Now that I have been a hands-on website consultant for a few years and built, revitalized, or improved the business performance of multiple websites, I have learned a better way to get a website to deliver results.
When I was a marketing executive at public and startup companies, the website was always my responsibility. Regardless if I had small teams, large teams, or large budgets for multiple expert vendors, I never sensed I was getting the business results I should be getting. But I was too busy to roll-up my sleeves and figure out why. I always had to go onto the next strategic initiative or program, such as that lead generation campaign the CEO or CRO wanted, and delegate responsibility for the website. Now I know I was right.
Best Practices for Website Design, Development, and Engagement Optimization
We Make Websites Perform
Whether we are building from scratch, giving an existing site a fresh face, or just focused on improving the performance of a good website, there are several best practices that I bring to the table as a website consultant that I did not have the luxury of when I was working as a full-time employee.
As a result of my approach, in the first year, my clients have seen:
- Double the website visitors
- Double the website registrations
- Double their top 10 keyword rankings (from 10 to 20)
- 40% increase in top 20 rankings (from 25 to 35)
- Sales claim that every website registration was significantly more qualified and better educated
Rich’s 11 Website Consultant Best Practices
Here are my best practices for improving website business performance, all of which you get by engaging Rich Guth as your website consultant.
- Let a hands-on, strategic thinker lead
- Take a product-marketing approach
- Do web analytics before you start
- Use tools that make changes easy
- Bake-in SEO up front
- Balance SEO copy with ability-to-skim
- Use benefits to create need for features
- Prioritize competitive differentiation
- Talk to clearly defined target audiences
- Encourage engagement
- Don’t hire multiple expensive agencies
1. Let a Hands-on, Strategic Thinker Lead
I am a hands-on website consultant for every web project we undertake. I approach the project the way a CMO would, such as ‘what do I need this website to do for my business and what metrics does the website need to improve”. I do SEO research, investigate competitors, build the information architecture, write or edit copy, do initial page layouts in WordPress that designers use as blueprints to start graphics, QA SEO or do it myself, and monitor and report on the results. All the things I knew we could do better when I was a full-time CMO but never had the time.
2. Take a Product Marketing Approach
It’s always tempting to assign the website project to a talented, creative, marcom person—particularly when product management and marketing have so many other priorities. That is why I dive in and get to know your product and its competitive differentiators as if I were product marketing, not just another website consultant. I will build a site that your engineers and product managers will say “yes, that is the product we are building”, and sales will say, “yes, that is the conversation we want to have with those customers”.
3. Do Web Analytics Before you Start
If available, I like to start every project by digging into Google Analytics, Google Search Console— aka webmaster tools—and SEMRush. As your website consultant, I will develop your website strategy to maintain what is working and improve the metrics that are falling short. This includes bounce rate, return visitors, search term rankings, time on site, number of pages visited, and landing pages, just to name a few we might discover. Don’t be surprised if I ask to see some Google Analytics reports before I write a proposal for you. Marketing metrics are one of my specialties.
4. Tools that Make Changes Easy
A website needs to be dynamic, and It drove me crazy when I found something I wanted to change on a website and was not able to do it myself right then and there—and I spent good money on those CMS. My team and I will make sure your infrastructure is set up in a way that the right people can make the right changes on demand easily without a website consultant. While we usually work in WordPress and a handful of the leading graphical editors, we have experience with other CMS platforms such as HubSpot.
5. Bake-in SEO Up Front
I’ve had more than one web design firm tell me to just focus on telling my story and worry about SEO after the site is built. Big mistake—retrofitting SEO after the fact hardly ever works, particularly if you have yet another agency do it. When I act as a website consultant, I make sure your information architecture, URLs, messaging and positioning, and every page and its copy are fully grounded in SEO research, so that organic search will drive more of the right web visitors.
6. Balance Copy with Ability-to-Skim
Long pages with several hundred words of copy have become the norm, and I am a big fan of writing enough copy to support search engine optimization for keyword rankings. But no one is going to sit and read a web page full of endless copy. The same amount of copy, broken up into small bite-size chunks, makes the page skimmable. We’ll make sure your headings alone tell your story and motivate visitors to read the details.
7. Use Benefits to Create Need for Features
It’s always tempting for product management to want all their cool features on the website, and they have their place. But a buyer needs to see those features in the context of the business value to them, whether it’s more conversion for a sales-oriented contact center or improved productivity for a developer. We will make sure the reasons and need for your cool features are front and center not just the features themselves.
8. Prioritize Competitive Differentiation
One of my website consultant specialties is analyzing your competitors and making sure you are enough “like them” so if they get evaluated you will, but different enough to stand out and change the competitive conversation. It’s a matter of the right mix of common and different messages and SEO keywords. I have a unique way to reverse-engineer competitor messaging hierarchies. I use SEMRush to see how your site is performing for your keywords against your competitors.
9. Talk to Clearly Defined Audiences
As your website consultant, I will make sure your website talks one-to-one with your target audiences about how your product or service will solve their business or technical problems and pain. If a potential customer sees their needs reflected in your website, you will gain trust and credibility and they will return. Sometimes the target is line-of-business, sometimes IT, sometimes developers or even consumers. When its more than one, each audience needs its own pages.
10. Encourage Engagement
I have seen one too many startup put calls-to-action (CTAs) on the back burner. As your website consultant, I will work with you to have a “call-to-action” strategy for every page and decide what content we offer to web visitors for free, and what we “gate” that requires them to provide some contact information—and how much, so we don’t chase them away. I am a big fan of progressive profiling—if your marketing automation supports it.
11. Don’t Hire Multiple Expensive Agencies
A tight-knit team of individual experts will deliver more bang for the buck than a large agency with an account manager, particularly if you are a startup. As an independent website consultant, I bring with me the web development and design freelancers I used at my last start-up who are great at what they do. We are lean, and we deliver—without the middle man and overhead of an agency.
12. Hire Us as Your Website Consultants
Yeah, I kinda snuck this one in here at the end. Consider it a call-to-action. The bottom line is, I love analyzing websites, working on their content, improving their business performance, and tracking the results. I would be very pleased to have the opportunity to help your company with your website. Contact me now and lets talk about how my website consulting can improve your website results.