Eight essential elements of a valuable website

Sonja Jefferson

If you want your website to be valuable to your customers and generate a consistent stream of good leads for your business what do you need to focus on? Here are the eight most important elements you’ll need to address with your content and web design if you want your website to fulfil its potential.

1. Focus on your target reader first

If you want to create a website that genuinely works for your business, put the customer first. This means defining exactly who the website is for, building a deep understanding of what their needs are and designing the site and its content around those needs. Just describing your company, what you do, the services you deliver is not enough. You will miss the mark with your customers and miss an important trick with your marketing if you do this. Remember: your website is not for you, it’s for your customers.

2. Content matters

Some mistakenly see a website’s content purely as filler. Bung a few words down to replace all that Lorem Ipsum your designer first put in. Nobody reads it anyway do they? But the content is vital: your words ARE your message. That’s how you communicate your value and get your point across. Don’t begin the design process until you have the content. So think content first, then get the web designers in.

3. Valuable content matters most of all

We see many sites without a shred of valuable content, and some with the right type of content but it’s virtually hidden from sight. Both are missing a trick. Remember: valuable content is what your buyers seek so make your content USEFUL. Think library, not brochure with useful articles, video, slideshows. Fill those shelves over time.

“If your website isn’t getting traffic it’s because your content isn’t important or useful enough. It’s that simple. You’re not raising the bar, helping people, entertaining them, changing lives, and inspiring your readers to take some form of action. If you were, your audience would grow. Trust me.”  Mars Dorian, creative entrepreneur.

4. Good design is essential

Investing in professional design is crucial if you want to give a professional image, entice people to stay on the site, read what you have to say and find the information they want to find, fast. Skimp on good design at your peril. There’s nothing more off putting than a badly designed or confusingly laid out site with content that is hard to read.

5. Make your website simple to navigate

Make it simple for your visitors to find the information they want, fast or they’ll quickly get frustrated and click away. Can they get from A to B? Pay attention to the site’s ‘information architecture’, and make sure it’s structured around your visitors’ different needs. This takes thought and planning. Remember to follow conventions – don’t try and reinvent the wheel.

6. Learn to label for search engines

Search engine algorithms are getting better and better but if you don’t label your information properly then they will struggle to index your stuff. If you’re going to get the most from your investment in great content, learn how to index it properly so that the Googlebots can can find it. That is, in a nutshell, what search engine optimisation is all about – no black art – in essence it’s about good labelling. Make like a good librarian and index your stuff appropriately.

7. Make your website sticky

The longer your visitors stays on the site, the higher their level of engagement and the more chance you have of starting to build that relationship, get them to sign up, contact you, buy your stuff. So you have to make your website ‘sticky’. Fill it full of information they genuinely value. Link and direct them to related content: “If you like this, you might also be interested in this.” And give them an opportunity to come back: invite them to join your mailing list and, if you continue to deliver them value, you’ll motivate them to come back to your site to learn more.

8. Clear calls to action

We don’t mean just putting your contact details on the Contact Us page. We mean having clear signposts to action across the site – telling your visitor what you want them to DO if they like what they find. So many sites miss out on this. Retailers tend to be better at it – ADD TO BASKET, BUY NOW. For service firms – the purpose of the site is to engage your visitors, to build the relationship, not always to elicit an immediate purchase. The action you want is for visitors to either get in contact with you or give you permission to stay in touch (sign up to your mailing list). Give clear calls to action and spell out the next step you want the reader to take. Make it easy for them.

Build your website around these eight elements and you’ll reap the rewards in terms of visitors, leads and sales in 2012.

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2 Comments

  1. Hi Sonja,
    Another great post. Your point about getting the content before you call in the web designers is crucial. In my experience this seldom happens!
    Cheers,
    Jim

    Reply

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