The 15 Website Must-Haves

A successful website does three things:

  1. It gets people to the website.
  2. It gets people to stick around after the first glance or two.
  3. It gets people to convert or perform the action(s) you want them to while on the website.

In order to achieve all three goals, there are 15 crucial elements your website should include.

Get traffic to your website

1. Link-building is one thing you absolutely cannot dismiss from your search engine optimization (SEO) strategy. The most important thing is to get reputable and relevant websites to link back to you, to increase your search engine rankings and therefore the traffic to your website. Some simple link-building methods:

2. Citations on different review websites are an easy way to boost your local SEO ranking if you operate a brick-and-mortar business.

3. New content on a regular basis is a way to Google’s heart. Have a posting strategy and schedule. Get your posts ready in advance and have them posted automatically according to a set schedule to make it easier on yourself. This will also set expectations for your visitors.

4. Title and meta tags will affect how you appear in search results. The title under which your webpage shows up in a search engine will be the same as the html header title, and the description that appears in the search results will be influenced by the meta description tag.

title and meta tags

5. Judicious keyword use helps you rank higher. Do some keyword search to find out which topics attract an audience. Once you’ve done that, focus on one keyword or keyword phrase per page or blog post. Include this keyword phrase:

  • in the title of your post;
  • in the URL of your post;
  • in the body of your post, where it naturally occurs, and not too many times, or else risk looking spammy, which could hurt rather than help you.
keyword search

Google Instant Search is a quick and easy way to find out what online audiences are interested in.

6. Permanent 301 redirects are essential if you move a page on your website and wish to keep reaping the benefits of all the link-building you did for that page. If you change the URL of your page, all the links to that page on the web now point to a location that is no longer in use. A 301 redirect tells search engines and web browsers where the new page is so that visitors can still access the page and you can keep benefiting from the previous SEO work you had done.

7. XML sitemaps are designed to help search engines crawl your website.  You can either do this by hand or use online tools that will do it for you. The XML file must then be uploaded to the root directory of your website and updated regularly. If you use WordPress, there are plugins that will generate and update the XML sitemap automatically.

8. Social media integration encourages sharing. Referrals from friends and family are known to be for consumers the most trusted source of information about companies, so it makes sense to entice your visitors to share your content with their networks.

9. A mobile-compatible version of the website is mandatory for any business seeking to remain competitive across channels, given that smartphone browsing makes up 40% of all internet browsing.

Mobile-compatible websites reach more users

Reach anyone anywhere with a mobile website

 Get people to stay past the blink test

The blink test refers to whether or not a first-time visitor to your website decides to leave or stick around after a 3- to 5-second glance. The trick for passing the blink test and keeping the visitor on the page is amazing web design. To achieve that, there are two concrete things your website needs, numbers #10 and #11 out of the 15 website must-haves.

10. Simple layout and aesthetics go a long way in convincing the visitor to stay at first glance. Standing out is important, yes, but it should not be done at the expense of simplicity. A clean and simple layout is  easy on the eye, and it makes information more accessible and therefore more useful. These are the keys for an optimal layout:

  • An obvious and intuitive navigation menu;
  • Keeping elements on a grid rather than all over the page;
  • Avoiding clutter of elements, text, images, etc. White space is important for an aesthetically pleasing layout;
  • Using complementary colours that offer nice contrasts helps the important elements on the page stand out without creating clutter.

11. Killer content is what keeps the visitor reading and clicking through your website.

For static pages, high-quality content means:

  • A pithy and informative headline, as this is often all a visitor will read.
  • A value proposition that tells the reader what they get out of hanging around with you in the virtual world.

For blog posts, compelling content means:

  • Eye-catching and curiosity-provoking blog post titles, like how-tos and lists of practical tips or entertaining information.
  • Well-structured copy with a strong introduction.
  • Content that addresses topics that interest readers, providing education or entertainment.

For any kind of page:

  • Avoid jargon. Clarity is important.
  • Engaging the reader is also key, and what better way to do that than through a conversational tone?

 Get a high conversion rate

12. Effective calls to action (CTAs) will lead visitors to perform the actions you want them to while they are on your web pages. I have already written a guide for effective CTAs, but here are some quick tips:

  • Effective CTA buttons draw the eye, meaning you already applied must-have #10 to your website and the white space on the clutter-free page draws the eye towards the CTA button. You can also include other directional cues to urge the visitor’s eye towards the CTA, like arrows or images of a person pointing or looking in that direction.
  • Button CTA copy tells the reader exactly what to do and what benefit they will get out of following through with the desired action.
  • Having different landing pages throughout the web page is also helpful in getting the web visitor to perform desired actions. There should be several different landing pages across the website, and each should provide continuity with the button or the page that led to it. For example, if I click on a button that says “Get your free web hosting trial now” and I am taken to a page about your web design services instead, that’s a disjunction in content that will keep me, the visitor, from moving down the sales funnel effectively. And removing or reducing navigation menus to the minimum on landing pages gives prominence to the CTA(s) on the page.

13. Information capture is one of the most important things you can get your website to do for you. On your landing pages or across the website, have forms where users can provide information about them in exchange for something that you offer. For example, if you look to the right sidebar on this page, you should see a section that says “Subscribe by Email,” asking you for your email in exchange for updates on useful Powered by Search content about the different facets of inbound marketing. Notice the simplicity of the form? It only asks for email. The less you ask for, the more likely people are to give you their information. It’s an easy lead generation method.

14. Security is one thing your potential customers will look for before deciding to transact with you, whether in money or information. Some things you can do to gain their trust:

  • Provide an on-site area for customer reviews. After referrals from friends and family, professional reviews and user reviews are the most trusted forms of information about a product or brand.

    user reviews provide social proof

    Canadian Tire allows users to post reviews on product pages

  • If on-site customer reviews are not an option, provide testimonials. If you go this route, include the picture and name of the person providing the testimonial, to increase perceived legitimacy and boost trust.
  • Make your privacy policy accessible to easily let users of your site know that you can be trusted. And abide by your privacy policy. If it says you won’t share customer information, don’t share customer information! If you plan on sharing customer information, say so in the privacy policy.
  • SSL encryption is important if you ask for sensitive data like credit card information.
  • If you include SSL encryption, are a member of the Better Business Bureau, use the McAfee security service or any other form of service that denotes security and legitimacy, include a badge for the service on your website to quickly let users know that you are reputable and your website is safe.

15. An “About” page and your contact information help establish you as a real and legitimate business. They tell readers who you are and it allows them to get in touch with you for more information. It also increases your accountability, which can make customers feel safer dealing with you. At the very least include a contact form or an email address (and monitor it and respond regularly!), and a phone number and address too if you can.

You can certainly play around with these 15 tricks and tools and see which ones work best for your website and your visitors, but if you apply all 15, you’ll find that bringing in traffic, engaging people and getting higher conversion rates will follow naturally.