Update your site content, check. Routinely add blog posts, check. Monitor your website traffic, check. But without clear website goals, it’s hard to know if your website is performing, and more importantly, working for your organization.
Form follows function. A successful website should function well first and look beautiful second. In this article, you’ll learn how to set clear website goals by pinning down your website and content purpose, objectives, and metrics. Next time you question your website’s ROI, you’ll be ready with a calculated answer.
What’s the Purpose of Your Website?
Before you can set website goals, you need to know the purpose of your site and your aspired business results. Ask yourself: what do I want visitors to do and/or learn from my website?
To simplify things, most website initiatives can be broken down into four main website objectives:
Brand visibility and information recognition. Those who want their site to inform visitors, earn authority on a topic, position their brand in the market, and/or explain your services or business purpose. I’m sure you’ve heard of “thought-leadership”, which falls under the awareness objective too.
Ushering a website visitor through your sales funnel. This could also be a landing page that is optimized to send traffic to another landing page. For example, when we designed a new website for TennGreen Land Conservancy, we kept in mind the audience who is reading that page. The objective of the landing page we developed is to convert visitors to TennGreen’s “How to Get Involved” page, with a targeted Call-to-Action (CTA) that says “How You Can Help” hyperlinked to a page that shares assorted ways you could support the organization’s mission.
“On average, people spend less than 45 seconds on your website. Chances are you invested a lot of time and/or money to get them there, so unless you’re just showing off your private collection of novelty socks, you’d better have a damn good plan for what you want them to do next.”
– Dave Wilkinson, Digital Strategist @ Proof
3. Lead Generation
Tangible growth of new leads (AKA “lead gen”). Those who want their website to acquire a list of warm-inbound leads. This could mean that potential customers fill out a contact form, sign up for your email list, visit your physical location, or give you a phone call. Defining a “lead” is up to your organization, whether it’s a new customer prospect, donor, volunteer, or job candidate (to name a few).
Evernote does a great job of seamlessly capturing leads on their homepage. Before-the-fold hero copy quickly gives visitors the information they need to breeze through the stages of awareness to consideration to decision, motivating new leads to fill out the lead capture form with their email.
Sealing the deal, closing a sale, making that bacon. Whatever you call it, acquisition is the final point “B” of your hard work. As a website objective, this is especially applicable to e-commerce websites and SaaS platforms. This could mean the amount of revenue your online store generates (the easiest way to track ROI) or the number of new customers. For all the service-based businesses out there, “acquisition” is generally not your website’s job, but the job of your sales team. So if your website is fully optimized for lead generation, tell Steve the sales-guy that you can bring him leads—it’s up to him to close.
A high-performing website has both lead generation and awareness objectives because a successful website should capture visitors at the different customer journey stages: 1. awareness, 2. consideration, 3. decision.
Your website should include a mix of content (whether an informative blog post or a salesy landing page) that attracts, engages, and delights visitors—with these three actions correlating to the different customer journey stages.
What’s the Purpose of Your Content?
If you haven’t thought of your website in this systematic sense before, it can be a lot to digest. We’ve broken down determining the purpose of your website’s content into four simple steps:
1. Determine the important content on your website.
Don’t worry, every single article and landing page on your site does not need to be assessed. You simply need to organize and “bucket” your current or aspirational website content into general categories such as your blog, services, about us, contact us, homepage. We suggest doing this in a spreadsheet or mindmap tool like MindMaster.
EXPERT TIP: Since these content categories are so important, typically your sitemap is a good cheat sheet and place to start, as it should have already been meticulously organized. Don’t have a website yet and trying to get your ducks in a row? This step will help you plan your sitemap (navigation) like a pro.
- Some websites have multiple blogs, an industry insights aggregator, and a trends information base. You can put those under a single “News/Insights” bucket.
- Do you have a landing page about your company’s mission, a landing page about your purpose/the value you provide, your facility, your staff, your board of directors? Those are all about your company, so toss those into the “About Us” bucket.
- Offer multiple, diverse services to different audiences? Those can all get poured into a “Services” bucket.
- Have a calendar, a seasonal event, and a big annual charity gala you need to communicate? Toss ’em into the “Events” bucket.
- Is recruiting quality staff a big focus? You might have numerous landing pages about a-day-in-the-life, a job listing, and employee value propositions. Those can all go under the “Careers” bucket.
