Friday, November 26, 2010

11 Things Every Successful Website Needs

So you've put together a spectacular website, and you're ready to go live on the Internet for the whole world to see. Not so fast there Bucky. In case you didn't know, there are a few essential requirements that every site needs to include in order to be successful.

Let's review, shall we:

1) Privacy Policy/Disclaimer: Now, I'm not a Lawyer and don't claim to be one, but these two documents should be standard issue for every site you have. People want to know how you're going to use their personal information, and a "privacy policy" does just that.

In today's litigious society you'll also need to include a disclaimer/terms of use page. This protects you and spells out to your visitors what they're agreeing to by using your website. If you don't know where to start in generating these documents, you'll find plenty of help online.

DMA Privacy Policy Generator
OECD Privacy Statement Generator
Google Adsense & other Ad Networks Privacy Policy Generator
Privacy Policy Generator
Free Site Disclaimer

This is not legal advice, and if you need help in this department, consult with a local attorney.

Search Engine Submission

2) Contact Us Information: I can't tell you how many sites I've been to that fail to include a way to contact the owner. If you can't include a phone number, at the very least have an email address or a "contact us" form. By providing this information, you'll make your visitors feel more comfortable knowing there's a way to reach you should the need arise.

If you need a form and don't know how to create your own, try one of these free form services.

Bravenet
Freedback
Email Me

3) Search Box/Site Map: If your site is rather large, you'll also want to include a way to search, or have what is called a "site map". There are many ways to add a search function to your site, the easiest being to use Google's free service at- http://www.google.com/sitesearch/

or try PicoSearch.

A site map sounds technical, but it's just one web page that contains links to every page of your site, usually broken down by category. Here are some resources to help.

FreeFind

4) Google Analytics/Tracking System: Once your site is up and running you'll want to keep your eye on traffic.

Who's visiting your website, what pages are the most popular, where is the traffic coming from. All of these questions and more can be answered by using a good analytics program.

There are several ways to add a thorough tracking system to your site, but the easiest and one that won't cost you a dime is Google Analytics Once registered, you can add as many sites as you like all under one user ID and password. You'll be given some code to copy and paste on your pages. Simple, easy, and you're done.

5) Newsletter Sign Up/RSS Feed: There's an old saying that people won't buy from you the very first time they come to your website, so you need a way to stay in touch with them to bring them back again and again. By offering a newsletter, also known as an ezine, you'll be building a list of possible prospects which is invaluable to any site owner.

You'll find a multitude of free and low cost newsletter services online. It's up to you, depending on your needs and what you can afford. If you don't want to pay anything, my favorite free services are:

FreeAutoBot
Yahoo Groups

You can also offer an RSS feed for your newsletter, or updates to your blog or site. This makes it easy for others to keep up with your most recent posts. The best service for this is...

FeedBurner

6) Consistent Navigation: This might sound like a no brainer, but many folks get it wrong. No matter what type of menu system you decide upon, make sure it stays the same across the board on all pages of your site.

Your job is to guide your visitors through your website, making sure they always know where they are and how to get to where they need to go.

For more see:

Eye on Web
Web Page Mistakes

7) Search Engine Optimized Copy: At first glance you might not think this is so important, but trust me it is. You want your pages to rank well with the search engines and there are a few steps you can take to ensure this happens.

Each page of your website should be optimized for 2, or at the most 3 keywords/phrases. Weave the keywords into your titles and into the body of each page. You can also include them in your image titles, alt tags, even in the names you give your pages. Look at each page individually and decide what it's about, then optimize accordingly.

For help see:

MarketLeap
CopyBlogger

8) Social Media Share Button: With the popularity of social media sites such as Twitter, Facebook, and MySpace, you'd be foolish not to include an easy way for your content to be shared with others.

You'll find many free services that will give you the code you need to instantly add a "share button" to your web pages so that visitors can instantly share them with their friends.

To generate your own buttons see:

AddThis
TwitThis

9) Meta Tags: Some may tell you that meta tags are dead. Don't listen. Meta tags should be included in your HTML code at the top of every page. Many search engines will read them to pull a description to include in their search results.

Again, each page should be optimized separately and have a unique title, keywords, and description tags.

For help see:

AddMe Meta Tag Tool

Search Engine Submission

10) Copyright Notice: Sounds simple but forgotten by many. All pages should include a copyright notice. If you don't want to have to update it manually every year, find a simple Javascript that will automatically do it for you. You'll find one such script at:

Uncle Jims

11) Trust Seals/Testimonials: I grouped these two items together as they both instil trust and confidence in your visitors. Remember, when someone comes to your website, they don't know who you are and if you're selling something, they may not feel comfortable giving out their credit card information. To help them feel more "warm and fuzzy", include trust seals for any organizations you belong to:

For example:

iCop
BBB
Honest E Online

Also, if you have testimonials from happy customers, or ezine subscribers, weave them into your site copy. People always love to hear that others have had a happy experience with your products/services. Make sure you get permission first from the testimonial writers before placing them on your website.

So there you have it -my short list of what every site needs to succeed online. Now that you're armed with this information, get out the magnifying glasses and take a close look at your own website to see what may be missing.

It's not hard to create a website, but for one that stands out head and shoulders above the rest, you need to include these important elements. When you launch your next site you want it to be successful, not average. So what are you waiting for? You've got a lot of work to do, so get busy.

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