Building a successful website is actually more achievable for a one man band than for a large corporation. You have fewer overheads and fewer employees to pay, and with the democratic structure of search engines, you will be able to compete with large companies even if you can’t afford to pay for advertising.
To create a website that is capable of selling, all you need to do is follow a few simple rules relating to choosing the right type of site, creating great content, paying attention to page design, and communicating effectively with your visitors.
A successful website needs to fulfill the following roles:
- Attract highly targeted traffic
- Build a list of potential customers to market to
- Convert traffic into sales
- Change first time customers into return customers
When your website is achieving all of the above effectively then you will have a winning formula.
Steps to taking your website from conception to reality:
Your first decision will be to choose your domain name. Your next decision will be to find a hosting company and then to design your website. Once your website is ready to go, your last step, and the one that will occupy your time throughout the life of your business will be promoting your website and driving traffic to it. Let’s begin by choosing a domain name for your website.
It’s all in a name – How to choose a domain name that sells
Your choice of domain name is another crucial factor in establishing a successful website. Domain names are now fairly cheap, you can get one for under $20, so it is worth buying those that you feel would be suitable for your business, even if you do not plan to use them for a while.
What makes a great domain name?
Many people make the mistake of buying a domain name based on their company name. While this can work well for well known high profile brands, it is not a good idea for small online businesses that are just starting out. Unless you can afford a massive advertising campaign to build your brand it is advisable to avoid domain names showing your company name.
What your domain name should do is convey to potential visitors what your site is about. If you have a site that offers parenting advice then a domain such as parentingadvice.com would be ideal as it tells people straight away what they can expect from your site.
Where possible your domain name should include your primary keyword, or keywords. Of course it is not always possible to get a domain name that includes very general keywords, so you may need to be a little creative.
Choosing a web host
A website host is the organization that will store, manage, and often times provide tools to make owning and operating an online business easy.
Optimizing your site for the search engines and your customers
The main aim of search engines is to ensure that internet users are being directed to high quality, content rich sites that are relevant to the keyword they are searching for. This should mean that a site optimized for customer satisfaction could end up on the first page of the search engine, like Google.
Here are some areas about which customers and search engines agree when it comes to a successful website.
Search engines favor ‘fat’ sites with plenty of information rich content. It pays to add new content regularly to keep the search engine spiders visiting your site.
To keep your customers happy try to vary the type of content you post. Mix articles and reports with product reviews and interviews. Again, customers will be attracted by unique content that they can not access elsewhere on the internet.
By making your site simple to navigate you make it easy for both your customers and the search engine spiders to find their way around. Using a site map that is accessible from every page will help, as will ensuring that each of your pages is no more than two clicks from the home page.
If you think about it, your customer has probably arrived at your site by typing in a particular search term. Seeing that keyword or phrase in the title tag, meta tag, headers and first paragraph, which are the most important places for the search engines, is only going to reassure them that they have reached a relevant site.
The secret of keyword density is to keep your text natural sounding. You can use your keyword in the text several times, but as long as it is not obviously contrived to include your keywords, it will please both the search engines and your customers.
Customers tend to become involved with sites where they can interact in some way, and they visit these sites regularly. The most obvious examples of this are discussion forums and blogs, where readers can post comments. These types of features are also popular with search engines as new content is frequently posted, and they usually attract a lot of links.
For online business owners, your website is your lifeblood. Without a well designed website, you’re stopped before you ever get started. However, with a well designed website, the sky is the limit. Even better, a well designed website doesn’t have to cost thousands of dollars or involve a multitude of experts.
It’s all about the benefits. Websites that sell provide benefit driven content.
The primary reason that many sites fail to sell is that they focus on the wrong type of content. The history of your company, a list of your awards, or a catalog of your products and their features might be fascinating to you, but will be of little interest to your visitors.
Good content addresses the need of your visitors and shows them how your site or your recommended products can solve their problems. Customer problem focused content, otherwise known as educational content, works because people only search for something on the internet when they have a need for it. By directly addressing that need with your content, you will guarantee you have an effective website that sells.
Read all about it! Advertise your content
If you have great content on your site that answers your customers questions do not be afraid to promote it. Hidden content has no value to anyone, even if it is great quality. There are simple ways of promoting your content:
- Make your homepage an index of what can be found on your site. Visitors make up their mind very quickly whether to stay on one site or move on. If your homepage tells them immediately that your site has the information they are looking for they will stay and read it. Your homepage should have a menu with a list of main pages, and a list of your most popular articles at the very least.
- When you have new content on your website send out an e-mail or newsletter announcing it. Use teasing extracts from articles, or summaries of training courses to make your customers want to visit your site to take a further look.
The golden rules of webpage design
Website design can make or break your business. The golden rules of webpage design are to keep it simple and usable. If you are not confident enough to design a page yourself you could pay someone else to do it or buy a webpage template online.
It is worth spending the time and money on this aspect of your site as a badly designed webpage can be a real turn off for your customers. Some people are not blessed with the ability to see which colors complement each other, but getting this wrong could lose you a lot of prospective buyers.
If you are not sure about the kind of look you want for your site, take a look at the sites of your competitors. List the elements you like, and those that you don’t like. Use the list of likes as a basis for your page design.
Here are a few professional web design pointers:
- It is useful to have alt labels on your graphics so that your readers know what they should be looking at if for some reason they can’t see the graphic.
- Graphics are great to break up large sections of text, but careful selection is essential to make sure the graphics are adding something to your page. Meaningless graphics will not help to get your message across.
- Using graphics that are too large may cause problems in loading time. Limit the number of graphics on each page and keep them fairly small.
- Choose your text size carefully, it needs to be large enough for people to read but overly large text can look unprofessional.
- Columns of text are easier to read than lines that stretch across the entire width of the page.
- Highlighting words and using bold or italics can be an effective way to emphasize key points or phrases on your page. Be careful not to overdo it though or your page will look too confusing. A phrase should never be in italics and highlighted, or bold and in italics.
- Make sure your customers know where they are going to go when they click on the link.
- Check your website regularly to make sure the links are still valid. Dead or out of date links from your site will not impress anybody and are a quick way to lose your visitor.
- Consider what your page will look like on different computer screens. Your webpage should make a clear visual impact within the first 640 x 460 pixels.
- Different browsers, example Firefox and internet explorer, display a webpage differently. Make sure your page looks great on the major browsers.
- Try to avoid having your customers scroll sideways to see the whole of your page, or having to scroll up and down within a separate text frame. Doing this can be frustrating for your customers and may prevent them exploring your site further.
- The pages on a successful site are arranged in a clear information structure. An index or menu showing the content available to the visitor can help to illustrate that hierarchy.