by Kimberly McCormick, Bayshore Solutions Director of Corporate Marketing
What Your Business Website Needs to Succeed This Year
Web industry sources estimate that the shelf-life of a website is only about 3 years. Ever-evolving technology, increasing demands and expectations of customers and the ongoing competitive environment are the major reasons – but ultimately, change is a constant in the digital game. For a business website to compete and convert successfully in 2017, essential features and functionality must be up-to-date, if not ahead of the game.
Here are seven things you’ll want to ensure your website has covered to succeed in 2017.
1. Responsive Web Design (RWD)
Having a mobile experience was added to Google’s core algorithm for ranking search results in April 2015. In Web-time this is ancient history, and having a mobile-responsive website design is now considered a standard. But there are still many business websites out there, losing ground every day, using non-responsive technology.
In 2016, Google announced they are actively moving to make their index “Mobile-first”. This means the mobile experience of a website will be the primary content used for Google’s algorithmic ranking.
The key message here is that if your website is not yet responsive or does not present a mobile experience, it is already a dinosaur in the competition to be found by your searching prospective customers.
2. Content Management System (CMS)
A Content Management System puts your (non-programmer) marketers and staff in the driver’s seat to enable consistent and easy updates/additions/deletions, to pages and images throughout your website. A CMS can offer publishing roles and permissions, enforce branding consistency for content, and allow for SEO measures to be efficiently managed.
In a very simplified nutshell, a CMS makes managing your website easier, faster, and less costly so you can concentrate on the business of your business. And in 2017, no website should be without one.
3. Integration with Your Business Process Technology – like CRM, MA, & E-Commerce
With today’s technology, a visitor should be able to seamlessly come to your site (get around in it to find what they need – more on this later) and complete a conversion or purchase transaction, all while ensuring their relevant data is transferred and tracked, and your next-step business workflows are initiated, without a single member of your staff having to touch a keyboard.
Integrating your website with your organization’s Customer Relationship Management (CRM), Marketing Automation (MA), e-commerce shopping cart, and purchase and order processing systems is a key success differentiator. Website planning should always consider and address these integrations.
4. Accommodate Basic (& Advanced) SEO
A “Search-engine friendly” web design is created for its intended users and accommodates the various requirements of search and social media. The suite of SEO best practices including proper meta-tagging, HTML mark-up, and link strategy, as well as evolving SEO initiatives like local SEO, social connections, and Schema need to incorporated for a functional and competitive website.
5. Adequate Hosting
Short-changing the hosting needs of your business website is like attempting to drive a Corvette on the Inca Trail. Bandwidth, security, throughput, traffic management, and more all tailored for your specific website’s technology and functionality – needs to be matched with the right hosting infrastructure.
Bonus Tip: To stay ahead of the game – Get your HTTPS, Secure Server, or SSL.
Web best practices are swiftly moving to a point where SSL may become a requirement to attain search credibility and visibility. This may come after the next 3-year website shelf-life generation, but in the meantime with your SSL, you will rank better, and remove security fears and “friction” for your prospective customers as they experience your website.
6. User Experience (UX) Focus
Don’t walk just a mile – walk through your entire website in your customers’ moccasins. And make sure this is the most pleasant walk they’ll ever take. Remove friction at every opportunity. Some critical UX items to address are:
SPEED: It is well documented that web pages that take more than 2 to 3 seconds to load experience abandonment at an exponential rate (and these visitors are abandoning you to go to your competition).
Clear Navigation and a Supported Path to Conversion: Know your customer personas, so you will know their needs. Then give them what they seek, quickly! Examples of these must-haves include:
- Well-designed, easy-to use-navigation & menus (like “sticky” navigation on long-scrolling pages)
- Site Search
- Contact Information – Phone Numbers, Email addresses, Maps
- Distinct and compelling Calls to Action (CTAs) to next-steps
- Constructing every page as if it is the first entry point to your brand (because today, for many visitors, it is)
7. Credibility Content
To continue to reduce friction for prospective customers experiencing your website, be sure to offer and display content items that build trust and assure the capability and credibility of your business. Examples of content that serve this purpose include:
- Business/Industry Accreditation Badges (BBB, Google Partner, etc.)
- Secure Transactions Badges – especially on forms and shopping cart pages
- Case Studies
- Customer Testimonials and Reviews
- Notable Accomplishment Recognition – Press releases, Awards
- Social Profile Links with reviews
So – whether it’s technological innovations or simple customer expectations, if your site is older than three years, a revisit is due. We’ve created a handy Sample Website Design RFP and Guide that can kick start you down this process.