13/05/2016

Re-imagining the corporate website

BY Joanna Brinsden

There has been an expectation that a good corporate website will be the definitive source of information about a company and will naturally be the first place someone will go to find out about it.

But the web is unrecognisable from what it was 10 years ago. It is now socially driven, user driven and mobile. If someone is interested in hearing about a company, they also expect to be able to find information on the sites that they use on a daily basis, such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or Instagram. And they expect to see up to date, honest and transparent content – content that they want to receive, not just content that the corporate wants you to see.

The problem is, that whilst user needs and expectations are widening, many corporate websites are still essentially investor relations tools that have little to offer anyone beyond investors, analysts and city journalists. And while this type of information can be informative, it tends to be rather dry. By forgetting about the other strands of the wider corporate story such as brand, recruitment, employee engagement and sustainability, you are giving a limited view that is meaningless to the rest of your stakeholders. Any gap in communication will quickly be filled. Potential employees will visit Glassdoor and customers will get their information from social media and review sites.

This shift from traditional to social media led Michael Brenner to ask; ‘is the corporate website dead?’ and to cite a number of facts to support this case:

  • According to Webtrends, nearly 70% of Fortune 100 corporate websites experienced declines in traffic, with an average drop of 23%.
  • 90% of website traffic comes from just 10% of the content and more than 50% of the traffic is from just 0.5% of the content. ~ InboundWriter

This leads us to question the purpose of the corporate website – who is it for and why is it needed? Why not just use the plethora of other digital channels to distribute content? Does this mean that corporate websites have become unnecessary? And if this is the case, why bother investing in one?

If a website does not provide the right type of content to the right type of people, then it quickly becomes irrelevant to the audience groups that are not being catered to properly. The issue may not be that corporate sites have had their day or are unnecessary, but that they are just not speaking to all their stakeholders.

Perhaps one reason why so many audience groups are not catered for is that the corporate site isn’t seen as a sales or promotional tool, but as a device to educate and inform. However, doesn’t this depend on what is meant by ‘selling’? If organisations are looking to improve reputation, or promote itself as a fantastic place to work, then surely the site is already trying to sell something? And the only way to do this is to drive both brand and stakeholder engagement by providing engaging content that is going to be meaningful to all the people who will be visiting it. And that means all of your stakeholders.

In 2011, Forbes contributor, Christine Crandell wrote that ‘rather than boring your customers to death, there is a clear opportunity to put the dull corporate website to rest, then resurrect it as a platform for true community engagement that functions as a hub for interaction.’ If the corporate website reflects the way in which content is now being created and consumed it will become an interactive source of useful information that generates conversations and engages a community of people – whether this be investors, customers or employees.

In 2013, Coca Cola did just this. After declaring that the ‘corporate website is dead’ they replaced a traditional corporate site with something that looked more like an online news channel – and KPIs focused on engagement meant that the content being published was what readers actually wanted to read.

People will use other channels to find out about your brand, but if the content on your site hits on popular interest topics, you will not only see technical benefits such as increased organic search traffic, but meaningful interaction with your stakeholders.

Corporate websites can still offer a huge opportunity to drive both brand and stakeholder engagement. Engaging content and functionality that meet all the needs of your stakeholders will provide an interesting and engaging user-experience. The corporate website is like most things. In order to survive it requires constant re-imagining.