Users take about 50 milliseconds to determine whether they like a website or not. It takes 300 milliseconds to blink. Does your website have everything it needs to survive this split-second assessment?
1. Navigation bar and footer
It may seem unnecessary to mention parts of a website as simple as a navigation bar and footer. Everyone knows that these are essential, right? Most people do. But many website owners see these as simply needing to be checked off the list and never thought of again.
Take the time to think about a logical order for your navigation menu. What pages are most important? Can any of them be grouped together into one dropdown option? Is there a page that is so important that it needs to be off to the side and highlighted with a different color than the rest?
“I can understand the need for a navigation bar. But footers are at the bottom of the page. Nobody sees those!”
This is a very common misconception and it could not be further from the truth.
Many visitors expect to find certain information in your footer. If I go to a website in search of contact information, I don’t usually check the contact page first. I scroll to the very bottom of whichever page I’m on and look in the footer.
Footers need your contact information, a second navigation menu, and, if it’s not too cluttered, throw an email subscription form in there.
2. Home, about, and contact pages
Your homepage should immediately describe your business and who it is for. Make your visitor feel as if your website was made for them! But try to keep it concise and save the details for your about page.
A good homepage will also attract visitors to other parts of your website. So be sure to include reasons for them to visit other pages.
About pages are exactly what the name implies. They let interested readers know what your business is about. The key phrase here is interested readers. Visitors who land on your about page have already sparked an interest in your business and they hope to learn more. But remember, nobody likes reading a giant wall of text. Make sure your about page is compelling!
Lastly, don’t forget to add a contact page. There is nothing more frustrating than searching through a website for contact information. And while it’s great if your contact information is in the footer, some people won’t know to look there.
3. Products or services page
A great website with no products or services pages is like a restaurant with no menu. Once you arrive there, you realize that you have no idea what they’re offering.
Stores need a products page. Car washes need a services page. And restaurants need a menu page.
Don’t get this confused with me requiring you to run an ecommerce site. Most business websites don’t need to sell products or services online. But let people know what they should expect if they come in!
Do you run a small store selling handcrafted baby dolls? Use your products page to go into detail about the different types of dolls and include a few images.
“Great companies are built on great products.”- Elon Musk
5. CTA on most pages
A call-to-action (CTA) is any element on a website that prompts users to take an action. Most CTAs are buttons with text like “Buy Now”, “Download Here”, or “Subscribe Today”.
CTAs are important because they keep visitors on your website longer. And the longer a visitor is on your website, the greater chance you have at turning them into a customer.
Get them to sign up for your email list, make an appointment, or fill out your contact form. All that matters is that you get them to do something meaningful before they leave your website.
6. Multiple locations to sign up for email list
Your email list is filled with people who have willingly signed up to hear news from your business. Weekly specials? Holiday sales? Special events that you hope to be packed full? Members of your email list look forward to hearing about these things. This is why a business’s email list should be considered one of their most important digital assets.
Be certain to include signup forms for your email list throughout your website. Just remember not to annoy users with too many.
7. Social media buttons
The most common places to link your social media are in the footer and on your contact page. Putting little social icons in these two places should be sufficient for most websites.
If you do not have a social media page for your business, or maybe you do but you rarely post anything, then now is the time to reconsider. 79% of the U.S. uses some form of social media. Ignoring this domain is equivalent to missing out on thousands of opportunities for more business.
8. At least 300 words on every page
Google has taken many steps to optimize their search engine to rank websites based on the value they offer users. But whether or not a page has value can be tough to determine. This is why Google’s algorithm uses a combination of different factors to determine value. One of the most important of these is word count.
Word count is the number of words on a single website page.
Nobody knows exactly how many words a page needs to meet Google’s standards. But it is safe to say that, in most cases, it would be very difficult to offer any value in less than 300 words. So, try to meet this minimum word count on all pages. The only notable exception to this rule would be a contact page.
Yoast SEO, one of the most popular SEO plugins for WordPress, shows a word count for posts and pages.
