Summary: This article emphasizes the importance of a well-strategized website for startups, especially in the age of AI and social media walled gardens. It outlines key considerations in various areas, from defining your brand and social media strategy to technical aspects and ongoing management. The article stresses the need for a cohesive brand experience, clear objectives, and KPIs, as well as the integration of AI and SEO for future-proofing your online presence. It concludes by advocating for a long-term, results-oriented relationship with the right agency, rather than a one-off project, to navigate the complexities of the digital world successfully.
A lot has changed for startups since I first started building for the web in 1997, (a lot has changed since January!) and the rate of change is about to accelerate. We’re entering a new world where AI assistants will need to find you, and the tools you use for your business will be empowered by your own AI assistants. Social media walled-gardens are getting taller as they protect their content from competitors’ AIs. You must control your own branding and messaging through your own domain and your own website. It was true in the distraction-heavy world of social platforms a decade ago—it’s even more important now.
The following article should help you understand what goes into a successful business website in its critical first 6 months, so you and your agency can build a revenue generating online presence that can survive a rapidly changing marketplace.
Your website is the cornerstone of your online presence, serving as an information hub, a customer engagement platform, and a sales funnel. Aligning your website’s purpose with your larger business strategy ensures that you’re not just creating a website, but a tool that will help you achieve your business goals.
A vision statement and a mission statement are vital tools from leadership to the entire team saying “this is where we’re going and why.” defining these things in meaningful ways informs all the next steps all the way down to the most granular levels of execution. From The tone of voice you use to the way you present information on every page.
With your purpose defined, your next challenge is to define a brand strategy and the identity that will represent you. A cohesive brand identity not only sets you apart from competitors but also builds trust and loyalty among consumers. It influences everything from the color scheme and design elements to the type of content you publish, ensuring a consistent message across all platforms.
A well-defined brand strategy will guide your content decisions, helping you to create material that resonates with your target audience and aligns with your brand’s values and objectives. This creates a seamless experience for visitors, increasing the likelihood of conversion and customer retention. For instance, Apple’s minimalist design and focus on innovation are integral to its brand strategy.
“Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.” — Abraham Lincoln
“The world’s most valuable software companies are increasingly built with a focus on the end user.” — Blake Bartlett, OpenView Partners
Social media is more than just a platform for promotion; it’s a tool for engagement and brand building. A well-planned social media strategy can drive traffic to your website, improve customer relations, and even increase sales, all of which should align with your larger business objectives. Your social media strategy should be inextricably linked to your content strategy.
The type of content you create for your website can be repurposed and optimized for social media, creating a cohesive brand experience across all platforms. This not only maximizes the ROI on your content but also ensures a consistent brand message. For example, use Instagram for product showcases and Twitter for customer service and news updates.
Everything you do in the social media sphere should connect back to your primary online presence. Encourage engagement with your newsletter or your website so that you are never prevented from connecting directly with your audience. A platform may fall out of favour, or the noise hides your message for your campaign, but when you control the connection – you can maintain relationships as long as possible.
In Web3, decentralized applications (dApps) utilize blockchain wallets and those wallets, like web domains, can have people-friendly unique identifiers. In the .com world your name might be mybusiness.com, in web3, your wallet will be found using mybusiness.crypto
A robust Content Management System (CMS) is essential for easily updating your website and keeping it fresh. This aligns with your larger strategy of maintaining an active, engaging online presence. WordPress, for example, allows for easy content updates and has numerous plugins for added functionality.
Testimonials and reviews offer social proof, building credibility and trust among potential customers. This aligns with your larger strategy of building a trustworthy brand. You could feature reviews from Google or Yelp prominently on your homepage.
Features that engage users can keep them on your site longer, increasing the chances of conversion. This is crucial for achieving your larger goals of customer engagement and revenue generation. For example, you could add a blog section for articles or a chatbot for instant customer service.
“Almost 90% of internet users are less likely to return to websites with bad UX.” — AWS
Owning your domain and understanding your hosting environment are critical for long-term control and flexibility. This aligns with your larger strategy of building a sustainable online presence that can adapt and grow with your business. For example, you could register your domain with a reputable service and choose a hosting plan that scales with your business.
