We all know how important a website is to a business’s online strategy. Almost every business, whether B2B, B2C, non-profit, local or global needs an online presence to reach buyers in the internet age. A company’s website is its virtual storefront.
Having a website alone isn’t the key to great results. Instead, it’s the ability turn your website into an lead generating, marketing machine.
Your website has a hefty goal and it needs to wear many hats. A website needs to not just exist, it needs to perform.
It needs to attract visitors, educate them and convince them to buy. But I know what you’re thinking - easier said than done.
The Web Is No Longer Static
Today, the web is social and interactive. It’s not static like most websites tend to be. As such, a website can no longer sustain as its own island.
We now need to consider integrating search, social media, content, blogging, and more with our websites.
Gone are the days where all it took was a URL, fancy Flash graphics, and an expensive advertising campaign to temporarily boost traffic.
The Web Has Changed How People Buy
The reason for this shift is largely due to changing buyer behavior. Today’s buyer wishes to consume information when they want and how they want and often-times without the involvement of a sales person. And more importantly, they want to be educated and not sold to.
"Ask your customers to be part of the solution, and don't view them as part of the problem." - Alan Weiss, author of Million Dollar Consulting
Websites and new forms of marketing content (such as podcasts, blogging, reviews and social media) have become a considerable factor in the buying cycle.
The 25 elements that your website should have is broken down into four categories that follow the buyer's journey from stranger to customer.
These four categories are:
- Getting found online
- Design & usability
Fair warning: long post ahead.
If you'd like us to email it to you instead, click here.
How To Be Found Online
1. Off-page SEO
Every website on the internet has the goal of reaching the #1 position in search engines but because there is only one top spot per keyword phrase, not everyone can make it. So what gets a first place ranking? Off-page search engine optimization (SEO) is the most important factor to increasing your ranking results.
Off-Page SEO is about building inbound links, essentially getting other quality websites to link back to you. Search engines call this authority or “link juice.” The more inbound links you have, the more important your site must be, thus the higher you’ll rank.
Link building, when done right, isn’t easy since adding links to other websites is sometimes out of your control. Here are some tips to building inbound links:
- Create high-quality, educational or entertaining content. If people like your content, they will naturally want to link to it.
- Submit your website to online directories. This is an easy way to start.
- Write guest posts for other blogs. This is a win-win for both parties. People will want extra (quality) content from others and in exchange, it’s a great way to build inbound links.
- Researching link building opportunities with other websites, but always check the authority of the websites that you are trying to get links from. There are many tools online that allow you to check domain or page authority, including HubSpot’s link grader tool.
- And don’t borrow, beg, barter, bribe or buy links.
2. On-Page SEO
While off-page search engine optimization (SEO) is hugely important, we can’t forget about on-page SEO.
This consists of placing your most important keywords within the content elements of your actual pages. These on-page elements include Headlines, Sub-headlines, Body Content, Image Tags, and Links.
It’s very common that businesses will do too little on-page optimization or too much (keyword stuffing). While it’s important to include your keyword as many times as necessary within a page, you don’t want to go overboard with it either.
For on-page SEO done right, here are a few best practices to keep in mind:
- Pick a primary keyword for each page and focus on optimizing that page for that word. If you oversaturate a page with too many keywords on one page, the page will lose its importance and authority because search engines won’t have a clear idea of what the page is about. This is very common on homepages in particular, where too many keywords are used.
- Place your primary keywords in your headline and sub-headline. These areas of content have greater weight to search engines.
- Include the keywords in the body content but don’t use them out of context. Make sure they are relevant with the rest of your content.
- Include keywords in the file name of images (e.g. mykeyword.jpg) or use them in the ALT tag.
Be sure to write a keyword optimized title & meta description. Meta tags don’t quite have the level of SEO importance as they used to but are still very important. Back in the day, websites abused meta tags to increase their rankings by including far too many keywords. Now search engines are smarter and give more weight to inbound links and page content for ranking instead. However, they still play an important role to an SEO strategy.
