Every website is a work in progress, which is actually pretty exciting – you get to make it better as you learn. But here’s the deal: there's no one-size-fits-all checklist for website must-haves, and that's a good thing. Ideally, your website reflects what makes your business unique.
That said, there are some elements that create solid groundwork now that you can build on later. Let's review.
1. Fresh Content
The first goal of any content you put on your site is to make it easy for potential customers to find and buy from you. That means you want to have your business’s…
- Name and logo.
- Hours of operation.
- Product or service list.
- Contact information.
“Search engines like Google attribute more authority to websites that have more unique content on their homepage, therefore ranking sites with more content higher on search results,” says Transon. “Small-business owners need to ensure their website homepage contains at least 600 words.”
Get fresh: Transon also says that small-business owners should actively look for ways to create fresh content throughout their site, and a great way to do that is with a blog.
“Websites that focus on blogging in their marketing efforts have a 13x better chance of achieving positive ROI than those who don't,” he says. “This is because each blog post is seen as a new website page by Google's search engine robots and increases organic traffic from search engines.”
2. Purposeful Design
Lots of people talk about having a user-friendly site, so there’s little doubt that’s important. But online brand expert Nick Leffler (@nick_leffler) says the key to a quality user experience is to understand why you’re building a site in the first place.
“A website must have a well-defined purpose that's easy to achieve,” says Leffler. “Visitors should know immediately what a website is about without having to read into it much.”
That means the site should have…
- A prominent value proposition. Leffler says this is the first thing you want visitors to see.
- A call-to-action on every page. “In addition to knowing what you do, visitors should know what you want them to do on the site,” says Leffler.
- Well organized pages. Not only does your content need to be well written, but Leffler says it needs headings and sub-headings so readers can skim and get what they need.
Transon says you also want to make navigation from page to page easy, too. He recommends…
- Making sure pages aren’t overcrowded with content. Crowded pages can confuse the reader and cause them to abandon the site altogether.
- Putting the most popular links at the top of the site in a navigation bar. This organization shows users where the important stuff is.
Go mobile: More people are searching the web from their smartphones and tablets, so make sure your website design is compatible with mobile devices. Bob Bentz (@BobBentz), author and president of the web design company Rocky Point Media, recommends taking the thumb test.
“Try tapping all of the links with only your thumb. This will give you an idea of what it's like for a large man to try to navigate your mobile website," Bentz says. "If you can't do it easily on the small screen, consider a redesign.”
3. SEO Basics
Content and design aren’t the only ways you can help your search-engine rankings. Ryan Raplee (@ryanraplee), co-founder and CTO of Legal InSites (@LegalInSites), says local businesses need a business name, address, and phone number (NAP) that is identical to their Google My Business listing, as well as other citations on the Internet.
Ideally, this data should be formatted using a structured data markup from schema.org. You can find more information at that website.
Bentz encourages small-business owners to spend time on their titles and meta tags.
“Make sure the keywords you wish to target are included in those tags and in your on-page design," Bentz notes. "For small businesses that don't have a lot of local competition, this effort alone might get you on the first page of Google.”
Get found: “A meta title needs to be less than 55 characters and a meta description needs to be less than 150 characters, otherwise Google will cut it off in results,” says Transon.
For more tips, check out “These 4 Elements Will Make or Break Your Online Presence.”
About the Contributors
Bob Bentz is the author of Relevance Raises Response: How to Engage and Acquire with Mobile Marketing. He is also an adjunct at the University of Denver teaching the graduate level course in mobile marketing. Bentz is president of Rocky Point Media, a web development company in Hawaii. In addition, he is president of mobile first digital agency Purplegator in Philadelphia.
Nick Leffler helps small businesses grow their business online with experience building websites, social media presence, and more. Leffler has grown his online presence with a small marketing budget by using methods such as blogging and organic social media reach.
Ryan Raplee is the co-founder and CTO of Legal InSites, a digital marketing agency that specializes in web design and SEO for law firms. He's started many successful websites, some reaching as many as 500k unique visitors a month. In recent years, his focus has been working solely with law firms. Follow Ryan on Twitter to connect.
Michael Transon is the CEO of Honeycomb, a San Francisco inbound marketing agency. Honeycomb helps small businesses create and execute cross-channel marketing plans to increase demand generation. You can find him on Twitter at @michaeltranson.