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Components and Features of Effective Websites

A Guide to Successful Web Strategy

Abstract

This paper aims to analyze a number of essential components in building high-selling websites including content, accessibility, visibility components as well as discuss best ethical practices of online marketing campaigns. The methodology and techniques discussed in this whitepaper constitute the key ingredients to any successful internet marketing (SEO and SEM) strategy.

Introduction

For over a decade now, people and businesses from all over the world have been finding great success on the internet through the creation of their own websites.

For some however, the internet has not produced winning results. While some sites seem to be extremely successful in financial terms, growing their sales from scratch to generate tens of thousands of dollars in income, the vast majority struggle to generate even a handful of sales. Why do some websites succeed when so many others fail to meet their goals? Why do some websites rank among the top ten search results while others remain virtually invisible?

Even though no single recipe for success exists, building a content-rich and easily accessible website can make an incredible difference in its performance on the web. Successful online marketing projects should take visibility and accessibility issues very seriously.

Content

Content is like flesh of the website. It gives the website depth, character, and texture. Relevant, creative, and engaging content is what keeps web users coming back for more. Content-rich websites will rank higher in search results. High-quality content is also a substantial factor in driving qualified leads and sales.

Essential Features of Quality Content:

Unique Content

It is absolutely essential that a website's content provide value to its audience. It must give your website visitors something to talk about. One way of doing this is through the publication of articles that communicate your attitude towards something that's hot and current in your industry. Post an article or raise a question. Try to spark a debate on some controversial issue and give your audience a chance to talk back.

In a short while, your content will begin to generate user feedback and comments. Content will prove a successful method to cater to your site visitors and will help you stay unique from the perspective of search engines that love user-generated content.

Publication of raw news and data will usually not be enough to encourage users to take action. Ideally, product and service reviews should be followed by articles connecting web users to more knowledge and information about specific products and services.

Many websites exist today that offer free content that you can add to your website to bulk up content. Though adding free relevant content may seem like a smart way to add relevant information to your website, this duplicate content can greatly hurt your website ranking. The content on your website should be original or at least retold from a different angle.

When a reader becomes excited about your content, that reader may want to tell others about your ideas on his or her blog or website. When your content generates this type of quality endorsement in the form of a link, it is a huge boost to your search engine optimization efforts and often very effective at driving traffic to your website.

Your visitors probably aren't concerned with whether or not your content is unique-only that it's interesting and useful. However, there are also copyright laws that protect content from illicit reproduction. Even if copyright isn't an issue, search engines detest duplicate content and can penalize websites that fill their pages with duplicate content by burying them in the search results. Those sites that do not heed this warning can be banned from search engine databases.

Content Relevancy

Relevant, original content meets the needs of both the information seeking user and search engines.

Assume for a moment that you are the proud owner of an online PC resale store. What type of content could you create that would be of interest to users and highly attractive to search engines? You could develop a series of topics relating to the PC components that you sell. Tell your customers what you know about PC coolers. If there are any special tweaks that make coolers cool better, share them with your audience. There's a reason why search engines reward this type of original, topical content-and that's because it's extremely useful to information seekers. The goal of a search engine is to provide information seekers with the most useful content. Therefore, search engines define their algorithms to display the most relevant information first on the search engine results page.

If you provide useful, original content and blend your copy with some research discourse, just imagine how many more opportunities you will have to present your website to people searching for the keywords found within that content.

Interesting and Fresh Content

Offline as well as online, keeping the customer's interest is a guaranteed sales tactic. The longer a visitor remains on your website, the higher the chance that they will become a customer. You don't want your visitors to take one look at your home page, yawn, and click to move on to another site. Keeping your site full of fresh, new content is the best way to keep people coming back for more.

If you have a special interest site, many of your readers may enjoy contributing occasional stories, just for the thrill of seeing their names in virtual print. Also, if you see an article you like somewhere on the web, you may be able to get permission to reprint it.

If you're a small business and hiring content writers seems a costly solution you can try free or paid newsfeeds. Newsfeeds automatically keep your site updated with fresh headlines that are relevant to your readers. Some methods of keep your content fresh, interesting, and alive are to:

  • Regularly update product prices and descriptions of your products, services
  • Make sure your copy has a few of illustrations, photos, or other graphical elements
  • Provide feature stories and articles, news updates, a newsletter
  • Publish announcements that you can send out to inform web users about news, changes, promotions, or updates

Site Accessibility and Usability

The site can be full of fascinating content. Unfortunately, that content can lose all of its appeal if the site is poorly accessible.

Accessibility is associated with the ease of understanding and using the site. The content should be made accessible to healthy individuals as well as persons who suffer from any kind of physical impairment. The concept of site accessibility fits in well with the search engine friendly design and better usability.

