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The Website Essential Elements Checklist

Posted by on Apr 20, 2011 in BLOG | 6 Comments

I get frequent requests from acquaintances and potential clients to “check out their website” for evaluation. I’m happy to do it, since the act of checking out usually teaches me something  about how companies think when they set these sites up. Many businesses, especially if they went online at the start of the Internet boom, haven’t updated their site in decades… and this leads to some very sharp losses on customer gain and retention. Others have become so enamored of  the latest social media technology that their sites are a dizzying amalgam of bells, whistles, doo-dads and glitter… often at the expense of valuable content and real opportunities to connect with people.

Thecommich is a great believer in Web 2.0 and the potential it has to grow a business – any business – if it’s equipped with the right elements and easy to navigate information. Here are a few of my favorite things, which I believe are essential to any website that aims to attract and retain potential clients.

The Call to Action Button
If you are selling a product or service (and most people with a website are), this is the numero uno, goes-without-saying, no-Sh*t-Sherlock thing to have. And it’s amazing how many websites don’t have one.

A call to action button gives whoever is looking at your website a simple way to buy what you’re selling with one click. A service provider wants clients to “Call today”, “Schedule a Consultation”, “Take Our Survey” or “Pick a Plan That’s Right For You.” A retailer wants people to “Add to Cart,” “Order Now,” “Find a Location,” or maybe “Tell A Friend.” Either way – if you’re not directing people to take action, or making it too difficult for them to do so, you are losing money and an opportunity to create a fan.

Where to put the call to action button? When you go to the bathroom, you don’t want to spend 10 minutes looking for the flush, do you? Similarly (and forgive the crude analogy), you don’t want potential customers going on an Easter Egg Hunt around your website to try and find the best way to reach you.  Make the call to action visible and intuitive. Put the “buy now” button right under a photo of the product. Put the “contact us today” button next to your company logo, preferably up top above the “fold” where they don’t have to scroll down to find it.

More examples Call To Action Buttons right here.

Live Links
Another must-have that is criminally neglected by many small businesses, live links – otherwise known as hyperlinks – make your site interactive, more informative, and most of all engaging. Business owners freak out a little at the thought that you are linking away from your own website. While this is a legitimate concern (and there is definitely a moderation issue with these links), in most cases, an outbound link can actually gain you more traffic than not having one at all. For one thing, it increases your Search Engine ranking . For another, it shows that you truly care about giving potential clients all the information they need to make up their mind about you. I know a great relationship counselor who specializes in Adlerian Psychology. Would you be persuaded to go to her if you didn’t know who Adler was or how his psychology works? Would you go and research these terms yourself if she didn’t have the links on her site?

For online resumes and portfolios, live links to your work are a MUST. There is no substitute for being able to see someone’s work when it is referenced in a conversation. There is also nothing worse of an impression than when you give someone a mile-long URL to check out and not having that URL click through to the page you want them to get to. DO NOT make anyone have to copy and paste a URL for any work you exhibit online.

Check out The Ten Commandments of Linking

Social Media Buttons
As a resident of San Francisco it still surprises me how often this “debate” comes up among C-level professionals: Whether or not social media is “here to stay.” News flash fellas: much like immigrants from the 3rd World, social media has been here long before you thought it was, and is staying long after you think it will. The platforms may change (Friendster to MySpace to Facebook), the channels may vary (Facebook vs. Twitter vs. LinkedIn), but the act of engaging in meaningful conversations with people online is a behavior that nobody is letting go of for the next couple of centuries. So get over it, and put those buttons on.

Which buttons, of course, depends on which channels of social media you are engaged in – and that’s not to say you should be on ALL of them. I’ve found that most companies are happy just curating their LinkedIn account – as JD Gershbein, Owlish Communications’ Linked In expert says, this is the “tortoise” channel: slow going, but a winner in the end due to the significant relationships you cultivate. Businesses with a retail offering, or dealing with a chattering class of customer, are probably going to be on Facebook and their awesome new Fan Pages with Store apps. Own a food truck? Go Twitter crazy and build your following as you broadcast your location.

The point is, businesses nowadays need an online component to earn – and keep – new clients. And that online component needs to be easy to find on your site.

Your Blog Page
Do you need a blog? I would say yes. Do you WANT to have a blog? Probably not. Otherwise you’d have one already.

Why does a small business need a blog? The answer to this is so long it’s really a subject for another blog post. For now, let me list 3 reasons:

1) Search Engine Ranking
2) Establishing yourself as an expert
3) Having self-published content to refer to in social media

To elaborate, equally briefly:

1) Your ranking is higher with every new post, with every new subject you tackle on your blog, and with every time someone comments on your blog.

2) In a world filled with information and opinion, having your take on an issue or problem involving your industry is of immense value when people are trying to find someone to help them make sense of it all. Similarly, in a world filled with similar retail products, showing a little slice of personality behind a brand is a great differentiator.

3) Remember those links I was talking about earlier? If they are YOUR links, you keep them engaged with you. A published blog post is also a great way to contribute to an online conversation. I’m following a guy on Twitter who one day tweeted how much he hated seeing blatant and uncorrected grammatical errors on the web. Guess who had just written a post on that? I sent my link over – and not only did I get a compliment from my “Twitter buddy”, I also got free exposure on his feed (and his 1,000 followers), which hopefully then translated to more hits on this blog.

What other essentials do YOU think should be on every website? Weigh in below. Looking forward to hearing your suggestions.

6 Comments

  1. Gazelle
    April 20, 2011

    Including a feature on your website that allows visitors to sign up for more information (whether it be a subscription to your blog, your company newsletter, requesting more information,etc.) this is a great way to track and manage a mailing list! The more info. you can obtain from your audience the better.

    Reply
  2. Michelle Valeriano
    April 21, 2011

    @Gazelle – totally agree. I'd lump it under "call to action" but you make a great point about one important call to action being "give me your info."

    Reply
  3. Aniel's Memoir
    April 21, 2011

    With smart phones being the new advent of technology, would creating a "call to action button" for smart phones work well in a business website? Are there other intangibles in making a successful website or is a website archaic?

    Reply
  4. Michelle Valeriano
    April 21, 2011

    @Aniel – that's a great point. There are dozens of new seminars popping up here in SF for mobile marketing and how it affects design, user interfaces, etc. I don't think call to action buttons or websites are archaic, but thinking about smartphones may change where we put them.

    Reply
  5. Timothy Kotecki
    November 18, 2011

    Aloha mate! I really respect what you’re doing here. Keep posting that way.

    Reply
  6. Salvatore Hiers
    November 24, 2011

    Hello dude! I completely agree with your opinion.

    Reply

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