Crafting a Brand Website
A brand website is the core of any digital marketing strategy. It is the front door to your business, the herald of your brand message, and if built right, the greatest salesperson on your team.
But to build a brand website that actually converts prospects, you have to do a lot more than just purchase a domain. Building the website can be an art in and of itself—what should go in the header? What is the first thing a user should see? How much content should be on the home page? And how many pages do you need?
In this article, we share everything you need to know about crafting a website for your business. We include a breakdown of the planning process, explain the sections you need on each page, and reveal marketing best practices. This is more than just web theory though—we lift the curtain to illustrate how Hughes Integrated, a digital marketing agency, put these tactics to work in our own relaunched brand website.
Table of Contents
If you’re thinking about building (or rebuilding) your brand website, you likely already have a lot of ideas. Certain phrases or design elements might have you excited and ready to put together a wireframe. But before you get started it’s best to slow down and iron out your website strategy. After all, a website should be more than a pretty page. It should be clear and concise, and drive the user to take action.
Choosing Goals for Your Website
Your website should be part of your bigger digital marketing strategy. You don’t want to just publish a site and hope for the best. Even if it’s brilliantly written and beautifully designed, you’ll never know if it is a success if you don’t clarify your website goals first.
This is where website strategy begins. You’ll want to spend some time thinking through these questions:
- What’s the purpose of my website?
- Who will be using my website?
- What action am I hoping website visitors take?
- How familiar will website visitors be with my brand?
- Where will website visitors be coming from?
These questions may seem simple—but don’t overlook them. You can save yourself a lot of money, time, and headaches later on if you get clear answers now.
Once you’ve answered these questions, you’ll be able to select good website goals. The goals you choose will be unique to your industry and business (for example, the goals of a b2b website will be very different from the goals of a b2c website), but here are some we think every company should consider.
Brand awareness is how familiar someone is with your company. Generally, people will learn about your business from another source—they’ll discover you through a Google search, a recommendation from a friend, come across your social media, or even click on one of your ads. While these events might be the first time someone hears about you, you can guarantee their next step: they’ll navigate to your brand website and see what you’re all about.
That’s why it’s important to consider brand awareness on your website. This is one of the opportunities you’ll have to truly pitch a prospect on who you are and why your business matters. After visiting your website, a prospect should have a very clear idea of what products or services you offer and how it makes their life better.
Generating leads is an important goal for the site of a b2b or service-based company. The main purpose of these websites is to draw in interested prospects and get them to submit their information—generally through a form or direct contact. A website focused on generating leads knows visitors won’t often jump immediately from awareness to the sale, so they make a warm introduction and rely on the rest of the digital marketing strategy to convert prospects into paying customers.
If generating leads is the goal for your website, your copy and design will focus on attracting attention and making it easy for visitors to take the first step with your business.
Smart businesses know that not all leads are equal. Sometimes a prospect will be perfect for your business and other times they’re seeking something you can’t or don’t offer. This is where it’s important that a website also qualifies leads. Your website content should help weed out unideal prospects—for your benefit and theirs!—and it should specifically attract your target audience. This can be accomplished through the messaging you present, but can also be supported by the information you ask a lead to submit.
Many b2c or e-commerce sites will put lead generation on the back burner and will instead focus directly on sales. These businesses offer products or services that a visitor can purchase directly online—usually at a low enough price point that a prospect will make a purchasing decision without a lot of extra nurture.
If sales is your primary website goal, your web pages will feature clear calls to action and will focus on eliminating any objections to purchase. You’ll also have to feature a solid sales pitch because visitors are less likely to opt into a nurture campaign.
Both location-based and (inter)national businesses should strongly consider SEO as one of their primary website goals. SEO or search engine optimization is a digital strategy that helps your website show up on Google and other search engines.
Since search is the primary way organic traffic (think new prospects) will come to your website, you want your site to rank highly for relevant keywords. This helps the right people find your business and is the major way you’ll attract new leads and sales. Without SEO, people will only visit your website if they hear about your business from another source.
While technically more of a feature, good UI/UX (user interface/user experience) should be a goal of every website. You want your site to be easy to interact with and enjoy. If your pages are difficult to navigate, visitors will quickly click over to your competitors. Strategies for UI/UX are extensive and are often driven by research and analytic testing. While these will come into play later in the development part of the process, we strongly recommend prioritizing them from the beginning. As you plan out your website, think about the type of content you want to feature and how you want users to interact with it. Your website will be far more successful if you do.
