The website is where all roads lead in marketing. No matter if you buy space advertising, broadcast or online, executives go check the Internet first. The Forbes and Google Executive Search Strategy Survey proved this.

I’d first advise any executive to think about whether they want to control the website internally or have an agency build it and control it. There are advantages to both, but I’ve always preferred to have it controlled internally. You can have an agency help with the initial design and build out, using a Content Management System (CMS) of your choosing. I haven’t had great luck with an agency running the various company websites I’ve been responsible for because it added an extra layer of time and resources to get the communication right.

Whatever your decision, it’s important to weigh the many benefits and challenges using an agency against paying for internal resources to get it done. While making that decision you should also understand what CMS you will be using to make sure that it is flexible enough handle all the things you want your website to do. Maybe you have an e-commerce need, or want to play video, carry a blog or online community. Whatever it is, choosing the right CMS makes all the difference.

As you think about the infrastructure of your website, you must think about usability and the ability of the system to help users search for content on your site. So don’t get overly beautiful with your site. It’s better to make the site easy to use than make it a pretty site that is slow to load, has a tone of video and is not well planned out. User testing is important too.

Get some employees or friends to go to a beta site and give them assignments to find certain things on the site. Then have them give you feedback. There are technologies and companies that can help you do this but I find a simple test and watching the analytics will give you what you need. Speaking of analytics, make sure your web pages have the coding for Google analytics or other analytics systems such as Omniture. Without the analytics you won’t be able to tell if your website is really performing or not.

And if you have a demand generation engine such as Eloqua that will allow for IP address tracking, you will want that coding on your web pages as well. This is important to take the aggregate reporting that Google provides down to the individual level. Eloqua coding on your website, allows you to track an individual and all their activity on your website.

So far we’ve thought about having the work done inside or out, the CMS, analytics and demand generation system coding. Most importantly, planning must occur. Whiteboard your website, a site map and then begin developing a timeline. Once you have the plan, you can begin to worry about content. We will cover this in our next session.

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