Using marketing animation to amplify your communications
Why read this? : We look at how marketing animation can help you communicate better with customers. Learn the 3 areas where it’s most often
Why read this? : We look at the role your website plays in digital planning. Learn how to get started online by blogging, and then what’s needed to create your own website. We also show how to manage key areas like content, style and functionality. Learn how a website works, and the key jobs you need to do. Read this to improve your website planning.
How this guide raises your game :-
1. We share the basics of blogging, the easiest and fastest way to start a website.
2. Go through the 8 key steps of how a website works.
3. Learn how to use content, style and functionality to improve your website’s impact.
As per our digital business model guide, there are 3 key goals which drive your digital marketing plan.
You want to :-
Reach is mainly driven by digital media. It gets your message in front of customers.
But when you advertise via channels like search, social and display, you’re limited in what and how much you can say.
Your message has to work within the ‘rules’ those channels set when they sell you the space.
For example, it needs to fit within their editorial guidelines. It needs to fit within their formats and sizes specifications. And you do all this with competitor advertising sitting in the same channels trying to grab your customers attention.
In short, you don’t have full control of the customer experience in digital media.
But if you can get customers to visit your website, then suddenly you have all the control you want. You use that control to drive engagement and sales. You control how your brand presents itself to customers.
As per our benefits of your website article, your website connects your target audience, your brand identity and your customer experience together. You create an ‘experience’ on your own terms to guide the customer towards a goal.
But the ambition for your website to do all these things for customers and to deliver on your business objectives is one thing. The reality of creating and running a high performance website is another.
Most websites start off very simply with basic functionality. They then gradually expand as they learn more about what their target audience wants.
So, let’s start with the simplest type of website you can set up, which is a blog.
If you’re a complete beginner, the easiest way to get started with websites would be to start blogging on sites like WordPress, Wix or Blogger.
Blogging is where you publish copy, images or video about a topic you believe is of interest to people. Many people blog because they’re passionate about a particular topic.
Obviously, for us, we’re passionate about marketing, creativity and e-Commerce.
It can be a great way to get started with engaging people online for businesses. Sites like WordPress, Wix and Blogger make blogging available for free and their sites offer easy to use page templates.
Your blogging ‘site’ will have its own identity within the blogging site’s platform. So it might be called mysite.wordpress.com, for example. Blogging is a good way to start creating the basic content you’ll need for your website.
The major advantage of blogging is it doesn’t need much technical expertise to set up. It’s quick and easy to start publishing content.
As long as you’ve a computer and can string a sentence together, you can publish a page which effectively becomes your first ‘website’. This website started as a blogging site as you can see from the above image.
However, here’s the challenge with blogging. Because it’s so easy and doesn’t need technical knowledge, anyone and everyone can do it. And they do.
Latest estimates put the number of blogs globally at 600 million+. The same article suggests there are around 5.7 million new blog posts every day. That works out as around 4,000 per minute.
That’s a lot of noise in the blogging space. So, there’s 3 challenges you face if you only use a blogging site :-
First, how do you make the content of your blog stand out? How do you make it distinctive versus all that competition? Is your video content, photography or writing so strong, that you’ll create a unique and distinctive experience? How do you edit the blog so it’s as strong as it can be? These are the type of things you need to plan for, otherwise your content won’t stand out.
Next, is how you make the style and design of your blog stand-out. How do you make it look different? Most blog sites work from similar templates. Which means they’ll look the same. You’ll also have limits on the typography and colours you can want to use. And in terms of layout, you may struggle to apply good design principles.
And lastly is the lack of interactivity or functionality you can add to the site. You can usually let people add comments to posts. And you can point people to where they can buy your brand online. But that’s about it.
For the most part, blogging is a one way process where the audience sees only your content. You also have limited access to the data behind the interaction. And it’s a challenge to connect other online systems to a blog, beyond basic linking.
For all of these reasons, that’s why most businesses eventually move on to have their own owned website.
A step up from blogging would be when you decide to set up your own ‘owned’ website. You can still post blog content on this website, but you can also add more functionality. It’s like having your own home versus renting one.
This means you directly set-up and control all the operations around your website. As opposed to piggy-backing on someone else’s platform.
Before we go on to how a website actually ‘works’ and how you can use it to grow your business, there are a few basic terms you need to know.
These help you work out what you’ll need to get get your website up and running.
URLs are the (http:// or https://) address of your website. They’re also known as domain names. If you think of your website as your online home, your URL is the address you give customers so they can find you online. Customers put the URL name in their search browser, or click on it in a link to access your site.
