15 Features Every Great Website Needs

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1 + 15 Features Every Great Website Needs

2 Introduction Whether you re yet to build your first website or you have a site that isn t performing, you might be wondering what it takes to make a great website. The answer is that a website on it s own is not enough to drive results. It s how you are able to make your website into an inbound marketing machine. You need to think how you can make it attract visitors and once they are there, convince them to buy. Here are 15 essential tips on getting your website working for you in Let s Go!

3 Getting Found Online You can have a great website but if no one visits it, this won t matter. That s why this first section is centred on getting found online. This is what s known as the top of the funnel of your inbound marketing structure. SEO is crucial to any online strategy but it needs to be used accurately and effectively. These tips will show you how you can get the most from your SEO and increase your organic (non-paid) search engine rankings. Begin with number 1

4 Building Inbound Links The ultimate goal for any website is to reach the #1 position in search engines. There is only one top spot per keyword phrase, and online users will usually gravitate towards the top suggestions they are given by their search engine. This is why offpage search engine optimization (SEO) is crucial to driving traffic to your site. Off-Page SEO is all about building inbound links this is basically getting other quality websites to link back to you. This is referred to by search engines as link authority or link juice. The idea is that the greater number of inbound links you have, the greater the importance of your site and hence the higher you ll rank. Link building isn t easy and sometimes adding links to other websites is out of your control. These tips should help you get to grips with it: Submit your website to online directories: This is a really easy way to begin building your inbound links. Create quality content: The quality of your content is hugely important if people like it, they will naturally want to link it. Whether it s educational or entertaining, make it something that people want to read. Write guest posts for other blogs: If you have quality content people will want to feature it on their sites and in exchange you will get to build your inbound links. 1Win-win.

5 XML Sitemaps XML Sitemaps are designed to help search engine crawlers sift through your pages more effectively. They are simply.xml files that contain a listing of all your pages and when they were last updated. One way to think of it is like a map that charts the layout of your website and where each page resides. Fortunately there are lots of generators online that create the.xml file for you. This means that sitemaps are really easy to create. Once you have the.xml file, all you have to do is upload it to the root directory of your website. (e.g. If you are constantly 2updating your website then it is a good idea to update your xml file at least once a month. This means that search engines will always have the most up-to-date, relevant data on you. XML sitemaps are often overlooked but they are an important component to improving your SEO so make you sure you create one for you site!

6 301 Redirects We ve all clicked on a website link only to find that the link is broken and the site is no longer there. Usually you will see a 404 message or Page Not Found. This is often caused by a page moving to a new URL without the old link being redirected to the new page. If you move website it is really important for your business to fix this. Just imagine all the potential sales lost when you have customers trying to get to your site and failing to find it. So if you choose to relocate a page on your website be sure to always use a permanent 301 Redirect. 3What is a permanent 301 Redirect? A permanent 301 Redirect is a method of changing an old URL to a new one. It is important for two reasons: firstly, it ensures visitors are kept happy when working their way round your site. It is also a really important part of your SEO. If a user can t find a new webpage then neither can a search engine. This means that any SEO status that the former page had gained will all be lost. So to ensure your SEO juice follows through to new pages and to keep customers happy, make sure you always set up a 301 redirect for pages that have been moved!

7 Design & Usability Once you ve generated traffic towards your site and got people visiting it, the next most important thing is to ensure that they stay there. The majority of websites have a 30-60% bounce rate which means a huge amount of people leaving the site without having navigated to a single other page. Often they will never come back. This should be a worrying thought for any business so here are some tips to ensure that you can keep your users engaged and your bounce rate low. Number 4

8 The First Impression First impressions are everything and this is particularly the case with a website. When people see your site for the first time they will immediately ask themselves: Is this trustworthy? Does it look professional? Is it welcoming? You should design your website with these questions in mind. Whilst design is certainly not the most important aspect of a website it does play a big role in people s perceptions of the business and whether they 4stay on the page or not. For example, a study from the Stanford University and Consumer Web Watch How Do People Evaluate A Website s Credibility? Results from a Large Study revealed that users rated a website s design as a more important indicator of its credibility than its certifications, awards and privacy policy.

9 The First Impression cont. Here s a few tips to help ensure your website s design strikes the right note: Typography: Your website should be clear and easy to read. Use fonts, font sizes and colours that are easily legible. Think of other ways you can clarify the content of the page: bullet points, short paragraphs and section headers all make for easy reading. Layout: On a similar note, make sure you create a clearly structured format for the page. Organize information in a grid layout as opposed to randomly scattered around the page. And remember there is nothing wrong with choosing white space over clutter! Colour: Colour is a really important part of your page s design. You should use it to draw 4attention to the most select elements of the site. Be careful not to try and make everything stand out though or you will end up with exactly the opposite nothing will stand out. Be clear and decisive with your choice of colours stick to the ones you like and that you think best sum up your business. A chaotic mix of colours does not send out the right message about your business. Whilst it is important to focus on design, this should not be at the expense of content. A well-designed sight will ensure that visitors take a second look but if the site itself does not interest them, they will not stay.

