How to Create a WordPress Website Structure that Meets your Business Goals
Most of our client conversations begin with a request to design and build a website. Clients often assume that the most important aspects of a high-performing website are related primarily to design elements like colors, graphics, and content layout strategies. But building what’s underneath the website surface is far more critical to driving business goals. Creating a WordPress website structure that supports your business goals requires strategic thinking and planning before you design and build your website.
A lot goes into having a well-designed website
The most important first step is determining how your website interacts with your business strategy. There are many ways it can – building your brand, selling products, generating leads are common examples. Whether your website is doing one, all of the above, or even more, there are a few important pieces of your site infrastructure these business goals drive beneath the surface of your site. Understanding the requirements for this underlying structure will make your website more likely to achieve the goals you’ve assigned to it.
Often when we ask clients why they want their website, their first answer is: “For SEO.” Search Engine Optimization (SEO) usually means a client wants to let potential customers know about their company’s products or services so these customers can buy them. They feel that they can best do this by ranking high on organic searches, i.e., being one of the first three companies that show up when a potential customer enters a keyword into a search engine. The real business goals behind “SEO” are usually roughly the same: Brand awareness in a particular market space or spaces and increased market share through increased sales.
The steps that lead to brand awareness include better rankings for organic searches for a particular market and more visibility on social media through social sharing of content. The path to increased market share through increased sales is usually lead generation (or lead gen) and direct sales (if it is possible to make a purchase on the website). For software as service (SaaS) companies or application (App) companies, there is an important number buried under sales statistics; the number of users.
For media sites, the key performance metric is visitors. Goal definition is critical. The goal should be both achievable and measurable through the interaction of your visitors with your website. Thus, the intersection of the website goals and metrics with the overall marketing or business strategy will influence the website architecture, content, and design.
The most straightforward way to measure everything from visitors, to lead generation, to sales, to paid advertising performance, for your website is to use Google Analytics. Google Analytics is extremely easy to add to your website by adding the Universal Analytics code to the header or footer of every webpage you want to be tracked. Goal creation, including measuring events such as filling out a contact page, or clicking on an ad, can be measured by creating Goals in Google Analytics for your property (the website). Search engine rank and discoverability is more difficult to measure. There are many tools to use, and more than likely you will want to have someone handle this as a service to you. However, to benchmark your website against competitors, one can use Moz at no cost.
Assuming you plan to use Google Analytics to measure your website’s performance, your first step is to create a Google Analytics account for your property, if you haven’t already. Then, you should create three views of your account – one for experimenting, one that collects all data, and one master that has all the filters you would like applied when you collect and compare data about your website’s performance. You will connect your master version to all the tools you use to measure website performance.
An important point to remember – if you are using Google Analytics to measure your website performance, it is measuring behavior on a URL. Therefore, you will need to create URLs that result from specific user actions that will be associated with the goals and Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) for your website.
Finally, if you don’t know how to configure your Google Analytics dashboard to measure goals and KPIs, you can actually access a library of dashboards at no cost through Google Analytics. However, you may find that even putting a variety of dashboards in place will be more than you have time for. This is why so many companies hire a consultant or service just to report, analyze and optimize website performance.
Goal measurement influences your site structure and design.
For WordPress website structure, the most obvious influence of your goal measurement strategy will be evident in the plugins you choose. Plugins add functionality to your WordPress site without which you would have to write custom code. Custom code is always an option and may be the best choice depending on your site design and data measurement requirements. Budget size and schedule usually drive the adoption of plugins instead. Many are free or low cost, many work extremely well, and if your needs are common needs, you probably do not need to burn budget on the custom code.
The most popular plugin to add to ensure your site has Google Analytics is Monster Insights. This plugin allows you to easily verify and connect to your website’s Universal Analytics code for your Google Analytics property. It also offers data you can view in your WordPress dashboard if you like going to only one location to work with your website. If you are using Monster Insights, in order to measure some types of events on your site, each event completion will need to result in a user landing on a unique URL. For example, if you are tracking leads generated on your website, this would mean having a distinct URL for the contact form thank you page that a user will land on after successful contact form submission. For tracking visitor interest, this would mean having a unique URL for the sign-up thank you page the user visits once they have successfully signed up for your newsletter. Other goals, such as linking interest in website content to the duration on a page or site, can be tracked easily without linking behavior to a unique URL.
Generating an email mail list is often a goal of websites. This can be streamlined through your website by using an email service integration such as MailChimp. We use a plugin called MailChimp for WordPress, but several plugins exist to manage MailChimp lists directly from your website. You will note that you can assign a thank you URL to MailChimp for the form completion response to guarantee that sign-ups are tracked as a goal in Google Analytics. You can also track the MailChimp submit code directly through a plugin such as WP Google Analytics Events. However, you will need to have code-level knowledge of the code used when a user submits the form to set up GA Events correctly. This is also true for using plugins such as Ninja Forms or Contact Form 7 unless you link form submission to a thank you URL.
Yoast SEO is a WordPress plug-in that provides very basic keyword and metadata tools that are extremely helpful, especially if you have been ignoring this entirely. The most effective use of the Yoast SEO tools assumes you have developed and are implementing a keyword strategy.
A keyword strategy is simply a list of keywords that you think your customers will use to find your website. This isn’t about gaming the system. It’s about matching your prospective customer’s intent with your website’s content. The first thing to do to generate your keyword strategy is to write down what your company does, and who it does it for. This should help with high-level keywords. These may be too common or broad, so creating modifiers to the keywords that more closely describe your market or application niche will improve the keywords. Then you can use tools like Google Adwords keyword tool, or just Google the keyword, and see who your competition is.
Keyword strategy influences site structure and design.
The most important thing you need to understand is that you need more than one website page if you want keywords to help drive your rank on organic search engine searches. Secondly, you need shareable pages of content in order to get your content out there on social media so people will link to pages on your website. The impact on your website structure? Create separate web pages (unique URLs) for shareable pieces of content. This is easily accomplished on WordPress sites with the existing WordPress blog post feature. However, you do need to make sure that you customize your Permalinks in the WordPress dashboard so each blog post permalink is unique and includes the unique keyword for that blog post.
Content strategy interacts with keyword strategy.
A keyword strategy and content strategy should intersect. Once you have determined the keywords you think you should rank highly for, you need to create content around these keywords. The content should be accurate both to what you do and the search intent you are trying to fulfill. If these two things don’t match, your content won’t support a high ranking for your keywords. Gone are the days of just putting in high-ranking keywords until your site looks like it is an authority. Natural Language Processing means that the search bots are smart about understanding the spirit of what people are searching it – matching what they find to the search intent.
Rinse and repeat
Yup. Creating a website that meets your business goals is an interactive and iterative process. If your analytics are set up properly, you will be able to measure how well your website is performing against the metrics you defined, and then make adjustments to the content, the keywords, even the overall website structure in response to the behavior observed on your site.