Startup Website Must Haves

July 2, 2020

Starting a new website from scratch can be daunting, especially in situations where every dollar counts. This article is intended for the non-developer in start-up mode. I'm going to keep your costs down, give you some enterprise tech and massive agility that you need more than anything right now.

Who is this list for?

I don't care if you are starting a marketing site for your lawn care business... launching a promotional site for a new blockbuster movie... just got a fat VC check and are hiring developers like your starting a nerdy boy band. Your company can benefit from this list. So scan the list - if they all "ring a bell" and you have them or the equivalent - consider yourself in the 5% category. Go get a cup of coffee, you deserve it.

For the rest of you... scan this list and if someone doesn't ring a bell - dig deeper and go set it up. Its worth it. Most of these tools are free or damn near. If you need help. Reach out. In a couple hours - I'll have you cooking with gas!

Whenever I implement and train someone on these relatively simple technologies - I get the same comments...  "I don't know how we managed before".

Content Management System

Yeah - you're going to need one. If you already have one - skip this section. You're a busy person... and I tend to get long winded.

At this stage in the game, I would NOT immediately recommend building one or having one built. If you are thinking about doing this, please call me - as I will try my best to talk you off the ledge.

Most people choose WordPress for its MASSIVE collection of plugins. I mean you think it up and some plugin exists to solve that problem. Countless Themes exist (some are pretty awesome). I mean is on WordPress. (not sure if that's a pro or a con). If you do go this route - get a good host. (WPEngine is the best IMO and born in the ATX). My major beef with wordpress is that the plugins are a nightmare to manage, offer major security concerns and WP sites are known to break spontaneously due to updates.

Other options in this situation are WIX, Squarespace, Shopify and even Google Sites have gotten in the site builder game. There are a lot of these out there. They tend to be somewhat limiting on what you can do - but are a great place to start.

You're thinking you have to write your own.

Well maybe, maybe not. However you could get yourself a headless CMS (one without a front-end) like contentful or graphcms. Then use any number of frameworks on top of that from a front-end. With this type of architecture you'll be CRAZY agile and if you hit your head against its ceiling in the future you can hire devs to write the pieces you need and setup services to replace the headless CMS with your own..but I digress.

You could also use something a bit more modern. Companies like WebFlow are changing the game because they understand that CMS and presentation layers should really be treated separately. Although its a closed system ( completely managed plugins ) its incredibly powerful to be able to be in control of the data and then use it however you want. This site right here is on WebFlow.

Lets skip ahead because statistically 90% of your are choosing Wordpress and the rest of the companies are fighting for the remaining 10% of you. I don't care what you do.

Google Tag Manager

Do yourself a favor and install Google Tag Manager. Its FREE, Its Awesome and it will save tons of time. What's a tag manager do? I'll tell you. Each and every third party service, widget, analytics package is going to require you to put some piece of code on your site. Tag Managers not only enable drag and drop ability to do this. They offer previewing these tags on the fly so you can test things prior to putting them into a live site. Genius. In my work - I often need to show a client how something looks on their site. I'll add it to GTM and then send them a preview link - all without doing anything to production. This is also a great tool that will allow you to install the rest of these tools below.

While you have set this up - go ahead and setup and add the following.

  • Adwords conversion linker (well link your adwords advertising data.
  • Facebook Pixel
  • SnapChat Pixel
  • TikTok ( its for the cool kids )

Google Analytics

Duh! Not only should you install it, you should most likely enable Enhanced Ecommerce functionality and really think through the custom events you want to track on your site. If aren't very good with GA, get good now. So many business I talk to never even look at their data. Don't be that guy. When implemented correctly you should be able to have a really good understanding of your demographics, conversion rates by device, user type and source.

Google Optimize

Google's answer to conversion optimization is Google Optimize . In short its a split testing platform with a visual editor. Ever wonder if the buy button should be green or black. Should the site nav also exist in the cart or checkout? Don't get into corporate drama with a I'm write you're wrong attitude. Test all options and let your visitor's interactions be the right answer. This product is not as feature rich as others on the market and has its limitations- but its freaking FREE. So eat it up, learn how to use it and then when you graduate from it - another product like Optimizely or VWO will take your money.

Google Data Studio

Every week you have someone in marketing create a Google slide presentation and shows the numbers from the previous week. What if those slides could actually pull from real data, in damn near real-time? Well that what Google Data Studio does. It's the same interfaces you are accustomed too, but provides visualization and easy customization. This is like Google analytics custom reports, if those reports were much easier to create, looked much better and didn't take years away from your life.

Google Search Console

If you aren't aware of what this is. You're welcome. You owe me a cup of coffee. Clearly Google knows the terms people use find sites, thats their bread and butter. In Google Ads they clearly know the clickthrough on each ad. They make these data available within Google Ads. Google Search Console is the same - only for Organic traffic to your site. Not only does it expose the searches your are found for but also your click through rate. This is top o'funnel friends. Your page click through rate on has a HUGE impact on your traffic. Did you know your site performance has a measure impact on your search ranking? It does! So much so that Google gives you crawl stats and real user performance metrics on this.

Marketing Automation

Visitors interact, yeah that's what they do. When that happens a visitor is telling you somethinga about themselves. You should do something about it. Create a wholistic plan that showes each step of the funnel. Denote where they leave and what you can do about it (email, sms, push notify, add a list, remarket). If you implement this plan in an automated way - congrats, your doing marketing automation. If you get ninja at it, you can make a lot of money on browse abandonment, cart abandonment and checkout abandonment. Who knew abandonment could be that profitable ;). Don't overlook customer retention - product manager terms for make em buy again.

Looking to test the waters. Install something like AutoPilot. If you choose to grab a CRM like HubSpot, you might get some features out of the box. Take full advantage of it. Rock it like you own it, cause you're totally paying for it. If you are looking for something more advanced and costly ( Iterable, Klavijo, Zaius, etc).

Urgency Marketing and Social Proof

I'm going to lump these things together and over simplify it right now. Your site might have a temporary sale, limited inventory or free shipping right now. That's urgency marketing. If you don't have a sense of urgency - just call me already before my client list fills up and I can't help you (see what I did there?). That's urgency marketing. Yass please!

Think about the last Amazon item you purchased, think about the data that mattered to you. Guaranteed, what others thought (reviews, comments, ratings, etc) came into play in some fashion. This is a type of social proof. You're going to want customer feedback, but I'll eventually dedicate entire articles to that. Right now - the most bang for your buck is going to be social proof. If you don't have thousands of customers already you at least are going to need to show the visitors you have that they are not alone and not crazy. Ever see...  "14 other people are looking at this product" ... or a "man from Austin, TX just purchased". Boom Social Proof.

There are a lot of reasonable providers of this. If you are unsure how useful this will be to you. Signup with Nudgify, as they are inexpensive and their support is insane. However - looking for a bit more go juice then UseProof or Fomo are great options.

In Conclusion

That a hella-lot of Google products on this list. If that freaks you out - you're not going to like this. Google already knows more than you can imagine and them knowing more about your site is only going to benefit you! Google without a doubt is the world's largest source of plausible customers for you. Mic drop.

Hey there are better tools out there. Yep. These are the tools I recommend for a new site that needs functionality fast. Don't be afraid to grow out of something. In startup mode - move quickly and cheaply. This leads to faster learning and less expensive mistakes.

As a final note - there are tons of optional items that I would love to add but I would put them on a "like to have" list- if you want to schedule some time with me to learn more. Please do.