Creating a Sitemap
Once you’ve firmly established and recorded your website goals, the next step is to create a sitemap. A sitemap is a list of the pages under your domain and the relationships between them. Some sitemaps will be more for the web development side—helping search engines find, crawl, and index all of your content. Other sitemaps are more for your design and strategy.
We recommend creating a sitemap very early in the process because it will allow you to begin determining what content you need and how you want to structure it. Do this with your goals in mind, thinking about how users will move from one webpage to the next. Consider where you want them to end up (likely at a sale or a lead) and structure the entire site to skillfully guide them to that place.
Setting Up the Back End of a Website
After you have your website strategy down in writing, the next step in crafting a brand website is to begin setting up the back end. By this, we mean all the web-based details that need to be taken care of for your site to be live.
Purchasing a Domain
A website domain is the name of a website. This is what comes after www. in a URL. Purchasing a domain is like buying virtual land—it gives you the real estate to build what you want. Once you purchase a domain, you have the legal right to it.
How to Purchase a Website Domain
Purchasing a website domain is simple. You go to a domain host like Google Domains, GoDaddy, or Bluehost and select a domain that no one else has registered. Some domains may already be taken so you may have to be creative or choose a unique domain name ending. Then you pay an annual fee to own and register the domain.
How to Choose a Website Domain Name
Since your domain is the cornerstone of your web address, picking a name is important. Generally, your domain should be as close to your brand name as possible so the two are easily associated. Beyond that, consider length (shorter is better), simplicity, and relevant keywords.
Once you’ve purchased a domain, it needs to be hosted to be live on the internet. Web hosting providers store your website on their servers so that it can be viewed online. There are many providers out there, so we recommend doing some research to see which one makes the most sense for your business. (If you’re using a digital marketing agency, they will likely take care of hosting for you.)
Choosing a Platform
A website platform is software or technology that allows individuals and businesses to build and manage websites. It provides the framework and tools necessary for creating and maintaining a website, including website design templates, content management systems (CMS), hosting, and other features.
Writing and Designing a Website
Choosing a platform for your website is one thing, but how do you make it look good? When designing a website for your business, you should keep in mind that a website should be more than just pretty or eye-catching. It should also be functional, user-friendly, and drive your audience toward a call to action.
Building a new website can quickly become a headache. And if you’re not careful, your website could become a Frankenstein of everyone’s ideas—a page for this, a page for that, and add a button here. Below, we’re going to explain our process for building a website, and the webpages to start with. This will make your website as clear as possible so your audience knows exactly what to do.
The copy you write for your brand website will depend greatly on your audience and the goals you have for your site. In general, it is best to know what you want to say and then figure out how to say it. When you sit down to write content for your website, everything you write should point back to a clear message—the problem you solve for your clients and how you do it. Express this information as clearly as possible and try to keep your content engaging and scannable.
While other digital marketing agencies might take a design-first approach, we strongly recommend writing your website before designing it. This is the best way to make sure your site has the right content, not just slick style. Every website goal from lead generation to SEO depends more on words than design and so design should enhance the content on your site, not dictate it. Write copy first (either in a simple document or a lofi wireframe) and then allow a designer to arrange and beautify it on the page.
With content established, it is time to design your website. This includes the images used, the layout of content, and so much more. Each element will need to add to the user experience and align closely with your brand identity.
Your designer may choose to work offline (in design software) or directly on the website builder. Whether you’re using a template or starting from scratch to differentiate yourself from the competition, there will be many choices to make where a trained design eye is needed.
Once you have the words and design ready, a web developer will help you get your website up and running. They’ll build on your platform to make sure links work, pages redirect to the right place, and the user experience (on both desktop and mobile) is optimized. There are many technical skills needed here, so an expert partner really is worth the investment.
Types of Pages on A Website
Every page on your website should have a job. There may be pages specific to your industry and audience, but here are the four key pages you need to focus on to start. When these pages are up and running (and running effectively), you’ll be well on your way to a great brand website!
Purpose of a Homepage
The homepage is generally the most important page of your website. It needs to do two things:
- Make a great first impression. The homepage receives more traffic than any other page on your site and is the main entry point for visitors. It’s the first page most prospects will see and so it needs to make a good first impression. The homepage must set the tone for the rest of the site. It needs to clearly represent the brand and give users a good sense of the site’s content and purpose. If your homepage fails this objective, visitors will quickly lose interest in your brand and are unlikely to enter into further relationships with you.
