Hard as it is to believe, even though I’ve only been working for myself for 4 years, I’ve just relaunched my website for the fourth time. That’s pretty much one relaunch per year. I am not talking about changing copy here and there. I am talking about a complete re-design of the website. Here is the story of me tinkering with my website, full of drama and nightmares, and my take-aways.
Once upon a time in 2012…
I launched my first website, www.pdidner.wpengine.com, in 2012. You can check it out on waybackmachine. When I look at my 2012 website, it’s like looking at 80’s photos: awkward, dated and retro. Although it was only a blog and creative outlet, I actually spent money to hire a web programmer to make the website look nice. I was publishing my reflections and observations about life in general. It was not really a business website and the value proposition was unclear: was I a personal coach helping women make a transition or a consultant in marketing?
Then, I completely redid the PamDidner website in 2014 when I published my first book, Global Content Marketing. That was also the year I left my corporate job. Since I just started my own business, I knew what I could do to help my target customers, but I didn’t know how to convey that clearly. I used big words to showcase who I am and what I do but, ultimately, the value propositions sounded generic. In addition to PamDidner.com, I also purchased a domain to match the title of my book: globalcontent.marketing. I had just started and was not making any money, but I was managing two websites. Thinking back now, that was not very smart. I debated and even wrote a blog post about my (in)decision.
2015-2018 lessons learned
As 2015 rolled around, I decided that I should sharpen the focus of my web presence to match my book. So I migrated all my content from pdidner.wpengine.com to globalcontent.marketing and kept the pdidner.wpengine.com site static. Hindsight is 20/20. That was not the right move. What I should have done is to keep building my personal brand.
In 2016, I realized that I made a mistake. Focusing on pdidner.wpengine.com is the better thing to do, especially since people recognize me as Pam Didner, not as the author of Global Content Marketing. Also, I was thinking about writing my 2nd book. Having just the Globalcontent.marketing site just wouldn’t cut it. So, I redesigned PamDidner.com and moved all the content back. Ugh! Who would have known that a business strategy change like that would also have an impact on my overall website direction?
In 2017, I added courses, e-commerce capabilities and revamped speaking pages while changing the design elements to make it more modern. It was not a total re-launch, but it was still a massive amount of work.
Now in 2018, with the arrival of my 2nd book, guess what? It’s time to redo my website with an even newer look. I feel like I am remodeling AGAIN, but this time it’s another round of full renovation to welcome my 2nd baby. In a way, it is. Having learned from the past relaunches, I know exactly what I want this time. I thought about my value propositions long and hard. I also added professionally done videos of speaking. On top of that, I even had the blog and podcast pages custom-coded for search categorization to optimize for SEO and be more visually appealing.
Here are 5 hard-learned lessons from launching and relaunching my website:
Your website is a living organism
It’s not something you can check off. Google updates its search algorithms constantly, WordPress is adding new features all the time. Your website needs to keep up with technology changes. Think of it as if your website is a piece of art and you are the artist. As an artist, you tinker, refine, modify, shape and change your never-finished masterpiece. That’s the attitude you need toward your website. You and your brand are living beings, so your website must be too.
Integrate tools with your website
Creating a website is easy, the challenging part is to tie subscriptions, downloads and offerings seamlessly to marketing automation, CRM, and other back-end tools. I am constantly working on my workflow to improve my versions of customer journeys. How do they come to my website? If they come, what do they want to see first? If we promote a blog post, then what? If I create a landing page, how do I track the results? Do I track on Google Analytics? Do I track in marketing automation or CRM tools? There is no one-size-fits-all answer. You need to have discussions with your teams to determine what makes sense for you and your company. It’s time-consuming and exhausting.
Tie your website conversions to analytics. Nobody taught or told me about back-end complexity and goal-setting. I didn’t know this well when launching the previous sites. I didn’t set up goals and UTM properly on Google Analytics. I looked at data, but I didn’t set up clear goals on my analytic tools. It took me a (long) while to define how I’d measure conversions and success using the tools I chose.
I learned that my business goals (especially on offering intangible services and consulting) may not be directly translated to the goal that I set up in analytics. For example, I tracked email subscribers, course downloads, contact form filled and blog post views, but none of them can be directly tied to revenue. I need to use CRM or other tools to track actions to completed conversions. For me, I still need to manually compare my conversions with my actual revenue sometimes. No tool is perfect and can give you answers instantly. You can hire coders to help with your specific analytics, but it will cost you. Enterprises can do this with sophisticated and customized tools, but it’s tougher for SMB (small and medium-size businesses).
A clear value proposition is a must
Another lesson learned is to define who I am in the context of my service offerings. There are so many ways that I can describe who I am due to my wide array of corporate experiences, but the challenge is how to make it tight and focus only to the services that I currently offer. In addition, I also need to think through what services I offer that are unique only to me. How can I make that crystal clear when people come to my home page?
Trying various statements to describe myself over the years, I created a statement for the new website: “Connecting Sales and Marketing to Engage Global Audiences.” This encapsulates my experience of global marketing along with the content of my 2 books: content marketing and sales enablement.
In a future blog post, I will describe my thinking process of coming up with that statement. Again, this statement is not static and will continue to change as I morph and grow.
Attention-to-detail equates to a seamless user experience
The biggest lesson I learn is the importance of attention-to-detail. Every detail matters, from color, layout, and design to the selection and placement of social media icons. A/B testing is another example of attention-to-detail for many e-commerce companies and major brands to test what works and what doesn’t.
People who come to your website may have never met you. Your website is their first impression about who you are and what you do. Why wouldn’t you button up your website in a way to make your guests feel at home and make it easy to find what they need? The truth is, to make your website nice, clean and organized takes money, resource, and time. I hate to think about how much money I spend on my website, but I also manage it based on the budget I have at the time.
Happily ever after for now, but here is the reality…
Creating a seamless digital customer experience is easy to say, but hard to do. If you are not in the trenches, it’s hard for you to understand how much work goes on behind the scenes to make a website user-friendly and seamless.
The saga continues. Friends and family who know me well are putting a bet on when I will redo my website again. In the meantime, I am very pleased with the current website. My value proposition is clearer. The user experience is better. Most importantly, I have a better understanding of who I am and what I can do.
I am sure that you will hear more about my website plight in the future. For now, check out my website: www.pdidner.wpengine.com.
I am very proud of my 5th makeover!