Some companies have different ways for visitors to reach out, known as “primary Call-to-Actions”, such as “Request a Quote”, “Request a Demo”, “Schedule a Tour”. All of those pages can get grouped under the “Contact Us” bucket.
The actual names you end up using for each content category/bucket is arbitrary, as long as they are sorted by like-pages and desired results. For example, “Request a Quote”, “Request a Demo”, and “Schedule a Tour” pages, the desired result is for users to submit their contact information.
“A person is not an expert just because they say they are. Expert is a title you earn only when other people see you doing something well over and over again and begin to call it out on your behalf.” — Jeff Goins
2. Distinguish 1-2 objectives for each website content type.
Objectives: Awareness, Conversion, Lead Generation, Acquisition.
EXPERT TIP: We break things down as What, Desired Results, and Objectives.
- What: Our blog falls under the “News/Insights” bucket.
- Desired Results: To position us as thought-leaders and experts, and to capture new subscribers—keeping them up-to-date with new content.
- Objectives: Awareness, Lead Generation.
- What: Our Playbook and Who We Are landing pages fall under the “About Us” bucket, with page content centering around transparency and information about our creative firm.
- Desired Results: To empower prospective customers and employees to go to our “Contact Us” page, reaching out to us with a project inquiry or to share their resume.
- Objectives: Awareness, Conversion.
3. Identify 1-3 metrics for each objective.
EXPERT TIP: Of course you could probably assign 10+ metrics to each content type, but keep it simple or else assessing your website goal performance will be too challenging to manage, making clear decision-making impossible.
|METRICS||Amount of time spent on page||Number of shopping cart events||Number of new email opt-in subscribers||Number of new member sign-ups|
|Number of times a page gets shared on social||Click-through rate to a specific landing page||Number of new form submit inquiries||Number of successful e-commerce or donation transactions|
|Number of unique visitors||Completing an event, e.g. watching a video.||Number of phone call inquiries||Revenue processed from online store|
|Number of page views||Number of emails shared for content downloads||Number of new digital customers|
Our blog content falls under the two objectives: awareness and lead generation. Let me explain:
Awareness Metric: One of the awareness metrics we use to judge the performance of our blog is the amount of time users spend on each article, if it’s a 5-minute read and people are spending 2 seconds on the page, that page is failing. But if that same blog article were to get between 2-5 minutes, that means most users are getting 50% to 100% through the article. That’s a win.
Lead Generation Metric: We also look to the number of new subscribers to assess the performance of our lead gen objective. If we don’t get a single opt-in for months, that means our content is missing the mark big time. If we grow our subscriber-base by at least 5% every month, we’re happy. You might see our 5% goal and think: “Whoa, that’s tiny.” But as businesses determine objectives and set website goals, it’s crucial to stay realistic.
4. Set S.M.A.R.T. goals.
I was once in a meeting with a small business owner & CEO. Their clever employee raised their hand and asked, “Maybe we should be setting S.M.A.R.T. goals?” To that, the CEO said, “So you think our current goals are dumb?” What the CEO didn’t know is that S.M.A.R.T. is an acronym, not an insult.
S.M.A.R.T. stands for: Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic, Time-bound. It’s a very corporate approach to setting website goals that grow your business, but it works. In fact, we apply the S.M.A.R.T. goal philosophy in everything from website planning to internal personal development and goal setting. Here’s an example of a S.M.A.R.T. goal:
Instead of saying: “I want our homepage to result in more customer inquires.”
Say: “I want the homepage to produce (actionable) 500 (specific) conversions to the ‘Contact Us’ page with 5% (realistic) successfully submitting a form (actionable) every month (timebound).”
Does this S.M.A.R.T. goal example appear to be missing something? Yes, “measurable”. Our next article in the series will cover how to measure website success in detail.
Determine, Set, Then Measure
Successful businesses know where they are and where they’re going and make decisions with hard numbers. Websites should be no exception.
You understand your website’s objectives, content goal types and metrics, and how to set S.M.A.R.T. website goals, but how do you measure success to know if and where your website is failing or succeeding, and by how much? Stay tuned by subscribing to our Dispatch for our next article of the series where we’ll talk about data tools that allow you to measure your website efforts and inspire informed decision making. Oh yeah, it’s going to be grand!