While website (web design, responsiveness, security, etc.) have evolved tremendously over the past few decades, many organizations are still using websites the way they were originally designed – a number of decades ago.
While everyone struggled in how to integrate online traffic with their core business, today websites play a primary role in the success of any business.
In the early days of the internet, most companies didn’t really know how to sell properly online but if you don’t do so today, you’ll quickly find yourself overcome by those who do. In this post, we’ll talk about the evolution of websites from the 1st generation to the 4th generation and how you can properly use them to support your business.
1st Generation (static) websites
These websites existed between 1993 to 2001 and were created by hand-coding static Html pages. These static pages were created by webmasters who had experts in graphic design and programming. Alternatively, some people used authoring tools such as Adobe Dreamweaver and it was challenging to update these types of websites as the webmaster had to upload edited Html pages. Many of these websites had to be built by writing code as templates were nowhere on the horizon yet.
2nd Generation websites – between 2001 to 2012
Marketers and companies realized the power of a website in getting information to their customers so they evolved from the static websites were cumbersome to update. It required a lot of work to update information about products and services and thereby became costly to maintain and update.
As a result, one website could have hundreds of pages with poor navigation. If you needed to update some information, you had to update all these pages because everything was so complex. Programmers continued to improve the technology so some means could automate some of the common features of the web pages, such as headers and footers. Using scripting languages such as PHP and Perl, the common elements on the static pages would all be updated using a code. At this point, web developers started gaining advanced programming skills. However, even with the improvement of programming languages, there remained one major challenge – design and content presentation was lagging as content couldn’t be updated without changing the design.
3rd Generation websites
These are the websites powered by content management systems commonly referred to as a CMS. A CMS is a web application developed to assist in managing organizing, editing, and publishing content.
Most websites are now based on CMS so you don’t have to be a programmer to use them. All the coding and programming has been done for you. This has dramatically helped in the evolution of websites as a CMS will store content separate from the layout and presentation of a website. So when you need to change or update content, you just apply the content changes. The design and layout are not impacted at all. When a user wants to access your website, the CMS will fetch the content from the database, then apply the layout and feel to it, then delivers a complete webpage.
This has revolutionized the management of websites and some popular CMS websites are WordPress and Joomla.
Today, the marketing department in a company can easily play around with a CMS website to deliver the best experience to the customer. Content can be added, updated and published with a few clicks of a button. The effect of this was has allowed eCommerce websites to rapidly grow in popularity as technology was no longer a barrier to entry in the online marketing space.
These third-generation websites have been in existence from around 2011 to present
4th Generation Websites
From your traditional business pages to E-Commerce Sites, to online course or subscription websites its easy to see how the evolution has allowed creativity to be leveraged by many others outside the IT department.
Fourth-generation websites include those that are accessible to just to users. Users need to sign up for content or pay a subscription. The websites may still be on CMS but only available for certain users. Content may be further categorized allowing users to only see certain content. Some users may have both read and write privileges and these may be known as web 2.0 websites.
What should also be understood is the evolution of tactics that’s taken place over these years as well. Use of tailored landing pages, auto responders allow businesses to market and sell online 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Landing pages are an essential part of any online marketing strategy. Some businesses make the error of directing their traffic directly to the home page on their websites. This is not normally a good idea because they aren’t taking advantage in providing value and capturing contact information which can be used in follow on campaigns.
A landing page is designed to perform a specific action. It may be selling a product or signing up on your email list. A landing page helps the visitor perform the desired action without leaving the page and without much of a hassle. If the visitor was to land on your about us page or your homepage, they would have to navigate through several pages to get to perform the desired action. The landing page simplifies all this. A focused and effective landing page greatly increases conversions and is a major player in capturing contact information for follow on engagement and pushing your web traffic further down the sales funnel.
Landing pages look different from your regular web pages. They are highly focused and optimized for its specific action and you may have more than one landing page.
A landing page derives the name due to the fact that’s where web traffic lands from various online locations. If you’re running a Facebook ad campaign, a prospect will click on the ad and arrive at the landing page. Once here, they learn more about your offering and are prompted to take action. It is thus critical that the landing page is well designed with a clear and concise copy and the Call to Action (CTA) should be clearly visible as well.
There are numerous types of landing pages and below are perhaps the most common:
Landing page optimization is a continuous process so improving and enhancing your landing page to improve conversions should be a top priority for your business. The best way to optimize your landing page is by understanding your audience – where they come from, what they want, and any challenges they are facing before they get to your landing page. This means you have to collect data about your prospects and existing customers. After collecting this data, you should analyze it, then make informed decisions based on it. Let’s look at some tips you can employ to optimize your landing page and improve your conversion rate.
Wikipedia describes Search Engine Optimization as “the process of increasing the quality and quantity of website traffic by increasing the visibility of a website or a web page to users of a web search engine. SEO refers to the improvement of unpaid results and excludes direct traffic/visitors and the purchase of paid placement.”
Needless to say, SEO is very important as all the major search engines pay attention to how well websites are optimized through their daily crawling of sites.
How much search is conducted online? As of October 2019, nearly 93% of all web traffic comes through search engines and globally, Google accounts for 76% and 86% of desktop and mobile search traffic, respectively.
As important as SEO is, it can also be very expensive maintaining and relying on SEO as your primary source of traffic. It is very easy to fall prey to chasing search results and it can negatively impact your business when Google decides to change its algorithms.
For instance: Moz – a major provider of SEO products collects a tremendous amount of data on SEO adjustments and recently stated on their website “Each year, Google makes hundreds of changes to search. In 2018, they reported an incredible 3,234 updates — an average of almost 9 per day, and more than 8 times the number of updates in 2009. While most of these changes are minor, Google occasionally rolls out a major algorithmic update (such as Panda and Penguin) that affects search results in significant ways.”
In 2011, Google made major changes to their search results ranking algorithm which they called Penguin. The change was meant to lower the rank of “low-quality sites” or “thin sites”, in particular “content farms”, and return higher-quality sites near the top of the search results.
If you were one of those companies that understood they Google ranked they search engine results before this major shift, then chances are you might have dropped 20, 30, 50 or maybe even 100 pages in search engine results due to this change.
As if that wasn’t enough Google released the Penguin update in April 2012 in a new effort to “reward high-quality websites and diminish the search engine results page (SERP) presence of websites that engaged in manipulative link schemes and keyword stuffing.”
So, trying to game search results is not a good business plan because when it comes to Google, content is king.
Website content is very important because it provides specific information about your business and when written properly, your content can educate not just website visitors but also search engines about your website. As stated earlier, content is king with Google and its your content which the search engines use to see whether it accurately communicates your website’s purpose.
While you don’t want to fall into the SEO game, it is important that your content be properly optimized as that is the way the search engines will determine its purpose. If your content isn’t appealing to your visitors (as can be seen by a high bounce rate) then search engines won’t respect it either and won’t reward it in search results.
So, when it comes to content, it’s very important to know your audience and to write short, simple sentences that make it easy for the visitor to read. It’s also important to incorporate various forms of media – especially video.
While not directly linked to the organization’s websites, social media content should be consistent with the company websites as today’s best marketing campaigns incorporate certain social media platforms.
If you’re looking for help in getting your business to boost its marketing efforts, contact us to learn how we can assist you.
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