- Direct users to options for further engagement. While it contains some original content, the homepage is a central hub, not a destination. It showcases important content from various pages on the site and makes it easy for a visitor to navigate to the information they see. If your homepage fails this objective, you might attract visitors but your site won’t see any further conversions (leads, sales, and other critical interactions).
Homepage Best Practices
While the exact nature of your homepage will depend on your brand and website goals, here are some best practices.
- Make it scannable. You don’t want users to get lost on your homepage. If you overwhelm them with large blocks of text, they’ll click back to Google and find your competitors. Instead, use headlines and strategic spacing to make your page easy to browse. A user should be able to look at your website and in 8 seconds tell someone what you offer, why it makes their life better, and how they get it.
- Remember what level your audience is at. Keep in mind that your homepage will see the visitors that are least familiar with your brand. You don’t want to get too in the weeds about details or use insider language. Make it easy for newcomers to approach your brand and then guide them toward the next step.
- Be the guide. This is a phrase we use a lot as a StoryBrand Certified Agency. Your audience is the hero. What matters most is their problems, feelings, and needs. Your brand is the guide—the one that’s there to help get where they want to be. Use this principle to decide what content and features are most important to your visitors.
Here’s a section-by-section look at the Hughes Integrated homepage. Click through to see the strategy we used to make each section effective.
In this first section of our homepage, the goal is to explain quickly who we are and what we do. You’ll notice this right away. We name our service (we’re a digital marketing agency) and the value we offer (we help you connect with your ideal audience). The design is simple because clarity is a key part of brand identity. We end the section above the fold by inviting visitors to schedule a free consultation.
In this section of the homepage, we emphasize why the audience should care. There are some short paragraphs of copy but it is written to compel the reader further down the page.
This section explains the value we offer. We’ve used design to keep the content scannable while offering details about our services.
This section includes a testimonial and sample of our work, suggesting others have seen the value we indicated above. Notice the invitation to learn more about our work by viewing a case study.
This section empathizes with our audience’s problem. It focuses on where they are and how we help them get where they want to be.
This content explains what makes us different from other agencies. It shares how we work in partnership with brands and why that’s of great benefit to our clients. Notice the link to our About Us page where visitors can dive further into who we are as a company.
This 3-step plan outlines how someone can do business with us. We share an overview of that process and invite them to take action.
Proof (Part 2)
More of our work with clients across the country, showing the value of our team and process.
This is a helpful asset we created for visitors who are interested, but not yet ready to schedule a consultation.
Purpose of an About Page
The About page is the place visitors can go to learn more about your brand. It can include information about your history, values, team, and who you serve.
About Page Best Practices
We know you could probably talk about your business all day—it’s what you’re passionate about! But allow us to give you a few guidelines and best practices for how to talk about yourself on your website.
- Say why it matters. The About page is about your business, but it still needs to add value to visitors. Each piece of information should contain a clear explanation of why it matters to your audience. Core values? How do they make working with you great? Company history? Why does that make you qualified?
- Show, don’t tell. Use visual elements such as photos, videos, or infographics to tell your story and illustrate your brand. This can help break up the text and make your page more engaging.
- Highlight your unique selling points. Explain what makes your brand or organization unique and different from others in your industry. This can help you stand out from the competition.
About Page Example
Here’s a section-by-section look at the Hughes Integrated About page. Click through to see the strategy we used to make each section effective.
In this first section of our About page, we keep the focus on the visitor and how we help them. You’ll also notice the StoryBrand badge, a main characteristic of our agency.
Here we list out our core values, including graphics and some explainer copy. Notice that the focus remains on the visitor even here.
We’re relational, so in this section, we’re happy to introduce our team. You’ll also notice a link to apply to join our team.
What We Do
This short section explains what we do and contains an invitation to check out some of our work.
Purpose of a Service PageThe purpose of a service page on a website is to provide visitors with detailed information about the specific products or services that the organization offers. This page is where the organization can showcase its expertise, explain how its products or services can benefit the customer, and encourage visitors to take action. (Note: your business may have one all-encompassing service page or it may have a page for each service.)
Service Page Best PracticesLike all of your web pages, there are a few things you should keep in mind when creating your service pages:
- Be specific. Be specific about both the services you offer and how these services benefit your clients. Since your visitors are likely closer to taking action, this is the place to share more detail.
- Include testimonials. If possible, service pages are a great place to include testimonials specific to that service. These help your brand have more authority and illustrate the specific benefits of a service.