Site Accessibility

The internet is a place for all kinds of different people who are browsing the net using a wide range of different hardware devices and software. Website operators can only predict what kind of users will be browsing their pages. Making the site accessible for a broader spectrum of web users will increase the chances of turning those people into buying prospects. Improved site accessibility will maximize your market reach and will attract more paying customers.

The extent of website accessibility should be in mind when writing the code for the site. The web developer should observe web standards and practices that separate style from content, minimize obtrusive JavaScript, produce search engine friendly URL's, include useful alt tags, etc.

Not only do these things matter for human accessibility reasons, but they will also allow search engines to index the site more easily. Search engines can't read text in images. They can't interpret JavaScript or applets. And they can't understand many other kinds of multimedia content. Building human and search engine accessible sites solves this problems.

Ideally, your website should give visitors a choice to use the format they prefer. For instance, the site user should be able to decide whether he or she would like to view the content in HTML, PDF, Microsoft Word, or Macromedia Flash. Accessible websites make it simple for users to resize text, change colors, or adjust contrast depending on the visitor's preferences. When addressed properly, usability measures play a substantial role in customer conversion.

Site Navigability

Navigability greatly contributes to the accessibility of a website. How well and how fast a visitor can surf from one to point on the site to another will play a critical role in your conversion rate.

Site users need to know where they are, where they are going, and how to get anywhere else on the site. Additional features such as easy page sharing can also be added in order for users to share the site with friends.

Navigability and usability features are vital to eCommerce sites. On quality business sites, any page a visitor is browsing has links to whatever the website sells. Good navigability involves lots of links to other pages on your site throughout your website content. Most navigability problems often occur on certain typical areas such as pop up information windows, small script pages, technical support pages etc. Anything on the website that can be indexed by search engines should also have navigable links to the rest of the website or at least the homepage or sitemap.

Website Comfort

Website features as comfort, clarity, and consistency are also essential for building successful websites. Website comfort helps visitors understand the website intuitively. Some tips for bettering website comfort would are:

  • Make texts easy to copy
  • Use black text on white or gray screen
  • Underline links
  • Use vertical lists of links where possible (vertical lists of links are more accessible to people using screen readers with graphical browsers than are multiple links on one line or in one sentence.)
  • Be careful with italics; they can be hard to read
  • Include height and width tags on all your images
  • Avoid multiple links on the same line
  • Use a tree-like site structure or web-like structures

These small improvements can boost website conversion like you never thought possible. Web designers and developers should be focusing on making websites easy to use and simple. People like what they understand and use easily. Yet another aspect of website comfort is website speed. Many visitors will not bother with your website if it takes to too much time to load.

To increase page load time, the site size and complexity should be kept to a minimum. Uniform styles for error messages, alerts, and informational tips contribute to better consistency. Website messages (errors and alert boxes etc.) should appear in the same place using the same font and color. It's a good idea to stick to the single domain, too.

Site Visibility

Visibility drives web traffic to your site. Most internet users rely on search engines to find product and service providers. Unless they know the exact website address or search by the company or brand name, they will try to find what they are looking for by using keywords that describe a product or service's features, benefits, or attributes.

Content: Increasing a website's visibility is easier when the site contains high quality content. If the web public considers your content link-worthy, you'll enjoy links from forums, discussion boards, blogs, and other sites.

Link building is a form of off-page optimization. Submission to or inclusion in paid and free web directories (e.g. Open Directory Project) is a great place to start.

You'll also want to exchange links with partner sites. However, not all links are of the same value. Choose link partners after reviewing their sites. Some links may decrease your search engine rankings, instead of improving them. Some examples of sites to link to and get links from are:

  • Sites that contain large amounts of quality content related to your own site.
  • Authority websites. Sites that are important or authoritative in their sphere of expertise due to the quality of content and features that it possesses.
  • Government websites
  • Partner sites

Other ways of effective link building include participation in newsgroups and web forums related to your topic. Contact webmasters and bloggers who maintain sites in your topic area. Write a review or article for them and they might be willing to exchange links with you.

Do not try copy-pasting your URL as you leave comments in forums and other related discussion boards-that's considered spamming. Quality websites normally have merciless spam policies which mean an instant ban of any site that participates in spamming.

PPC. While pay per click campaigns aren't as effective as ranking well in the organic search results, they can produce substantial results for new websites or sites that are just implementing a natural search engine optimization strategy.

Buying ads on the search engine results pages using Google AdWords or Yahoo Search Marketing can give your site instant visibility-no matter where you currently rank in the natural search engine results. However, PPC works best when integrated into an overall internet marketing strategy.

Conclusions

As seen, a successful website consists of a lot of moving parts such as website accessibility and usability aspects, quality relevant content, and visibility. These parts are essential to any search engine optimization or pay per click advertising initiative. As you build your website, factors contributing to its online success only multiply.

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