Include the keywords in the page URL and keep the URL clean. We recommend using the shortest URL possible, where the URL is the core keyword.
Be sure you are writing for humans first, search engines second. Always prepare your content for your audience and then look to optimize it for search. Content written in the other order won’t read naturally and your visitors will recognize it.
3. Technical SEO
What's technical SEO? This refers to the code, video, images and text that make up your website, and how these interact with another. It has to do with how easily a spider can crawl your website to understand what it's about.
How do you know if your website is technically sound? Run a website audit.
You can generate a free, instant website health audit, using our tool at this link. Our tool will give your website a health score, and generate a list of Errors, Warnings and Notices you should be aware of. While this doesn't cover every aspect of technical SEO, it's a good start.
You'll want to be sure to account for broken links first.
We’ve all experienced a time when we clicked on a website link that ended up being broken. Typically you’ll see a
“404 message” or “Page Not Found.”
A lot of times this is caused when a page is moved to a new URL and the old link hasn’t been directed to the new page. Think about the lost opportunity when your customers or potential buyers want information that they can’t locate.
If you choose to move a page on your website, make certain that you use a permanent 301 Redirect, a method used to change an old URL to a new one.
The general incentive behind an XML sitemap is to help search engine crawlers (or “spiders”) sift through your pages more efficiently. An XML sitemap is simply an .xml file containing a listing of all your pages and when they were updated. It’s a lot like a subway map.
It shows the structure of your website and where are your pages reside. Creating a sitemap is easy. You can find sitemap generators online that will create the .xml file for you. Once you get the .xml file, simply upload it to the root directory of your website (e.g. www. website.com/sitemap.xml).
If your website is updated regularly, make it a good practice to update your xml file at least once a month so search engines have the freshest data. Adding an XML sitemap is a component that is commonly overlooked, while it may not be the deciding factor in improving your SEO, it definitely helps!
How To Design Your Site for Usability
Now that you’re generating some good traffic by getting found online, your next focus should be on getting that traffic to stay on your website. This "dwell time" will actually help your SEO as well!
It depends on the industry, but most websites have a 60% bounce rate on average. This means a large majority of web traffic entering your website leaves without navigating to any other pages. And many times they may never come back. Yikes!
Here are some tips you need to consider to improve user experience.
We're all about first impressions, and the web is no different.
Your website represents who you are and what you offer. When people see it for the first time they’re thinking:
- Is this site credible?
- Is it trustworthy?
- Is this a professional company?
- Is this company stable?
- Does this site make me feel welcome?
- Am I in the right place?
You need to ask yourself all of these questions when designing your website. Now, design may not be the most important factor in a website overall and often-times folks put too much emphasis on how a site looks instead of it works, but it does play an important role in making a good first impression.
It’s best to keep elements on your site fairly consistent from page-to-page.
Elements include colors, sizes, layout and placement of those elements. Your site needs to have a good flow from page to page. This means colors are primarily the same as well as fonts and layout structure. Navigation should remain in the same location of your layout throughout your website.
For layout structure, typically three page layouts exist for most websites: one for the homepage, one for content pages and one for form pages. For example, your homepage will have a different layout than a landing page for a PPC campaign. Keep the elements in these layouts constant. This will help keep your visitors from feeling lost.
7. Custom Website Images Are Better
Images can be a powerful element to any website but you need to use them wisely. What kind of images does your website need to be successful? For example, consider stock photography. Stock images are seen everywhere because they are easily accessible and inexpensive. But are they good to use?
Sometimes they are our only option. We are guilty of using stock photos sometimes. I mean, the photo above is a stock photo. ;-) However...
Customized photos are better; however, if you do have to use stock images, make sure that the images you are using are relevant. Don't make these mistakes.
