After more than 20 years of building websites I’ve found that most people don’t really know how to properly plan their site. After all, your website is usually the first thing people look at.

The most effective approach to planning a great website is to work backwards, by answering the following 5 questions:

1. How will I get people to my website?

More specifically, what marketing methods will I be using to attract my target audience? Is it search engine optimization? Pay-per-click advertising? Social media? etc, This step is very important, as it often answers many of the questions below. Not knowing how people will find your site is like setting out to sail across the ocean without your sails. You’re not going to get very far.

2. Who will be coming to my website?

Your website needs to help them find what they are looking for. Within a few seconds of getting to your site, people need to know clearly what to do next. Do they need to sign up for your list? Should they click a link to learn more? Once you discover who’s coming, you’ll be able to determine what they want and need to do. Just don’t try to please everyone. Stay focused on your message and help them see how you can best help them.

3. What questions will my website visitors have?

The first question everyone asks is, “am I in the right place?” After that you expect them to ask, “what’s here for me?” and “do I need what they offer?” Other questions they’ll have are, “are their services any good?” and “who is this person and why are they doing this work?” Your website needs to answer these questions for your visitors. And don’t worry about how long or short your content is. Make sure your content says everything it needs to say – regardless of length.

4. What do I want my visitors to do?

The best websites guide their visitors from what they came for to what you want them to find and end up doing. If you’re selling a service you want to connect to their story…their needs. Then move them through your website to something that they can do to beginning getting help. Maybe it’s a white paper they can download or a process they can signup for. It just needs to do two things: 1, clearly solve their immediate need. And 2, be of high quality and value. The first thing they get from you (often your free download for email signup) will inform them whether you can really help them or not. Don’t hold back. Give your best beginner content.

5. How do my visitors like to stay in touch?

I’m going to tell you secret – your website isn’t a tool to get your more clients. Very rarely are people going to come to your website and signup for your services. And the reason for this simple – you need to build their trust. You do this by staying in touch with them. Hopefully they signup for your email list. But if they don’t give them other options to stay in touch. This is where social media can be a huge help. If your visitors use Facebook or Instagram and see you do too, they can stay connected with you without sacrificing their email address. They key, however, is to be active on social media. Not all platforms. Just the one or two that you use (or want to learn to use) frequently. And don’t link to your social media accounts that you never use or only automate. The key word in ‘social media’ is social.

Your website is a hub for connecting people to you and your work. The best practices are to make sure your website meets your visitor’s wants, needs and expectations. Match that with giving them clear actions to take and you’ll find your website will be a valuable tool for finding new clients.

And if you’re website isn’t doing these 5 steps well, perhaps it’s time to chat about it.

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