10 Maintain Consistency It is best to maintain consistency between different pages of your website. The site should flow easily from page to page. Generally the colours should be the same and so should fonts and other formatting. Navigation should also be in the same place throughout the site, making each page easily recognisable to the user. 5In general, websites follow the typical three-page layout: one for the form page, one for the content page and one for the homepage. Keeping the basic elements of these pages the same will stop your visitors from feeling lost and will give a comprehensive feel to the site.

11 Use the Right Images A picture says a thousand words. But it is important to ensure these are the right words and that your images are saying the right thing about your company. Images can be a powerful addition to your website, so long as they are used wisely. For example, stock images are frequently used by websites because they are easily attainable and cheap. But are they effective? A test by Marketing Experiments compared the use of stock photography against real images on a website, assessing it s impact on lead generation. The results revealed that photos of real people outperformed stock photos by 95%. The reason for this is that stock photos are generally staged and irrelevant. People would rather see images 6that are genuine than forced smiles from actors. It is important therefore to be sure that the images you use have meaning. Each one is telling your visitors something and their impact might not always be what you expect it to be. Marketing Experiments released a useful study into this which offers some useful advice: Images vs Copy: How getting the right balance increased conversion by 29%. webclinic /player.html

12 Navigation The ease with which a visitor can find the information they are looking for is vitally important to a website. Having an effective, solid navigation system is therefore at the heart of any good website. There is so much choice on the internet that if visitors can t find something easily on one site they will quickly move onto another. Here are some of the most important elements to ensure your site has good navigation: Include navigation in your website s footer. Make the structure of your primary navigation extremely clear and simple Use breadcrumbs on each page so people are able to trace their trail 7 Don t go too deep In general your navigation needn t go more than three levels deep Try not to use complicated JavaScript - particularly Flash for your navigation. Many web browsers don t have the latest version of Flash installed and many more mobiles can t see Flash at all yet. Include a Search box near the top of the site, allowing users to search by keyword. The common denominator of all of these is to make it as easy as possible for the visitor to figure out where they need to go and how to get there.

13 Content Good content is crucial to any website. This, above anything, is what drives visitors to your site, and generates leads for your business. What s more, strong content gets users talking about your business and sharing it with others. Number 8

14 The Importance of Quality There is so much content available to users online that ensuring yours is of a high quality is crucially important. It is important to think about what will make your content stand out from all the other content on offer to users online. Here are some areas you should focus on: Make your content unique this is a big hit with people and also with search engines. Give your content educational value so users want to revisit your site and learn more. Remember you are writing for humans, not robots. Choose your style accordingly. Make sure you do your research before paying for third-party content. Some works; a 8lot doesn t. You want to make sure you are getting what you paid for. Keep content up-to-date and relevant If your homepage has news on it that s a year old visitors are not going to be encouraged to return to your site. Know who you are writing for. When writing content, think of your audience and what will appeal specifically to them. This will make it more relevant and therefore of a higher quality.

15 Blogging Blogging is hugely important to your inbound marketing strategy and a really effective complement to your website. Here are just some of the reasons why blogging is a tool your website cannot afford to ignore: It drives traffic and generates leads for your website. It generates constant, up-to-date content, which will improve your SEO 9 There are few better ways to connect and engage with your customers It helps establish you as an authority within your industry It s a free way to generate those all-valuable inbound links! The good news is that blogging isn t as difficult as you might thing. There are a number of blogging tools that will help you get up and running.

16 Blogging cont. Many people worry about their ability to create fresh and interesting content on a regular basis. Fortunately there are a number of blog writing services which won t cost you too much. These services are called Content Marketplaces two of the best to visit are Zerys and WriterAccess. Both are worth having a look at to help you get started. Here are two interesting stats that should get you blogging right away: 9 Companies that blog receive 55% more website visitors than those who don t. B2C companies that blog generate 88% more leads every month than those who don t.

17 Make Content Shareable & Social The growth of social media in the past decade has been staggering and has created a vast community of potential customers for your business. Generating content that people will Like or share with their friends is a great way of tapping into this community. Whether it is a post, a blog update or a new product getting this community talking about you is invaluable to your business. 1 Here When one person Likes a post this will cause all of their friends to see it and even give them the link to see the post themselves. Generating this type of buzz is really important for your business. You want to make it as simple as possible for people to share and discuss your online content. After all, the more people that engage with your posts the more traffic your website will receive! are two ways to make your content as easy to share as possible: Include a sharing widget or plugin on your website pages. This allows visitors to share your pages using all of the major social networks. There are plenty of tools that will help you install a sharing widget and also allow you to track the success of your campaigns. Two worth using are AddThis and ShareThis. If you are using a blogging platform such as Wordpress you can get plug-ins that allow people to share your articles and will automatically publish content to social networks such as 0Facebook and Twitter.

