What Makes a Successful Website?Posted: June 17, 2012
Everybody who has a site should ask this fundamental question. Unless you run your site specifically for your mom and relatives, which can be the case 🙂 But I don’t think this sort of people read this blog on daily basis for that matter. This post outlines the most crucial aspects of your online marketing that you should keep an eye on all the time you work on your site’s success. So, this material is all about how to make a website in terms of webdesign and online marketing.
First off, let’s see what people usually answer once you ask them the question mentioned in the for the post:
- Great Design? – You can have the best design in the world and not get any sales.
- Huge Traffic? – You can have thousands of daily visitors and yet not a single call.
- Valuable content? – You can launch a better version of Wikipedia, but what’s the point if nobody knows it exists?
What is your answer? I suggest to step away from your PC and and think about it, but once you get your answer make sure to get back to reading the post and checking what the correct answer is. 🙂
So here’s the correct answer to this question…
A successful website is the one that… accomplishes your online goals, whatever they are.
So when you decide to launch a website there’s a reason for it, right?
You either need some brand exposure, or maybe a few more leads, or you just want to sell your stuff online and make money.
Well, if your website does exactly what you’ve built it for – you can call it success. But unfortunately the vast majority of websites fails miserably to deliver even a tiny result.
At this point I have an awesome business problem I want you to solve…
The Lemonade Story
Imagine the following situation: you have a lemonade stand and there’s a genie who says that you can pick any competitive advantage for your little lemonade business that you can think of. But only a single one. So what would you ask for:
– Will it be the tastiest lemonade of all the competitors?;
– The cheapest price?
– The best possible location?
– A well known brand?
What do you think about it?
The greatest competitive advantage would be to make all the people who are DEAD THIRSTY find your lemonade stand FIRST!
Your lemonade might not be the tastiest one, It might not be the cheapest or in the best possible location, but if you’re the first one to appear in front of the eyes of dead thirsty people – you’re in business.
And you know what? The genie who can make this happen actually exists! Its name is Google!
Every second thousands of people search Google for thousands of things they’re “thirsty” for. What you need to do is become the first website in the search results for the keyword that they are searching for!
How do you do that? – It’s called SEO… which stands for Search Engine Optimization.
What you need to rank well in Google is a correctly optimized website and a bunch of other websites linking to you. Again, I’m not the author of this equation – that’s what Google tells webmasters to do if they want high rankings.
So lets see what a correctly optimized website means.
Let’s say we have the “language school” keyword which we want to rank for. Here is how to correctly optimize your web page for this keyword phrase.
- First of all, you should have these words in the title of your website. Title is the thing that’s being displayed at the top of your browser window or browser tab. And in the HTML code of your website, the title is defined by the <title> tag.
- Now, the other very important thing is that you need to make sure to put these words into your heading, which is defined by the <h1> tag in your HTML code.
- Obviously, you should have a few occurrences of this keyword in the text of the page. But just a few, don’t overdo that, your text should look natural.
- And the last tip is that you should use the keyword in the “alt” tag of all your images.
Meet the Expectation of your visitors
Meeting the expectation – what does that mean and how to achieve that?
Well.. as a person visits your website – either from Google or from some online ad – he will have a certain expectation. And in case your website does not meet it – boom – you’ve lost that person.
So first of all you have to understand what your website visitors are expecting from it.
It’s a scientifically proven fact that 75% of people will instantly leave if they don’t feel the site meets their expectation.
Unfortunately, there’s no single formula to “meeting expectation”. Yet we can work on certain elements of our website that will speak to our visitors.
Make a Good Impression
Whether you realize it or not, you experience a subconscious reaction to the site before you have even read one bit of its content. You have the first impression based on the overall look and feel of the site.
It actually takes only 50 milliseconds for a person to make a snap judgement.
But how can you be sure your design is great and does not turn your visitors away from your site?
Somehow everyone thinks that he has some “taste” or “sense of beauty” and can perfectly well determine if the design is good or bad. Well, I’m afraid that’s totally not true.
You see, designing pages is not just a work of art.. it’s also a science.
There are tons of books on the topic already, and as time goes by and design trends change they release a bunch of new books and you have nothing left to do but to keep up.
So what are your options to make that good impression with a perfect website design?
- You can try and learn everything yourself and you’ll be sick and tired within just a few weeks of extensive learning and practice.
- You may also hire a professional and spend tons of money paying for his work. But eventually you’ll get a very awesome design. That’s for sure.
- Or perhaps build your website on a pre-designed template that was made by professionals and that can easily be customized to look unique. But that may require some skills as well. The amount of skill is determined by the Content Management System or whatever software stands behind the template.
To be 100% honest with you – the preferred option is of course hiring a pro. But that’s definitely the most expensive one.
If somehow you managed to hire a pro for the cheap – don’t jump the gun – he’s either a newbie or will sell you an overpriced template.
In case your budget is tight and you’re smart enough to learn a few things – a pre-designed website template would be a perfect way to build a website.
