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After working as a Content Marketing Consultant for over three years, I have spent many hours working with clients to build strong successful websites, rework existing websites, update content, and everything in between.
I have had the opportunity to see how small changes to a website can mean big results, and what sort of design elements and content fall flat.
Each website I’ve worked on is unique, but the successful ones generally follow a winning formula.
Here are 7 key elements that go into building a successful website, and more importantly, a site that will work for you:
1. Thou Shalt Be Visually Pleasing
Yes, this is number 1! We are living in a visual world (and I am a visual girl!) so a website that looks good is of utmost importance.
One click is all it takes for a potential customer to navigate away from your site, so engaging users immediately is essential.
- Use Your White Space Don’t fill up your whole website with text and images. A cluttered website is confusing and makes more work for the user as they will have to sift through all of the information in order to get to what they need.
Don’t be afraid to consider white space as an element on your website. Much like a kitchen counter, people enjoy a clean page, it will draw them in and they will want to stay there.
- Images and Graphics If you want great looking images and graphics, you are going to have to invest a little. The internet is full of free stock photography, but if you want a professional-looking website, you need to use professional images.
Homepage 101You don’t have to spend a lot on photos, but it is important that they are high quality. The same goes for other types of images. Hiring a designer is also highly recommended. An experienced designer will know what images and text will work well together and draw people in, rather than turning them away.
2. A Homepage With A Clear Message
When visitors land on your website, (unless they have clicked on a very specific link) they are going to land on your homepage first.
This is your big chance to tell them exactly what you want them to know about you – don’t waste it!
: Answer these questions: Who are you? What do you do? What benefit/value do you offer?
If you are counting on people searching through your website for this information, then you are going to lose customers.
It is so easy to click away from a website and search for something better, that most people will do just that if you don’t grab them, and speak to them very clearly. (Sort of like a toddler).
When someone arrives on your homepage, you have a chance to make a connection. Currently, customers are used to finding information very fast, so it is essential that you give them information that is pertinent right away.
This is when having the right amount of white space works well. If your homepage is clean and uncluttered, the important information about your business will stand out, and your message will be clear.
3. Contact Information That Is RIGHT. THERE.
A potential client has found your site, they like it enough to stay, and your homepage message has made it clear that you are the right fit.
Now, make it very easy to contact you. There are many options nowadays to get in touch with someone; it’s best to offer several choices so a potential client can choose what works best for them.
Pro Tip: Display your phone number, email, and contact form clearly and often!
This may seem like a basic rule, but if someone has navigated their way through your website and has made the decision to contact your business, don’t make them revisit the homepage to find out how to do it! You could easily lose them on the long, desperate journey back to your contact menu.
In fact, contact information should be displayed on every page. A good way to do this is to use headers and footers.
Clean and clear headers and footers won’t clutter up your site, but are a great way to keep pertinent information prominent, and easily found.
A good example of a clean and consistent header and footer can be found at this website.
4. An “About Us” Page That Isn’t A Bore
Grab a sticky note and a Sharpie, and write this down: your “About Us” page is very important.
Here’s your big chance to sell your story, so why would your “About Us” page be an afterthought? It should be personal, compelling, and definitely up to date – no one wants to see a fuzzy picture of you that you that was taken on your flip phone in 2003. (Sorry, Grandma.)
Whether your business is a one-person show or you have dozens of employees, don’t assume no one wants to know about you and them- because they really, really do.
In fact, the “About Us” page is usually one of the most visited pages on a successful website!
People still want to find a personal connection, even when they are shopping online. It may be an old saw, but it’s still true: People Buy From People.
Now, how to strike the right balance between providing valuable information or just overt bragging about yourself and your business? A great in-depth look at how to do it right can be found here: The 5 – Step Process for Writing an About Page that Connects (and Converts).
Once you’ve created an “About Us” page that engages potential customers, and presents your authentic story, revisit your page often and update it as needed.
Has your business changed since its inception? Are your goals different than when it all began? Don’t write a paragraph and then stick it up on the shelf and expect it to sing for you.
If you’re having a hard time writing about yourself (a very common problem) then ask a friend or colleague to do it for you. You may be surprised at what they have to say and it’s a great starting off point – just make sure you edit and add to it so that it is sincere and reflects your voice.
5. Your Call-To-Action Should Be Loud And Clear!
Do you have a clear call-to-action (CTA)?
If a potential client has found you and looked around your website, what is it that you would like them to do next? This may seem obvious to you, but don’t assume it is to the person perusing your home page.
Do you want more newsletter subscribers? Webinar attendees? Fishing rod purchases?
Then include a clear CTA that will guide your reader: Call Me, Shop Now, Contact Us, Let’s Chat, Sign Up, Buy Now.
Visitors to your website have a vast amount of information and advertising right in front of them, so why not make it as clear and as easy for them as possible to take the next step?
A successful website uses a clear call-to-action, making it easy for visitors to convert quickly into customers.
6. Harness The Mighty Power Of SEO (Search Engine Optimization) For Good
Design and content are essential elements of a successful website, but if no one can actually find it, you might as well be shouting down a well. A fancy, digital well.
So, if you want your website to be seen by search engines like Google and Bing, it needs to be Search Engine Optimized.
SEO is not something that is as easy-to-see as a beautiful homepage or great logo, but it is equally as important.
So, what to do to get this search engine magic mojo?
The best way to up your SEO is to make sure your content and images are all aligned with the keywords, metadata, and H1 and H2 tags on your site.
Each page of your website should have a keyword focus, which is the core message of the page (i.e. outdoor wedding photography, tax law, residential properties) and the content should support that message.
This can be tedious so using an SEO plugin that will monitor your keyword usage and let you know if your page is SEO friendly or not is your best bet.
If your website is designed in WordPress, we recommend using a plugin like Yoast, as it will not only tell you how optimized your page is, but it will also make recommendations on how to improve SEO value.
7. Search Indexing. HOT.
Like SEO, this is an “invisible” step, but it is essential if you want your website to work for you.
All too often, clients come to us with an existing, live website that has never been submitted to any search engine to be indexed. Oh, my. Well.
This is not a technically steep step, but if you don’t tell the search engines that you exist, it makes it that much more difficult for them to find you.
Learn how to submit your site to popular search engines, and you should see an increase in reach and web traffic. Success!
Websites That Sparkle
Your website is your digital home base; it will be doing business for you 24 hours a day and reach all corners of the world. It is essentially the front door of your business, so take the time to make it shine!