I love digging into the back-end systems that help a website go from “meh” to “awesome”. I’ve been working with websites for a while, and I’ve seen a couple of similarities amongst the sites that I think are beautiful and effective. In this post, I’m going to chat about the 5 website essentials you need to help improve the role that your website plays in your business.
I’m a huge advocate for integrating your website into your business strategy. But I don’t talk to many people who think this way. What do I mean with “integrating your website into your business strategy”? This is a whole blog post on its own (which will be coming up soon), but basically, you need to think about how your business works, how clients/customers have come to you in the past, and how you’d like people to work with you. Then take that information and translate it into your website.
You’ve likely done a bit of a strategy outline on how your business runs, who you’d like to work with and how you would like to work with them. From this, you’ve likely gleaned some useful information and tactics to implement on your website. These can either fall into the “must do this now” or the “can do this later” categories.
It’s the “must do this now” category that I’d like to cover here. I’m going to chat about 3 visual parts of the site and 2 technical parts.
5 Website Essentials
Website Essentials #1: Captivating, unique images
Everyone scans written content, that’s just the way of the Internet. You need your visuals to capture enough attention that visitors to your site are curious and want to read the content.
Free stock photos are available in abundance, and most sites are pulling images from the same few libraries. This means that similar styles of image, and sometimes even the same images, are appearing on websites and in social media content again and again.
I suggest taking a different approach: buy exclusive stock photos, take your own photos (or have photos taken by a professional), and design your own images. This way, you’ll be able to create an aesthetic that is the “visual personality” of your brand. This will help to build recognition of your brand when your audience and potential clients come across it online.
Website Essentials #2: Contact Form
You want to give visitors to your site a way to contact you, and you’d like to make it as easy as possible for them to do so. Ideally, you don’t want visitors to have to leave your website to be able to contact you. If you just have an email address on your contact page, people either have to click the address (if you’ve created a hyperlink), or copy and paste the text into their email programme.
Both of these methods put more steps between a visitor wanting to contact you and them actually doing so. The more steps are involved in contacting you, the less likely that visitors are to follow through on their intention of getting in touch.
It’s easy to set up a contact form and it takes less than 20 minutes. This is, therefore, something you can implement now to improve your site’s usability.
Website Essentials #3: Lead Capture Mechanism
This is related to a contact form, but the point is to give value to your website’s visitors via a freebie and to collect their email address in exchange. You likely have information that your visitors are looking for. This is a perfect opportunity to package that into a worksheet, a short e-book, a checklist, or a guide and then give that high-value information away for free.
This is a marketing tool that allows you to collect email addresses easily and have them automatically added to your email marketing platform. You are then able to continue to give the people on your email list even more value in your emails, create special offers for them and give them sneak previews of anything you develop in your business in the future.
Website Essentials #4: SEO (Search Engine Optimisation)
Much has been said online around SEO, and I’m not going to cover the what, why and how. But what I am going to say is that it is definitely necessary for your website.
If people are doing a Google search specifically for your name/your business name, they’ll probably find you if you’ve titled your site’s pages correctly. If they’re doing a Google search for what you do or what your business does, you want your website to pop up in the search results. This is where SEO comes in handy. Having half-baked SEO on your site won’t do you any favours though. So, when you do this, make sure it’s done properly.
If someone is looking for information on a topic that you write about, or asking a question that you’ve answered in a blog post, they’re more likely to find you if the SEO on that blog post (and the rest of your site) is done well. This is also where having a blog that’s regularly updated can help to increase your website’s traffic. I have written another post about why your website needs a blog if you’d like more information on why I think a blog is great for a website.
Website Essentials #5: Security
This should be an obvious one, but it’s important to protect your website from hackers, spam and other nasties. You do this by installing software to block spam and prevent malicious login attempts. It’s also important to protect your site’s visitors when they enter their information into your website.
You can protect your website’s visitors by installing and activating an SSL certificate. Doing this protects the data of people who enter contact details and credit card/payment details into your website. This is especially important if your site contains an ecommerce component (a shop). At the moment, Google isn’t considering this a hugely important ranking factor, but it will become more important in the near future.
It’s easier to set up the certificate before the site is built, but it can be done afterwards. To see if your site has a certificate active, check for the little green padlock icon on the left in the address bar and the “https://” before your website’s address. Google chrome displays it like this:
This is what the address bar looks like on my website.
If you haven’t got an SSL certificate, or anything else I mentioned, set up on your website, contact me, and I’ll happily get that done for you.
This is the sixth post in my “Website 101” series.
Melissa De Klerk
Writer, Web Designer, Digital Media Strategist, Typophile, Inspiration Junkie, Yogi
Melissa is the owner and creative brain behind Fox & Owl Media. She loves creating content strategies and has considerable experience with Website Design and Brand Management.
You can contact her here, and find her on social media by clicking the links below.