What is Web Strategy and Why is it Important? 10 Questions to Help Explain

Example customer categories as part of a web site strategy.

I have watched friends build a website to generate income with very little planning; they have an idea, and the next day they’re building the website. But I’ve watched those same friends start a business and immediately start with a business plan before doing anything else. Why the difference? It seems that planning is an expected part of successful business strategy. Why isn’t planning considered equally important for a website? In this article we’ll discuss what web strategy is, questions that should be answered as part of a successful website strategy, and we’ll talk about why such a strategy is important.

So what is web strategy?

I’ll start with a rather pithy definition: Web strategy is about looking at and anticipating root causes of online success or failure and coming up with solutions to address those root causes instead of superficial solutions.

Perhaps that still doesn’t make sense; let’s try to explain it another way?

Put simply, web strategy is like a business plan, but it is the plan for your website. In it you outline a road map for your website. You outline obstacles and challenges you expect to face, your plan to overcome those obstacles, and goals that will determine whether you’ve been successful.

Do you really need a web strategy?

You may ask, ‘Why is planning important?‘ An ancient proverb states, “The plans of the diligent one surely make for advantage, but everyone that is hasty surely heads for want.” Good planning ultimately leads to business advantages. Similarly, good website planning ultimately leads to advantages for your website versus competing websites.

But what types of questions are answered as a part of a web strategy?

Let me provide some examples of web strategy questions and see if this helps you to understand what web strategy is about:

  1. What are the categories of customers who use your website? Thinking of all your customers in one big group is an example of having no website strategy because customers are not all the same. For example, a website selling books might group their customers into categories like as in the chart at the top of this article.
  2. Does your website address the needs of each category of customer in a satisfactory way? Many website owners think primarily about their own needs, for instance getting a sale, and thus the website reflects this. Just as we hate salesman that are only out for their commission, people hate websites that only sell and otherwise aren’t helpful at sincerely answering questions or concerns the potential buyer might have.
  3. What are the top 10 questions customers ask when they reach your website? How do you answer each of those top 10 questions? Websites that fail to answer the most important customer questions won’t get sales because it is guaranteed you have a competitor on the internet that does answer his questions. Since this is the case, why would he buy from your website?
  4. On each page of your website, what is the desired action you want the user to take on that page? If you don’t know this, how can you tell your customer what to do? If you can’t tell your customer what to do, how will he know what to do next? If he doesn’t know what to do next, he will just leave your website.
  5. What is considered a successful visit on your website? What are you doing to ensure that each visit to your website is successful? Are you trying to get a phone call, a newsletter subscription, a purchase? The answer to this question should greatly affect your entire website’s layout and design.
  6. What is the average conversion rate for your industry and what is the target conversion rate for your website? If you don’t know your industry conversion rate, then how can you set a target for your own conversion rate? You can’t just pull these numbers out of the air. If this data is not available, you need some other logical way of determining a reasonable conversion rate.
  7. Besides relying on search engines, directories, and advertising, what is your six month plan for increasing the number of visitors to your website? Millions of websites are competing to get on Google Search, Yahoo Directory, etc. If you do the same thing everyone else is doing, you’re going to get the same results. The average website fails. So what will you do differently than those failing websites did?
  8. What are the goals for your website in the next 1 month, 3 months, 6 months, and 1 year? Your goals should guide your activity every day. Without goals you are like a runner running without a destination. How will he know which direction to take his next step?
  9. What lessons have you learned from your competitors in the last 6 months and how do you plan to apply those lessons in the next 6 months? Your competitors are trying thousands of different things to find success. The smart entrepreneur learns from his competitors. Sam Walton, the founder of Walmart and Sam’s Club, started Sam’s Club after he visited Sol Price’s Price Club (now named Costco). He was always learning. You should be doing the same by using your competitor’s websites regularly.
  10. What reason does a visitor have to tell others about your website? The best marketing is word-of-mouth. Is there anything about your website that a customer would have reason to tell his friends and colleagues about? To get an honest answer, you may need to ask someone else for their opinion. This is probably the most important question you can ask.

I could continue to list questions, but hopefully you get the point. Web strategy is about formulating answers to questions like the above. To put it another way, a successful web strategy can be a formal document, just like a business plan, that outlines your plan for the growth and development of your website and sets clear goals that will allow you to determine whether you were successful or not.

Your Plan is Your Map

If you don’t have a web strategy, then you’re like a traveler on a road trip without a map and without a route. You might stumble upon your destination, but your journey is going to be long and difficult full of wrong turns and dead ends. However, by developing a web strategy you’re going to be like the traveler that has both a map, and a well planned route. You will reach your destination, and you will reach it quickly and you will enjoy the scenery along the way.