What are your website's goals?

This is article #
in the series:
Questions to help you build a better website
September 2020

Photo by Mike Baker on Unsplash

A website without a purpose is like a ship without a rudder — adrift. If it doesn't have a clear goal you don't have a destination. And if you don't know where you're going, then how will you know what steps will get you there? 

When that's the case, your website will often end up with unnecessary or even distracting features. This will leave your site feeling unfocused and muddled which will then undermine any of your attempts to convince people to buy your product or your arguments. 

Be honest with yourself

That's why it's so important that you work out what you're trying to achieve with your site. And when you do, you have to be brutally honest with yourself as well. If you're trying to sell a product then that is your website's objective. Not to build up a mailing list or share interesting content with your visitors, but to sell your product.

That's not to say you can't build up a mailing list or share interesting content with your visitors. Of course you can! Many roads lead to Rome and building up a base of regular visitors and return customers can be an effective strategy. It's just that you should not confuse the stepping stones with the destination.

Just like your website, so each individual page

The best way to think about goals isn't just from up high, either. Instead, you should apply it to each page.

Consider that ship again. Sure, the rudder is important. But the truth is, other aspects of the ship, like its sail, mast and hull, also need to be crafted with the ship's goal in mind. More precisely, each part has its own goal, like the sail to catch the wind and the mast to keep the sail attached, and in that way they contribute to the ship's overall goal.

If the shipwright were to lose sight of that while building a part — for example by building a square hull or putting up a net where the sail should be — the whole ship suffers.

It's the same for each page and each page section on your site. 

Consider what the goal of every bit is and how that in turn fits into the website as a whole. Only then start building it.

An example: Applying goal-specific thinking to the ‘About’ page

Let's try that out with the About page. What is the goal here? At first glance, you might think the goal is to introduce yourself and your company. And that's true, but really that's only one aspect of the goal.

If your website is geared towards selling your product, then the About page's goal is to make potential customers decide they like and trust you, you and believe you can deliver a high-quality product.

That insight has several implications:

Content should be customer-centric.

Not only should the page highlight your good qualities; it should do so in relation to your target audience and their wants, needs and hangups.

Different audiences like and trust different people.

Are you engaging with suit-and-tie businesses? Then perhaps don't talk about your radical politics. Trying to engage with political junkies? Then go ahead and emphasize your political position! 

The expertise you highlight should be related to your product.

So, avoid going into too much detail about your dog-training skills unless you're selling dog-related products.

Is your product location specific?

Then you have to let people know where you're located! How else will they know if you deliver where they live? 

Thinking this way will reshape how you look at websites

When you think about your site in this way, it's easy to see when others don't. 

One website we ran into aimed to market the owner's writing skills. The problem? The blog didn't link up with that at all. Instead of targeting potential clients It was aimed at other writers. Even worse, on the blog there were articles that explained how to demand the most money from a client! Now that's not something that will have prospective clients knocking down your door.

Even if you don't self-sabotage in this way, writing for the wrong audience means you're investing time in attracting visitors who aren't interested in your product. Even worse, it can hurt your SEO as search engines will serve your content to the wrong audience.

Another problem not thinking in this way creates, is that a website might offer content directly relevant to a potential client, but then miss the opportunity to convert them into customers. 

For example, one touring company we know offered quality content about cool destinations in their city that drew in lots of organic traffic. But they then forgot to mention on those pages what they did, or to place a link to their services. 

The result? People checked out their content and then, because they had no idea the company also offered tours, made their own plans to go see it or looked for another tour company to go see it with.


Cutting the chaff: does this section belong? 

There is one final important facet regarding thinking this way. If you do, sometimes you'll find that an idea, page section, or even an entire page, doesn't serve as a stepping stone to achieving your site's goal. And if it's not doing that, then there's a good chance it's distracting your audience instead. In that case, it's time to cut. 

Cut, you say, cut this beautiful page you've spent days crafting? But that's ridiculous! 

We know the feeling. We get passionate about our creations too. They become our babies. We want to show them off and have people coo over them.

All the same, unless a website's goal is to have people marvel over your cleverness, that bit will have to go. If deleting it hurts too much, put it in another folder. Recycle it for later. Maybe you'll find some way to use it towards achieving your website's goal down the line. But until then, it will have to go. 

Because the ultimate measure of a website's success is not how much you like it, but how successful it is at convincing your target audience to do what you want them to. If you can always make sure you're working towards that you'll be far more likely to not just build a successful website, but build something that successfully impacts your business and your life. 

Now that's a goal worth pursuing. 

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