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SEO websites and other purveyors of digital marketing advice spend plenty of time covering the exact tips and techniques that are “in vogue” at any given point. One day, the recommendation might be to include a specific number of keyword repetitions in your page’s title tags – the next, the “must do” technique might involve securing a certain type of backlink.
Given the immediacy of today’s news market, it’s easy to get swept up in these relatively minor changes. Indeed, too many webmasters waste time tweaking the most minute elements of their websites over and over again – all the while ignoring the more foundational issues that can lead to a site’s success or failure.
So before you start worrying about implementing the latest SEO technique to hit the industry’s news blogs, make sure your site meets all of the following criteria of successful websites. If you don’t have these cornerstone issues right from the start, it’s highly unlikely that a few SEO tweaks will make a difference in your website’s performance!
Successful websites look professional
Sorry, but it isn’t 1996 anymore. People have always judged books by their covers and these days, they’ll judge your website by its appearance as well. So if your pages look like they were built on Geocities and last updated when AOL still shipped connection CDs to consumers, it’s time for an image update!
Now, this isn’t to say that your website’s appearance is the only thing that contributes to its success. Certainly, there are still dated-looking websites out there that generate traffic and revenue for their owners. But why – with the huge variety of website development tools available today – would you want to set your website up with such a disadvantage from the start?
If you aren’t a professional web designer and you don’t have thousands of dollars available to hire one, you can still make use of programs like WordPress and other template design services that’ll give you a professional looking website at a fraction of the cost of having one custom built. Look into any of these options when building or redesigning your website in order to prevent your site from failing on the basis of its visual appearance.
Successful websites have a defined business model in place
A website – on its own – isn’t a business model. A website is simply a collection of coded pages that visitors arrive on in order to receive information from your company. In fact, it’s what you do with this information that determines whether your site will be a success or a failure!
To truly be successful, a website needs to pair both an attractive look and a solid business model – including any of the following options:
- Selling physical or digital products on the site
- Gathering sales leads to supplement an offline business
- Generating income through ad revenue
- Offering a paid “members only” area
- Referring sales to affiliate products
While there are plenty of other possible business models to consider besides these five, the key commonality between all of these different options is that the websites utilizing these strategies have a mechanism in place to gain something from their presence. They aren’t sitting around, hoping that people enjoy their content enough to spontaneously send them money. Instead, they’re actively utilizing well-established, well-recognized business models to allow them to profit off their hard work online.
Successful websites test their assumptions
Now, the tricky thing about choosing and implementing a business model on a website is that any initial decisions – for example, which products will be stocked and how they’ll be displayed on the site – must be made based on the web designer’s intuition. And while this is a fine place to start, assuming that you’ve automatically hit on the correct combination of product, offer, marketing pitch and creative display is a quick way to doom your site to failure.
Because one person’s opinion is rarely entirely accurate, smart webmasters use the process of split testing in order to demonstrate conclusively which changes make their sites as effective as possible.
If you aren’t yet familiar with the process, split testing involves randomly deploying two different versions of a single web page on which one or more variables have been altered slightly, in order to determine which page version leads to more conversions and better website results. Split tests can be carried out using both A/B and multivariate protocols and can be easily managed using a free program like Google Analytic’s Content Experiments.
And while all of that might sound technical, smart webmasters recognize the opportunity that can be found in allowing visitors to tell you which of your design changes are most effective at increasing conversions. Learning how to implement these tests correctly can take time, but the end results are well worth your effort!
Successful websites offer something unique
Next up, be aware that websites need to bring something unique to the table in order to be effective. Take the following two hypothetical websites, for example…
Website A is a blog that’s launched because its owner heard that blogging was a good way to make money. And although the site focuses on a single niche, the content and products offered by the blog aren’t that interesting – simply because the site’s owner isn’t familiar with the industry and must rely on ripping off content from others in order to fill his pages.
Website B, on the other hand, is a site that’s been launched by a professional with 20+ years of experience in his chosen website niche. As a result of his past experiences, he’s able to craft compelling content that’s of interest to people at all levels of his selected field. In addition, the products he sells are in high demand because of the personal experience he brings to their content.
Obviously, these two websites represent extreme examples – nearly all websites online are likely to fall in between these two opposites.
However, the grain of truth here is that you need to be able to offer something unique on your website in order to make it stand out from others online within your same industry. There are simply too many sites online today for a copy-cat, rip-off site to succeed without bringing its own unique perspective to the marketplace.
Successful websites make traffic generation a priority
One final activity that all successful websites undertake is traffic generation. Smart webmasters know that sitting around and publishing good content isn’t enough to attract an audience alone. Again, the competition online these days is simply too steep to allow this “if you build it, they will come” mentality to succeed.
So if you want your site to be a success – and not a major failure – you must invest at least as much time courting new visitors using a variety of different techniques as you spend improving the content on your pages. Fortunately, you’ve got plenty of different options for doing this – including everything from paid PPC advertisements to SEO to social media marketing – so it should be possible for every webmaster to choose the techniques that best suit his skills and budget.
Really, the only way your site can be a failure due to poor traffic generation is to avoid the practice entirely. Invest time each day to bringing new visitors to your pages, and you’ll quickly find the most effective way to reach out to your website’s target audience members – ultimately causing your site to become a success, rather than a failure.