Marketing Experiments performed a test comparing the use of stock photography verses real imagery on a website and each of their effects on lead generation. What they found was that photos of real people out-performed the stock photos by 95%. Why? Because stock images tend to be irrelevant.
As a result, take care to place meaningful images on your site. Every image is transmitting a subconscious message to your audience and sometimes the result is different from what might expect. I’d recommend looking into another study by Marketing Experiments “
8. Navigation & Overall Structure
Perhaps one of the biggest factors to keep visitors on your website is having a good, solid navigation system that
supports all search preferences.
In fact, more than three-quarters of survey respondents from a recent HubSpot study say that the most important element in website design is ease in finding information.
If people can’t find what they are looking for, they will give up and leave. Important factors in a site’s navigation
- Keep the structure of your primary navigation simple (and near the top of your page).
- Include navigation in the footer of your site.
- Use breadcrumbs on every page (except for the homepage) so people are aware of their navigation trail.
- Include a Search box near the top of your site so visitors can search by keywords.
- Don’t offer too many navigation options on a page.
- Don’t dig too deep – in most cases it’s best to keep your navigation to no more than three levels deep.
- Include links within your page copy and make it clear where those links go to. This is also great for SEO!
Flash (yet), thus they won’t be able to navigate your website. Same applies to web browsers that don’t have an
updated version of Flash installed.
The overall rule with a proper navigation structure is simple: don’t require visitors to have to think about where they need to go and how to get there. Make it easy for them.
There are two things to consider when it comes to designing for accessibility: device type and user abilities.
According to W3.org, "Web accessibility means that websites, tools, and technologies are designed and developed so that people with disabilities can use them."
More specifically, people can:
- perceive, understand, navigate, and interact with the Web
- contribute to the Web
Make sure that anyone visiting your website can view it no matter what browser or application they are using. In order to gain significant traffic, your site needs to be compatible with multiple browsers and devices. With growth in mobile phones and tablet devices, people are surfing the internet more than ever before.
Make sure to get some of those views by allowing everyone to view your site, no matter what kind of system they run or which browser they use.
10. Website Speed
Page speed refers to the amount of time it takes for your website to load.
The web has made us all a little bit impatient. If something takes more than 3 seconds we hit the back button. Does your website load quickly on desktop devices, but slowly on mobile devices? Not sure?
Visit Google PageSpeed Insights and find out!
Website speed is not only important for usability, it's also important for SEO. In 2018, Google rolled out an update stating that page speed would contribute to mobile site rankings. By June 2021, Google rolled out a Core Vitals search algorithm update. Page speed and page experience are big factors when it comes to your website's usability and SEO.
How To Define Your Content Strategy
There are four basic questions you need to ask yourself regarding the content of your website.
- Will people know what I do within seconds?
- Will they understand what page they’re on and what it’s about?
- Will they know what to do next?
- Why should they buy/subscribe/download from this site instead of from someone else?
11. Messaging That Answers the 5 Ws
Before we had the internet, we had newspapers. We read the headline first, then the first paragraph, and if we were interested in the subject matter, we continued on to get the details. This structure is known as the 5 Ws: who, what, when, where, why. Later, we added an H: how.
Ideally, you want your visitors to know the answers to these questions. It should be readily apparent what your site is about, what they can do there and why they should take action.
On your homepage and most important pages, create a few headlines and sub-headline ideas for your most important pages.
To combat question #4 (why should I buy from you?) use a powerful value proposition and steer clear from generic cliches, gobbledygook terms and corporate speak.
12. Clear Next Steps
Let's play a game and see if I can read your mind?
Read the text in the following image.
Was I right? In the rare case that you read these in a different order, I believe you may be left-handed.
Call-to-action (CTA) placement is extremely important! In our fast-paced world, we have been conditioned to process large amounts of information quickly. Our brains have adapted by finding loopholes to streamline the process. The way information is laid out is one of those loopholes.
