The days when any website will do are long gone. If you want your website to help you succeed, you have to have a great one. For-profit businesses and non-profits equally rely on websites to reach their goals.

Many businesses still don’t have a website. Those businesses that have a website often lack the features required for success.

Whether you are thinking about your first business website or want to improve your existing website, you must know what makes a great website.

Any website won’t do. Your website must include some key features for it to work. Your website is more than a brochure.

If done right your website can do any of the following for your business:

  • Build credibility for your business. This is especially true for new or small businesses. Before customers buy from you for the first time, they will research online. Without a website, you don’t have a chance. If you have an outdated or home-made website, you will not get the business.
  • Lead generation. You can’t succeed in business without a constant flow of leads. Turn your website into an inbound marketing machine.
  • Build loyalty. If your website has new information added regularly, visitors will return frequently. A great website will keep your business top of mind.

The following are must have website features:

Publish high-quality website content

Most websites have too little content. It is not enough to show your contact information and the services your offer. What differentiates an average website from a great website is the content.

Here is what makes high-quality website content:

  • Answers – People search for answers to their questions. Your content should answer at least one question. “How to improve my website?”
  • Originality – The best websites have original content. Don’t ever copy content from another website. Even if you write on a known topic it is important to put your own twist on it. Your own style or interpretation can make any topic original.
  • Images – Add great supporting images. Images help keep the reader’s attention. An image will also help you tell a better story.
  • CTA (Call-to-Action) – Include a CTA in every content you publish. If your content is about improving websites, ask people to sign up for “website tips.”
  • Headline – A great headline triggers interest in your content. Even if you have great website content you must have a strong headline. The best headlines trigger emotions. They also include numbers.  For example, “7 Shockingly Simple Ways to Improve Your Website.”
  • Sources – It helps if you can support your content with data or research. If your article recommends a responsive website, show why Google recommends responsive web design.
  • Provocative – Create edgy content without being aggressive.
  • Simple – Use a simple sentence structure. If you are unsure what that looks like use a tool like the Hemingway editor.
  • Update – Even the greatest website content needs updating. At least once a year you should update every blog post or web page. Make sure the content is still up-to-date.

Optimize each web page

Your website competes for eyeballs every day. To stand out, you must search engine optimize (SEO) your website.

Step #1 is to create a list of your target keywords. For example, if you are a web designer, come up with a list of at least 10 keywords.

Here is an example list:

  1. San Diego web designer (It is important to include your target location.)
  2. Web designer in San Diego (It is also important to have variations of your target keywords.)
  3. I need a web designer (You can also include complete sentences.)
  4. San Diego website designer
  5. Website designer in San Diego
  6. Best San Diego web designer
  7. Hire a web designer in San Diego
  8. Business website builder
  9. San Diego SEO company (Don’t forget about keywords related to web design.)
  10. Website redesign company in San Diego

If you don’t include your geo-target area, it will be much more difficult to get your website ranked. There is thousands of more competition for “web designer” than “San Diego web designer.”

SEO requires the following on each web page:

  • Each page should be optimized for a unique keyword. Don’t optimize each web page for the same keyword.
  • Include your target keyword in the web page URL – http://topofy.com/san-diego-web-designer
  • Include your keywords in the page title.
  • Your headline should include your target keyword phrase.
  • Include your keyword in your alt tag.
  • Name your image so, they include your keyword. (e.g. san-diego-web-designer.jpg)
  • Make sure your keyword is included within the first paragraph.
  • Your keyword should appear within the page content 3-5 times.

Have a professional design

Your website must create the best possible first impression. A homemade-looking website sends the wrong message about your business.

Don’t opt for the cheapest option to get your website built. Your website is an investment. If you want it to look great, you need to hire a web designer.

Optimize it for mobile

Most websites are still not responsive or mobile-friendly.

If you don’t have a mobile-optimized website it will hurt your business several ways:

  • Visitors using mobile devices will click off of your page and go to your competition.
  • Search engines will rank your site lower because it is considered outdated.

Use images the right way

Images are important. Not all images are created equal. The wrong image could hurt your website.

Here is what makes the right image for your website:

  • Real images created by your business for your business are the best. You could use stock photos if you must. The problem with stock photos is that they are not exactly about your business.
  • Your images should help you build credibility.
  • The right image helps you tell the story about your product, service, or customer.
  • The right website image is not a place filler. It is there for a specific reason. You use the image to make a point or to explain something.

Navigation

Keep your website navigation simple. Resist the temptation to have 10 different menu items on the top of your website. Only include the most important items in your navigation. Install a website search feature, so visitors can use it for more targeted searches.

Don’t clutter your website with a convoluted navigation scheme.

Search

For larger websites the search feature is key.

Even if you have a great website navigation your website should include a search feature. Many site visitors prefer to use the search feature to find information on your website.

About page

The “About” page is one of the most visited pages of most business sites. People want a quick and easy way to learn about your business. A great “About” page could be the difference between getting a sale or being passed on for your competition.

Here is what a great “About” page should include:

  • Tell about the history of your business.
  • Focus on what makes your business unique.
  • Introduce key team members.
  • Show photos of your team.
  • Include a photo of your office location(s).
  • Give some examples of how you have helped past customers.
  • List accolades, awards, and major accomplishments.

Collect emails

Most websites don’t even try to collect emails. Many of those who do, fail at it.

You can’t just ask someone to subscribe to your newsletter. You have to give people a reason to subscribe to your email list.

What can you give? If your offer is strong enough, visitors will subscribe to your email list.

Consider any of the following offers to grow your email list:

  • Free report
  • Free ebook
  • Complimentary consultation
  • Updates about industry trends
  • Tips and how-to information

Show your contact information

There must be easy access to your contact information. The best place for your phone number is in the header area. It also helps to include your physical address in the footer area.

Your contact page should include your mailing address, your phone number, a contact form. Also, include a map and directions to your office.

Don’t forget to include your social media addresses.

Contact Form

Some website only shows an email address instead of a contact form.

There are two huge problems with showing your email address on your website:

  1. You will receive a lot of spam emails. Spammers use software to crawl websites for email addresses.
  2. Showing an email address makes your business looks small. An established business would have a contact form instead of showing an email address.

GA (Google Analytics)

If you want to know what is happening with your website, you should have GA installed. GA is free. It is also a great tool to know how much traffic your website gets. You can learn about where the website visitors come to your site. GA also shows you important data such as how much time a visitor spends on your website.

Based on what you find out from GA, you can make website improvements.

Sitemap

The sitemap makes it easier for search engines to crawl your website. You should submit your XML sitemap to Google Webmaster Tools.

photo credit: Women In Tech – 73