If you don’t use WordPress, WordCounter.net has a great web page word counter. It will also show you the most frequently used words on the page which can be great for optimizing your keywords for SEO.
9. At least 900 words on most important pages
Your website is in decent shape if all of your pages have at least 300 words. But the most important pages on your site, otherwise known as cornerstone content, are going to need to be a bit more detailed.
It is recommended that the most important pages and articles on your site are at least 900 words in length.
If you are having trouble reaching 900 words, then try to put yourself into the shoes of a customer. What do they want to know? What are their most frequently asked questions? Asking these questions will bring you to 900 words and beyond in no time.
10. Mobile responsiveness
In 2010, a website built to accommodate mobile phones would have been considered going above and beyond. But a lot has changed since then. Mobile internet traffic has risen from 3.81% in 2010 to 48.62% in 2020.
It is now the industry standard that all websites be built to accommodate mobile phones. In fact, many web designers build mobile versions before desktop.
So, make sure your website is built to load fast and look great on mobile.
11. Modern design
Long gone are the days of websites being filled with only text and clickable blue links. If your website has no color scheme or still uses a default font, then it’s time for a change.
But remember, a simple design will always speak louder than unnecessarily complex. Modern design doesn’t mean choosing a cool robotic font that is nearly impossible to read. It also doesn’t mean using all of the colors in the rainbow.
Find two or three fonts (usually one for headers and one for body text) and about two complimentary colors. A good pairing of fonts and colors will significantly improve any website.
12. Unique Branding
Websites that have a modern design will prevent users from thinking, “Wow, was this made 20 years ago?” But you should strive to do more than just prevent bad first impressions. And a website branded specifically for your business will give first-time visitors a memorable experience.
Branding goes far beyond a logo and slogan. It is how customers feel about your business. Nike inspires people to be more active. Disney makes you feel like a kid again. What do people say about your brand? Think about this and incorporate it into your website.
“Products are made in a factory, but brands are created in the mind.”- Walter Landor
Spice your website up with some cool illustrations, professional photography, or cool animations. Just make sure it fits your business! A law firm’s website shouldn’t have cartoon ice cream cones greeting visitors. And an ice cream shop should probably stay away from using a black and beige color scheme.
13. Great domain name
For those of you who are less familiar with internet-related technology, a domain name is the address for your website. Our domain name, or domain for short, is moorewebmarketing.com.
All great domains have two things in common.
First, they begin with a short and to-the-point name. There are no hyphens between words. There are no numbers indicating that the “funfoodblog.com” domain you wanted was taken so you had to go with “funfoodblog243.com”.
If your domain name is taken, then get creative and find another way to express your name. Use abbreviations or add the name of your town if necessary.
Second, they all end in a logical domain ending. It makes sense that Harvard University’s domain ends in “.edu”. It does not make sense for your local diner to have a “.org” domain ending.
14. Fast and secure hosting
Modern websites are much more than just an HTML file with some text. They are filled with images, videos, animations, and much more going on behind the scenes. All of these assets can really slow down a website if the correct hosting service is not used.
Be sure to discuss hosting options with your web developer. If you are still using the $3/month hosting plan “because it’s the cheapest plan they offer” then it may be time to upgrade. A good hosting plan around $15-$30/month will be sufficient for most small businesses.
If you look at the search bar of your browser, you should see a closed padlock icon next to our website name. This is telling you that our website is secured with an SSL (secure sockets layer) certificate.
The exact look may change depending on the browser you use. But most browsers make it very easy to determine if a website has an SSL.
An SSL, which stands for secure socket layer, ensures that any data sent from a secured website is encrypted. This prevents hackers from being able to read valuable information. These certificates are designed to secure personal information that users input such as names, emails, credit card numbers, etc.
It is expected that all websites have an SSL regardless if personal information is collected or not. So, be sure to contact your web developer if you don’t have an SSL certificate installed.