Keeping software up-to-date is crucial for security, which is a key component of your larger strategy to provide a safe and reliable user experience. Regularly update your CMS and plugins to protect against vulnerabilities.
Reliable hosting ensures that your website is always accessible, aligning with your larger strategy of providing a consistent and reliable user experience. Use a hosting service with 99.9% uptime and good customer support, for example.
If you build a website, it must be available on all web-enabled devices, from TVs to mobile devices. That doesn’t always mean fully functional; it means the primary content is available and what is made available has been designed to look presentable on that device. The cost to make all site functions available on all devices can be prohibitive, but the cost to make your logo, primary value proposition, and contact information all look amazing on any web-enabled device is very small. This aligns with your larger strategy of providing a seamless and accessible user experience across multiple platforms.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is not just about keywords and backlinks; it’s about creating a website that search engines can understand and users find valuable. SEO is crucial for visibility, helping your website rank higher in search engine results. Good SEO practices align with your larger strategy of maximizing reach and driving quality traffic to your website. For example, use relevant keywords in your content and meta descriptions.
AI is poised to revolutionize the future of SEO, transforming the way search engines operate and how businesses optimize their online presence. AI-powered algorithms like Google’s RankBrain are making search results more accurate, personalized, and efficient. AI can also assist in keyword research and content optimization, understanding semantic relationships between keywords and predicting user behavior. Furthermore, AI can help generate meta tags, headings, and other on-page elements crucial for SEO success.
AI’s impact extends to predictive SEO, where AI and machine learning are used to forecast future trends, user behavior, and search engine algorithm updates. This allows businesses to stay ahead of the curve, anticipating changes and adapting their SEO strategies accordingly. Voice search optimization and visual search optimization are other areas where AI will have a significant impact.
As a business owner venturing into the digital landscape, it’s imperative to consider the transformative impact of AI on SEO right from the initial stages of planning your website’s content and structure. For instance, when working with your agency planning your site’s architecture, think about how AIs will prioritize user experience and personalized content. You might decide to incorporate AI-driven features like personalized product recommendations or content curation based on user behavior.
As you add new content over time, use AI-powered tools for keyword research to identify emerging trends and user needs. This will help you create content that not only ranks well but also resonates with your target audience. Predictive SEO can also guide you in anticipating algorithm changes, allowing you to tweak your content strategy proactively. For example, if AI algorithms are increasingly prioritizing video content, you might consider adding more video tutorials or product demos to your site. By staying attuned to the evolving capabilities and focuses of AI in SEO, you can ensure that your website remains competitive, relevant, and aligned with your broader business goals.
Regular updates keep your website relevant and engaging, which is crucial for customer retention and aligns with your larger strategy of building a loyal customer base. For example, update your blog at least once a week and check for broken links monthly.
“Product led growth is the future of go-to-market strategies, it isn’t just another distribution strategy.” — Kyle Poyar, OpenView Partners
Your website is more than just a digital storefront—it’s a dynamic, evolving entity that reflects your brand, engages your audience, and drives your business objectives. The landscape of the web is changing rapidly, especially with the advent of AI and machine learning. By staying ahead of these changes and continuously aligning your website with your broader business goals, you can navigate the complexities of the digital world successfully.
The key takeaway is that a well-planned, well-executed website can serve as a powerful tool for achieving your business goals. It’s not just about aesthetics or functionality; it’s about creating a cohesive, engaging experience that resonates with your target audience and drives value for everyone involved.
Do not be fooled! Most agencies make money by churning out websites – this is not what you need. You need an ongoing, long-term relationship with a results oriented business partner. The days of spitting out template based websites to be checked off a list and forgotten about until your users complain are long gone. Choose your agency partner wisely, empower them to set aggressive targets, and prioritize your online presence in all your business activities.
Up next, we have prepared a comprehensive checklist that serves as a tool for business owners working with agencies to build a website that not only provides value for customers but also drives business goals. Keep this checklist handy as you move forward, and may your digital journey be a prosperous one.
Let’s have a conversation about the right strategy and execution for your project’s website.