Depending on your business and the products/services you offer, your website will range from extremely simple to very complicated from a coding and development perspective. But wherever your website falls on the complexity spectrum, there are fundamental features that all websites need to have.
The following seven features are fundamental for any business website. If your site doesn’t have any of the following, it might be time for an update.
Search Engine Friendly (On-Page SEO)
Everyone wants to rank on Google, and while there are many factors that contribute to your ranking, the information on your website is a key piece of the puzzle. According to the 2018 Local Search Ranking Factors from Moz, traditional SEO (a.k.a. on-page signals) was the #2 most important ranking factor for organic rankings and the #4 factor for the “local pack”.
On-page signals consist of the actual text on your pages, the titles of your pages, meta tags, the presence of your business name, address and phone number on the pages and other signals pulled directly from the website. While many get wrapped up into the look and feel of a website (and rightfully so), there is much more going on behind the scenes especially as it relates to SEO.
Prominent Call to Action(s)
Whether you sell online or not, your website needs to push people toward a specific action. This could be any of the following:
- Call (click to call)
- Email sign-up (subscribe)
- Form fill
- Online order/purchase
- Report Download
- Click for directions
- Click to email
- Live chat or SMS
And so on. There are a number of potential actions you can optimize your website for, but it is critical that your website is focused in this area. You want to give your consumers options in how they contact you, but on your end, you want these efforts to be organized so no leads/inquiries are overlooked or missed.
In May 2015 Google announced that more online searches took place on mobile devices than desktop computers in the U.S. The proliferation of smartphones and tablets has pushed mobile as the primary and, in some cases, only device that consumers were using to access the Internet.
To improve the quality of search results on mobile devices, Google announced in April 2015 that websites that weren’t mobile-friendly would be negatively impacted in mobile search results. In other words, if a company didn’t have a website that was optimized for mobile, the company’s website would rank lower on Google. All of this is to say that mobile-friendly websites are not optional in today’s market.
Safe & Secure
You’ll notice that at the front of your website URL you either have “http” or “https”. The main difference between the two is that the “s” stands for “secure,” encrypting the data that pass between a web browser and a web server. This encryption helps to protect user data from being stolen by hackers that seek to capture data like credit card info and log-in information.
With HTTPS websites, the information is encrypted by what’s called an SSL certificate. The important thing here is that websites that don’t have an SSL certificate and therefore aren’t HTTPS are putting their business and user data at risk. At a developer conference in 2014, Google made a call for “HTTPS everywhere” and shortly thereafter the company made HTTPS a ranking factor.
In other words, Google boosts the rank of sites that have HTTPS. Additionally, some browsers such as Google Chrome now display notifications if a site is secure or not. Beyond the SSL certificate, there are a number of other security measures to consider with your website.
Use of Design Best Practices
A poorly designed or hard to navigate website might actually hurt a business more than not having a website at all. According to Google, when people visit websites, “in less than 50 milliseconds, users build an initial gut feeling that helps them decide whether they’ll stay or leave.” Additionally, an Econsultancy study found that 95% said a positive user experience is the most important factor when visiting a website.
The design and layout are clearly extremely important to anyone that is considering working with your business. The components of a website that have the greatest impact on users is the design, formatting and navigation, speed and mobile optimization. All of this comes together to create and overall user experience (UX), and if your website’s UX is poor or ineffective, you’ll be overlooked.
Additionally, companies with websites that don’t take advantage of modern design trends are going to be perceived as out-of-touch. The digital space moves fast, and it’s important for businesses to stay ahead of the curve.
Fast Loading Pages
Speed matters for two primary reasons: 1. Google provides a ranking boost for fast loading pages and 2. web users expect speed.
Google is often rewarding websites that provide positive experiences. The search giant’s intention is for people who search on Google to get search results that are not only relevant, but are high in quality. This is why the company has given boosts to sites that are mobile-friendly, secure and in this case, fast.
On the second point, a study from Google’s Doubleclick found that 53% of mobile sites are abandoned if the pages take longer than three seconds to load. Additionally, the same study found that sites that load in five seconds vs. 19 seconds had 70% longer sessions and 35% lower bounce rates. In other words, web visitors demand speedy pages.
HTML Best Practices
One of the coding languages behind your website is HTML and new commands and capabilities of this language are introduced as new versions of the language are released. HTML5 is the latest version, introducing a number of features that shift away from long-standing coding standards.
Without getting too technical, there are a number of coding best practices that “future proof” your website and make it easier for developers to edit. The experts at w3schools.com recommend adhering to XHTML conventions even though HTML5 is the latest edition of the language. If this all sounds like a bunch of jargon, the important takeaway is that your website code matters for any future edits or redesigns.
Joe is the owner and chief digital marketer at Rithm Marketing. He has been building websites and executing digital marketing strategies for about 10 years. Previously Joe was an analyst and director of marketing for a prominent digital marketing trade association.