The Great Circle of (Web) Life
“Everything you see exists together in a delicate balance. You need to understand that balance and respect all parts. They are all connected in the great Circle of Life.”
- Mufasa, as fuzzily remembered by the Strategist
Even though he may have been talking about antelopes, lions, and grass, I think Mufasa really was just a bit ahead of his time, and probably had his sights set on the internet. Well, maybe that’s a bit of a stretch, but work with me here, because the concept is spot on! A website is full of infinite moving parts but they each serve their own purpose and come together to feed each other and make a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts.
Some Circles Need a Starting Point
With all these moving parts, how do they come together? How can you grow the grass that gets eaten by the antelope that gets chowed on by the lion? Well, it takes a lot to make a website work! It’s certainly no easy task, and you have to be prepared to put in your due diligence and best efforts to take a solid, well-rounded approach that hits all parts of this Great Circle of Web Life. So what does that look like? Where would be a good place to start?
Thankfully, the best place to start is likely where you already have. You need an idea. You need a plan. What you probably also have done, is turn that plan into a website. And next? Well, let’s table that for a bit, because not all websites are created equal, and as I mentioned before, everything is connected and will feed into a greater unified sum of everything you’re about to read. For the moment though, let’s assume your website is ready to launch. Consider the grass grown.
Let Your Presence be Known
Boom! Launched! Now just sit back and wait for the customers to roll into your virtual store, right? Well, not exactly. It isn’t as though people can window shop as they see your store when walking down the street. With each potential customer sitting down at their own computer, you need to reach out to each of them individually. In the days before the internet, printing and sending letters or postcards to everyone in the phone book was a time consuming and potentially fruitless endeavor. You never knew who really wanted to receive your information. Now though, it’s a lot easier (time and energy wise, at least) to reach out to potential customers, in one of two ways:
- Have them find you through search
- Advertise directly to them
We’ll get back to that first item a bit later, but the next step after building your website is to focus energy on helping people find it in the short term through targeted advertising. Whether you want to use search engine marketing, social media, or anything else is completely at your own discretion and best guess as to what you feel would work best…at first.
Wait…what? That’s right. It’s up to your best judgment at first. After the first go round of your efforts, you’ll find yourself ready for the next step. First came building a website. Second, advertising. The third step is where you begin to analyze the results and make informed decisions.
Learn from Everything You Do
Through the use of analytics, you can track just about anything on your website: who came, from where, for how long, where they went, what they did, how they did it, on what platform. The possibilities are endless, and they will only help you make better choices related to your advertising efforts and your user experience. Advertising not getting a good return? Try something new. Fantastic return? Maybe focus some more energy there to add to your gains and increase your return. The important thing to note is that it gives you the power to make decisions like that, and to have solid reasons for doing so.
So at this point, we’ve gotten an idea, turned it into a website, advertised to bring people to the website in the short term, and reviewed analytics to get ready to make some decisions. Certain things to pay careful attention to when looking at what your site analytics is something that may not be easily visible: user experience and aesthetics. Just because you bring people to your site doesn’t mean they’ll do what you want them to do. Maybe the antelope is sickly and the lion thinks it’s better off uneaten. Would you shop at a store with stained floors, broken windows, and flickering lights, with all of the merchandize severely disorganized? Of course not! Would you shop in an online store where you couldn’t find what you wanted, the imagery looked like it was put together for a grade school art project, and it took 15 seconds for each page to load? Hell no! What you need to do is make the inner workings of your site equally as attractive as what you portray on the outside. Pretty ads aren’t enough; you need to make the effort to put your best foot forward on your page as well. Otherwise your virtual window shoppers will keep on moving.
So we’ve built the website, driven traffic, looked at analytics, and planned for optimal user experience with beautiful design. Then what? Look how far you’ve come! Learn. Grow. Plan for the future. Think long term. Do it all over again! Now it is time for the analytic lion to give back and become fodder for the grass to grow yet again, and make some changes to improve upon the website you’ve already built. The website brought customers and data to the business owner, and the owner used the data to give back to the customer to ask them to come again. The cycle is complete.
…or is it?
Close the Loop
I said we’d come back to it, and here’s the final piece of the metaphor: the sun and the wind and the clouds and the dirt. Everything in the background that stands as the pillar which allows this cycle to exist and to continue indefinitely. Think about these as the long term plan, which will represent your search engine optimization. The shining light that shows the antelopes where your grass is, and provides them the ground on which to stand to get there. Remember how we called advertising a short term solution to find customers? Well, if you were able to find the same people you did with ads, only this time you didn’t have to pay for any ads, wouldn’t that sound like a reasonable long term solution?
But now it’s time to really come full circle. Remember how we assumed that your website was ready to launch? That’s right, that assumption is based on the application of everything inside the cycle:
- All kinds of ilities
Take the time and the effort to understand and respect all facets of the Circle of Web Life, which include design, analytics, marketing, and optimization, and incorporate them all into your site; you will certainly reap the benefits for generations to come. Remember, each one adds value to your website by itself, but when they all coalesce, you set up the cycle to continue for as long as you are able to sustain it. So keep the Circle going. Simba Junior will thank you.
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