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2 Success online whether measured in visits, ad revenue or ecommerce transactions requires compelling content and intuitive design. It all starts with the fundamentals: the key building blocks to create an online presence that maximizes traffic, audience engagement and overall success. Agility CMS has built and optimized thousands of high traffic websites and we ve learned that effective sites have 9 common characteristics what we call the fundamentals. Ignoring these must-haves make it that much more difficult to build a high-traffic, engaging and lucrative website. These are our 9 Fundamentals for website success.

3 1. Layout and Navigation An easy-to-use, visually appealing site inspires users to stick around, come back and share content. Easy-to-use, intuitive navigation 60% of people can t find what they re looking for on a website, and 40% do not return if their first visit is a negative experience. If your web analytics show short time-on-site or a high bounce rate, it may mean that your navigation and content organization needs some work. Good use of whitespace Whitespace gives a feeling of luxury to a website s design. Proper use is imperative for users to stick around. Mark Boulton wrote a classic article on A List Apart about the importance of whitespace. Site search is present and works well Up to 30% of site visitors will use your site s search bar. Search term data provides valuable insight into what users are interested in. Check out these links from Google about leveraging internal site search and setting up and configuring site search.

4 2. Advertising & Placement Ads are a great source of revenue when used and placed correctly. Proper placement of ads For media sites like blogs or online magazines, advertising is a critical source of revenue. But it s tempting to use too many ads and it s easy to put them in awkward places. Just like poor navigation, improper use of ads is a quick trigger for the back button. Standard IAB ad units are used Over 80% of all display ads sold are ones that follow IAB standards. These guidelines streamline the creative process and make it easier for your sales team to monetize your content.

5 3. Search Engine Optimization Search engines are the number one top traffic driver online. Page titles are used on every page Page titles are one of the most important elements of on-page SEO. Keep page titles under 60 characters so they don t get cut off in search results. Page titles include keywords It has been proven that placing keywords at the beginning of a page title has a positive impact on search engine rankings. Meta Descriptions are used on every page Although meta descriptions no longer have an impact on rankings, they are still an important element for SEO. These short page descriptions help users decide what to click on. Keep them under 160 characters so they won t get cut off in search results. Meta Keywords are not used Meta keywords are ignored by search engines as this element was abused and used in aggressive SEO tactics. If implemented incorrectly, they can actually hurt your page rank.

6 URLs are formatted correctly Short, readable URLs are clicked twice as often as long ones with complicated characters. Including keywords in the URL is recommended for maximum SEO benefit. Long tail keywords are identified and used in content Long tail keywords are very targeted search phrases that start with a generic term, followed by 1 to 2 specific terms to narrow the description, i.e. the generic term furniture, followed by chair and dining. Long tail keywords make up 70% of all search queries made, and are your best value for optimization. Users that search for long tail keywords are also proven to convert at a higher rate than users that search for vague, one-word terms. Good use of photos with ALT text Use high quality photos to engage users. Make sure to accurately describe each photo in ALT texts text that describes the image either as embedded text or surrounding it. Search engines and computers can t always extract meaning from an image, so including associated ALT text attributes and keywords is critical. Good use of videos Pages with videos are 50 times more likely to rank on the first page of Google. This is because people like and engage longer with them! Quality content posted at least weekly Users will return more frequently if they find unique content whenever they visit. For SEO, Google ranks quality over quantity, so make sure that the content you post is useful and relevant to your target audience.

7 4. Content Merchandising Content that is compelling, easy to find, will increase time spent and encourages sharing. Splash area on home page A picture is worth a thousand words. Put them front and center to capture the emotions of visitors. What s new, popular, most commented Users love to see what other users like based on ratings, views or number of comments. Users are drawn to content that others have validated for them. Content with a healthy number of likes or a high rating, will draw users in. Featured content If the best content is easy to find, it will draw people in and encourage them to share.

8 5. Social Media Integration Social media sites are top traffic driver to media sites and content. Social sharing is available with the click of a button Over 140 million active users make Twitter a top 10 traffic source for media sites. It s hard to ignore more than two billion tweets per week. Also, media sites integrated with Facebook see a 300% increase in referrals on average. The social network is the number three source of traffic behind Google and direct traffic. Users should be able to share content with a click of a button across social networks like Twitter, Facebook, Linked, etc. Don t make them work for it. With easy-to-use tools from ShareThis, integrating with social sharing functionality is easier than ever. sharing is available Don t forget the original social network: . sharing still accounts for more traffic than every social network except for Facebook.

9 6. Content Syndication Not everyone wants to read your content in their web browser or an app. newsletters are still a top traffic source and are a great way to syndicate regular bitesized content to your audience. newsletter signup is available A weekly or monthly digest summary - of the best content, latest comments and other interesting tidbits keeps your publication top of mind and brings users back to explore, engage and share. Make sure you abide by anti-spam policies and keep your list clean i.e. remove expired addresses. Content syndication with RSS It s also important to have RSS feeds for your site. While RSS may be past its heyday, it is still widely used by readers and can also be used to syndicate your content into other sites and applications.

10 7. Mobile It s impossible to ignore the scale and acceleration of smartphone and tablet usage. Site is properly formatted for mobile devices There are over 1 billion smartphones in use serving a growing number of all web views. The mobile optimized/responsive website is an excellent discovery vehicle for your website through searching and links. The future is here, and it s mobile. Site is properly formatted for tablets Tablet sales continue to grow. Usage is rapidly increasing, especially for content and media consumption and ecommerce transactions. Spend time on creating a great user-experience and an easy purchasing flow for visitors to your site.

11 8. Community The best way to create a two-way relationship with your audience and keep them coming back is by creating a community. Comments and ratings on articles Time spent on your pages is a leading factor for page rank. Visitor comments and ratings keep users around longer. Adding comments and ratings gives your audience an outlet to provide feedback on your content, engage with other users and impact your credibility. More engagement means more page views, more ad impressions and ecommerce interactions. User generated photos, video or stories Users can be a great source of fresh content. You can do photo or video contests or start a program for user-submitted content to be used on your site. Your audience is passionate about your topic and can add a new dimension to your content. Plus, when someone contributes content on your site, they are likely to tell their friends and family about it, which translates into more page views, engagement and improved ad and product sales.

12 9. Community If your site doesn t perform well, people will leave and never come back. Pages load in under one second Good performance is absolutely critical to building an audience and keeping your readers happy. Faster pages deliver 7% to 12% more conversions than slower pages. User satisfaction is 4% lower when pages take more than 1 second to load.

13 Building an effective website is a combination of art and science you need compelling, relevant content that is presented and optimized with proven site building tools. Start with these 9 fundamentals of web site design and you ll be on your way to creating a compelling and lucrative web site destination.

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