A revised approach to web strategy: reaching out, not luring in

We have recently completed several web strategy engagements and have noticed how much the focus has changed in the last few years.

I remember doing a web strategy engagement for a major publisher, where the focus was making the site sticky, relevant and where the success metrics were visits to the site, length of stay and frequency of visits. The marketing team focused its budgets and efforts on generating traffic and shoring up the features, tools and information provided.

The challenge with this strategy is that introducing a new and valuable destination for users in the current saturated and fragmented web market is extremely expensive and hard to sustain beyond the initial marketing campaigns.

With consumers (and business users) spending more and more of their time in specific sites, social networks and through mobile devices, businesses are following suite and coming to the mountain.

A recent statement from one of our clients summarizes the change nicely – “We need to be where our audience lives, not focus on getting them to us.” An updated strategy would try to make content and services available where people already spend time. In addition to the central site, companies are finding ways to leverage their content and services throughout the web.

It is much harder than building a great website and doing expensive SEO/SEM. Not that these can go by the wayside, they are still very important but additionally the following must be considered:

  • Who are your different audiences? What are their online habits and communication preferences? Should you revise segmentation models from site activity focus to external behavior and web usage patterns?
  • What information and services will make sense to expose? In what format? Is it sufficient to provide text based RSS, audio podcasts, Video Webcasts?
  • What can be packaged in widgets, plugins and applications?
  • Do you have location specific services and applications that will help users with mobile devices?

The benefits can be substantial, expanding reach at a fraction of the cost needed to get people to the company’s site, and are much more sustainable over a period of time.

In addition to its impact on marketing, the new outreach strategy has a large impact on the technology. Bringing renewed value to service oriented architecture and modular design, the ability to segment and deliver slivers of content and functionality to remote users can only be achieved if the applications are built using open standards and accessible through web API’s.

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