Do you wish to become the “go-to” company in your industry?
Your website – and every element of your digital presence – must meet the demanding needs and expectations of today’s consumers. It must also accurately and consistently reflect your brand, providing a memorable, repeatable message that deeply resonates with your ideal audience.
In this article, we’ll uncover the evolution of websites from basic, spartan pages to the multifaceted digital hubs they are today.
Understanding how websites have evolved to meet changing consumer needs will give you the context to dramatically enhance your online presence today.
You’ll also learn which team members you’ll need to build and maintain a website that attracts excited buyers every day, while your competitors struggle to bring in new leads and business.
Finally, you’ll discover the content strategy that is driving the online success of most businesses today, and how you can leverage that strategy to cultivate new buyer relationships at scale – without increasing your workload.
The Internet may be barely 30 years old, but its evolution throughout three short decades has been nothing short of epic. It famously began as a simple text-based intranet among college campuses and was originally designed for research purposes.
CERN, the Swiss leader committed to uncovering the secrets of the universe’s origin, is credited with having the first website. ACME Laboratories, a site providing links to freeware since 1991, is an excellent example of how the earliest websites looked and functioned.
The development of HTML led to rapid expansion of the Internet, providing programmers with a reliable way to create pages quickly. The first version of HTML was written and released in 1993 by Tim Berners-Lee, who is considered one of the Internet’s founders.
In 1999, HTML 4.01 became the official standard – this version was widely adopted in the 2000s. XHTML, a rewrite of this programming language as an XML language. This allowed information to be shared across other XML markup languages, including Geography Markup Language (GML and Really Simple Syndication (RSS).
The first public draft of HTML5 was released in 2008, and development and releases continued through the language’s official release in 2014. The language was created as a series of evolutionary features, rather than a single redefinition of HTML.
HTML5 introduced semantic labeling, which allowed programmers to efficiently define the content within each element. This not only allows for faster development; it helps search engines understand and categorize your content better. This means that a site properly written in HTML5 could rank significantly higher than an identical site without semantic labeling.
From a user experience standpoint, the development of HTML provided numerous enhancements. While the earliest websites were drab, plain-text affairs designed solely to share information, visitors could now view high-resolution images, listen to audio, and watch video content.
The development of the cellular phone played an important role in the development of the Internet, and vice versa.
The idea of a wireless phone is nothing new – the first wireless phone U.S. patent was issued in Kentucky in 1908. Motorola sold the first consumer cellular phones in 1973; still, widespread adoption of cellular phones didn’t begin until the 1990s.
Large, blocky wireless phones that came with their own luggage eventually gave way to smaller, more portable models. With access to rapidly developing technology, companies began offering compact models that could easily fit in even the smallest pockets.
Eventually, cell phones became larger and flatter to accommodate touchscreen operation. Instead of relying on a keypad or physical buttons to navigate web pages, browsers could simply use their fingers.
Consumers were finally able to easily perform everyday business and work tasks on their phones that previously required a laptop or desktop computer.
Today, cell phone usage is higher than ever – there are about 290 million cell phone users in the United States alone. Considering the country’s population stands at about 330 million, it’s easy to see how indispensable the smartphone has become.
Website technology has evolved alongside the smartphone – “mobile-first” initiatives enabled companies to reach potential customers through responsive, interactive websites that visitors could easily navigate on their smartphones.
Today, websites are about much more than just sharing information – they’re fully immersive experiences where visitors can connect with brands that speak to their values, provide memorable online experiences, and engage with their audiences.
Multi-channel video content is a critical element of creating a website that truly resonates with visitors. Gone are the days when you could rely on text to get your message across – today’s mobile audience wants to consume information quickly, and prefers to be entertained while they’re doing it.
Businesses of all sizes, from micro-businesses to large international corporations, must learn to adapt to this video-driven online world. The ones that embrace this shift will stand out among their competitors, and can grow loyal audiences who see them as the “go-to” authorities in their industries. Those that don’t adapt will be left behind.
Clearly, websites have become significantly more complex since CERN launched the world’s first official website. Where websites used to perform just a single function, they now offer visitors a full media experience that allows them to interact in a meaningful way – and grow to love the business leaders whose stories most clearly resonate.