You can purchase URLs online via site registry websites. Examples include Netregistry, Go Daddy or Crazy Domains.
The price can vary greatly, and depends on the popularity of the URL name you wish to purchase. In general terms, category terms are more expensive than branded terms.
Your URL should reflect the name of your brand and your brand identity. Keep it short, relevant and memorable. Shorter URLs perform better than longer URLs because customers find it easier to remember them.
You also have choices on the ‘suffix’ of the URL name depending on the type of organisation and the location of the business. For example, .com, .com.au, .co.uk, .biz, .org and so on.
As a rule of thumb, .com for businesses is the most common suffix and if your preferred URL is available with that suffix, go with that one. Suffixes with the relevant country such as .com.au or .co.uk can also work for local-based business and where the .com is not available or too expensive.
Most of the other suffixes are less common and can be perceived as less trustworthy.
As part of your website planning, pick a strong URL that’ll be relevant to your target audience, easy to find by search engines and fits with your brand identity. There are many online guides on how to pick the best URL for your website.
You’ll need the URL to be able to tell people where to find your website. It’s the first thing they’ll see when they search for it online. It’s normally purchased on an annual renewal basis.
You’ll also need access to a hosting service who’ll provide a server to store the content and data from your site online. There are many providers of this service, and it’s beyond the scope of this guide to recommend one provider over another. And in fact, it’s a challenge to recommend a specific provider because they constantly change and update the services, prices and support they offer.
We recommend researching online to see which is the best service provider at that time based on price, quality of service and speed. Speed is important. Ideally, your server ideally should be located relatively close to where your user base is to make sure your content downloads quickly when accessed.
Bear in mind, these companies regularly upgrade their systems. Check the date of any reviews you look at These companies compete with each other, and you should use that to find the best hosting service at the time for you. Also, don’t feel stuck with your current provider when your agreement renewal comes up. Most of them make it easy to transfer hosting between providers.
When we set this site up, we found this review of hosting services for Australia really helpful. Alternatively, check out this summary page of Australian hosting options for a different view. For a more international view, this Techradar article was also helpful.
The CMS is the software system you use to manage all your content. Content covers many areas. For example, articles or blog posts you’ve written. But also your images and videos. Content also covers interactive website elements like links and buttons. For e-Commerce, it also covers product page details like descriptions, prices, tax and delivery charges.
If you started with WordPress or Wix blogging, both sites can upgrade you to more sophisticated versions of their CMS. These add more features at an extra cost. So you can have more control over the design and layout, for example. And you can more easily manage the technical set-up and integration with other software systems like Google Analytics or add a Facebook pixel.
For example, this site is built with WordPress CMS. WordPress is the world’s most commonly used CMS and has many benefits. It’s relatively easy to learn with little need for technical or coding expertise. And it comes with access to a large catalogue of plug-ins. These are small pieces of software you can ‘plug-in’ to add more functionality to your website and make it more interactive.
For example, you can plug in something like ‘WooCommerce” to a WordPress website to turn it from a publishing website to an e-Commerce website. You can add quizzes as we’ve done on many of our content pages.
Note with WordPress, there’s 2 slightly different versions. It’s important to understand the differences.
There’s WordPress.org which is a free CMS. It’s normally an option which comes with your website hosting service to install this version.
But there’s also wordpress.com where WordPress themselves are your server hosting service. In this case, you pay for the CMS and server together. and you benefit from more direct support from WordPress themselves. But you lose some of the flexibility you have when you run wordpress.org on your own server.
WordPress and Wix are easy to work with and have a wide range of applications. They’re popular for a reason, especially with smaller business who don’t have technical expertise.
But there are also hundreds of other CMS systems to choose from.
These are often more advanced CMSs with great flexibility and options, especially if you need to allow multiple people access to the system. But these more advanced CMSs also tend to come with more cost and complexity.
For these more advanced cases, normally you work with the CMS provider directly, and the CMS is part of a wider marketing technology stack. Martech can add lots of value to your business, but it also comes with its own challenges.
For online selling, you have to look at specialist e-commerce CMS options like Woocommerce, Shopify and Magento. (See our setting up your own online store guide for more details on these).
E-Commerce CMS systems have to handle very specific website requirements, such as creating and updating product pages, and managing payments, price discounts and delivery.
These CRM systems have to connect to your ‘back-end’ systems such as those in the order to delivery process. They often come with a long list of testing requirements to manage all steps of the customer journey.