16. XML sitemap
Contrary to what some may believe, Google is not made up of thousands of employees who search the internet to determine what information websites contain. This is taken care of by advanced computer software which is constantly running. Google calls this software Googlebot.
Googlebot sometimes needs guidance in order to know what website pages to crawl. This is where XML sitemaps come in. It will tell robot crawlers like Googlebot about all of the pages on your website.
The Yoast SEO plugin will automatically create and upload a sitemap for your website. But, for websites not using WordPress, consider using xml-sitemaps.com.
17. Analytics tracking
Many business owners invest in a new website hoping that it will bring them more customers from Google. But they are disappointed when, 6 months later, they see little to no results.
The problem is that many business owners pay for a new website and then assume that the work is over. They don’t make any changes or updates, so the website remains exactly how it came.
Website analytics will give you the information you need to make changes. You will be able to see what pages users visit most, where most users leave your site, where most of your traffic comes from, and much more! Use this information to your advantage.
“An organization’s ability to learn, and translate that learning into action rapidly, is the ultimate competitive advantage.”– Jack Welch
18. Title and meta descriptions on every page
Title and meta descriptions are used to summarize the content on each page. This information is used when displaying your website on search engines like Google.
Users decide whether or not to visit your website based on these tags. So, take the time to make a compelling title and meta description for every page.
Google displays between 50-60 characters of a title tag so try to aim for a length around this range.
Meta descriptions expand on the information in the title so a length of 50-160 characters is ideal.
Use our Title Tag and Meta Description Checker to help you create the perfect titles and descriptions!
19. Correct hierarchy of header tags
In order for Googlebot to work, it expects pages to be formatted correctly. This is done by putting your HTML tags in a logical order.
Websites are, at their core, text files that tell the browser what to put on the screen. Within these text files are tags that describe what type of content is being written.
As shown above, “Heading 1” tags, or H1, are the highest level of heading tags. There should be only one of these on each page and it should describe what the page is about. Use this tag for the title of your page. For example, your about page might have a title like “About Our Business”.
“Heading 2” tags, or H2, are next and these usually represent different sections within your main page topic. If you have a webpage about lions then the H1 tag would be “Lions”. A logical H2 tag might be “Where are lions from?”.
Header tags span from H1-H6 but you will probably never need an H6 tag. Just remember that H2 tags are sections within an H1, H3 tags are sections within an H2, and so on…
The final tag that you will come across is a “Paragraph” tag, or P. This is where the bulk of your content goes. For example, the text you are reading right now is wrapped in a P tag.
20. Internal links, external links, and backlinks
Internal links are links that point to other pages on your own website. These links help visitors navigate your site.
While navigation menus are helpful, they aren’t always the most convenient. If you end your about page by telling people to contact you then save them the time and give them a link to your contact page. See what I did there?
External links are links that point to other websites.
One of the most common misconceptions about links is that linking people to other websites only draws their attention away from your website. While this may be true for a small percentage, most visitors will see your external links as useful.
Keep in mind that these are not instructions to slap a link on your homepage saying, “Visit My Competitor’s Website Here”. But cite your source if you mention a statistic. Link a product if you recommend something that could be of value to your customers.
Lastly, we come to the holy grail of SEO.
Backlinks are links from other websites that point to yours. An external link to you is a backlink to the receiving website.
Backlinks are important because they show that your website is valuable enough to be linked to by other websites. But don’t go out trying to pay for “easy” backlinks! Quality matters much more than quantity.
Learn more about the history of backlinks and why you need them here.
The most important element of any website is one that cannot be seen. You cannot pay a web developer to give you it. And it is definitely not something that can be checked off your list as being “done”.
This is, of course, value.
Value gives people a reason to visit your website. It is why they share it on their social media pages or bookmark it and save it for later.
So, when you are going through your website to ensure it has everything on this list, ask yourself, “What else might my customers want? How can I help them?”
Viewing your website through the eyes of your customer will tell you much more than any list can.
Navigation bars and footers are expected. About pages are helpful. Mobile responsiveness is convenient. But all of these can be forgiven if your website has value.