Many of our clients ask us what their site needs in order to rank well in the search results. Quite honestly, that depends on a lot of things, like the industry you are in, the kind of site you have, and your goals as it relates to your business. While there isn’t an easy one-size-fits-all answer here, there are a few things every site (not matter what) should have if they hope to rank in search.
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Be the best result
Ultimately, when it comes to doing any sort of optimization on your website, you should always strive to be the best result. That means optimizing every part of your site, from your technical set up and site structure to your color palette and button design. Google itself advises website owners to focus on the quality of their content and your site. Look at user intent – what are they looking for, and what do they expect to find? How are they behaving on your website? How can you make their experience better? When making changes to your site, let this question always be your litmus test: will this make my site better for my users? If the answer is yes, go for it. Track your results, and make adjustments later down the road if necessary.
Things a great website should have
Purpose that matches user intent
Why does your website exist? Of course, it’s there to help you sell more products or services. But why are you selling them? And why should someone come to you instead of going with your competition? Your website’s mission should take into account who your audience is and what they are looking for. Get to know your audience, and uncover as much as you can about them. Communicate clearly in a language they will resonate with and easily understand.
Tell a story with your website, one that speaks to your ideal audience, to their struggles and interests. Intrigue them, sympathize with them, show them you can help them and that their life will be better if they purchase [insert products or service here]. The story you tell needs to be on point, otherwise you will lose their interest and their business.
Keep Reading: Writing A Mission Statement For Your Website
When you know your purpose and you know your audience, you can create content that your visitors need. This makes them statistically more likely to purchase from you, which brings you get one step closer to fulfilling that mission.
Websites have changed a lot in the last five years. They used to be nothing more than an online brochure, a storehouse for information about your company. But now, they exist to compliment your brand strategy and allow customers to interact with you in the digital marketplace. So, one of the things your website must have is a clear headline that communicates what you offer to potential customers.
A word of caution with headlines: avoid the curse of knowledge. As the owner of your business, you know so much about your products and services. And it can be difficult not to project that same knowledge onto your customers. Remember: they don’t know your products like you do, and they’ll only give you a couple seconds to hook their interest. You need to communicate what you offer to customers in clear and simple language. Here are just a few examples:
- Let us cater your special occasion
- Get fit with a personal trainer
- Build an awesome website for your business (sound familiar?)
Great call to action
It is amazing just how many websites out there skip this next step and don’t put a clear call to action on their website. You need to make it as easy as possible for potential customers to do one of two things: purchase your products, and get in touch with you.
For products or services on your website, make that “Buy Now / Place an Order / Get a Quote” button stand out. Think carefully about your button design – it should draw people’s eyes and be simple and clear. Moreover, think about having those buttons take customers to specific product pages – your main revenue streams – instead of your full shop. If your business is known for something, showcase that front and center, and focus your call to action around that.
Read More: Designing Your Website’s Call To Action
Whatever that button says, it is the main focus of the website. Everything else on the page, whether it’s your web copy or your images, should work together to make that button noticeable and convince customers to click it.
Images that display success
We’ve all heard the saying: A picture is worth a thousand words. On a website, they are worth ten thousand, so take care when selecting and optimizing the ones you will use. When choosing images for your website, remember that your website isn’t about you; it’s about your customer. You’re creating this website for them, to help them with a particular problem. So as much as you might be tempted, don’t show an image of yourself with your kids (unless that is one of the problems you solve!).
Instead, use the images on your site to show your customers what life will look like if they purchase your product or service. Remember that every external problem – a flat tire or an overgrown yard, for example – manifests an emotional response in your customer. That might be frustration, confusion, helplessness, etc. While you might sell your product to fix an external problem, ultimately, your customer is buying your product to relieve that emotional tension. So, show images on your website of that tension being relieved by your product or service; this can significantly increase the chances of a potential customer taking the plunge and seek your help.
Engaging, user-centered content
As Yoast SEO likes to always say, “Content is king”. In order for your website to do well in the search results these days, your content has to be the best out there. And by that, we mean it has to solve problems, answer questions, and help your visitors accomplish their goals. In other words, your content should be centered on your users, not on your company. Every piece of content you write should help you accomplish your website’s purpose and meet the intent of your user. If the content doesn’t help you do this, carefully consider if it’s really necessary to have on your website.
While it’s true you can “cheat” your way to the top with pay-per-click ads, this isn’t a great way to attract long-term, high-quality traffic to your website. You’ll find that the benefits of investing in your content far outweigh the perceived benefits of PPC advertising.
Bite-sized product categories
This one is especially important if you have a lot going on in your online shop. Sometimes, a company might sell several different kinds of products / services that solve a handful of different problems. Instead of trying to cram all of those products onto your home page, take a step back and analyze your revenue stream. Which products bring in the most money for your business? Feature those on your homepage, then divide the rest of your products into digestible categories.
For example, let’s say you sell all sorts of candles in your online shop. You could feature your best-selling Cranberry Pomegranate candle in a banner on your homepage. Then, below this, you could divide the rest of your products into the following categories: one-wick candles, three-wick candles, pillar candles, taper candles, gel candles, etc. Think about how you can group your products in ways that simplify the shopping process for your customers. Giving them fewer choices actually helps them, because it allows them to really engage with the products you’ve chosen to display.
Solid technical set-up
A good website also needs to have a solid technical set-up. This means it loads as fast as possible, no matter which country the user is in when attempting to access your website. It also means your site is easily crawlable and shows search engines what they can and can’t index. Your hosting company should automatically take care of most of this (like we do!), if you’ve chosen one that is reputable and flexible to your site’s needs.
Additionally, you should consider marking up your website with structured data from Schema.org. Structured data helps search engines understand what the different elements on your web pages mean and how they relate to each other. It’s almost like a translator for the search engine, describing what everything means. Google likes to reward sites that use structured data with rich results, like recipe cards, FAQ dropdowns, and featured snippets.
Lastly, your site should be trustworthy and safe. Users, and search engines, are less likely to trust a website that doesn’t run on HTTPS. Too many people have been burned by having their data compromised on an unsecured website. Google knows this! If Google doesn’t see that locked padlock on the URL bar, they will question your website and rank you lower in the search results. To keep your site safe and secure:
- Use up-to-date software
- Implement an SSL
- Use strong passwords
- Protect your site from DDoS attacks (Cloudflare is great for this)
Amazing user experience
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: always keep your user in mind. That applies for everything relating to your website, including your design. You website should be designed in a way that helps users accomplish their goals. It is important to keep your design on-brand, but it is also equally important that your site be clear and easy to use for everyone. This means not only paying attention to how the site looks, but also to how it feels. Do things load quickly? Are the menu items clear and simple? Is your text too big / too small?
All these design questions should focus on what will make for a good user experience, not just what looks good next to your logo.
So what makes a good website?
There’s a lot that goes into building a website, if you do it well. In this post we’ve listed some of the important elements you should focus on while improving your site. Obviously, this list is not exhaustive! What other things do you think are beneficial to focus on when building or renovating a website?
Keep Reading: 7 Things You Should Put On Your Website’s Contact Page