It’s that time of year again when you kids are going back to school or college.  It’s also a good time to go “Back to School” when it comes to your website.  We thought it might be helpful if we provided you with a quick “Website 101” list of guidelines that will help you see if your website is making the grade.

  1. Can people find you?
    So, you have a website – but can people find you? It’s important that people can also find you on search engines such as Google, Yahoo and Bing.  There are some simple things you can do if you are just starting out.  Make sure that each page includes title tags with key words, meta tags that describe the content on each page, heading tags that highlighting important info, internal and external links, alt text on images so they are searchable and make sure your content contains a good number of keywords.
  2. How engaging is your homepage?
    You only have a few seconds to capture the attention of your audience…make sure they’re seeing something important.  What is the “eye trail”?  In other words, where do your eyes go first? Try and format your design elements so that you lead the visitors eye to the most important elements first such as your logo, the navigation, how to subscribe, etc.
  3. Can visitors quickly understand what you’re about?
    Again, you only have a few seconds to communicate your unique value, so be clear and compelling.  Can visitors quickly understand your value?  What makes your business unique?  Sell yourself, but don’t go over the top. Highlight benefits more than features.
  4. Is your primary information “above the fold”?
    Above the fold is generally considered to be within the first 500-600 pixels of your site design.  Your goal is to have visitors see the most important information without having to scroll down the page.  Make sure your logo, opt-in forms and unique selling propositions are available without having to scroll down the page.
  5. Is there a clear call to action?
    If they like what they see, prospects need to know what to do next. It can be to buy now, start a free trial, or simply download a free report.  Make it easy for people to contact you – providing a contact us form instead of a static page is especially good for lead capturing.  You can also integrate these leads into your CRM system such as Sales Force.
  6. Are you personally connecting with your prospects?
    Consumers want to buy from people, not machines. Connect with your prospects by being honest, straightforward, and using a conversational style.  Keep your website content updated and fresh – give them a reason to return to your site.  You know your audience best; add content that will best serve their needs.   The goal is that your visitors keep you “top of mind” and think of you as the industry expert.  Post new content, photos, videos, portfolio of work or whatever the site was built to present.  Adding a blog is a great way to keep a site updated. Add posts on any topic and length related to your site.
  7. Do you have a thoughtful user interface?
    Is there a consistent look and feel from page to page? Is the navigation consistent and intuitive? Make sure that you use the space efficiently and content is logically organized.  People should be able to get to the information they want within a few clicks. Don’t overwhelm people by trying to add to much information on the page.
  8. Is your branding consistent?
    When a user lands on your webpage does it look like your company? Make sure you include consistent branding such as your logo, color palette and design features that are consistent with your other marketing materials that ultimately help people recognize it’s your company.
  9. Does your website load quickly?
    People do not like to wait… if the site takes more than a few seconds to load you will lose visitors.  Make sure your images are in compressed format at 72dpi, so they retain quality but still allow quicker download time. Using Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) is another way to improve load speed.  If most of your pages share the same style information, the CSS keeps the style in an external file that allows the site to load the style once.  Then, all of the subsequent pages will load more quickly.
  10. Do you have links to social media?
    Many people want to do a little more research before buying. Linking to social media sites (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc) gives your potential customers another glimpse into your company.  Visitors can read testimonials from your happy customers and will help build credibility and entice people to want to learn more.  With the right approach, you can get pretty decent results with a few hours per week on social media sites.  Why not leverage your existing traffic to draw even more visitors?

So, how did you do?  Does your website make the grade?  These are definitely some basics that will get your site on the right track.  You only get one chance to create a good first impression, so try and make it count.  A clean, professional, and fast-loading site can ensure that your first impression will be a good one.

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