The Effective Website Solution – Don’t Miss the Boat!
The Effective Website Solution implements and manages the following components (order is important here!)
Setting up and Managing the Hosting Provider Service:
Your website needs to be served from a hosting provider. The server is where the website content physically exists. There are many tasks that need to be done to ensure that your server and file system is “secure” and “maintained“. You may also want to have email served from your domain, e.g. firstname.lastname@example.org. You need a developer who is experienced with “cPanel” or whichever tools the hosting provider makes available to manage email, the domain name, and the file system. Many website developers hide all of this from their clients because it is quite technical and not everybody’s cup of tea. But your developer needs to know what they’re doing so that your website operates and performs smoothly. I recently gained a client whose website had been turned off to Google Search Engine by their original developer, with a directive in the robots.txt file which told Google not to index the site! Oops!
Define the Goal
Defining the goal of the website (e.g. sell products/services, prospecting for clients, increasing user community, etc.). A successful website that is effective and serves the needs of its visitors cannot be built without knowing the goal. It drives the rest of the steps.
Define the Target Audience
Lots of traffic to the site doesn’t always correspond to increase in business. It needs to be “targeted traffic“, visitors who will buy your products, hire you for services, or join your subscriber list. The marketing term for this is “conversions“. A visitor converts when they buy your product, hire you for services, or subscribes to your blog/membership.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is all about Keywords and keyword phrases. These are the words your prospects will be typing into Google when they are searching for your product/service/business. The time to define keywords is BEFORE you begin building your website content, not AFTER! Your content needs to be structured around, and peppered with your keywords. Folks who believe SEO happens after the website is built are missing the boat. Sure, you can continuously re-optimize your website to improve your Search Engine Visibility based on analyzing its performance and visitor profile, but you should have a good base to start with. Keywords can be used in URLs, images, page content, and the “behind the scenes” so called “meta tags” which aren’t even visible on your website. But they are visible to Google, so they need to be built in from the get-go.
Build the Website
Content and content architecture for usability, target audience, and Google. If your website is simple, easy to use, and allows your visitors to find what they want quickly and easily, you are 90% of the way there. Content also needs to be structured and optimized for Google if you want to be found there. The hardest part of building a website is gathering and structuring the content! Images, graphics, video, buttons, interactive widgets, and all the latest bells and whistles are good, as they make your website engaging and interactive, but they must also be optimized for Google! By the way, just sticking in images without optimizing them for web will SLOW YOUR WEBSITE DOWN, and Google hates this. Unbelievably, I see websites with more than 2 MB image file sizes. These take forever to load, and are unnecessary for looking good on your page.
On Page SEO (Search Engine Optimization)
This goes hand in hand with the previous item, as content structure and those pesky “meta tags” need to be implemented. Again remember URL, Content structure, meta tags on images/buttons/posts/pages….all important. This is where you tell Google what your website is about.
Submit Sitemap and Set Up Google Search Console
Your “XML sitemap” is what tells Google how to index your website. The invisible XML sitemap is what Google reads, and is not visible on your website. Google Search Console will notify the Webmaster of indexing problems, broken links, page not found and other errors. It will also tell you if your site is “mobile friendly“, which is imperative for high rankings on Google. One of the most important charts that is provided by Google Search Console is the “Search Analytics“, which shows you which keywords (typed into Google) are generating the most “impressions” and “clicks” on your website. An impression is your website showing up on Google Search Engine Results Page (SERP) when someone types in those keywords. A click is when the visitor clicks on your website link and actually comes to your site.
Many developers skip this task, and it’s supremely important. I often get requests from clients to FIX a website developed by somebody else that doesn’t WORK. The website must be thoroughly tested to ensure all functionality performs properly, from shopping carts and payment gateways, to online forms and email triggers. Building in a payment gateway such as PayPal or the multitude of credit card gateways (Authorize.net) includes testing to ensure the handshaking works properly.
After the website goes live, it needs to be continuously analyzed and optimized with a tool such as Google Analytics (the most common analytics tool). You cannot improve what you cannot measure. Google Analytics will tell you everything you need to know about how many visitors you have, how they are interacting with your website, how long they stay on your website, which pages they read, and on which pages they enter and exit from. If your website has e-Commerce capability (online store), you can gather a whole host of information about which products are selling best, etc. Google Analytics also lets you measure the effectiveness of your SEO efforts, and which marketing campaigns work better than others. There are other analytics tools which give you information about your social media campaigns, how many shares/likes/tweets etc.
The Search Engine Marketing (SEM) -> Analytics Loop
There are many aspects to Search Engine Marketing, and many tools which help you with growing your web business, and expanding your reach. SEM/SEO/Social Media/Email Marketing go hand in hand with Analytics. These ongoing tasks are sometimes handled by a different person/team than the website development itself, but it is important that the website be built to enable all of these tasks. It is the responsibility of the website developer to ensure that the proper components and hooks are present to make this ongoing loop effective and efficient.