As computers and smartphones become bigger factors in everyday life, business owners and entrepreneurs are learning that they need to put more effort into marketing online. They are also learning that competition in the online advertising world is becoming fiercer. There seems to be a new online advertising option each week, and every day more users go online. The key then to beating the competition is to get better at the basics.

Two of the critical factors in your overall marketing strategy are the type of site you decide to create, and the goal that the site is designed to achieve. The first choice should normally flow out of the second. So let’s begin by talking about the goal of your website.

What Is Your Website Goal?

What is the goal of your website? In other words, what do you want the visitors to do when they come to your site? Do you want them to just read or listen to your information? Do you want to generate more brand-awareness? Do you want them to sign up for your e-newsletter? Do you want to generate leads? Do you want them to buy something right now?

Each of these actions will require a different approach in your web design and copy. Now you can see why the type of site you need will normally flow out of, or depend on, your goal for that site. Let’s look at some examples.

If the goal of your site is to get people to buy a product immediately, then there are certain things that will be required. Normally, you will need to have a full description of the product and a picture of the product. Your copy will need to include a call to action to encourage your visitors to make the purchase. You will need to have a shopping cart system installed, or some other way for the person to pay for the item online. You may also need to include information about shipping, and may need a shipping-module installed that will calculate shipping for different locations.

On the other hand, if the goal of your site is to generate leads you will want to take a different approach. Often, one of the best ways to generate leads is to offer something of value for free in exchange for the prospect’s contact information. One of the most effective things to offer prospects is a free report. The advantage of offering a free report is that you can provide it, at little or no cost to you, using regular mail or email. To be effective, the free report must offer specific useful information that your prospect highly desires.

For instance, let’s say you were a real-estate agent wanting to generate first-time home-buyer leads. Your goal would be to get first-time home-buyers to identify themselves and give you their contact information. You could accomplish this by offering a free report on your website that would be highly desirable to this group of people. For example, the free report could tell them “How to Save Thousands by Avoiding the Common Mistakes Most First-Time Home-Buyers Make”.

Besides a great headline and compelling copy, a lead generating web site needs to have a way to collect the prospect’s contact information. It also needs a system for delivering the ‘free bonus’.

So you can see how determining the goal of your web site will point the way towards the type of website you should have, and the design elements that need to be included. Now that you have the basic elements in mind it becomes a matter of layout.

You want your layout to be organized so that it is pleasing to the eye. More importantly, you need to design it in such a way that it moves your visitors towards the goal you have set for the web page. If your goal is to get a lead, then you want to give prominence to your headline and the online form that would need to be completed by your prospect.

You want to avoid adding elements that might distract your prospect, such as links to other pages or advertisements etc. The more focused your web page is the better it will normally accomplish the goal you have set for it.

Now that you have all of the necessary elements in place, and none of the unnecessary ones, you can begin testing each element to improve your conversion rate. A conversion rate is the percentage of people that take the action you set in your desired goal. If your goal was to generate leads, and five out of 100 visitors completed your web form and submitted it, then your conversion rate would be 5%.

The exciting thing about web conversion is that seemingly minor changes can make a big difference in your overall conversion rate. For example, you might find that one headline out-converts the other by 100%, meaning instead of getting five leads out of 100 you are now getting ten leads out of 100. This can have a very positive affect on your bottom line.

Other elements that are worth testing include the following: your body copy, the amount of information you are requesting in the web form, the free bonus you are offering etc. You get the idea. If your goal was to make sells, then you might test the following: different pictures of the product, your sales copy, adding free bonuses with the purchase, and your price.

By continually testing the different elements on your web page and improving conversion rates you will find that your cost per conversion continues to get lower while the number of overall conversions grows. Again, this can be very beneficial to your bottom line and will often mean the difference between the success and failure of a web site.

By focusing on the goal of the website, and logically building your web design based on that goal, you will have a much better chance and achieving what you intended and creating a successful site.