Have a Call-To-Action
Remember when we were talking about what makes a website successful we mentioned that each website should pursue a certain goal?
Well the huge mistake is that we think that once people visit our website they will figure out where to go next.
Believe me, they won’t – you have to point them to what their next step should be.
It’s called “Call-To-Action”.
Here are some of the best practices of crafting “calls-to-action” that I want to share with you:
- First of al,l you should make your call to action clearly stand out in your design. You wanna use a bigger size than for other elements, use a different color that stands out and of course position your call to action above the fold somewhere where it’s best visible.
- Sometimes you may have to sweeten the deal and encourage users to complete your call to action. Incentives could include discounts, entry into a competition or a free gift.
- A call to action should clearly tell users what you want them to do. They should include active words such as: Call, Buy, Register, Subscribe, Donate – All of these encourage users to take action. To create a sense of urgency, you can also add phrases like: “Offer expires March 31st”, “For a short time only”, “Order now and receive a free gift”
- Remove the risk factor for people by including words like “guaranteed” or “no obligation” so they don’t feel pressured to sign anything or think that they’ll lose money. Remember, no one likes to be pressured into doing things.
Ok, but what about the situation when people want to familiarize themselves with your website? They will search for the navigation menu.
This topic might seem pretty straightforward, yet I’m sure some of you don’t know even the fundamental tips. Let me break them down for you:
- First of all, you should place your navigation in the top left corner of your page as according to numerous eye-tracking studies this is where people look first as they visit a website. But in case your navigation is centered at the top – that’s fine too.
- Make sure you’re using familiar names for your links or buttons. Except in the most unusual circumstances, don’t call your “About” page “Company info.” Don’t call your “Services” page “What we do.” And don’t call your “Contact” page “How to reach us.” Users instantly look for recognizable terms when searching for content, and so avoiding any design or content that would slow them down ensures for them a positive experience.
- Avoid “Surprise” Drop-Down Menus. Drop-Down menus are great because they simplify cluttered layouts. What you have to do is visually indicate whether a navigation link will reveal a drop-down menu when you move your mouse there or not. You can easily solve this problem by adding the + sign to the names of the links that have drop-downs.
- Your Navigation menu should highlight the page you’re currently at. A lot of websites lack that simple functionality, which makes their navigation really confusing.
Make it easy to reach you
Now what happens if a visitor fails to find the contact information on your website? Can this be considered a loss of potential customer? Definitely!
Other than that, your contact information legitimizes your business as you’re offering a real person to contact. People feel that your website is trustworthy.
But not every online visitor has the patience to click through every page on your website to find the contact information. The best place for it is the top right corner of the home page.
I suggest you to include several different ways to contact you – give them your phone, your e-mail address, put a contact form as some people find it more convenient to contact you this way. You might also want to include your local address, or even a link to your location in Google maps.
Leverage Social Media Buttons & Widgets
Most like you know how powerful social networks are today and that business owners are totally overusing those social buttons. You can put all the social buttons in the world onto your page, but that does not mean someone will ever click them.
You should give them a strong reason to do that. Either it’s your content that’s worth sharing and they will do it naturally, or you need to provide an incentive.
“Third party validation” – what does that mean?
This means you should let your visitors know of your customer testimonials, client lists, case studies, awards and recognition you’ve received, positive news clippings and the like. Potential customers indeed want to know who you do business with, and what current customers have to say about their experiences. Such items forge the underpinnings of trust.
Client lists are especially important if your customers are businesses. If you’ve got some big-name customers, people like to see that. But make sure you get approval from those you list as clients.
Honest words from others help make your products or services more tangible to the customers who are visiting you online. They help your potential customers to build trust in you, especially if you are new. People love to hear stories from real people.
Think of what you can brag about and outline that right on your homepage! You’ll be amazed by the results.
Having your online information hijacked is a nightmare, and, should it happen to your business, it could cost you customers.
So what can you do to secure yourself?
1. Sign up for a trustworthy hosting company.
2. Ensure the website platform you’re running is not that easy to break through.
If you know WordPress – it’s one of the most vulnerable content management systems. Just google for “my wordpress website got hacked”.
3. And the last advice here would be to install reliable antivirus software. Unless you’re on a Mac, of course.
You see, some of the viruses may collect your personal information – including passwords and credit card numbers. This way hackers can break through even the most secure platforms – they will just know your password. That’s it.
Make sure you follow these 3 tips and you’re safe!
Easy to Update
Your website should be easy to update! There’s no point of having a website if you can’t make immediate changes to it!
The truth is, in two months from launch, you are going to need to make changes to your services, products, special offers–the list goes on on and on. Just take a look back to all the tips we’ve discussed:
You want to play with the keywords you use for SEO and see which ones will get you better rankings, you’ll craft different calls to action, reorganize your navigation, add fresh testimonials… maybe even toggle your web-site’s layout and colors if your visitors tell you that something is wrong.
You need a website that gives you the ability to grow. You need a website that gives you a way to add pages, edit content and upload files. And because you have these needs, the best solution is using a content management system – a C M S.