Make sure to include clear call-to-actions and next steps. Include links in your body copy, next step links at the end of
the copy and calls-to-action wherever appropriate.
Include a little direction and you’ll be glad you did.
13. Quality and Quantity
Everyone knows having a lot of content is a good thing, but in the days where search engines are getting smarter
and buyers are becoming more selective, quality content is truly king.
Here's the quantity exception: word count.
You need enough content to completely cover the subject matter without stuffing your keyword in there 100 times.
Google rewards comprehensive content. In fact, I would argue that it is the second most important ranking factor for most search queries. The top-ranking factor is the relevance to the query.
Quality content is a definite must-have for any website.
14. Education Focused
Even though the purpose of a corporate website is to provide information about your products and services, not
everyone is ready to buy when they first hit your site. Second, remember it’s not all about you. What’s in it for them?
Offer more than just product content. Provide eBooks, whitepapers, videos, and other forms of content that is
educational. This will nurture prospects through your marketing and sales funnel until they are ready to buy, plus,
they will feel as if they are receiving valuable information along the way and not just a sales pitch.
In product-specific content, write as if you are speaking directly to your audience. Use words like “you,” and “we.”
Be transparent. Make yourself sound human. Speak their language.
Write your product content as if you are helping them solve their problems. Avoid “we are the best” speak and
instead use “this is how we help you....”
15. Blog without The Editorial Calendar
Blogging is without a doubt one of the most important assets to any inbound marketing strategy and it’s a perfect
complement to your website.
Is your company publishing a new blog post or other content at a regular interval? Maybe you’re publishing a new post every Tuesday from now into eternity.
While it's nice to have new, fresh content all the time. For most companies, this is unsustainable.
Rather than thinking of your blog as a magazine or newspaper, it’s better to think of it as sales collateral.
We're not suggesting that you actually write the content in a shallow, sales-y way, but rather it’s best to publish content as quickly as you can.
After all, you wouldn’t purposely hold back writing sales collateral because of an arbitrary schedule. You just get it done.
16. SEO Friendly Content Structure
SEO and content marketing are related fields, but they are not the same thing. Content marketing is an excellent marketing approach that many companies use to make their search engine optimization (SEO) strategies successful.
The topic cluster model of content marketing maximizes SEO performance by providing a group of content (usually blog posts) that cover a series of closely related topics.
The standard topic cluster model as espoused by HubSpot includes a central piece of content that covers a broad topic, often referred to as pillar content, and shorter content that covers narrower topics. We call these shorter topic pages cluster content.
17. Use Different Types of Content
Content is more than just the written word. Media and utilities are excellent forms of content that can turn a text-
heavy site into something that pleases the viewing preferences of multiple audiences.
Content takes place in the form of:
- Imagery (including infographics)
- Online interactive tools (e.g. Instant Website Audit)
- You name it!
Try using many different forms of content. It will help create a content-rich experience.
18. Social Proof
No matter what you’re selling, potential buyers like to see confirmation that you’ve made other customers happy.
Testimonials, customer reviews and case studies are powerful sources of content for moving prospects even closer
to the final buying stages.
- Provide authentic customer stories and don’t hide these behind a form!
- Place real, short and powerful testimonials on your site.
- The more proof you have the better. Make it part of your strategy to collect case studies and testimonials when possible.
- Leverage other online sites that provide reviews, such as Yelp (for local businesses), or industry specific directories like Capterra for software providers.
How To Boost Conversions
Now that you know what it takes to drive traffic and engage visitors with great content, the next step is to get your visitors to convert from a prospect into a lead. You don’t want them leaving without providing some information or else you will lose the opportunity to nurture them until they are ready to buy.
Here are some must-haves for increasing your website conversions.
19. Agile-Minded, Constant Improvement Cycles
The internet has changed everything. Internet usage is growing rapidly and you need to be there when potential buyers come looking. A business website may be the most important factor in your inbound marketing strategy, but it’s more than just having a website, it’s the integration of SEO, social media, blogging, content, CTAs and landing pages that will drive traffic, leads and sales.
