It is time. Your website, built years ago on an outdated platform, is showing its age. You’re embarrassed to send clients there, it has out-of-date information, and nobody can find it on Google. Plus, it takes your web developer two weeks to update it because just the thought of working on it makes them queasy.
It’s time to update your website. Take a deep breath. You can get through it. But as you undertake this new project, there are certain features and functionalities you MUST have to make your website user and SEO-friendly. After all, this is an investment in your business, and it’s best to get it right the first time.
11 Website Features You MUST Have
Planning a new website design for your business can be daunting. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution, but there are a few basic functions and content areas you should include to make it an effective marketing tool.
1. Contact Information Everywhere
This seems simple, but a lot of companies miss this. Include the phone number you want people to call for sales inquiries, preferably at the top of each page. Also Include a “contact us!” CTA that links to your contact form. (Pro-tip: Don’t include your email address or have a CTA that opens a mail client. Why not? You won’t be able to track where those leads are coming from, and accurate marketing attribution is a huge component of a successful website strategy.)
Speaking of forms, make sure you’re utilizing easy-to-use contact and inquiry forms throughout your site. You don’t want to make visitors work to get in touch with you.
2. A Blog
All digital, social, and other online marketing requires quality content. So, if you’re considering any online marketing effort, you should start with a blog. To get maximum SEO benefit, your blog should be listed under your domain (something like www.yourcompany/blog) instead of off-site through a service like Blogger.com. A blog can help your business in so many ways that you may be crazy if you’re not considering a blog for your business.
- Search engine optimization (SEO)
- Communications channel for your company that produces content shareable on social sites like Facebook and Twitter
- A way to establish your company as an expert in your industry and connect with your customers
3. Testimonials & Case Studies
Potential customers need to trust you before choosing to work with you. According to a WebDAM Solutions, customer testimonials have the highest effectiveness rating for content marketing at 89%.
Use your website to build your credibility by sharing your expertise and successful track record with clients and customers. Often, a testimonials page is one of the most visited pages on sites we create for our clients. When you do get testimonials, ask your clients for permission to use their real names. Real endorsements from recognizable businesses and organizations means a lot more than an anonymous testimonial.
If you provide case studies on your site, come up with a consistent, concise format to explain what problem your company solved and what process you went through to get there. Potential customers like to see real life examples of your work, and case studies are a great way to show off what you’ve done well.
4. SEO Strategy
The customers who know your name can find your website, but what about people that don’t? Optimizing your site with relevant keywords that match a searcher’s intent is VITAL for website traffic and generating leads. This is all part of an intelligent search engine optimization SEO strategy.
To help with your SEO strategy, there are some best practices you can deploy when building out new pages.
- Write your titles and meta descriptions with SEO in mind, making sure you use relevant keywords in both.
- Keep your URL structure concise, easy to follow, and incorporate keywords
Of course, you should include your company name on your website and in the metadata, but your company’s name is on your website so much that you probably can’t help but be found on Google for it. Instead, focus on generic terms that customers who may not know your business are searching for. For example, Vital Design wants to be found on Google for “Website design, Portsmouth, NH” rather than just “Vital Design.”
5. Geographic Information
Most businesses with brick-and-mortar locations rely on customers within a certain geographic area. Fortunately, when most people search for a product or service, they include a location. Including your location information will help your SEO strategy succeed and help people unfamiliar with your region find your business.
For instance, if you need a plumber, you might search “plumber in Portsmouth, NH.” This is why you should use your location in page titles and other metadata as well as in the text that appears on your website. If you have two or three main cities that you serve, you should consider creating landing pages on your site for each location.
6. Live Chat
Many people are a bit lazy – they don’t want to take the time to poke around a website or FAQ page looking for the information they need. To meet customers where they are and provide the instant feedback they require, install a live chat option on your website.
Artificial intelligence has made this functionality much more feasible for companies of all sizes. In fact, many companies offer live chat as a simple plugin for your CMS platform.
Live chat is incredibly beneficial. Kissmetrics produced a report that highlighted the untapped potential of live chat, and why businesses should add it to their sites.
- 44% of online consumers say having questions answered by a live person while in the middle of an online purchase is one of the most important features a website can offer.
- 63% said they are more likely to return to a website that offers live chat.
- 38% said they had made their purchase due to the chat session itself.
- 62% reported being more likely to purchase from the site again.
7. Images/Video of Your Team & Work
Customers like pictures. And they like to see that you know what you’re doing. If your company provides a service such as landscape design, custom cabinetry or IT cable clean-ups, show before and after pictures of your work. If you don’t have a portfolio (take some pictures) but in the meantime, you could show your impressively maintained fleet of trucks and equipment.
If your service is something less tangible, such as insurance or life coaching, show pictures of your friendly staff and your clean, comfortable office. Better yet, include video. If you don’t have any of these kinds of photos, think about including imagery of the recognizable landmarks from your area to show you are part of the community.
8. Subscription Offer
We don’t mean like a magazine or monthly gift box – offering your site visitors a chance to stay up-to-date via a subscription to your blog posts or email is a great way to stay top-of-mind for customers.
A subscription will let you share information about your company through email marketing and build your email list at the same time. Use this list to share information you think your clients and prospects will find valuable whenever you have it.
9. About Us Section
People care about who they’re doing business with, which is why sharing your story and “why you do what you do,” can make a real difference when trying to attract business.
An “About Us” section on your website is a great way to tell your company’s history, talk about your mission, and outline your goas for the future. Consider including your founders, current business leaders, and further information about your team.
ALSO – don’t forget visuals. Have pictures of your opening day? Use it. Perhaps you have images from your 10-year anniversary – those are great too. And of course, include headshots of your current team and leadership group. Customers will appreciate being able to put a face to the name.
10. Search Functionality
You want to make the user experience as frictionless as possible, which is why you need to include search functionality in your new site. According to Moz, an average of 30% of website visitors will utilize the search function.
The search function also correlates to a visitor’s conversion rate. Moz’s report states:
- People who perform a site-search are twice as likely to convert.
- People who perform an on-site search are more likely to return to the site with an intent to purchase.
- In the research, companies had an average overall ecommerce conversion rate of 2.77%. However, the conversion rate nearly doubled to 4.63% from people who used on-site search and found what they were looking for.
11. Social Media
Definitely include icons, a page, or a section on the contact page like this, where you list which social media platforms you use. Link directly to your pages so website visitors can find you quickly and easily.
What do you think? These tips make for a great foundation for a website design refresh, but you may have more questions. Contact us to learn more about smart web design and how Vital can help.
Are you considering writing an RFP for an upcoming website project? If so, save yourself some time and read our guide on How To Write a Website RFP (and even download a free RFP template).