We are all currently living in the digital age. Everything we can possibly need is available to us with a quick swipe of a finger. It only takes one simple Google search to release pages upon pages of information. Every business that wants to be relevant knows that having a website really isn’t debatable.

A well-planned website can be very beneficial to any small business. These benefits show up in various ways like lead generation, communicating with existing and prospective customers, big data, and being a resource hub for customers. Having a 24/7 online presence is a great way to communicate with your customers, you can learn their habits and they can get to know the company. The growth opportunities can be endless for your business. You are now expanding your market to the anybody and everyone online. The amount of reach you gain from having a functional website is undeniable.

A cool, functional, up-to-date website is a real make or break thing for small businesses. In fact, studies show that 85% of consumers use the internet to discover and find local businesses. That’s why it is important to ensure that your website stands out amongst the sea of competitors.

Do this by making sure your site is catching all the right attention and is easy to navigate. You cannot build your brand or expand your business without a highly purposeful website. Now we know that you can’t just get a launch a quick website and expect it to work. Follow us as we break down the top ten essential elements to any strong ranking website.

Step 1- Define Website Goals and Objectives 

Defining your goals and objectives is a skillful way to stay organized throughout the website building process. Just like any and every great plan you need to be organized in order to reach your maximum potential. When it comes to your website goals the less complicated, they are, the better. A great rule of thumb is to have SMART objectives. 

SMART – Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time Based

  • SPECIFIC – Your goals need to be clear and concise. This is the part where you figure out the who, what, where, and why of the goal. 
  • MEASURABLE – Your goals must be quantitative. Several key indicators that let you know you are either meeting the goals or falling short.
  • ATTAINABLE – Set website goals that are attainable. Is it realistically something you can reach in the allotted time. Do you possess the needed resources?
  • RELEVANT – Are the goals and objectives relevant to your business model?
  • TIME-BASED – Set deadlines. Examine timelines that work best for you and takes every other step into consideration.

Keep in mind, there are no right or wrong answers to these questions. It’s what will work best for you, your company, and customers.

Step 2 – Sitemap and Navigation

Sitemap and navigation set the framework for a positive User Experience (UX). It is all about creating an outline for your website and mapping out the user’s journey. Website organization is the foundation of web design.

Sitemaps are a visual way to organize and conceptualize your website and its navigation. It defines your website hierarchy and keeps your SEO development and design aligned with user experience in mind. It’s a wonderful way to visualize a website before the build, easier and more efficient to have a guide.

Website Sitemap and Navigation Tips

  • Keep it simple and organized 
  • Plan out your most important top-level pages
  • Use no more than seven main navigation tabs
  • Avoid single page scrolling websites
  • Plan your secondary pages carefully
  • Leave room for expansion 
  • Include a blog or news feed
  • Highlight Call to Action (CTA)

Step 3 – Website Content and SEO

Once you have organized your website into a sitemap, it is time to develop content for each page. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) must be carefully considered as you develop relevant and unique content for each webpage.

Imagine this, you are researching a topic. You open Google and type in your search term or search phrase. Google will return pages upon pages of information, but you realistically will only go as far as the bottom of the first page, right? This is actually so common in fact, about 92% of searchers will pick businesses on the first page of local search results. Its a sad truth, but this is exactly why every company strives to appear on the first page of Google.

Now, how does one even go about getting listed on the first page of Google? It weighs heavily on your content’s relevance, originality, traffic, and length. Furthermore, competition for keywords and phrases will also impact your ranking.

Now, you can’t just slap anything on your website and expect it to magically rank on page one. Do your research. It’s important to identify keywords and phrases that are commonly used to search your products or services. The content must have substance built around these keywords and phrases. Furthermore, it is necessary to identify and review competitors and other websites that offer similar products and services.

Improving your website’s SEO can be executed through any combination of webpage content, blogs, backlinks, white papers, eBooks, podcasts, videos, emails, infographics, Google My Business reviews, social media, and more.

Content and SEO Tips:

  • Create a targeted keyword list
  • Use a minimum of 300 words on each webpage 
  • Include a relevant photo on each page, and don’t forget ALT tags
  • Break up large amounts of text into paragraphs with headers
  • Use one H1 header and multiple H2 headers that include relevant keywords on each page
  • Focus on 2-3 main keywords per page and try to optimize for more SEO keyword phrase variations

Step 4 – Web Design and Website Responsiveness 

                This next step is where you really get to be creative. Your website is an extension of your brand and should reflect just that. Visitors should be able to easily access and navigate through all the web pages as described in Step 2. 

You only have website users’ attention for a short period of time. With that being said, the homepage has to perfectly embody your brand. Visitors should be impelled to navigate further, read more, buy now, or follow your anticipated user journey.

A responsive website ensures a positive UX experience across all devices. This means that your website translates well across all modes of technology whether that being a desktop, tablet, or mobile phone.

Mobile usage makes up about 56% of the global share in internet access. How many times have you clicked off a website because it looked wonky on your mobile phone?

Remember, your website is the first impression of your brand. Statistics show that 39% of website visitors form their opinion of a business based on initial user experience. All lasting customer- business relationships start with a great first impression.