18 Customer Proof Whatever you re selling, potential customers like to see you ve made other customers happy. Reviews, testimonials and feedback are vitally important for generating new sales. They are a great way of driving people to actually make the final purchase. Here s some tips on how to manage your feedback: Make sure the feedback is genuine. Feigned comments are easy to spot! Make sure it is clearly visible on your site don t keep it hidden behind a form! Make the feedback as authentic as possible. Include real names and if you can provide a picture of the buyer alongside their comment. This is a great way of giving the feedback legitimacy even a real testimonial can seem fake without a name and image! 1 Place your feedback on the right pages. Think carefully about where you place your testimonials, making sure they are relevant to their respective pages. For example, if you have a comment about how fantastic your customer service is, be sure to put this on the support page. The final thing to remember is that if you re short on reviews you can leverage other sites to find them: Yelp is a good one for local businesses whilst Capterra is good as an industry specific directory. Don t forget that feedback is a crucial part of pushing the final sale so you 1want to get it right!

19 Conversion Getting people interested in your site is one thing, but once they are there you need to make sure you are able to convert them from a prospect into a lead. Here are some important tips to ensure that you are able to turn visitors into customers Number 12

20 Effective Calls-to-Action The purpose of a Call to Action (CTA) is to drive a visitor towards a desired action. CTAs should generally be made clearly visible on the page so that it is easy for visitors to take the next step. They are vitally important for lead generation but only when done right! Here are some tips to help your site s conversion rate: CTAs should stand out clearly. Make the font clear and bold. Choose the right colour and design. Whether a link or a button, your CTAs should look enticing so you make visitors want to click on them. Make sure your CTA offers value. A simple Contact Us offers very little to the customer. However, offering them guides, quotes or estimates is likely to get them clicking! Make sure it looks clickable - it might sound obvious but if users don t realise it s a link they won t click! Regularly test them. As with anything, getting the perfect CTAs is a learning process that will take time. By A/B testing different styles of links you can see which ones works best with your customers. Try testing out different positions, 12colours and copy to see which are most effective!

21 Landing Page Once you ve perfected your CTAs you need to make sure you drive those links to landing pages. Landing pages are used to collect contact information from customers or complete a transaction with them. They are central to converting visitors into leads. A good landing page should contain the following: A concise description of the offer. At least one image to support this. A headline and, if applicable, a sub-headline Most importantly, a form to capture information (See Forms - 14 ) If you have good customer feedback, testimonials or security badges these can also be very useful to drive the conversion. Landing pages are extremely important because they direct visitors to one specific offer without them being distracted by everything else on your website. Once they are on the landing page they are there for only one reason: to fill out the lead 13capture form!

22 Landing Page cont. Here are some ways to make your landing page even more effective: Keep it simple. Only include necessary information to minimise distractions Clarify exactly what the offer is, making it as appealing as possible to the customer Do not include main site navigation on the landing page. You want the visitor s focus to be solely on completing the form, not on continuing to look round your site Do not under any circumstances use your homepage as a landing page! Be careful to ensure that what is written on your landing page matches your call-toaction. If there is a difference between the two many users will hit the Back button Only ask for information you absolutely need. (See Forms - 14 ). You don t want to make visitors click away 13 Remember, it is worth spending a good amount of time on your landing page as it is key to generating leads and conversions.

23 Forms Forms are the most important part of a landing page. You need them to ensure visitors sign-up, subscribe to your site or download one of your offers. The first thing you will probably be wondering is how much information you need to collect within the form. There is no one answer to this question as it varies depending on your business needs. The important thing is to remember to collect only the information you really need. The less information you ask for in a form the higher the conversion rate will tend to be. The reason for this is that each new field you add to the form creates friction for the visitor friction means giving the user more work to do. A lengthy form looks like hard work and will often result in the visitor leaving the page altogether. However, on the other hand, the more information you get on your visitors the better quality your leads will be. It s a fine balancing act and the best solution is to test it until 14you find out what works.

24 Forms cont. Here are some tips to make sure your landing page forms get the conversions you need: Consider what the offer is worth. Generally the more an offer is worth the more information visitors will be willing to fill in. You should make the amount of information you ask for relative to the deal you are offering them Only ask for necessary information Do not ask for sensitive information that businesses and individuals will not want to disclose Avoid using the word SUBMIT on your form buttons! This is a word that makes visitors uneasy. Be sure instead to focus on what it is that you are offering them. For example, Get your free ebook or Download your free guide now! Fulfil their request straight away. Whatever you have promised the visitor be sure to provide it straight away. If it is an ebook include a link to download it on the very next page. You can also send an auto-response with a link to the offer. It is very important that all visitors know 14right away that you have fulfilled your side of the bargain.

25 Newsletters It might be a basic one but newsletters are a great way of collecting visitors addresses. Not all of your CTAs need to be huge offers and a newsletter is a good example of something that doesn t require too much effort but that keeps you in contact with your customers. 15 form It is the perfect way to nurture prospects over time and ensure that they become leads. The most important thing is to position your subscription somewhere that is easy for visitors to find.

26 Conclusion The internet has dramatically changed the relationship between business and consumer. This is a trend that shows no signs of changing so it is really important that your business is there when potential customers come looking. Merely having a business website is not enough. It s the integration of social media, blogging, SEO, content and CTAs that will actually make your website work for you and generate the leads you need. By following the listed guidelines you can ensure you drive traffic to your website and, ultimately, generate more sales and revenue for your business.

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