With the URL, the server and the CMS, you’ve essentially bought the address, the plot of land and the architectural plan for your online home. But you still have to build the home itself.
As we said earlier, the 3 key elements of building your website are the content, the style and the functionality.
But before we cover those, it’s worth a quick walk-through of the context in which those elements sit.
What are the actions that happen or need to happen before the customer interacts with the website? And what are the outcomes or actions which happen after the interaction?
As a first step, the website owner has to make the site ‘findable’ online. This is generally done through digital media with a focus on search, supported by social media and online display adverts. Learn more about these channels in our separate digital media guide.
The target audience are exposed to the website details either voluntarily or involuntarily. Voluntary exposure is when they search for something online, and the search engine shows your URL in response to that search. This is the strongest digital media because it’s based on the customer’s direct need. It’s why SEO is an important part of your website planning.
But with social media paid posts or online display, you can also put your URL and website details in front of customers so they’re ‘involuntarily’ exposed. In this case, you have much more direct control over where, when and who sees the message. But obviously, the response or click through rates will be less because the exposure is involuntary.
It’s outside the scope of this guide to give a detailed breakdown on the different internet browsers.
From an overall digital marketing point of view, you don’t have to be an expert in all the different browsers. Or an expert in Hypertext Markup Language (HTML), the coding language which sits behind all websites.
However, as part of your website planning, it’s important to understand what internet browsers actually do, and which the main ones are. You don’t have to be able to write HTML code, but you do have to understand what it does.
Hypertext Market Language is the universal language of all websites and it’s what lets websites “talk” to each other.
A website browser like Chrome, Safari or Firefox is in very simple terms a translator service. They translate HTML code into user friendly text, layout designs and functionality so the user ‘sees’ the page, not in HTML but in a user-friendly way.
From a website planning point of view, your main interaction with different browsers is when you test your website for compatibility with each of the main browsers. Most CMS systems are set-up to be compatible with the main browsers, and it’s now less and less common for there to be browser issues. But it’s still common to run these tests to be sure using online tools like browsershots or comparium.
You can see the HTML code which sits behind any website by right-clicking in Windows on the page and clicking “View Source Code” or on Mac / Safari, pressing the CTRL key and selecting “Inspect Element”.
Content, style and function are the 3 central elements of any website, and we’ll come onto those shortly. But in terms of the process, one or more of these elements has to be delivered to the user, so there’s an outcome or action.
As a result of the interaction between the customer and the website, this outcome or action delivers something online for that person. A piece of information they were looking for. An answer to a question. An interesting article. Even just an image or video which meets their needs. Or it could be an actual digital service such as an online order or reservation.
That means there’s a flow from the website both to the customer and back to the website owner.
Once you understand the overall ‘flow’ of the website experience, you can start to identify the jobs to be done to make the whole system ‘work’ better.
We already cover digital media and connected systems like marketing technology and digital data in other guides.
So in this guide, we’ll focus on the role of content, style and functionality.
Remember, in our digital business model, the key purpose of the website is to drive engagement and sales.
The areas of content, style and functionality are ‘how’ you deliver those for customers.
Content is the text, images, videos and all other materials which customers see or interact with on your site, Content has 3 main goals :-
To make your website blogs and articles easy to find by search engines, you have to learn the skill of writing for SEO. (Search Engine Optimisation).
This is a specific skill which combines marketing skills, writing skills and knowledge of how search engines work.
You have to understand the needs of the target audience. And be able to apply the principles of good writing to make your content clear and readable.
Keyword research can help you write articles and blog posts based on what your target audience searches online. The topics should connect with your brand identity.
There are some basic techniques to learn to improve your search ranking. For example, make sure your keyword appears in the title, introductory paragraph and subheadings. If you can add links to other parts of your site or other third party sites, that also helps with search.
Content isn’t just text though. It also covers images and videos. For example, pictures of your product or people using it. Or diagrams or infographics which help people understand the information you’re sharing better. It could be logos, icons or other brand identity elements which help customers connect with your brand.
The key challenge with content is to find relevant topics to cover. Some topics may generate lots of interest online, but your brand has to have relevant authority to talk about them.
Creating content is like buying all the bricks, paint, appliances and furniture to build your house. However, you still have to make your house look and feel like you want it to.
As you start to build up your content, you also have to start planning out the overall style and experience of the site.
The style of the site usually requires an understanding of branding, design and creative / artistic skills. For example, what will it look like? If you already have brand colours and typography from your brand identity, will these work on your new website? Will these be appealing and readable?
