on what your analytics (and sales figures) tell you. It sounds like a lot, but if you get it right from the get-go, it really is manageable.
An audience-centric website isn’t that hard to imagine; all you need to do is imagine your site through the eyes of your customers.