By Adam Franklin
While social media has been stealing headlines for years, the humble website is very often where you are best off focusing your initial efforts. I’m not talking about a website re-design, really just an audit of what you’ve got already. There are six essential elements to a successful website that we’ll discuss below.
When it’s your own website, it’s easy to fall into the trap of obsessing over the “look and feel”. Try to suppress your constant yearning to freshen up the design. Remember it’s only you who looks at your website every day, so it’s unlikely that anyone else is bored with the design.
Instead focus on these six things that every website needs.
1. Two free, valuable downloads
In the vast expanse of the web, the only real way of distinguishing your website from the other trillion is to build trust. People have a short attention span on the web so you really want to start building trust and earning attention from the second someone arrives at your website. The best way to do this is to give away something valuable ideally a digital download, so you don’t need to literally send something manually.
You want to offer one entirely free download, in other words no registration is required. This is a completely risk-free way for people visiting your website to see whether they like and trust you. Then you want to offer a second digital download that requires an email address. This is the first step to building an online community and it will only happen if your first download was high quality and useful. Your free downloads are your first (and often only) opportunity to make an impression with your website visitor.
2. The option to connect on social media
Free social media tools like Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn are the perfect tools for growing and nurturing your online community. If your free digital download is useful enough, people will naturally want to connect with you because they will want to learn more from you. You can make it easy for them to connect with you if you simply put the Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn icons on your website.
3. A blog
Once people have connected with you on social networks, they have an expectation that you will continue to “add value” and contribute to the relationship you have with them. By creating and publishing remarkable content on your blog you keep investing in these relationships with the people in your web community. This builds all important trust.
4. An easy way for people to enquire
Ensure you have an enquiry form, a contact email address and/or telephone number on your website. Feature it prominently, so that people can get in touch with you.
5. A product for sale
If you’ve done the first four steps effectively you’ll have people who trust you and are prepared to pay you money for your products or services. With a shopping cart you can sell just about any product you like on your website and service like PayPal make it a breeze to accept payments.
Even if you provide a service and have no tangible products to sell, I suggest creating a “premium digital download” that you can offer. This could be an eBook, market report, how-to guide or access to certain resources. It is actually easier to deliver intangible products since people just download them from the web and you don’t actually need to do anything. You’ll just notice money deposited into your bank account!
6. Google Analytics
If you want to improve your performance in each of the steps above, you need Google Analytics installed on your website. Analytics is free and will tell you how many people visit your website, download your free products, read your blog articles, make an enquiry and buy from you.
This allows you to identify areas for improvement too. For example, if you notice you get plenty of visitors but no one takes you up on your free download, it’s probably not valuable enough. If people are going to your Buy Now page but they’re not actually processing their order, your checkout process is probably too confusing or difficult.
The beauty of understanding Analytics is that you can continually refine your website in incremental steps. You can install Google Analytics by embedding some code in your website or just ask your web designer, it won’t take long.
If you do a quick audit of your website, and you’re missing any of these six things, I recommend focusing on these gaps and your website will improve dramatically!