Businesses can't survive today without a stellar website. It's important to have a beautiful, user-friendly website, but it can't stop there. Beauty doesn't get your website found on Google, Bing, Yahoo, or any other search engine. To be effective, a website must attract visitors, provide value to those visitors, collect information, and yes, look great. When working on a website redesign or even a brand new website, it's important to take into account these 10 Website MUST HAVES.
1. Mobile Friendly Design
With more and more website traffic coming from mobile devices (tablets and mobile phones), having a mobile friendly website is no longer optional. Google even came out early in 2015 saying that more searches are now done on mobile than on desktops! Google released an update in March 2015 that cracks down on websites that are not mobile friendly. If your website is not responsive, you're losing visitors and your SEO (search engine optimization) is suffering. You can check to see if your website has issues using this Google Tool.
2. Content that is actually USEFUL
The saying, "Content is King", is a real thing. If you're not focusing on your content and providing helpful, entertaining, and interesting content, you're missing the boat. Google has taken a strong stance here. Just like the path to a man's heart is through his stomach, the path to Google's heart is through great content. When writing your content, ALWAYS think to yourself, "how is this helpful to my visitors?"
Using Call-To-Actions (CTAs) to capture information from your visitors is imperative. It's a great way to grow your database, learn what your visitors are most interested in, gives you the ability to continue to interact with them, and can help you provide tons of value to them. Each website, whether new or a redesign, should include CTAs that provide value such as E-Books, whitepapers, videos, etc. Think about what your visitors would really benefit from, what you're best at, and create a content offer around that. You'll get information about your visitors, they'll get great content, WIN WIN!
4. Google Analytics
Sticking with the information topic, using the FREE Google Analytics tool is critical. It's just a matter of adding a little bit of code to your website to get information about the demographics of those visiting your site.
5. User-Friendly Design
(built for your CUSTOMERS, not YOU)
First of all, your website does no good if you love it, but it doesn't resonate with your customers or potential customers. Make sure to think about your site from their perspective. One thing that gets overlooked far too often when thinking about what a website needs is a user-friendly design. Many businesses tend to want to add all the bells and whistles to their site to make it as "fancy" as possible. That's not always the best route to take. As a society, our attention span is at an all time low so it's important to make your website easy to navigate and easy for visitors to immediately find what they're looking for. If they have to search and go through many pages to find what they're really looking for, chances are that they left before they found it. Having a simplistic (not boring, but simplistic) design will make it easy to find what they're looking for and will decrease your bounce rate (the percentage of visitors that visit your site and leave before visiting any page other than your homepage).
6. Social Media Integration
Give your visitors another opportunity to connect with you! The addition of share buttons, links to your social media profiles, and even social media streams on your website give your visitors extra options to engage with your business! It's also great (and very important) for your SEO goals.
Making it as easy as possible for search engines to crawl and index your site is extremely important. It's simple, if search engines can't access or figure out the content on your site, you can't rank high (or at all). Creating a XML Sitemap and Robots.txt file will help Google and other search engines crawl your site for content. An XML sitemap is simply an .xml file containing a listing of all your pages and when they were updated.
8. Link Building
Having high quality sources link to your website is one of the biggest factors in determining your Google Rank. The first, and easiest, way to get this started is to list your business and website in online directories. Use Yext to determine where you're listed, if there is any incorrect information, and put together a to-do list of where you want to get listed. (hint...it's probably all of them). Take the time to go through each of these directories. You'll be glad you did.
As the saying goes, 'a picture is worth 1,000 words'. Making your website visually appealing is important to drawing visitors, keeping them on your site as long as possible, and getting them to return again and again. Stock photo is very easy to obtain and can be added for a low price. It's not a terrible option, but adding high quality photos that are specific to your business will give your website a less generic and more authentic feel. ALWAYS opt for custom photos before stock.
This isn't specific to just your website. Your entire online presence should have a consistent feel, design, and information. Mixed signals are horrible for a relationship and even worse for a business' online presence. A confused customer is a customer that's going to do business elsewhere. Keep your messaging and design the same across your website, Facebook page, Twitter profile, directory listings, and anywhere else you're featured online.
It's not easy to build a great website and online presence and it's work that is never done. Your website has to be a living, breathing part of your business that gets the attention that it deserves. These ten must-haves for your website are just the beginning.
Enjoy and KEEP BUZZING!