Designing the Pivot: Changing Your Business on the Web
Rarely does a business begin and end in the same place. If you’re growing a business, you’re probably going to need to do one or more pivots. And central to that pivot process is going to be your website and online audience.
Websites are the modern storefront to most businesses. B2C or B2B, people are going to visit your website at least once before doing business with you. So if you’re going to change what you do as a business, you’d better immediately start thinking about how your website needs to change.
As websites have become increasingly central to most business operations, repositioning them to relaunch a pivoting business has become a pretty routine project in my marketing agency. Consequently, I’ve developed a template to help guide our team through the nuances of these shifts.
Most importantly we focus on leveraging what exists, and continues to be relevant, and gaps that need to be filled to reshape the business in a successful way.
Pivoting Your Website
As the world has grown more virtual, your virtual website has probably become more important than your physical building in positioning your business. Therefore, if your business needs to pivot you want to start thinking about what needs to happen on your website, maybe even before thinking about what needs to happen in your office.
Analyze Your Current Website
Every business pivot project I work on begins with a careful inventory of your current assets. When I say assets, I’m referring to all of the online elements of your business that generates any revenue. Here are a few of the things I consider:
- What are my top sources of web traffic?
- What are my top landing pages?
- What sources of web traffic convert the best?
- What landing pages convert the best?
- Do I have successful paid campaigns? What channels?
This checklist gives me a good picture of how the existing website is contributing to your current business. From here, I begin to inventory what can be leveraged and built upon to give your pivot strong early traction when we launch the shift.
Pivot SEO Analysis
The first step in any website design or redesign, pivot or no pivot, is to understand how potential customers search for your business. This means doing at least some basic SEO analysis.
This SEO analysis should focus on developing a few important data sets that will help guide your new project:
- Create a list of the keywords that are currently sending your search traffic (typically found in Google Analytics)
- Do keyword research to develop a new list of relevant keywords
- Analyze your new competitors to reveal their SEO/PPC strategies
- Determine how your new and old keywords will fit together in a new website information architecture
This analysis can be conducted using a variety of sophisticated SEO tools (i.e., Moz, SEMRush, Majestic SEO, etc.) or on the cheap by poking around on your competitors’ websites and doing several strategic Google searches. Either way, this is an important step in designing and engineering your new website to get a little foundational search engine traffic at launch.
Preserve Current SEO Value
Most business websites have some SEO value. You have published some relevant content about your current market and products or services you offer. Almost without fail some of this content will have been referenced in social media and on other websites, without any effort or intention on your part. This will give you some back links and encourage Google to rank you for something—yielding you a bit of relevant web traffic from search engines.
Often this SEO value, and the web traffic it generates, is in some way tangentially related to your new business. In fact, most pivots are often opportunities discovered in the conduct of your current business. Consequently, most pivots are subtle shifts to the right or left of the original business concept, rather than radical u-turns or jumps to entirely different industries. That means that most of your SEO rankings should be preserved, maybe with a slight repositioning, to support your new business.
The nice thing about SEO is that search engines like when you to routinely update your best content, which means your repositioning/rewriting efforts are likely be rewarded. This is why content marketing and SEO needs to be a strong leverage point in your pivot strategy.
In my pivot process, I begin to load up the existing content into my master editorial calendar along with the new Titles, Descriptions, and pivot keyword(s) emphasis. I also make sure that I know where each piece of content will be published in the new information architecture. I also include new internal links I want to include to assist new pages in gaining SEO strength.
Building New Traffic
With a new website design and a carefully designed information architecture to support it, it’s time to start building and growing new traffic.
As you design the navigation and layout of your new website make sure that your existing and new content is organized in a logical way—both for people and search engines. This typically means moving from broad concepts to specific topics, keeping in mind how people seem to be searching for things (based on what you learned in your keyword research) relating to your business.
Part of this architecture should be the nestling of existing, strong SEO, content into this information architecture. Make sure that it’s accessible from the home page (no more than a single click away). Map out how you’re going to internally link from these strong SEO pages to new pivot-relevant pages—conveying ‘Google juice’ and hopefully new search engine positions to these new pages. These efforts should begin to pull new targeted search traffic into your re-launched website.
To accelerate this process you should also queue up other active campaigns that will push eyeballs and signal search engines that things are happening on your new website. Here are a few of my typical post-launch campaigns tactics:
- Fill your Bufferapp or Hootsuite queue with a steady sharing of new content. It also doesn’t hurt to re-promote your ‘golden oldies’ too
- Try to have a few guest posts (content published on other websites, with links back to your website) lined up and ready to publish soon after launch—to show fresh back linking activity
- Run some paid AdWords, Outbrain, Facebook, or Reddit campaigns (depending on your market) to bump up traffic and natural linking. Promote specifically developed, baiting content for these campaigns.
I also like to run AdWords remarketing campaigns to further capitalize on this new traffic. These campaigns tag your web visitors and will continue to show and enhance your brand by showing up on other websites these visitors frequent.
Pivoting Your Audience
Hopefully you haven’t been entirely reliant on Google for all of your traffic and you have a bit of a loyal audience following your brand. This could be a community of social media (i.e., Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, Pinterest) followers or even better an opt-in email list.
These dedicated audiences can be very valuable in pulling off a successful pivot.
Begin conditioning them early about a potential pivot. It doesn’t have to be a grand announcement, but rather I recommend a sharing of new thinking, ideas, and focus on the direction you’re heading. Your content in these channels can begin pivoting long before you officially make the shift on your website.
The nice thing about social media and email is that it’s a perfect medium for sharing new ideas and gauging reactions. It can be your best source of marketing research. Who knows, it might even have been the source of your decision to pivot in the first place.
Pivots Should Be Natural
Markets are inherently fluid environments driven by increasingly rapid changes in preferences, behaviors, and technology. Pivots are going to be necessary to sustain and grow your business.
I recommend that orchestrating pivots becomes a core competency of your marketing operations.
Are you considering a pivot for your business?
Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or 313-338-9515 to brainstorm your project, for free.
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