- Link to resources. Adding a link to a lead generator, blogs, or other materials can build your authority in your customer’s eyes. Providing your clients with information positions you as the expert.
Service Page ExampleHere’s a section-by-section look at the Hughes Integrated service page. Click through to see the strategy we used to make each section effective.
This section is short, but emphasizes what we do: help you reach your goals by serving as your digital marketing partner. Digital marketing is our core service umbrella.
The next four sections explain a different service we offer. Since we offer many individual services, we decided to group these into bigger categories, explaining the value we provide in each instead of listing every single thing we can do. Notice that each section features a few paragraphs and a bullet point summary.
Call to Action
If visitors are interested in the above services, we invite them to schedule a free consultation.
Call to Action Page
Purpose of a Call to Action PageA call to action page does just that—it calls your website visitors to take action. By this point, users have worked their way through content on your site and are ready to take the first step toward engaging with you, whether that’s scheduling a call, booking a consultation, or downloading an asset.
Call to Action Page Best PracticesHere are a few things to keep in mind when creating your call to action page:
- Keep it simple. If a visitor is ready to take action, don’t make them jump through hoops. Get them quickly to the action step, whether that’s filling out a form or something else.
- Ask only for what you need. If you’re using a form or asking for information, keep it as small as possible. Remember, you want to create a path of least resistance for your clients to reach you. If all you need is their name and email to start, then start with that.
- Be clear about what you’re offering. Clarity is a gift. If a visitor knows exactly what happens when they take action, they’ll have much less hesitation.
Call to Action Page ExampleHere’s a section-by-section look at the Hughes Integrated Call to Action page. Click through to see the strategy we used to make each section effective.
No beating around the bush. We include our first step (an interactive form) above the fold so that visitors don’t have to do any scrolling. Work through our form and you’ll see how it cleverly explains our brand and gets the information we need to be helpful.
Just in case someone gets here and has second thoughts, we want to remind them of what happens if they don’t take action.
What to Expect
These three features tell a visitor exactly what they can expect when they fill out our form. Like always, we’re open-handed with the value it provides.
Get Your Brand Website Off the Ground in a Few Simple Steps
Whew—we covered a lot of ground in this blog. But now you know the ins and outs of creating a stand-out brand website.
And as you might have guessed, it’s a lot of work. We know. We just spent months building our own from the ground up.
If the work of putting together a website (and building a brand, for that matter) is intimidating, let a team of experts who have been through it help you. At Hughes Integrated, we’ll take our expertise in building messaging and put it into practice by creating a brand website that tells a story your clients want to hear. We practice what we preach—we are capable of doing everything we talked about above. Curious to learn more? Schedule a call with us today.
Glossary: Terms and Definitions to Know When Building a Brand Website
Refer to this glossary for all of the terms you need to know when building your brand-new website. All of these terms will come up a lot—make sure you know them inside and out before starting on your website.
- Above the fold: Above the fold is a web design phrase meaning everything that a website user sees before they begin to scroll. It’s akin to a newspaper—above the fold is anything a reader sees before they unfold the paper.
- CTA: An acronym for call to action, a CTA is a clear instruction for your website user on what to do next. Common CTAs include “buy now,” “download,” or “call us.” CTAs should always be clear and always tell the user what to do.
- Domain: A website domain is your website’s name. It’s what appears after “www.”
- Hero Section: In web designer language, the hero section is the first thing a user sees when they visit your website’s homepage. It typically contains a clear headline, a hero image that communicates what you do, and a call to action.
- Hosting: Website hosting is what some marketing agencies do to better serve their clients. Using a website hosting service, they can control and maintain your website for you by tracking analytics, creating and publishing content, and analyzing the website’s performance.
- Platform: A website platform is whatever hosting site your website is on. This could be WordPress, Squarespace, or any other hosting platform.
- SEO: SEO or search engine optimization is a strategy for ranking content higher on Google (and other search engines) in organic (unpaid) search results. Using targeted keywords and structured content, your website can become better optimized for search engines and appear higher in search engine results pages (SERPs).
- Sitemap: A sitemap is a complete map of every page, redirect, and subpage on your website. Users don’t typically use sitemaps, but they’re important for search engines to crawl your website easily.
- Wireframe: A website wireframe is a blueprint for what your future website will look like before it’s fully designed and ready to publish. It gives you a rough idea of what will go where, whether those are headlines, content blocks, calls-to-action, or photo galleries.