The 7 secrets of successful websites
Building or updating your website? You'll need these 7 things to make it a roaring success!
1. A killer strategy
Having a strategy is the first step to getting any real results from your website (and your overall promotional strategy). If you don't know who your customers are, how they find you online, what they are looking at on your site and what will get them to pull the trigger on a purchase, then you're flying blind. You'll want to develop a clear game plan that outlines what you are trying to achieve and how you are going to get there.
Here's some starting points:
- Identify your goals (make them S.M.A.R.T)
- Develop your personas. Who is your target audience? What to they like? Where do they source information? Be specific!
- Do your research. What interests your customers? What sort of problems are they dealing with? What questions do they have?
- Create a plan around how you are going to appeal to your personas through your website. Decide what you want them to do on your site and how will you encourage them to take that action.
- Identify how your website will fit amongst other promotional strategies and tools (will you use it in conjunction with email marketing, re-marketing, landing pages or online advertising?)
Once you've identified how you want your website to engage your target audience, it will be a lot easier to develop your site structure, identify the features and integrations you'll need and create a content plan (what content is shown on the site and when).
2. A good content management system
A content management system (CMS) ensures that you can easily create and modify elements of your website, without needing to understand any coding languages. It’s important to look out for an easy to use, well supported, open source content management system.
While many companies have their own custom CMS that they prefer you to use, sometimes this makes finding support for your website much more difficult. I suggest using a well supported CMS because it’s a lot easier to source help if you need it. While it may seem unlikely, the design company you are working with could go out of business or you might not enjoy working with them. In scenarios like these, if you're using a custom CMS it may be difficult to get help if something goes wrong with your site.
In my first job out of university I was responsible for updating a website with a custom CMS called ‘DreamGirl’. Unfortunately, she was anything but dreamy. She would regularly freeze and send me error messages like ‘DreamGirl is sad’. Talk about high maintenance! Unfortunately, the company who set up the custom CMS had dissolved so there was limited support to fix the problems I was having.CMSs such as Webflow, Wordpress, Drupal or Squarespace, have big communities behind them, so if you need support or assistance and your provider is not available, another company or freelancer will be able to assist you. Lots of companies use a 'white label' CMS, which is just a content management system that they have 're-skinned' to display their own branding. As long as the underlying CMS is well supported it will be a lot easier to find support and advice online and find a provider to assist you if needed. Aside from being well supported, your CMS should also be easy to use and update. If you have a good understanding of the features you would like your website to have before you start building, your provider will be able to choose a platform that best suits your needs.
3. A beautiful, user-friendly design
In 2004, fifteen women were asked to search for information and advice online in relation to a health issue impacting them. During their search, researchers evaluated whether the design and content on the health sites they visited influenced their trust and mistrust of those websites. You can read the research article about the trust and mistrust of websites here.
Based on feedback from the participants, the researchers determined that design and usability factors were crucial in establishing initial credibility on a website. Of the sites that were most liked, the participants cited reasons such as a clear layout, a good navigation, interactive features, informative content and relevant illustrations for their preference.
Of the reasons for rejecting a website, 94% were design and usability related.
Of the reasons for rejecting a website, 94% were design and usability related. These included;
- A complex, busy layout
- Lack of navigation aids and poor search facilities
- Boring web design (especially use of colour) or design that was ‘too corporate looking’
- Pop up adverts
- Slow introductions to the site
- Small print
- Too much text
Once a website had passed their initial evaluation, design features became less important (17%) and factors related to content were cited more frequently as the reason that they stayed on a page (83%).
Design and user experience factors are incredibly important in creating positive first impressions. According to this Canadian study and this study from the Missouri University of Science and Technology, users will form an impression of your website in the first 50-180 milliseconds of viewing your website. This means that poor choices in colours and fonts and slow loading times can cause mistrust and rejection of the site before the user gets to the content.
In a well designed and easy to use site, the design features captivate and engage the user and encourage further exploration of the site, including its content. A lot of people focus on the cost of a website when searching for a designer. But that should never be the only factor in your decision. Always look at a company’s portfolio. Do they create good looking websites? Are they user friendly, or hard to navigate?
If you’re curious about whether a company can achieve a certain look, but can’t see anything like it in their portfolio, then ask them if they have any other work in that style. Each designer has their own unique style, so it’s up to you to find one that suits your vision.
4. A customer-centric design team
While the on-site features are very important, so is your relationship with your provider. You’re going to be working with this company for a few months while your website gets set up, and possibly years after that if you require support or updates, so it’s important to find a company that offers you great customer service and support.
Partner with a company who takes an interest in your company and your marketing strategy. You want someone who genuinely cares about helping you to build your business and is willing to go the extra mile to ensure you are satisfied.
One of the best ways to find out what a company is really like to work with is to contact some of their past clients. What did they think of the support and customer service? If it’s mostly positive, you’re on to a winner!
