The internet today is littered with websites trying to make their way to end-users’ browsers. Every conceivable market is saturated with a wide range of “websites” all fighting to be found by would-be consumers. Every Tom, Dick & Harry has a domain hosting their E-Commerce website, Blog or Portfolio.
Everyone knows how essential it is for a business to have an online presence, no matter how big or small the company. The problem is the tremendous misconception of what a website’s purpose is supposed to be in this ever-growing universe of online things.
Gone are the days where you can slap your logo and some flashing banners on an HTML page and hope the world takes notice. Not only has the technology for online platforms dramatically evolved, but you’re also dealing with a consumer culture that vastly differs from that of the past. It’s the age of information, data is key and quite frankly, a “website” is no longer relevant.
Redefining the concept of a “Website”
It’s not uncommon to browse the internet and see the same cookie-cutter format used for a majority of websites available online. They all feature the same structure and flow:
- A Home Page sporting a rotating image banner and some KSP’s,
- an About Page to vaguely describe what they’re on about,
- a Product/Services Page to showcase what they do or sell,
- and a Contact Page to allow for online enquiries.
And 15 years ago that might have been enough, but with the increasingly intelligent algorithms deployed by Google and other search engines to rank your website, you’re going to have to redefine your concept of a website and what an online presence means today.
You can start this process by trying to understand the different channels you have available to establish an online presence and the part they play. Web Apps, Content Hubs, E-Commerce Websites and Social Media all have very unique attributes that assist your authority online and can help you achieve your online goals, whatever they may be. The important thing is that you know what those goals are and what purpose your online platform is supposed to serve.
Identifying the core purpose of your online platforms
Various types of online platforms exist to serve very specific purposes. It’s important to know what you want to achieve with your online channels before you set any of them up. And in most cases, the single-channel approach won’t get you anywhere.
If your main purpose is selling online you might think that setting up an E-Commerce website will do the trick. But how do people get to your online store? And once they are there, how do they experience it? Will they remember to return for future purchases, or will another E-Commerce website selling similar goods beat you to the punch because you’re not represented on Social Media?
To establish authority online, you need to use these platforms as tools, individual entities representing your company online that work together to achieve a shared objective.
Each online channel or platform can target very specific audiences at very specific times using very specific content types. These targeting capabilities help you ensure that you stay relevant and authoritative in the online space.
Choosing a platform combination and strategy
Now that you have identified the objectives of your online platforms, it’s time to choose the type and channel that will best help you realize those objectives.
Due to the nature of the online space and its rapid growth, there’re a couple of fundamental principles that will always apply. Firstly, Online platforms need to be scalable to accommodate your company’s growth, and they need to be maintained to ensure optimal performance over time.
A scalable platform just means that it’s built with growth in mind. For example, if you want a CMS (Content Management System) to run a personal blog or news website but would later want to sell merchandise online, don’t build it on a system that only facilitates CMS functionality. If you want to sell online but later want to start writing articles about your products, don’t build it on a basic e-commerce framework. Most modern web technologies are extremely flexible if you plan ahead. Then for the maintenance, just ensure that your platform always stays updated with the latest web technologies and stable frameworks. Most digital agencies provide monthly maintenance with their services.
So let’s have a look at some of the more popular online platforms you can use to establish an authoritative online presence:
E-Commerce / Online Store
The E-commerce platform provides you with a way to sell to your audience anytime and anywhere. Your products are always available to be viewed, reviewed and purchased without the customer ever having to leave the house.
Catalogue / Brochure
This refers to your standard static page based website whose sole purpose is information. Information about your business, your services, products or whatever it is that you want to showcase. This is usually a good starting point to build from.
The all-powerful blog sites. This is probably the most effective way to establish your company online. These are the platforms that build a loyal online readership and following. Creating a marketing channel that is extremely effective if used correctly and a platform that grows authority and rank like no other.
Ideally, you would use a combination of these platforms built into one. Either an online store with a blog, a blog with a brochure/catalogue or a brochure/catalogue with an online store. Ensuring that the platform is scalable for whenever you want to build on top of that. This then becomes your main online platform that hosts and pushes content to all your other online marketing campaigns like Email Marketing and Social Media.
In a world where content is king, you need to provide your audience with more than just fancy design and pretty pictures. The way they experience your business online carries more weight now than ever before. And a content-rich, multi-faceted, experience-driven, functional online platform will go a long way in establishing an authoritative online presence that will ensure that your business reaches your audience and stays relevant to your target consumer.
What does a “website” mean to you? Let us know in the comments below.