Why Your Website Redesign Will Fail Without Content Strategy First7 min read
Is your website gathering dust? Are your visitors yawning — or worse, bouncing? It's time for a website redesign.
But before you call up your designer or start picking color palettes, you should pause and put content first. Sorry, designers — the appearance of your website takes a backseat to the message it's conveying. After all, if there's no reason to stay, it won't matter if your parallax scroll is on point.
We've seen it a lot: A client will redo their website and then say, "I'm ready for inbound!" But that's the wrong order. You can't inject inbound strategy into an existing design. That's like putting sugar on a cake after it's done baking. The content marketing strategy must be baked into your redesign from scratch.
Here's how it's done, and how we redid our SparkReaction website to match a new content marketing strategy.
Content first, design second
At the heart of inbound marketing is a remarkable content strategy. Content captures buyers' attention and trust. Most importantly, it guides them through the Buyer's Journey.
First, you offer SEO-optimized and attractive top-of-funnel content that answers their questions. Second, you create content that helps with consideration — useful case studies, solutions, and white papers. Lastly, you provide materials that help buyers make a purchase decision, like a demo, quote, or assessment.
A successful website should present this wide range of content, and in the right order.
An inbound website puts content first, drawing visitors through your site and sales funnel.
Imagine a website that's not built on content. Many websites are built like this; what we call a traditional "brochure" website. Here's the typical path that visitors take:
- A visitor lands on the homepage.
- He looks at some informational copy and nice photographs.
- The visitor scrolls down to the bottom of the page, where nothing catches his interest. All he sees is contact information, but he's not ready to reach out.
Now imagine a website that's driven by content. A visitor finds a blog post from an organic Google search. Since the SEO keyword targeted his search query, he's interested in being here already. He reads the blog post and enjoys it.
Somewhere in the post, there's a call-to-action: a free download for a guide that helps solve his problem. The CTA does its job — and so does the corresponding landing page. The visitor fills out a form with his contact information, and becomes a lead. Soon, the guide is in his email inbox. He gets a series of emails that drive him back to the website (what we call a nurture workflow). Some articles provide helpful resources and free tools.
He keeps a relationship with the website, because it's always targeting him with relevant content. Now that he's ready to buy, he knows where to go.
What's the difference?
Think of your website like a salesperson. A buyer won't come straight to you — that's not how sales works. Therefore, it's not how your website should work, either. Amazing inbound websites are for the buyer's benefit and what he wants to read, not the company and what it wants to say.
You need to nurture the relationship with content, and pay attention to where it's faltering. But we'll get to that in a bit!
Mapping web content to the buyer's journey
Before you brainstorm any design, first decide on your website's organization. A sitemap is the skeleton that holds up the whole process.
When you decide how to arrange your new website, consider the purchase path you want visitors to take. No page on your website should go without a link to the next corresponding page or offer. This keeps visitors churning through your site, and presents many opportunities for conversion.
Ironically, a sales message won't sell. Try illuminating the purchase path with content that helps answer questions, provides useful advice, or piques interest.
Then, think about which pieces of content might nurture this path. You will likely need a range of content; you may be able to repurpose pieces that you already have.
You need to make sure to include:
- Some piece of gated, high-quality content, which is accessed by filling out a form — allowing you to gather information on your leads.
- Content that addresses each step of the Buyer's Journey.
- If it's relevant, information about your company and what makes it unique.
- A clear pathway to pull it all together chronologically.
- Plenty of inbound links so all of your content is connected. This discourages bouncing.
This might require you to completely rethink your website design or navigation. And that's OK. Fluidity is good in web design... and that brings us to growth-driven design.
Content doesn't need to be static. In fact, it shouldn't be. Introducing, growth-driven design. It's the idea that you pay attention to how your website is performing (all the time), and tweak it accordingly.
With growth-driven design, you don't create a website to set it and forget it. Instead:
- You continually analyze your website's performance, down to each minute detail.
- You see where visitors are coming from, and you further optimize those pages.
- You track where visitors are leaving, and you introduce new content pathways on that page.
- You try some A/B testing on your buttons, copy, and offers, and you go with the winner.
Growth-driven design includes all these things and many more. But how do you track this information?
Marketing automation software is the easiest way to monitor website performance. HubSpot, for example, offers in-depth data on who is visiting your web page, how they got there, and what they did once they arrived.
We also utilize Hotjar for our growth-driven design clients. This provides us with heat maps of where people are actually clicking on a page (for example, if everyone trying to click on something that isn't clickable, we might decide to make it link somewhere.) It also tells us how far they scroll down the page, and we can get anonymous recordings of people actually using the website.
By analyzing long-term data from marketing tools, you can draw meaningful conclusions... and update accordingly.
You're constantly fine-tuning your website to become the very best sales machine for your company. Here's how (and why) we redid our own strategy.
How we built our new website, content first
Our old website was built when inbound marketing was just picking up steam.
Back then, the website needed to be very informative: It answered the question, "what is inbound marketing?" There was a big learning curve for our audience. Our main content goal was to convince people on the advantages of inbound.
Now, it's a new day. And since inbound marketing is becoming a household (or, at least, marketing agency-wide) term, we no longer needed to convince our audience. Now, they're looking for the very best inbound marketing partners. They want to implement inbound into their own marketing strategy. Their needs are constantly evolving. And a changing audience called for a complete content revitalization.
Our new content model
We considered feedback from our current clients, data on our website performance, and our evolving set of products and services. We emerged with a brand new content marketing strategy that mirrored the Buyer's Journey: Problem, solution, and results.
Before we cracked open Photoshop or wrote a line of code, we fine-tuned this new content model so it would work best for our audience.
Our new content model allowed visitors to find our website organically based on the problems they were searching for. Then, we could guide them to further understand their problems, and we suggested possible solutions. It was a "helpful first" approach — integral to the inbound methodology.
Planning and rebuilding
Our entire site navigation changed around this content strategy. In fact, we had a meeting to determine a brand new sitemap before designing a single page. It gave us guidance moving forward. The design followed. We scrapped many pages and content pieces. We brainstormed new offers to fill gaps. We reexamined the purchase path, and created new touch points to act as "stepping stones" throughout our site.
There are always improvements we could make in our process. Next time around, we'll write nearly all of our major website copy before designing a layout! We're happy with the results, and we'll continually pay attention to the metrics and evolve accordingly. We're a living case study for growth-driven design.
When you begin construction on your website redesign, start with content first. Consider the purchase path you want your audience to take. If your audience has evolved (which is likely!), consider evolving your messaging, too. This could require a complete overhaul of your navigation and site pages — and that's OK!
Create content to map to the purchase path you chose. Make sure you address every step of the buyer's journey. Provide enough clarity through buttons and inbound links to encourage visitors to take this path. Don't leave any page without "stepping stones" forward.
Once your website is created, keep refining it! Don't let it sit and gather dust. Continually fine-tune your site pages, buttons, and offers to match the data you gather. Marketing automation will play a key role in identifying these trends.