5. Ongoing support and maintenance
Your website is an ongoing investment. It’s going to need lots of love and attention if it’s going to deliver great results for you.
- Delivering fresh, regular content- Not only does this help to engage your visitors, but it’s also helpful for SEO purposes
- Security and software updates- You should always keep up to date with the latest versions of software and ensure your content is secure
- Backups- it’s a good idea to backup your site in case it gets hacked or if you encounter problems with an update. That way you can easily revert to the latest backed up version of your site.
- Hosting and domain renewals- These are ongoing costs that you’ll have to pay for the lifetime of the website. Failing to pay these on time will result in your website becoming inactive, so it’s something you’ll want to stay on top of!
Your website provider may be able to provide you with an ongoing maintenance and or SEO package so that you don’t have to worry about updating or maintaining these items yourself. From time to time, you may also need to request additional technical support or updates to your site. If this kind of ongoing support is not included in your package make sure you find out how much they would charge to update or fix problems on your site.
6. Search engine optimisation (SEO)
There is absolutely no point in building a great site if no one is going to see it. The whole point of having a website is to show off your products and services and attract new clients!Google processes over 40,000 search queries every second on average, which translates to over 3.5 billion searches per day and 1.2 trillion searches per year worldwide. Unfortunately, despite all these searches, many of us don’t look past the first page of search results. 91.5% of all traffic is directed towards the top 10 search results (Chitika).
91.5% of all traffic is directed towards the top 10 search engine results.
So, if you want to get noticed online, you’ll ideally want your website to be featured organically on the first results page. Of course, you can always pay for an ad to sit in the top search results, but there is also another, more cost effective way to achieve these results. Search engine optimisation (SEO) is the process of enhancing your website to improve your ranking in search engine results pages.
Search engines use unique algorithms to determine which results feature organically on the first page. These are aimed at providing searchers with high quality, relevant answers to their queries. Using the best practices outlined by search engines, SEO strategies help website owners to improve their rankings and reach their audiences online.
There are hundreds of SEO ranking factors, so we won’t list them all here, but some great places to start include:
- Generating fresh, relevant, well researched and sharable content on your site
- Ensuring your site is easily navigated and is user friendly (including mobile friendly sites)
- Link building - promoting your content and asking other people to share it on their own blogs, websites and social media accounts. The more people who link to your site, the better!
- Checking that your website isn’t taking too long to load and ensuring all your images have been compressed for web
- Optimising your pages around keywords and using those keywords in title tags, on page content, alternative text on images and headings.
SEO is an ongoing, continuous process and can impact how effective your website is in generating sales. If it’s not something you would like to maintain, there are plenty of providers offering SEO services that can assist you to get found online by creating content for you, optimising your site and staying on top of the latest ranking factors.
7. Mobile friendliness
Australians own, on average, three internet enabled devices. While desktops are still preferred for browsing online, approximately 70% of Australians browse the internet on mobile phones and 50% use a tablet (read the ACMA article about mobile use here).
The trend towards using mobile devices to browse the internet is accelerating with better screen quality, faster internet connections and widespread availability of wifi networks making it easier to browse on handheld devices. For business owners and marketers, this means that your website needs to be good-lookin’ on mobile and on desktop.
The problem with many older websites is that they were never built to be viewed on a mobile device. When you do, the result isn’t pretty–huge images, slow loading times, tiny text and lots of pinching and scrolling! If you’re not sure if your website is mobile friendly you can use Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test, or take a look at your website on a smartphone to check. If you’re doing a lot of pinching and zooming to see content, chances are it’s not mobile friendly.
So how do you get yourself a mobile friendly site? There are a few ways web designers can go about it but we prefer responsive technology because it can adjust to any screen size, which provides a degree of future proofing for new technologies. This means your website will still look great on the screens of yet to be released products. It also tends to have fewer implementation issues and is easy to maintain. That being said, we think as long as you’re accommodating those finger swiping customers of yours, whether it be through responsive, dynamic serving or using a mobile site, you’re on the right track!
Want to drive more traffic to your website, turn more site visitors into sales and keep them coming back for more? These 7 steps will help you achieve your goals!
- Create a killer strategy that defines your audience, how you will target them and the promotional tools that will accompany your website
- Ensure you're using a great, easy to use, well-supported content management system
- Build a user friendly, good looking design
- Find a web design team with great customer service, who understands your needs
- Source someone (internally or externally) who can update and maintain your site regularly
- Source someone (internally or externally) who can ensure that your site is optimised for search engines and can promote your content to build backlinks to your website
- Ensure people have the ability to view your website quickly and easily on a mobile device
Hungry for more? We've included lots of additional content on how to improve your website in our free ebook- 'Make Your Website Work Harder: 6 sure-fire ways to skyrocket your success online'. Have something to add? Please tell us about it in the comments, and don't forget to share!