Do You Need a Website?

How important is your unique website to your content marketing efforts? It turns out, it may not be important at all. You may not need a website. And maybe it doesn’t matter if you have a unique URL! It’s a whole new world.

Your URL, Your Site, Your Content

When you think of your site URL, you likely think of your website. It’s important – that’s who you are, and how you represent your brand. As WIRED explains,

“Uniform Resource Locators are the familiar web addresses you use every day. They are listed in the web’s DNS address book and direct browsers to the right Internet Protocol addresses that identify and differentiate web servers. In short, you navigate to WIRED.com to read WIRED so you don’t have to manage complicated routing protocols and strings of numbers.” – Lily Hay Newman, Google Wants to Kill the URL

But when you take a step back, you likely already know where this is going: it’s 2018. Your website is no longer the one and only feature of your brand. Brand is what people say about you when you leave the room. Your brand is made up of your message architecture, your voice, and thus the content you share – on your website and elsewhere.

Still, it’s easy to get attached to the website. It is a giant billboard proclaiming who you are, what you do, and what content you own. But it’s time to shift that way of thinking. Change is coming.

URLs Are On Their Way Out

In that same WIRED article, Newman points out two of the major issues with URLs:

  • They can be hard to understand
  • People struggle to tell the secure URLs from the unsecure, which is why many phishing schemes succeed

Articles like Newman’s focus on where we’ll go from here – to¬†“origin chips” like Google attempted to roll out in 2014? Or something else entirely? But there’s another question to ask:

What is the purpose of your unique website? Do you need one?

Website Alternatives

Here’s an unpopular take: within the next 5 years many organizations will no longer need a traditional website.

Why do I believe that? Let’s look at why organizations use websites today. Here are four examples:

  • A restaurant
  • Retail
  • Agency/consultant
  • Health insurer

The Restaurant

A restaurant opens. Their name, address, and phone number are available on Google. Their menu is available on AllMenus and Grubhub. They use their website to offer this same information, with consistent branding. But what will happen as Google continues to improve their ability to collect content about a single place, and sites like Grubhub allow more personalized branding?

Branded Retail

Branded retail uses their websites to sell directly to consumers. But what if sites like Amazon continue to improve? When you can filter by the brand you want on Amazon and get cheaper, faster, easier delivery, why wouldn’t you use that site rather than the brand’s site?

Agency or Consultant

An agency has content to offer, case studies to share, and wants to help people connect with them. The case studies (or any other sort of content library) might have a case to make. But equally important is the content they share from others. Content curation is essential to boosting content marketing. That appears on social media, forums, and other places for online conversation. That is where a brand is formed.

Health Insurer

A health insurer needs you to look at the plans they offer and regulations that apply. They can even offer helpful educational content like a glossary of important terms you need. But (if things continue in the way of the ACA) you’re likely purchasing those plans on a state or federal Marketplace… which means you’re actually trying to browse the plans and regulations on the marketplace as well. Yes, you’ll need the portal for your individual information, but not the public-facing site. And the glossary? They may build it, but you’re still going to search Google for most terms you don’t understand. That means the content they have created is important, but the site where it lives? Less so.

Go Beyond Your Website

I’m not recommending you throw away your website. Far from it. What’s more important is that you consider the website as one tactic among many in your content strategy quiver. How do you know if you need a website?

Ask yourself:

  • What’s your goal?
  • Who are you connecting with, and where do they spend their time?
  • How do you want to be seen?

If a website will help accomplish your goal, connect you with the right people, and further your brand, then go forth and develop it! …but keep your mind open. The times, they are a-changing.

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