Web Design and Website Responsiveness Tips:

  •      Keep your homepage minimalistic and free of clutter.
  •      Use fonts and hex color codes that reflect your brand
  •      Stay mobile friendly
  •      Keep most important info above the fold
  •      Avoid long scroll, website’s content should be separated onto pages

STEP 5 – Call to Action

Okay, so a user finds your website, they’re impressed by the website design, and read some of your content. What’s next? Remember, in Step 1 you established your website goals and objectives. What do you want your website visitors to do? What action do you want them to take?

Your definable Call to Action (CTA) must appear on all of your webpages. It should always direct your user on what to do next, such as buy, call, apply, download, etc. They shouldn’t have to guess. It is recommended that your CTA appear above the fold, or the top part of the web page shown before scrolling.

Examples of Common Call to Action

  • Call
  • Complete form
  • Chat
  • Buy
  • Share
  • Shop 
  • Search
  • Sign-up
  • Download
  • Email
  • Add to Cart

Step 6 – Website Speed Optimization 

The next step is all about optimizing your website speed. In today’s day and age, everybody wants everything immediately. If your website can’t perform to that standard, there’s always other competitors waiting in line.

Research shows that 1 in 4 visitors will leave a website if it takes 4 seconds or more to load. That’s a lot of lost website traffic. So yes, it can be concluded that website speed is heavily weighted by users. Website speed will definitely impact SEO and bounce rate.

Site Speed

Websites that load faster will have:

  • A lower bounce rate 
  • Higher conversion rates
  • Higher organic search ranking
  • And overall better user experience

Common Causes of Slow Websites

  • Heavy CSS and JavaScript use 
  • Poor server or hosting plan 
  • Large image sizes 
  • Not using browser cache 
  • Too many widgets and plugins 
  • Hotlinking images and other resources from slow servers
  • Traffic volume
  • Older browser
  • Slow network connection, primarily mobile device

Step 7 – ADA Accessibility

It is now required by law that your website must be compliant with the appropriate ADA accessibility guidelines. Yes, you can be sued. Attorneys are currently going after company websites for violating Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act. According to the law, it is the responsibility of the business owner to ensure ADA accessibility, not your ad agency, webmaster, or website company.

By having a website that is not fully accessible to individuals with disabilities, under Title III, websites are considered a place of accommodation. Depending on your platform there are a few turnkey solutions to meet WAG2.1AA. It’s important that all content is accessible for people with all types of disabilities: visual, hearing, speech, motor, cognitive, neurological.

The goal of any successful website is to increase traffic and meet objectives. Backlinks are a great way to organically share your content. When other quality websites reference or link to your website, it sends a strong signal of quality content to the search engines.

Now, you don’t want to just link anything to your company, the sites you link should be credible and relevant to your brand. You should think of your content as an information hub and treat it as such. In fact, high quality backlinks are especially valuable for SEO because they represent a vote of confidence from one site to another.

  • Social media links
  • Claim/create listings in relevant directories 
  • Guest blogging sharing content with other websites 
  • Become a source for reporters, bloggers, or other websites
  • Vendor or merchant links

Step 9 – Connect It 

 Once your website is launched, it’s important to connect it to certain internet tools for tracking, data insights, and remarketing. This information will provide you with opportunities to track trends and user data, as well as remarket to website visitors. There are five tools we highly recommend that you connect to your website:

Google My Business

Free tool used for managing your business across the internet. GMB allows you to post important information about your business; engage with your consumer; highlight your business; appear on Google maps; gain insights on user search and activity; encourage reviews; and more.  GMB is an important factor in your Search Engine Optimization.

Google Analytics

Google is the largest internet search engine, with more than 92% market share. Google Analytics is a free tool used to track and analyze traffic and actions on a website. These include number of users, unique visitors, user demographics, user journey, page views, referring pages, bounce rate, enter and exit pages, time spent on site, etc.

Google Search Console

Google Search Console allows you to monitor your website, identify and resolve page or crawl errors, security issues, and site loading.

Bing Webmaster Tools

Bing is the second largest search engine with approximately 3% of the market share. Bing Webmaster Tools are free and allow you can connect, track and list your website.  Once you claim and verify your Bing listing, you will have an opportunity to sync your Google My Business listing with your Bing Listing.

Social Media Pixels

Social media pixels collect data that helps you track conversions from social media ads, optimize ads, build targeted audiences for future ads, and remarket to people who have already taken some kind of action on your website. Pixels provide you with the opportunity to build target audiences and lookalike audience for social ad targeting.

Step 10 – Measure It

And finally, our last step is to measure your website data using the tools you set up in Step 9. Pay close attention to monthly reporting. You should set up conversion goal tracking that align with your website goals.

Remember, you have to be patient. Don’t expect to see any drastic results in a couple of days. It’s important to keep your website current and manage realistic expectations. You can monitor targeted keywords, review your websites analytics monthly, and keep an eye on your key performance indicators.

Final Thoughts on Essential Website Elements

 We know that website essentials are constantly evolving, and these 10 elements present a lot of information.  If you don’t have the time and expertise to manage your website, turn to a website professional, like JB Communications.

We are a full-service integrated marketing agency that specializes in solutions for small businesses. If you have anything you would like to redo or update on your website, contact us for a free website audit.