Have you ever considered what makes an effective website? You might think that it is great design, easy-to-find information and intuitive functionality. These may have made the list in 2002 or even 2012 but certainly not today.

Many marketers now understand where the website fits into the mix. It is the hub to which every initiative (social media, advertising, media relations, direct mail, etc.) drives. When the user arrives at the site, they experience great design, easy-to-find information and intuitive functionality. Then nothing happens.

Today's websites need three critical ingredients to justify their existence and warrant their investment:

1. A clearly defined goal: If indeed the website is a step in the user's "journey," what must the website accomplish in order to move the user to the desired next step? Is it to transact? To call a phone number? Subscribe to a newsletter? Without a goal, the website has no purpose. At best, it is a meal of empty calories.

2. Audition: With the overall goal in mind, every page must audition for a place on the site. Why is the page needed? What is it supposed to accomplish? Pages that don't have a purpose aligned with the goal are superfluous, and get in the way of achieving it. The concept of "audition" is equally relevant on each page: every graphical element, every paragraph, and every bit of functionality must also pull its weight.

3. Call to action: When a user gets to a specific page, there are two key questions that must be answered:

  • What might the user want to do next? If they can't do it easily, they will abandon their journey and go elsewhere.
  • What do you want them to do next? If you don't make it easy for them to do this, then your marketing goals will never be realized.

Every page — not just the transaction pages must have a call to action (CTA) that satisfies both requirements. Here are some examples of CTA content:

  • Phone number/contact details at the top/bottom of each page
  • Related links on a sidebar
  • Lead generation form
  • Video with an embedded message
  • Action message embedded within editorial content
  • Click-to-chat functionality

This week's action plan: Examine your three most visited webpages. They probably have great design, easy-to-find information and intuitive functionality. But if they had to audition for their spot on the site, how would they do? And how strong is the CTA? If you're not satisfied, then do something about it.

Marketing insight: Interested in making your marketing collateral, presentations and social media more successful? These three ingredients (goal, audition and CTA) are just as relevant here as on the Web.

Marketing insight No. 2: Goal/audition/CTA also applies to blog posts and content. Here's how it works with this one you're reading:

  • Goal: The long-term goal of this blog is to credentialize me and my firm as critical thinkers and thought leaders in our space. A secondary goal is to keep in front of our readers, so that when they have a need, they think of us and call.
  • Audition: Reread this entire post, and you will find few zero-value sentences or words. If each paragraph didn't provide value, the reader would likely move on.
  • Call to action: Look at the text at the bottom of this post, the "This week's action plan" section above. They are all focused on action. That being said, here is another call to action: Did you want to discuss anything that you've read? Comment below, or feel free to reach out directly.