The text ("content is king"):
These are some characteristics of a good business website:
- The look and feel (first impression, navigation, general appearance)
- Professional design - not too busy or complicated.
The first thing a viewer sees is the "design". It needs to reassure the viewer that he/she is dealing with a professional business. But it also needs to allow viewers to get the information they are seeking.
- Navigation needs to be simple and to offer the viewer access to the pages they want or need.
The design needs to work with the "buttons" or "navigation". Sitemaps are good for the search engine but viewers often do not use them. So from the home page and from all other pages, a site needs to offer the viewer the main pages the viewer is most likely to want or need.
- Naming your pages.
It doesn't hurt if you name your pages (like about.html or faq.html) with keywords (for a site about dogs: about-dogs.html or dogs-faq.html).
- The presentation of the text needs to be considered.
Text needs to be large enough, with enough contrast to its background for your target audience to read easily. Headers and subheaders need to introduce and break up the text.
The Search Engines:
- Text that is about the viewer's needs and your credibility..
Text is the way people will find your site and the way you answer the questions that your viewers have about what you can do for them and why they should choose you over all the others in the universe that can offer them the same kind of product or service. The most important text in the website (for the search engine and the viewer) is the text on the home page, which will determine if a viewer goes into the site or within a few seconds goes back to find another site to do business with. Do not make the text a "Mission Statement" but about what you will do for the viewer (potential customer).
- Use the words that the target audience is searching for.
A site that doesn't use the words people are looking for is unlikely to be found in the search engines. And usability studies have shown that a site that uses the words someone thinks they want will keep that person longer than if they use words that are similar to the words someone has in their mind. Main places to use those words are in the title, the headers, the subheaders, the body text, lists, and the links to other pages. There are ways of researching what people are searching for.
- A site needs fresh content on a regular basis.
A blog can add fresh content. Or you can constantly add information to regular pages, etc. Google likes sites that add information on a constant basis - not radically changing the information that is there but adding to it.
- Establish credibility.
Unless you are IBM, Amazon, or Disney, many, if not most, of your viewers may not know whether you are a legitimate business or just out to steal their money or their email address, etc. Include contact information (preferably also a street address and phone number) in the footer of every page as well as on the contact page. You want to quickly tell viewers how long you have been in business, etc.
- Answer the viewer's questions quickly and easily.
If you don't tell your viewers that you do what they are looking for, they will use their back button to find a site where they do not have to guess whether the site offers them what they need. You can do an FAQ page (make sure the list of questions is at the top).
- To measure how a site is doing, a site absolutely must have "statistics".
Statistics should include how many people came to the site, what pages they accessed, what search engine or other site they came from, what words they searched for to find your site in the search engines. Without this information, you do not know the basics of how your site is doing.
- If you do all the above things, you will be "optimized" for the search engines, but in addition, there are the following points:
- Buy your domain name for more than one year (Google will actually notice).
- Submit to the major search engines, of course.
- Get links from as many other places as possible.
- Have a links page so you can recommend other related sites and maybe get them to recommend you on their links page.
- With a new domain you will usually get into Yahoo and MSN long before Google will pay any attention to you. Google doesn't trust new sites. A new site usually doesn't come up decently for a competitive term for at least six months and often for a year. In that time, you may want to consider Pay Per Click.
The day after we wrote this, the New York Times
came out with an article entitled How to Make Your Website Sing for You
that made some additional points:
- "'Users spend 30 seconds reviewing a home page,'Mr. Nielsen said. 'A business must encapsulate what they do in very few words.'"
- "If a site does not answer a user’s questions about a business, then you have scored one for the competition."
- “'The most important rule in Web page design is to eliminate unnecessary design,' Mr. Flanders said. He recommends not adding large, spinning graphics that take a long time to download."He also advises business owners not to add introductory splash pages that force a viewer to watch a video or animation."
- "In the end, getting a prominent placement in a search engine is the only way to ensure that your site will be seen by those who can increase your business."