How To Develop A Great Web Strategy

by James Marx on Tips and Tricks • November 8, 2021 How To Develop A Great Web Strategy

For your business to thrive, you need to have a web presence. Obviously. The strategy you use to achieve this will determine your success. Get it right, and you could expand your business significantly. Get it wrong, and you could be stuck with vendors, technologies, processes, and outcomes that don’t work for you.

Whether you are just getting started with your first website, or you are considering migrating a sophisticated web application to a new architecture and are anticipating going global, planning a web strategy can be daunting. We can help you get going with a few steps.

Write Down Your Goals

Start by setting some goals and your high-level vision. 

What type of business do you want to be?

Will your business be primarily online (eg. e-commerce, digital media, FinTech services, developer platform), or will your web presence play a supporting role in your marketing and sales? If your website went offline, would your business still exist?

What does success look like for your website?

Increasing monthly active users? More top-of-funnel leads? Higher readership and time-on-page? More direct sales and monthly revenue? An active presence and an engaged audience in many more countries?

These goals will frame what you do next. Your strategy should have a realistic expectation of meeting those goals.

Understand Your Resources

Next, make sure you understand what resources you have available to pursue your goals.

1. Budget

Building and maintaining a website can be expensive. Building a powerful, scalable website or web application is not only a significant upfront investment but also requires long-term maintenance and running costs. 

You might need to budget for in-house infrastructure (like web servers) or a third-party hosting platform; design assets like custom fonts, illustrations, or photos; and tools that enable security, scalability, and performance analysis. 

Before you commit to a strategy, you need to 

  1. decide what you can afford to spend

  2. estimate (and quantify) the expected business benefit

  3. and calculate the return on investment.

2. People

Building a website, let alone an original web application or platform, requires technical expertise, from infrastructure management to backend development, to front-end design. 

  1. Do you have the necessary people on staff? 
  2. If not, can you hire them, or contract a developer? 
  3. If you can’t do any of these things, can you self-build using a templated web platform like Wordpress.com, Squarespace, or Wix?

3. Existing web infrastructure and content

Does your business have a website or a social media presence already? To achieve your goals, do you need to expand what you have already, or do you need to start again? 

Make an account of your existing assets. You might be able to re-use what you have, or you might have to start again.

  1. If you already own your own web domain, will this domain continue to serve your business or do you need a new domain? Will you need subdomains for different territories?
  2. If you manage your own web infrastructure, is it sufficient for your growth plans or do you need a more scalable solution? Do you have an infrastructure presence in all the territories you want to serve?
  3. Have you written high-quality text for your web pages and other content? Is it already performing well, or will you have to rewrite it to get the audience engagement you want? Will you need your content translated into different languages?

Build Your Strategy

Next, with your goals and resources in mind, build your strategy. Remember, you can only use the resources you have (or can get) to meet your goals, so be realistic.

1. Ownership

How will you ensure maximum ownership of your web presence? 

Building your online business on someone else’s platform introduces risk. For example, if you build your business exclusively on Etsy or Facebook Marketplace, what happens if their platform goes offline or if your account is banned for some reason? 

To protect your ownership and independence, host your own website on an open web platform (like GoDaddy or LiquidWeb), or run your web application on an open compute platform (like Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, or Google Cloud Platform). For maximum freedom, deploy your own private infrastructure, such as servers in your own data center.

If your business will be primarily online, you will benefit from investing in ownership and independence. On the other hand, if your website will play only a supporting role, you might justify building on a third-party web platform and focusing your investment and effort elsewhere.

What about trademarks and copyrights? Be sure to register your business’s trademarks in the territories where you will operate, and to add copyright notices to all of your online content.

2. In-house versus outsourced development

Will you design, deploy, and maintain your web presence with an internal team, or will you hire a third party to manage it for you, or pursue a hybrid approach?

If your website is central to your revenue model, then you might want to manage as much as possible in-house. Your website might be as important to you as the forecourt is to a car dealership – and no-one will want to maintain it and improve it as much as you do. When it comes to resourcing, your designers, developers, and DevOps engineers are like your star salespeople, and recruiting the best might well be justified by your expected return on investment. In this scenario, outsourced development might yield fast results, but it is likely to be more expensive in the long run and risks creating a dangerous level of dependency for business-critical services on a single vendor that is ultimately outside your control.

If your website plays a supporting role in your business, you might want to focus your investment, recruitment, and operational efforts on revenue-generating areas and delegate your web presence to an outsourced team.

Alternatively, you could adopt a hybrid approach. For example, if your business provides a web service or platform, you might need an in-house development team to build and maintain it, but you might also outsource a corporate website and marketing copy to an external agency. In another example, an outsourced team could start work while you build an internal team, and hand over the work when the in-house team is ready. This is a popular approach for many companies, though it's important to ensure that the outsourced team hands over high-quality, well-documented work. 

3. Target market

Companies grow by meeting the needs of their customers. You need to do your due diligence to understand your core target market. 

If your web presence is your product, does it work, is it differentiated from your competitors, and does it provide the features your customers need at a price they are willing to pay? Can you communicate this clearly?

Where do your ideal customers typically congregate and how do they discover new brands and products to buy?

  1. Do they look for product recommendations on social media like Facebook or forums like Reddit? Do they respond more to social advertising, paid influencers, or organic sharing among friends?
  2. Do they respond to display ads in the publications they read and websites they visit? If so, identify these publications and the ad networks that will help you to reach them.
  3. Do they research solutions via search engines like Google Search? If so, do some keyword research. How are they searching for products and services like yours? Can you realistically compete for a high search ranking on the most popular keywords or do you need to target long-tail keywords with less competition?