What abut the layout of your different content areas? Will these follow good design principles? What size will they be on the page? When customers view the site on different size devices like desktop, tablet or mobile, will the site adjust in a responsive way?
When you work with agencies to build a website, they’ll normally propose an art director or designer to work on making sure the site ‘looks’ great.
They can help you define the overall style of the site. And they can set the parameters on the CSS (Cascading Style Sheet) where the colours, fonts and composition of a website are generally stored.
Marketing agencies will bring added expertise to your website style and design. But they’ll also add cost to the process. You need to balance out which matters most to you. Better style or cost saving.
Another point to remember on style is your website is interactive. Customers don’t just look at a single page. They move around the site. So you also need to plan the ‘user experience’. This is a specialised skill where designers look at, for example, where buttons are placed, how links are presented and how customers interact with the site.
This User Experience skill is about placing yourself in the shoes of a potential user and testing the site to make sure everything works, so the user gets what they need. To keep the housebuilding analogy going, it’s essentially the ‘architect’ role in creating your website home.
For your online home to be ‘liveable’, it doesn’t need to just contain ‘stuff’ and be designed, it also needs to function. Think of this area like adding utilities – electricity, gas, plumbing – to your actual home.
If you build a website on a template system like WordPress or Wix, you can use templates or plug-ins to take care of most of these areas. But with more bespoke solutions, then chances are, you’d use a developer with specialist knowledge. They have the expertise to create code, set up systems and fix errors.
You also have to think about how to “look after” the site once it’s live. Most bigger websites will have a “Web Admin” type role. This person is the first point of contact for any issues. They manage the site day to day and take care of upgrades, tweaks and fixes.
Web Admins are also responsible for the marketing technology which underpins and connects to your website. However, they often have to call in expertise from web developers for more technical issues.
There’s 2 main types of engagement you should measure on your website.
Passive engagement is when there’s some interaction with the website but the user doesn’t identify themselves. So these types of engagement can be measured with for example, time spent on site or the number of clicks.
Active engagement on the other hand is where the customer makes a one-to-one connection. They become a known user. They identify themselves and request further contact. These can be measured with for example enquiries, shares, likes and registrations.
And finally, the most “active” engagement is that which results in an actual sale if you manage an online store.
And of course, every time a customer interacts with your website, they create a piece of data. This data can help you build up a clearer picture of their needs and behaviours. But you need to set up your website with a tool like Google Analytics to capture this data. See our digital data guide for more on this.
Having your own website also gives you the chance to integrate it with other marketing technology systems. This integration is often called a ‘digital ecosystem’. See our marketing technology guide for more details on this.
However, in the context of website planning, 3 key marketing technology tools are critical.
Analytics and tagging are the systems which capture what people do on your website. And also how they reached your website and where they go next. Google Analytics and Google Tag Manager are the most common systems.
Databases are where you hold and store information about specific customers who’ve given you permission to contact them. This is usually a list of people’s emails who subscribe to a CRM newsletter. There are a lot of technical and legal considerations when it comes to data. We cover those in our marketing technology guide.
E-Commerce for your website is when you manage your own online store. This demands an extra level of systems integration. In particular, the ability to manage an order to delivery. You also need to securely store the details of the customer’s account and transaction history.
Your website is your online home. How you choose to set up that ‘home’ website experience to attract customers depends on your target audience and your brand identity.
It can seem a daunting challenge to find the best combination of technical set-up and user experience when you start out.
But if you work through the key steps outlined in this article, you’ll be well on the way to having a successful website.
You should walk before you run when it comes to website planning. Start with simple content-based sites that help your customers.
As you get more confident and comfortable with how websites work, then you get more ambitious with what your website can do.
And don’t forget, it’s important to build knowledge of what customers want from your website. That’s when you can really ramp up the style, functionality and integration with the wider digital ecosystem. Remember, the key benefit of your website is that it connects your target audience, your brand identity and your customer experience.
If you’re a small or new business, we can work with you to build your website planning skills. We’ve lots of experience in this area. We can guide you on how to get the most out of blogging and how to set up quick and easy to manage content-based websites.
If you already have a website and need to plan what to do next, we’ve worked with agencies and developers on many large and complex projects. These include e-Commerce set-up and integrations with advanced martech systems. We can guide you through the process of taking your website to the next level with expert and impartial advice.
Email us to learn more about how we can support your website planning to grow your business with our coaching and consulting services.
Why read this? : We look at how marketing animation can help you communicate better with customers. Learn the 3 areas where it’s most often
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