Today it’s taken for granted that your business—no matter the size—has a website. Many businesses also have more than one social media account: Instagram especially seems a great way for companies to connect with customers. But even Instagram works best when there’s a site referenced in the profile.
Your website is as important as ever. It’s the bedrock of your online sales efforts. And in order to be effective, it needs to be current in both appearance and function. You may spend a lot of time and effort posting to Instagram, but if customers want to get in touch, they’ll most likely want to check your website first.
These days, the appearance of a website is determined by function, and the entire site must be built so that visitors can get to the information they want, quickly. In many ways, Google has set the standard for web site design—chiefly because they have tuned their search engine to crawl and recognize sites that are likely to deliver the best experience to users. Their Webmaster Guidelines offer information on what you should and shouldn’t do but one of the most important factors is that websites give users what they are searching for. That’s why high-quality content really makes a difference, especially on your home page. Where there’s meaningful content, there will also be visitors.
Five important tips to make sure you’re getting it right:
1. Content marketing
People look to the web for information, and the more of it you provide, the more likely your site will rank high. If your content is superior, visitors will spend more time on a page, and you’ll get more return visits. Google will take note of that and give you credit. Excellent content also yields a high rate of inbound links. In other words, you will get traffic not only from Google searches but by links to your site posted on other websites. This is why creating original, well written, and substantial content that incorporates all the keywords necessary for search engine indexing is such a smart investment. Determine who your audience is and what they’re struggling with and create content that informs and entertains them, depending on your industry. However, think user first and keyword second. The copy should be conversational and informative without too much focus on how many keywords are being used (avoid “keyword stuffing”). Superior content will drive traffic and build trust in your brand.
2. Internal links
Because links are what guide search crawlers to index all the pages on your site, the way they’re set up impacts your site’s rank. Every time you create new content, the size of your site grows and that boosts its rank with search engines. Make it easy for search crawlers to index your site by linking new content from top-level pages. And if you’re using an image to link to another page, treat the alt attribute as you would anchor text—it should be specific about the content that it’s linking to. Also, avoid too many levels on your site, beyond four deep becomes problematic for crawlers—this is why blogging is the ideal way to grow your site. You should also look into broken links. Use Screaming Frog, it’s got a free version that lets you check for broken links. And if you change the slug within a URL, make sure you set up a redirect so users and crawlers don’t land on an error page.
Making your site easy to navigate will help to reduce bounce rates and Google is noting this when they grade your site. Logical and easy navigation also results in more pages getting indexed by search engines. This is where site architecture matters since your visitors could be arriving on any page. A clear website hierarchy that helps them know exactly where they are at all times and a path to where they need to go next means they’ll stay longer and learn more about your brand. The minute they get confused, they’ll leave (bounce). The same is true for search engine crawlers, a properly structured hierarchy helps to secure indexing of all your important pages. Also, make sure you submit a sitemap file to Google Search Console.
Gone are the days of whirling graphics, drop shadows and fancy fonts. Fortunately, today’s web technology allows for a graphical, easy-to-navigate interface that fills the browser window and communicates clearly. Today’s browsers support a full range of graphic and video features that let you build a site without compromising great design.
Thinking of making a graphic with large, important text in it? Try instead to use the robust typography tools available to web developers today, and avoid using graphics with important text. The reason is, search engines cannot read what a graphic is saying, even if a person can. Search engines crawl text only—so it’s important that your main keywords and phrases are expressed in text format. And in today’s web development environment, there’s no need to compromise your up-to-date appearance. Use “live” text instead of text “inside” a graphic.
5. Calls to action
While a strong online presence will boost your brand, converting visitors into leads and customers should be your priority. Remember, your site is your most important online selling tool. Once a visitor is on your site, it’s your chance to connect with them and establish some sort of relationship.
If you’re a B2C company, make sure you’ve got “Add to Cart” or “Buy Now” buttons in the right places. For B2B, place email subscription forms, create free downloadable ebooks or whitepapers and offer webinars to capture leads. The way you get people to subscribe, download, or get in touch is via calls to action (CTAs). They’re usually buttons but can be linked text or graphics. CTAs should be strategically incorporated into your web design. This is what turns your visitors into leads that you can continue conversations with and convert into customers. Add CTAs in optimal places throughout your website–on product and service pages, at the end of blog posts, and in sidebars.
It’s important to also note that your site should incorporate responsive design—this means that it’ll adapt to desktop, tablet, and mobile screens. It should have lots of white space and also be lean and fast. Today’s relatively flat, utilitarian site designs are built for speed. Of course, you ought to use graphics and photographs but be careful of images that are too large, rotating sliders which mobile users find so annoying, content units that refer to code libraries, or videos that are not properly sampled and hosted. Your visitors have little patience and will leave within moments if it seems like your site is tired-out trying to load into the browser. Another way to manage load-time is to check the length of your pages. Instead of one very long page, break up the content into quick-loading pages.
But the key takeaway is in 2019 your site is still key to your online selling success. Make providing meaningful content your most important mission. In addition, you’ll win with a clear, concise, attractive, and fast-loading site. Today’s web technology offers almost unlimited flexibility—use it to your advantage!
Hudson Digital is a web design agency in Hudson, NY. We build styilish and easy to maintain sites that have been optimized for search engines and conversion. Contact us to learn more.