How does your website grow?

Digital code merging into a photo of a wild flower meadow

Mary, Mary, quite contrary,
How does your garden grow?
With silver bells, and cockle shells,
And pretty maids all in a row.

I’ve really got into gardening during Covid. Monty Don’s on record, I’ve knocked up some raised beds and we’ve started growing seeds rescued from the chopping board.

And as often happens, the mixed results of my new greenery fascination got me thinking up a new analogy.

Websites are like gardens

It sounds ridiculous, but it’s my new favourite way to explain how digital growth works.

When someone first delivers your brand new shiny website, you love it. You show it off to your mates and your family. You’re well chuffed with it.

Which is just like having your garden done. It’s all planted, they’ve knocked up a little water feature, Charlie Dimmock’s mowed the lawn. It’s great. Let’s do a barbecue.

But now its three months down the line, and you haven’t done any gardening. The plants have died of thirst. There’s a dead pigeon floating in the pond.

It’s slightly different with websites. It’ll still look the same even if you don’t touch it for months. But it’ll still be dead. Nobody will be coming to look at it. It’ll be sliding slowly down those Google rankings until it hits Google Graveyard (page 2 of the search results).

Digital Gardening

If you want to keep your garden growing , you’ve got to shuffle about with a watering can and some shears.

And if you want to keep your website generating leads and sales, you’ve got to do some digital gardening.

The most important thing is to keep watering. For a garden, that means getting the hose out. For a website, it means getting people onto your site through your digital marketing channels.

There’s a few different ways to digitally water your website. Organic search traffic is everyone’s favourite. This is essentially rain. It’s free and it comes along even if you don’t do anything.

Which is all well and good, but if it ain’t raining, plants are dying. Relying on rain means putting your fate in the sky’s hands.

Same with organic traffic. You’re putting your business in Google’s hands.

But we can do some SEO. We can optimise our website, which is a bit like installing a big sky funnel over our garden. So we can think about Search Engine Optimisation as a way to collect more rain.

But that still only helps IF it rains.

Watering

What we need to keep our garden lush is a hose. That way we can turn the tap on when we need to give everything a good soaking.

If we need leads and sales, we need to turn on some of our hoses.

There are three main digital hoses:

  • Email
  • Social
  • Ads

Email is a bit like connecting a hose to a water butt. You’ve collected email addresses, put them in the water butt, and you can encourage them to come to your site with an email every now and again.

But if you keep soaking the lawn with your water butt, you’ll run out of water. Same with your email list. You need to look after it. Use it too much and people unsubscribe or stop opening your messages.

Social media is like rigging up a hose to your neighbours tap. Old Mr Facebook might let you have some water for free, but it depends on what his algorithm feels like today.

But, Mr Facebook does know everyone. And he’ll put you in touch with the right people, for a price. So slip him a few quid for ads and he’ll turn on the tap.

Finally there’s digital advertising, which is like running a hose from your own tap. You know you’re on a meter, so every time you start watering it’s going to cost you.

However, it’s good quality stuff that you can turn on and off when you need it.

Planting

Everything’s watered, and you’ve got traffic coming to your site. Some of that traffic is converting into leads or sales. Most of it isn’t.

But watering isn’t the only thing we need to do in the garden. We need to weed it, cut shrubs back and replant our annuals. The more jazzy and blooming your garden is, the more work you need to do.

Which is why most businesses see crap results from their websites. Your competitor next door has been putting the hours in all Spring. He’s getting loads of lovely bees visit, his begonias are banging and his roses are a sight to behold. You’ve still got dead daffodils in the borders from March.

Like a garden, a website is always a work in progress.

We keep adding new plants every season to replace the old ones that look tired, or have gone over. And it should be the same with our site’s content.

The whole purpose of the internet is the sharing of information. And because of that, every algorithm on the web favours those who share their knowledge.

That means our content strategy is quite as important as a gardener’s planting strategy. Our gardener knows that their tulips will be gone before the summer and has already planned what plants will take their place.

A steady stream of new content is essential for attracting the leads and sales our website needs to be successful. How often you produce new stuff depends on your industry and audience, just as the amount of replanting you need to do depends on the plants in your garden.

Remember, your business has a finite number of potential customers. And there’s only so many of them that need your product now. And if they’ve already seen all your content, there’s no reason to come back if they haven’t already bought.

Trimming

But planting’s not the only bit of gardening we have to do. We also have to cut things back, trim them, or even move them, to get the best results.

We should be doing this all the time with our websites. You know what you want your site to achieve, so we need to make changes if it doesn’t.

If we want to sell more products, we should be changing and testing each stage on the buying process. If we want more leads, then we have to test different calls to action to learn what works best.

And trust me, that’s a constant process. Like the gardener who’s always tinkering with their flower beds, a website can always be improved.

Enjoying

But that’s not to say a website should be a financial black hole; sucking up. infinite amounts of money. Like your garden, the priority is being happy.

Yes, we may be able to squeeze out a few extra sales or leads if we change the font spacing very slightly. But that doesn’t mean we should.

Perfection is the enemy of good, and this is as true for our websites as it is for our gardens. When you’re happy with the leads and sales you’re getting from your website then it’s time to pull out the deckchair, sit back and enjoy the fruits of your hard work.

Well, at least until the lawn needs mowing again.

Need a digital gardener?