After all it is these components that generate sales and revenue for your business. Inbound marketing
is the key to filling your sales funnel with qualified leads and your website is where education, engagement and conversion take place.
Follow these guidelines and you will soon have a great website that generates traffic, leads and sales. But don’t stop there. A website never truly stops growing.
20. Calls to Action
The effect of a successful Call to Action (CTA) is to drive a visitor to take a desired action. CTAs are typically kept
above the fold or in clear sight on a page so visitors know where to take the next step. CTAs are the key to lead
generation but they need to be done right to convert traffic into leads.
• Make them bigger and bolder than most other elements on the page, but don’t overdo it.
• Consider colors of the CTA, whether it is a link, button or image. Make them look so good people will want to
click on them.
• Offer CTAs that provide value, like guides, whitepapers, estimates, etc. “Contact Us” is the worst form of a CTA.
Don’t rely on that as your only option for conversion.
• Make the CTA look clickable. You can do this by making a button or adding a hover effect to an element.
• Less is more. Keep it simple and clear what is being offered.
Test when possible. Try testing different colors (e.g. red verses green buttons), language, and placement to see
which CTAs get more clicks and drive more leads (refer to the “Messaging” section above for A/B testing tools).
21. Landing Pages
Effective landing pages are what will turn your website into a lead generating machine. So what makes an effective landing page?
- Include the elements on the previous page and only what is needed. Keep your pages simple and minimize distractions.
- Never ever use your homepage as a landing page.
- Consider removing main site navigation from the landing page so visitors can focus on completing the form and not continuing to search your site.
- Make it very clear what the offer is and make it irresistible.
- Absolutely make sure that the content on your landing page matches your call-to-action. If there is a disconnect in your messaging visitors will hit the Back button.
- Reduce friction – don’t make visitors think too much or do too much work (i.e. reading).
- Use the right form and only collect the information you absolutely need (see must-have Forms for more details).
Forms are the key to a landing page. Without them, there is nothing for the visitor to do on that page. Forms come
in handy when it’s time for people to sign-up, subscribe to your site or download an offer.
You might be wondering how much or how little information you should require with a form. There is no magic answer when it comes to how many fields your form should contain but the best balance would be to collect only the information you really need.
The fewer fields you have in a form, the more likely you will receive more conversions. This is because with each new field you add to a form, it creates friction (more work for the visitor) and fewer conversions. A longer form looks like more work and sometimes it will be avoided all together. But on the other hand, the more fields you require, the better quality those leads might be. The best way to determine what works best is to test it.
Remember, forms need to feel as short as possible. Proper design and layout can help here.
23. Email Marketing
You should definitely offer a newsletter or blog subscription on your website. Not all CTAs need to be big offers. Newsletters or mailing lists are the perfect way to collect email addresses so you can nurture prospects over time to become leads.
Just make sure it’s easy for people to find your subscription form!
How will your website integrate with the other aspects of your business?
Consider how website leads will flow into your CRM or how a complaint is routed to customer service.
A good website needs to integrate into your tech stack.
25. Marketing Automation
Using some amazing integrations and marketing automations, a website visit can trigger snail mail, gifts, gift cards or a task for a team member to make a call, send a text or make a visit.
Not all email marketing is newsletter specific! You should also account for emails triggered on specific actions. This can be accomplished with marketing automation.
Marketing automation can also assist you in segmenting your users into groups for advertising placements. The next time a lead heads over to their preferred social media site or news site, a proper ad placement can remind them of your company and website and bring them back!
By leveraging your marketing automation efforts, you can create channels to re-engage visitors and boost overall contact to conversion rates!
Where to start? We recommend you tackle your website in the order of this website must-haves post.
Tackling a new website or website redesign is a big undertaking. Do you really need a website redesign?