Marketers have done an amazing job of convincing business owners that they can handle all of their website tasks on their own, or with the help of a single administrator.
While that may have been true a few decades ago – if you wanted to take the time to learn HTML, that is – creating a truly robust, memorable website requires a team of professionals.
Here are a few of the professionals who can add value to your website and ensure a positive visitor experience every time:
- UX designer: A User Experience (UX designer) is tasked with creating an experience that fulfills the visitor’s expectations, needs, and wants. By understanding the product and the visitor’s circumstances and motivation, a UX designer can help visitors find what they want as efficiently as possible, while enjoying and deriving value from the experience.
- Graphic designer: A graphic design professional creates images, graphics, and other visual elements of the website. Graphic designers often work in tandem with UX designers to ensure that the end product is both functional and visually appealing.
- Content writer: Search engines love fresh content, and having a blog on your website is an excellent way to provide that content. A skilled content writer can create short and long blog posts, social media posts, and other content to attract and engage your ideal buyers.
- Copywriter: While content writers can provide everyday content for blogs and social media, they generally lack the expertise to write persuasively. A copywriter can help you by creating persuasion-based messaging for your website’s home page, landing pages, sales pages, and emails.
- Content manager: Publishing a consistent flow of content isn’t easy. A content manager can help ensure that every piece of content is professionally reviewed and edited, and that it properly aligns with your company’s mission, vision, and values.
- Social media manager: Today’s consumers are doing more research than ever on businesses, and they expect to find businesses on multiple social media channels. A dedicated social media manager can help take the stress out of coordinating and publishing content across multiple channels. Your social media manager can also help your team prepare content for launches, holidays, and other special events.
- Social media marketer: Social media marketers can help with connecting with the people who are most likely to become your long term customers and clients. This professional can spearhead social media promotions, engage with audience members, coordinate launch content across channels, and identify opportunities to turn audience members into buyers.
- Digital ad manager: In a perfect world, companies wouldn’t need to use paid ads to build an audience and attract buyers online. For most, though, simply attracting visitors organically (through content and offline marketing) isn’t enough. Your digital ad manager will research competition, identify opportunities, and deploy and test ads to attract qualified visitors to your website’s pages. Typically, digital ad managers work closely with copywriters, content writers, graphic designers, and video content managers.
- SEO specialist: While websites should be appealing to human visitors, they also need to appeal to search engines. Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of optimizing copy and content, keywords, links, meta data, and other page information so that search engines display your website’s pages prominently in search results.
- Back end developer: Few people outside the tech world think of a website’s “backend” – the server, application, and database that makes the website possible. Back end developers create and maintain these components, ensuring that visitors can enjoy a consistent experience every time they visit your website.
- Solution architect: As any business evolves, its needs naturally change, along with the needs of the company’s customers or clients. A solution architect can help by understanding challenges and opportunities as they arise, and crafting innovative technical solutions to address these challenges and opportunities.
- Cloud engineer: With cloud based platforms becoming the “new normal” in the tech world, today’s website teams should include cloud engineers. These professionals are responsible for designing, planning, implementing, and managing cloud computing functions needed to store and protect your data.
- Speed auditor: Page load speeds are a critical part of website performance, and of the user experience as a whole. Website conversion rates drop by 4.42% for each second it takes for a landing page to load. Even more importantly, 70% of consumers say that page load speeds significantly impact their decisions to do business with a specific company. Having a speed auditor on your team can help ensure that visitors experience consistently fast page loads, leading to higher affinity and more long-term customers.
- Video editor: Many small business owners know the frustration of editing videos into the small hours of the morning, and then trying to run their businesses on top of it. Video editing can be a time consuming task, and one that you can delegate easily. A solid video editor can help by creating timelines, editing and splicing clips, adding transitions and effects, color-correcting clips, and other tasks to make your videos look polished and professional.
- Video content manager: While the global appetite for video content seems insatiable, creating and managing video content can be a cumbersome task. Your video content manager can take on the tasks of planning, scheduling, and publishing video content for maximum impact. In many cases, video content managers work closely with social media managers, since video offers multi-channel opportunities.
As you can see, it takes a lot of specialized knowledge to create and maintain the kind of professional, interactive website they expect. While do-it-yourself builders allow business owners to create their own websites through user-streamlined “drag and drop” platforms, they don’t provide the knowhow, support, or adaptability that a website team can bring.
