7 Elements of a Sizzling Site

Does your website sizzle or fizzle? Do you convert visitors into customers, leads, readers, followers, members or donors? Or do visitors abandon your site in search of something… well… BETTER?

Whether you have a simple brochure site or a complex ecommerce storefront or anything in between, you need your website to WORK for you.

Here are 7 elements of an effective website that you can easily put to work on your own site.

1. Compelling Headers

Create H1 headlines that are keyword rich, but also clearly define the content on the page. Unlike an ad headline, site headers need to be more descriptive than suggestive.  But that doesn’t mean they have to be lifeless.  Keep headers to one or two lines, generally less than 10 words.

2. Quality Content

Content is King!  But make sure the King is speaking to humans first and search engines second. Use keywords appropriately, not excessively. And go back to basics: First, tell’em what you’re going to talk about. Second, talk about it. Third, tell’em what you talked about.

3. Engaging Imagery

Friends don’t let friends use bad clip art.  Whether you use royalty-free stock photos, your sister Sue’s scribbles, or custom illustrations commissioned from a professional artist, the imagery on your site has a lot of work to do.  It needs to engage, to add visual interest and assist in telling the story. If it’s not doing this, dump it and find something that does.

Some great resources:

Fotolia*             http://www.fotolia.com

Stock.Xchng     http://www.sxc.hu/

morgueFile        http://www.morguefile.com

Dreamstime      http://www.dreamstime.com

*Be sure to check out the special Fotolia offer exclusively for Appliedi.Net customers at https://www.appliedi.net/marketplace/default.html

4. Intuitive Navigation

Is it easy to get around your site?  Can new visitors find what they need quickly?  Here are some basic recommendations for good site navigation:

  • Navigation should be available on all pages… no “dead end pages.”
  • If you provide links to other sites, always designate the links to open in a new browser window or tab.  Don’t artificially boost your abandon rate by bouncing users off your site unintentionally.
  • Use a combination of header tabs, drop-down menus, side navigation buttons or tabs, contextual Call to Action buttons, Anchor Text and footer navigation links. Group navigation tools together logically.
  • Don’t overuse Anchor Text, but DO use intrasite links wherever necessary to provide clarity and substance.
  • Make sure your Site Map is organized intelligently, so a visitor can easily see how information is categorized on your site.

5. Rapid Page Loading

Nothing makes a website fizzle faster than a long page load time. Make sure your site measures up to expectations.  Go to Alexa.com and enter your URL. See whether your Average Load Time is available.  If Alexa can’t access the speed, try WebsiteOptimization.com. Just enter your URL and you will get a detailed analysis of your page load speed.

6. Elegant Meta Data

Make sure your Meta Descriptions, Title Tags, Keywords (if you use them) and ALT tags are optimized for BOTH search engines and humans. Don’t just look at the trees (keywords) but see the forest (the whole story you’re telling.)  Think of the Meta data as an opportunity to validate and classify the content on each page.

7. Clear Call To Action

Don’t forget to tell your visitors what you want them to do.  Do you want them to sign up? Call you? Buy something? Fill out a form?  Whatever it is, be sure to make it utterly impossible to miss, and really, really EASY.

Whether your site has been online for 10 years or 10 days, it’s a valuable exercise to take a fresh look every so often. If you glean even one good take-away from this article, it was well worth the 5 minutes it took to read!

About Charles

Best Managed Hosting Support and Service with emphasis on Windows Azure and Microsoft Technologies.

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