Build a Website for the Audience You Want to Reach
What is your website about?
A nice simple question but one that will impact upon everything else you do. Even the biggest of sites can be summarised easily and ideally you can describe what your site is about in one simple sentence.
As you build your site you will be tempted by shiny new widgets or flashy graphics you stumble across which can easily lead to you going off topic or creating a confused site.
The answer to this question is essentially your mission statement and will help you to maintain focus throughout the development process.
Mission statement examples:
- "Organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful." Google
- "To provide a global trading platform where practically anyone can trade practically anything." eBay
- "To build a place where people can come to find and discover anything they might want to buy online." Amazon
Segment, target & position
Every market, no matter how small, has multiple segments with one or more unifying characteristics. The art is to identify those you want to target and then position your site in such as way that they respond to it positively.
Segmenting your market
The categories below are not mutually exclusive and you can mix and match to your heart's content...
- Demographic: Age, gender, marital status, ethnicity, occupation...
- Geographic: Country, County, city, town, size of population...
- Behavioural: Benefits sought, Occasions (e.g. Christmas), usage rate, price sensitivity...
- Psychographic: Interests, activities, opinions, attitudes...
Unless you are first to market you will be competing with other websites for people's eyeballs and loyalty. To avoid reinventing the wheel take advantage of their hard work and have a look at what they have done and sign up to any newsletters / marketing emails they have.
- How have they structured their website?
- What tone of voice do they use?
- What services / extras do they offer?
- What can you do differently / better?
- What are their product features / prices?
- How do they promote themselves (new and existing visitors / customers)?
Note: This isn't to suggest you should copy any design work or web copy just take inspiration from what is good and fill any gaps you see.
To see how active they are marketing themselves and gaining brand exposure use Google's web search, news search and blog search.
It is also worth looking at their meta-description and meta-keywords. From this you can see which keywords they think are most important and the type of keyword searches they are targeting.
Conduct a series of searches using your market's core search terms:
- Which sites are ranked highest organically?
- Which sites are advertising using PPC?
- Are any user feedback / comments ranked highly and what do they say?
- Who are the big directories / forums / blogs in your market?
Forums, blogs & niche social networks
Have a look around the social media sites that cater for your target audience and see what people are saying about their current providers, both positive and negative (e.g. "I wish they gave me xyz as well" or "Mine has been so quick in responding to me"). From this you can see where the gaps are and what people consider to be important.