Of course, a team this size is rather significant. It can be difficult for many business owners to justify tapping into this breadth of expertise, when there are so many “easy button” options out there for do-it-yourselfers.
After all, it’s just a website, right?
Not at all.
Business owners tend to think of websites as “online business cards” – they assume that people simply find them through their websites, read about their products and services, and then make a buying decision. It’s not nearly that simple, though.
Today, business leaders need to think of their company websites as the digital “hub” of their online presence. Just as a “hub” airport services flights from all around the world, your website will welcome visitors from many different entry points, like:
- Paid ads: If your digital ads manager is running a campaign on Google Ads, Facebook, LinkedIn, or another platform, you’ll need different landing pages for each campaign. It’s important that your ads and landing pages are congruent – if they contain different messages, visitors will become confused and leave.
- Social media posts and shares: Videos, blog posts, and articles make excellent fodder for attractive, engaging social media content. Writing a “teaser” about a specific video or article, and linking to the full resource, is an effective way to get social media users to experience your website and discover your company.
- Podcasts, videocasts, and livestreams: Remember, your audience wants to consume content on multiple channels, and in multiple formats. A person looking for information on a problem you solve might discover a podcast episode, video, or livestream featuring you. Depending on the information you cover in the interview, you can direct viewers and listeners to the landing page that’s appropriate for the next step in their “buyer’s journey.”
You’ve seen that a website is no longer just a static “business card,” but a digital extension of your company itself. It has to serve as a “Swiss Army knife” of marketing, providing visitors from multiple entry points the information and persuasion they need to become your customers and clients.
That’s just part of the story, though.
Your website should be an extension of your brand, not just your business.
Think about how the brands you care about the most make you feel. They’re more than “just another option.” Instead, they’re the “go to” providers for whatever it is that they do.
Simply seeing their logo or hearing the company’s name invokes a specific feeling. That feeling is what turns buyers into lifelong customers and clients.
Without fail, the brands with the highest impact have nearly endless online presences – and they reinforce their brand’s identity and unique value at every opportunity.
Your website is an opportunity to engage on an individual human level. In combination with paid ads, social media content, and other online efforts, it can weave an unforgettable narrative that feels inclusive, inviting, and “just for me.”
This is where video becomes such a powerful part of your brand identity.
Before the Internet, small businesses had relatively few options for connecting with audiences – at least, compared to large corporations that could afford Madison Avenue marketing and endless ad spends.
While mega-corporations could buy their way into millions of consumers’ minds through national television and syndicated media advertising, small businesses had to be more resourceful. Many opportunities for widespread exposure were simply outside their limited budgets.
Today, though, video marketing has ended the disparity.
Through strategically creating and publishing content on your website and multiple social media channels, you can reach individuals in a meaningful way. This is exactly what today’s consumers are looking for. They want to buy from companies that care about their customers, their employees, and their communities.
Video content lets you communicate your company’s perspective powerfully, while fostering the interactivity that today’s consumers want.
Imagine how a visitor would feel if they asked a question in the comment of one of your videos, and then you personally answered the question in a subsequent video?
Doing this makes the person feel incredibly special – which increases the likelihood that they’ll tell their friends, colleagues, and other connections about you.
Similarly, how do you think visitors will feel getting to hear your company’s story in your own words, or in the words of your employees or team members? These experiences dramatically increase affinity and loyalty, making your competition practically irrelevant.
There are dozens more examples of how you can effectively engage and win over ecstatic new customers, clients, and fans through video.
When we talk about “interaction” with video, we’re usually talking about comments on a video that the business owner responds to in a future video, or a text chat feature that allows livestreamers respond to questions and comments in real time.
While this can be powerful, today’s sophisticated technology gives businesses the chance to make their websites truly interactive. You can embed short videos that start real conversations at scale, and then set up automatic response videos that are customized to each visitor’s circumstances.
Apps like VideoAsk make it easy to have full-length conversations – meaningful interactions that convert lookers into buyers – without even being there. Your prospective buyers get a truly personalized experience, and you get back your time to focus on what you do best – running your business.
Check out VideoAsk to see how you can use automated, interactive video to outshine your competition and earn new clients and customers today.