A great website is the foundation of any smart marketing strategy. It supports your brand promise and differentiates you from competitors. It delivers high-value information that demonstrates your capabilities and makes people want to do business with you.

So how do you create a great website? It’s all in the planning.

Here’s the planning guide we use when creating new websites for our clients.

Your goals

  • Why is a website important to your business?
  • What are your goals for the site and how will you measure its effectiveness?
  • What role does your website play in your sales and marketing plan? Brand awareness and positioning? An information resource for clients and prospects? Storefront? Lead generator? Community bulletin board?

 Your brand

  • What does your brand stand for? What do people expect from their interaction with your brand and how can you meet those expectations on your website?
  • How are you communicating your brand in other marketing channels? What types of images and messages should be integrated into your site for branding consistency?

Your market

  • Who are the most important targets of your website? Why do these people come to your site? What are they looking for?
  • Are they typically first-time or repeat visitors? Do they already know you or do business with you or are they trying to learn about you?
  • Where do people go on your current site? Which pages get the most hits and most engagement?

Your marketing strategy

  • What is your overall marketing strategy? What channels and tactics are you using to promote your company and products?
  • How can your website integrate with and support your other marketing initiatives? For example, can your site be a response channel for direct mail and email marketing campaigns? Serve as the repository for content you share via social media? Promote events? Highlight special offers?

Content

  • What content belongs on your site to convey your capabilities and the value you provide to clients?
  • What’s the best way to deliver that content on the site? Explanatory text? Case studies? Testimonials? How-to information? Product demos? Newsletters? Videos? Photos? Charts? Diagrams? Presentations? Podcasts? A blog?

Search engine optimization

  • Which keywords will you use to drive search engine rankings and content creation?
  • Are there specific products, services or geographic regions that should be the focus of text?
  • How will you add content in the future to continue your SEO initiatives?

Offers and engagement

  • What can you offer website visitors to generate a response and get their permission for future communications?
  • How can you spur visitor engagement? Think of actions you can measure, such as requesting information, sharing your site with others, posting a comment, following you on social media, subscribing to your blog or signing up for your RSS feed.

Functionality and navigation

  • What actions will visitors want to take on your site? Order products? Chat with a representative? Get more information? Find a dealer or retail location? Log on to their account? Which of these actions should be prominently featured on your home page?
  • Do you need to provide password-protected access for customers?
  • What inbound and outbound links belong on the site?
  • How will your site look and function on a mobile device?

Sources of site traffic

  • How do you plan to drive traffic to your website? Social media? Pay per click? Promotion in other media? Organic search?
  • How will you use marketing to bring people to your site?
  • What can you do to encourage return traffic?

Your competitors

  • Which of your competitors is doing web marketing well? What aspects of their sites do you like?
  • Which competitors should you track for comparative search engine rankings?

Take a moment to evaluate your website. Perhaps a few tweaks are all that is required to turn your good website into a great one.

Sign up for The Lead and get a new tip in your inbox every day! More tips:

Jean M. Gianfagna is a marketing strategy expert and the founder and president of Gianfagna Strategic Marketing which provides marketing strategy and creative services to leading business-to-business and consumer marketers. Read her blog for more marketing tips at http://www.gianfagnamarketing.com/blog.