You look at your website and think “My website sucks!” You certainly know a nice website when you see one.  And yours isn’t it.

There is no shortage of “How to Build Your Website” tutorials and articles out there.

There’s just one MAJOR problem I see. It’s that NONE of them actually talk about what to put IN your website.

If getting a successful website meant grabbing a domain name and filling out a WordPress template — we’d all be online marketing millionaires. But, unfortunately, putting up a website takes a lot more thinking than training.

How to wrap your head around your website project

Most people jump into the website development process willy nilly. They come up with a domain name, they get a template, they throw up some navigation and pages and quite frankly — they do it all backwards.

I know why — because doing all those things is WAY easier than actually stopping to think, plan and strategize who your audience is and what you want your website to do. These things are fun to think about — but really not fun to actually DO.

It’s all about your audience

Start with your audience first. 

Who is going to be reading this website?

Who do you WANT to be reading this website?

This is the place to start because a site that is targeted to men is going to be different than a site targeted to women. A site targeted to older people will look different than a site targeted to young people. Who is your audience?! Profile them, describe them, give them a name.

What’s important to them when they are buying what you are selling?

Now that we know who the audience is — take some time to map out what matters to them when they are thinking about your product or service.

What are their top frustrations? As much as you can — use their own words. What are they afraid of, what keeps them up at night?

What are their existing behaviors?

Think about what they read, what websites do they visit most often and so on. Watch and observe them very closely. Look for what’s missing when they are thinking about buying what you’re selling. Watch and read between the lines. You’ll see it in their behavior, you’ll hear it in their speaking.

What’s your opinion on the matter

You — and what you think and feel about the way things are surrounding your business are absolutely critical!

People don’t buy STUFF – they buy outlooks and opinions that resonate with theirs.

One of the most critical components of a website are the personal voice that you bring to it. Remember, people are using your website to get to know who you are and to decide on whether they “like” you and what you offer or not. Your audience is looking to see if they connect with you, what you offer and what you believe and they are using your website to do that. Your job is to deliver the clearest, most concise explanation of that.

The best way to get to the root of that is to create a top 10 list of reasons that they should choose you.

What’s the outcome, result or benefit you promise

You are going to want to default to talking about your product or your service. You will want to describe it and talk about how shiny and cool it is. None of this really matters to your audience. They want to see what they will GET as a result. They want to see what they will walk away with. They want to envision how different their life and their business will be AFTER they’ve purchased what you have to sell.

Marketers often talk about this as a benefit. But I think that this is a short-cut you can’t afford to take. What’s going to set you apart from the rest of the choices and alternatives they have is how clearly and vividly you describe their ideal future state after using your product.

For some real examples, consider the infomercials you see on TV. Whether they are talking about cleaning products or weight loss products, notice how they show an existing situation which is clearly undesirable and a future situation which delivers on how they will LOOK and FEEL after using these products or services.

What do you want them to DO

It’s not enough to paint this perfect picture of a desired result — you need to be ridiculously obvious about what you want them to do at every point in the process. As you might expect, I have a very strong opinion about this.

The sole purpose of a website is to generate leads and new customers — otherwise, why would you invest all this ridiculous amount of work and spend all this time and money? You wouldn’t.

The only job of a website is to attract and convert visitors to customers. Every element of the site has to be focused on this outcome;

  • The audience you target has to already be buying these things — there has to be a market for it.
  • What you offer has to be something that they WANT and have already been spending money on.
  • What you say has to resonate with the audience and get them to say “That sounds like me” and “I want that”.
  • Make it easy for them to buy — to say yes — to click and land on your list where you can start building relationships with them.

Create a landing page

Now this is something rather unusual — but you’ll thank me later. I want you to create a single landing page. This will be useful on several levels. First, it will force you to focus on just those things that matter to your customer — those core elements that will get them to choose you.

The other benefit is that it will give you the foundation that you can expand on for your larger site.

Finally — and this is the best — of course — is that it will be a lead generating tool that you can use to get new customers. Because when you really look at it — your web site is really nothing more than a series of lead generating landing pages.

Building a large complicated website can seem overwhelming. Starting with a landing page will keep you focused and give you some practice. So pick a product or service you want to feature and create a landing page to sell it.

Do this for all your products and services and when you’re done — the rest will be super easy.

Choosing a website design

Now it’s finally time to think about what website designs and structures will best achieve your desired result. This is where the work you did on identifying the websites your ideal customers regularly visit comes in. Your goal is to choose what WORKS and not necessarily what you like. These are two different things.

The best way to find a website structure and design that will work for you is to find an existing successful website to model. I don’t mean that you copy everything — you look at the model and identify what works;

  • Does it have lots of pictures?
  • Does it have lots of text?
  • What navigation does it have?
  • Look at the headlines — what are they saying that will resonate with your ideal customer?
  • Make a list of all the things your customer loves about this website.

Before you choose one website model — you’ll want to do some research to find those sites that you KNOW are successful (making money, generating leads). To do this, you’ll have to know your industry a bit. Choose the rock stars in your market and dig around and pick the ones that you know are making lots of money using their web site. Follow, them, analyze their websites and if you know people who are their customers, talk to them about why they like it and what works.

Putting it all together

Now that you have all this wonderful information all laid out — it’s time to put it into a BASIC web format. While there are gazillions of web page themes out there — all of them have the same basic components which are structured around the basic premise in the template that I’m offering here.

I’ve created this simple template that you can use to get started.