Discouraged? A Successful Website Requires Realistic Goals

Summary: In this article we will discuss how to establish realistic goals for a website and why we do so. Realistic goals are important for a website owner if he is going to have success. Realistic goals accomplish two objectives. First, realistic goals lead to constant, measurable progress. Second, realistic goals provide motivation when achieved. Whereas, unrealistic goals can lead to wasted effort and discouragement.

What is wrong with having unrealistic goals for your website? Unrealistic goals can lead to discouragement. Discouragement can lead to a loss of joy and, worse, giving up altogether.

Sometimes in our efforts to reach out for as much as possible for our business, we reach out for so much that we overstretch ourselves.

Therefore, to keep your joy, and to continue to grow your company, you should always set goals that force you to stretch but that also allow you to see steady progress.

What makes a goal realistic? And how can your goals help your company make steady, measurable progress?

Here are some guidelines:

  1. Realistic goals should be in-line with what companies in your industry have been able to accomplish historically.
  2. Your goals should allow time for your efforts to bear fruit.
  3. Realistic goals should reflect deep planning and not shallow thinking.

Let’s briefly expand on each of these three points.

Realistic goals should be in-line with what companies in your industry have been able to accomplish historically.

If your goals fail to take into account industry averages they are more than likely going to be missed.

For example, if the average conversion rate in your industry is 5% and your website’s current conversion rate is 6%, would a goal of having a 25% conversion rate be reasonable?

Google Analytics has a new benchmarking tool that helps companies to benchmark their websites against industry averages. Consider investing in tools like this or manually gathering data published about your industry. Then, armed with industry knowledge, set realistic goals.

Your goals should allow time for your efforts to bear fruit.

The farmer can not plant his seed Monday night and expect to reap Tuesday morning. Similarly, reaping the results of your effort to increase traffic, revenues, or profit requires time. Often noticeable improvement requires consistent effort for years not months.

Don’t try to fool yourself into thinking that you’re going to increase your monthly revenues an order of magnitude through a brief three month burst of activity. Though some websites manage to buck the trend, on average websites seem to take 2-3 years of consistent effort to gain traction. To read a real life example, click here.

How long are you currently planning on waiting for your efforts to yield significant results?

Realistic goals should reflect deep planning and not shallow thinking.

Many website owners obsess over only two numbers, traffic and revenues. This obsession is shallow because it fails to look at the root sources of traffic and revenue.

There are myriads of factors that go into a successful website (e.g. quality product selection, good site design, educational content, quality customer service, well written product descriptions, etcetera). Don’t just set traffic and revenue goals as a knee jerk reaction. Try setting goals for improving very specific parts of your website.

For example, a study by Jakob Nielsen on website usability found that users are 22% more satisfied when website content is written in a concise, objective and scannable manner (Nielsen, 1997). Can you set a goal to re-write all of the text on your website to make it more objective (e.g. remove any biased or overly optimistic statements)?

One of Jack Welch’s most famous actions when he became CEO of GE was to get GE out of any business where they weren’t #1 or #2 (Wikipedia, 2008). This allowed GE to focus its energy on its strengths. Can you do something similar with your website? For example, can you set a goal of trimming back your product selection to only products with margins at or above your industry’s average?

Paying attention to the three points discussed in this article as you set goals for your website will help you to set realistic goals that continuously move your website forward. By setting realistic goals you will avoid discouragement. More importantly, your steady, measurable progress will serve as personal motivation to continue working on building a successful business online.

References:

Nielsen, Jakob. 1997. “How to Write for the Web
Wikipedia. 2008. “Jack Welch