What kind of content do your customers like to consume, and what makes them respond positively. Do they prefer text, videos, or podcasts? Do they prefer a straightforward product pitch, something highly emotive, or something based on positive corporate values? Make sure you understand what your customers want, and resource sufficient content development to meet this need.

4. Scale and Geography

A business’s growth ambition is key as well. If a business will only ever serve a local market, and your traffic will be relatively stable (not changing much from day-to-day) then it would be pointless to invest in highly scalable, highly distributed web infrastructure.

However, if you plan to reach additional global markets or your business experiences highly variable traffic including large spikes on sales days then investing more aggressively in your infrastructure is not only justified but essential.

For the best global distribution, consider the following options.

  1. Use a content delivery network (CDN) to cache your static website content locally in all the countries you serve. This will ensure your website is served from a location close to each of your visitors, providing lower latency (the time for data to go back and forth between your visitors and your website host) and a faster user experience.
  2. Use a public cloud, or multiple public clouds (like Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud Platform, Linode, or DigitalOcean) to extend the reach of your cloud computing. As with your static web content, processing compute requests close to your users will reduce latency and increase performance. Each cloud provider has a different geographic presence, features, and pricing, so be sure to choose the cloud that is right for you.
  3. Use a hosted edge, or Edge-as-a-Service, platform to combine the local reach of a CDN with the compute ability of cloud data centers.
  4. If independence, security, or customization is a priority for you, consider whether you can build and deploy your own data centers in enough locations to meet the needs of your global audience.

For the most scalable infrastructure that can scale up or down rapidly as traffic varies, consider the following options. 

  1. Use elastic scaling solutions, in clouds like Amazon Web Services, that can expand or contract compute capacity very quickly, with billing by the second so you only pay when you are using their capacity.
  2. Deploy and configure your own orchestration systems – for example, Microsoft Hyper-V for managing and scaling virtual machines (VMs). This would normally require an IT team to manage.
  3. Adopt a containerized architecture for your web application, to decrease the resource usage of each instance and make it easier for you to manage incredibly high scale and continuous improvement / continuous deployment (CI/CD) production. You will typically also need an orchestration platform like Kubernetes to manage your containers.

5. Staying Online and Secure

Some businesses can tolerate some downtime on their website if their revenue or reputation does not depend on it. However, for most businesses, downtime, slow performance, or a security failure can be incredibly costly and damaging.

Consider carefully the level of risk your business can tolerate, the cost to your business of potential failures, and the probability of a failure. Then plan for reasonable investment to avoid or mitigate such failures.

Some of the most common solutions for ensuring websites and web applications stay online, fast, and secure are load balancers and web application firewalls (WAFs). These are sometimes combined in products called application delivery controllers (ADCs).

Load balancers distribute traffic between servers, virtual machines, containers, clouds, or geographic locations, so each one never receives more traffic than it can handle, and to ensure users are routed to the closest and healthiest node in your network.

Web application firewalls ensure security by inspecting the contents of all the network packets entering and leaving your nodes (including internal traffic between containers and microservices), to identify and block threats like hackers, bots, denial of service attacks, data leaks, and more.

These solutions typically require internal technical expertise to run, so are most suitable if your website or web app is central to your business, your resourcing has a significant budget for infrastructure, and your strategy allows for inhouse development and prioritizes high scale and distribution.

How Snapt can support your web strategy

Snapt has a range of products and services to help businesses to improve their web presence, whatever their goals and strategy.

  • If you are getting started with your website and you find your website content management system (CMS) slow, our web accelerators can help speed up your website. For example, see how we improved website performance on HubSpot’s CMS.
  • If you’ve got a few web servers or cloud instances, traffic is growing, and you need to stay online and reduce the stress on your IT team, our easy-to-use load balancers will manage your traffic, provide health checks and monitoring, and generally reduce your headaches. Check out a case study.
  • If you are pushing the boundaries of scale and performance, our solutions for centralized security, visibility, and control enable hyperscale multi-cloud load balancing, AI-powered predictive security, and end-to-end observability across diverse production pipelines.

We have free and low-cost pricing tiers for non-profit organizations and small businesses, flexible licensing that enables you to scale up as your business grows, and per hour billing so you only pay for what you use. This all reduces your risk as you plan infrastructure investment as part of your web strategy.

Propose Your Strategy and Get Approval

When you have built your strategy, worked out the necessary investment (and the likely return), it’s time to propose your strategy to the other stakeholders in your business. 

If you are a DevOps or IT manager making a proposal to a senior management team, this can be a daunting prospect, so we put together a few tips in an article titled How To Justify Infrastructure Replacement To Your Manager.

When seeking approval, ensure that you get buy-in and commitment from all parts of your organization, with a clear understanding of expectations and timelines. 

Where people are divided or have personal preferences that conflict with your planning and expert opinion, consider how to communicate the consequences of deviating from your plan so that everyone understands how it could affect budget, timeline, or outcomes. Try to anticipate objections in advance and prepare explanations to deal with these objections.

Next Steps

When you have agreed and approved your strategy, go for it. Review regularly to ensure alignment with your original goals and be prepared to adapt if you need to. Good luck. 

And if you need a helping hand with security, performance, or uptime, give us a call.