Jan 21, 2019

How To Prioritize The Right Website Goals

By: Josh Dougherty

Web Design

Website goals. You better have them if you want to drive the growth of your site forward. In fact, you better not just have goals. You need to have the right goals.

Why? Because your goals are the foundation around which the rest of the site will be built. If you don't have them, you'll end up with a site without focus. Worse, you'll leave your users dazed and confused. Obviously, this would be a disaster.

In this post, I'm going to walk you through my process for selecting and prioritizing the right goals. When you're done reading, you'll know how to select goals that will turn your site into a key driver of business growth.

The Intersection of Site Goals & User Needs

Before I dive in, I want to make one thing clear: prioritized goals are only half of the equation for an effective website. The other half is a focus on user needs. Why? Because your goals are irrelevant if they are entirely disconnected from what your ideal customer wants or needs.

I like to think about site goals and user needs as a Venn Diagram. Your ideal customer has a lot of needs that your business will never be able to fulfill. In addition, your business may have goals that are irrelevant to you customer. We're searching for the area of overlap at the middle of the diagram where your goals align exactly with what a user needs. This is where your site can be successful.

Unfortunately, there isn't enough space in this post to discuss both user needs and site goals. If you don't think you have a solid grasp of who your ideal customer is and what they need and want, check out this free buyer persona creation lesson from Hubspot Academy.

What Is A Goal?

Seems like a simple question, right? Wrong. Goals often end up being nebulous. Without specificity it's impossible to understand if you're hitting them. I recommend using the S.M.A.R.T. goals framework when selecting goals. That means that every goal you choose for your site must be:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Actionable
  • Relevant
  • Timebound

How To Choose The Right Goals

There are hundreds of goals you could choose for your site. All but a few of them would be wrong. Here's my three step process to choosing the right goals:

  1. Meet with your leadership team: Get your leadership team (or whichever ones you have access to) into a room and ask them to share their goals for the business over the next year to 18 months. Any goals you choose for the site should align with the business goals.
  2. Identify which goals can be directly influenced by the site: You won't be able to influence every business goal with the site, but there will be a few. For example, if one business goal is to keep accounts receivables current at all times, you likely can't do much about that. Conversely, if a goal is to bring in 20 new prospects per quarter, now you're in business.
  3. Think through which goals you can indirectly influence: If you can't identify anything that will directly influence the key performance indicators for the business, don't stress. Also, don't fall victim to thinking your website can't help your business. Get creative. You may not be able to sell a product on a website, but you can capture an email, or offer a free demo.

Why You Must Prioritize

Chances are you'll come out of your meeting with the leadership team and some other discovery sessions with different departments or stakeholders at your company, with a list of 10-15 goals. This is where prioritization comes in.

In my experience building dozens of sites, no site with 10 equally weighted goals will succeed. You must choose one top priority, a few secondary ones, and then maybe 3-4 tertiary ones. Nothing more. Without this type of focus, your users won't understand what you want them to do. Users only spend about 8 seconds deciding whether to stay on your site. You can't afford any confusion.

Here's two other reasons why it's essential that you prioritize your goals:

  • The homepage turf war: Every department loves to battle to showcase their work on the homepage. Without prioritized goals you'll end up with a carousel promo area 7 slides deep and a secondary promo for every other item that didn't make the top of the page. You'll also end up with an ineffective site.
  • Your time and budget isn't limitless: No one has infinite time and budget for their website. If you prioritize your goals, you'll be able to easily decide where to spend your time and money.

Ok, So How Do I Ruthlessly Prioritize?

Prioritization is difficult, but not impossible. The time you spend here will save you hours of pain and suffering on the back end. And your metrics will look better as well. Here's the process I like to lead clients through:

  1. Identify which goals impact the bottom line most: Typically there is going to be a single goal that has the most direct impact on revenue. This should be your primary goal. If you have two goals that have equal impact, think through which one is the easiest to support on the site and make that your primary.
  2. Fill out your pyramid: Now it's time to select secondary and tertiary goals. I like to think of this as filling out your goals pyramid. Prioritize goals that have a high business impact and massively fulfill user needs first. As I said above, try and limit yourself to 2 secondary goals and 3-4 tertiary ones.
  3. Write down your prioritized goals: Create a formal document that outlines your goals in priority order. This document should be referenced whenever a decision is made about the site to ensure you stay focused.
  4. Get all stakeholders to agree in writing: Finally, get all site stakeholders to agree to the framework in writing. This will reduce disagreements down the road.

It's Time To Start Building (Or Rebuilding)

Armed with a prioritized set of goals, you can now start identifying which features and functionality will be important on your site. It's time to be ruthless again:

  • Anytime a feature doesn't align with a goal, don't include it
  • Anytime two features compete with each other, make sure the one aligned with the higher priority goal wins

This is hard work, but the end result is worth it. Your site will become a growth engine for your business. And you'll have your goals to thank for it.


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