In this blog post, we’re looking at a number of technical checkpoints your website must pass, and also some content and design features that can help you build your audience. Some of these are strongly recommended by Google when ranking websites for search results and can help with your SEO.
Your website should represent your brand and reinforce your brand values, your authentic brand voice, and tell your brand’s story. It is important to keep this in mind at every stage of design and content creation.
Now, let’s look at some specifics.
Look Good on Any Device
Most websites now are responsive, meaning the same version of the website is shown to people with giant, high definition screens as well as smaller screens, like your phone. Some websites also serve visitors a separate mobile version, but it is no longer necessary to spend extra time on a 2nd version of your website. Separate mobile sites tend to be an abbreviated version of the website and aren’t always consistent with the desktop version of the website. This can be confusing for visitors, so unless you have a specific reason for having 2 versions of your website, you’ll save time and energy using a responsive design.
A responsive design means that the elements in the webpage resize to fit into the window they’re being viewed in. You can often tell if a website is not responsive by looking at it from your phone. If there is very much horizontal scrolling, or the text is too small too read, you may be dealing with an outdated website design.
Being mobile friendly is also pretty much a requirement for SEO. As of April 21, 2015, Google introduced an update to its search algorithm (how search results are ranked), that prioritized mobile friendly sites and penalized non-mobile friendly sites1.
Securing your site with an SSL certificate (SSL means secure socket layer) is important to protecting both your business and to protecting your website visitors. An SSL certificate is a way for your visitors’ browsers to verify that the content they received when visiting your website actually came from your website, and that it wasn’t compromised before it arrived.
It all sounds pretty technical, but you’re already probably familiar with how it appears in your browser. Sites with an SSL typically show a lock in the address bar when the site is using an SSL. This provides a visual cue for your users that you’re concerned with protecting any information they send through your website.
There are different versions of SSL which provide various levels of verification and protection, but we’re not going to get into specifics here about which is which. Depending on what information you’re asking visitors for on your website, it may be appropriate to upgrade the type of SSL you’re using.
Google has been using SSL/https as a ranking factor for search results all the way back to August 2014, but they’ve been gradually applying for weight to it as more websites adopted the standard2. Now in 2018, it’s pretty much a must for SEO3.
Whether it’s your contact information, information about your company, or any other mostly static information, it’s important to update it any time it changes. Imagine someone visits your website looking for your address, but you’ve moved. Or, they look up your phone number and it’s changed, or there are different numbers listed for your business in different places. How confusing would that be? Will your website visitor try more than 1 phone number looking for you? Probably not.
Keeping this information up-to-date is important so that visitors and returning clients know how to get ahold of you.
New and Updated Content
Adding new content to your website will help your business connect with existing and new customers who want to learn more about your products, business, industry, or even loosely related topics of interest to your potential or current customers.
If some of your old content is out of date, then it makes sense to either update the original content or to post a new version (and then provide a link to it from the old content). This shows your website visitors that you’re still actively updating information, and Google can tell, too.
The best content is original to your business and isn’t generated for another organization. Your voice, authenticity, and passion must be expressed through your content. Again, this is important for SEO. As of March 2017, Google penalizes sites who use too much ‘copied content’4. This is content you’re probably familiar with if you’ve ever seen a note at the end of a blog like ‘This content was originally posted on X’, where X is not the current blog you’re reading, but some other site online.
Make It Easy for Customers to Stay in Touch
So, you’ve now got a responsive, secure site, with new content posted regularly. You’re growing your customer reach, and it’s important to make it easier for visitors to your site to connect with your business.
There are many ways your website can help connect with visitors. You can use contact forms, so visitors can send you messages directly. You can ask visitors to subscribe to your blog, so they’ll receive any new blog posts automatically. You can provide sharing tools, so visitors can easily share your website with their friends or social media accounts.
The specific methods may change depending on your business needs and customers. It is just important that you provide some way for your website visitors to accomplish these goals as easily as possible.
Clear Call to Actions
For every piece of content, there should be a clear action that your website visitor could take. Commonly, this includes signing up for your blog or requesting more information about a service.
It’s important for your call to action to be conspicuous (no one should have to look around for it) and that it’s appropriate given the content they just consumed. For example, in an informational blog post, using a call to action to pay for the service right now will probably get fewer clicks than a call to action to sign up to get your blog. This visitor has already expressed an interest in the information you’ve written (because they’ve just read your blog post), and there is a better chance they’ll sign up to get more information from you.
Accessible by Everyone
You may think that this is the same as looking good on any device, and to some extent that’s true. But truly accessible websites consider many other factors, such as keyboard only navigation, image alt text, and the underlying layout that holds everything together. This can be much harder to determine if you’re not a web developer, so it’s important to start with a theme that is designed with accessibility in mind.
The biggest ongoing item to remember about accessibility is to always write a descriptive alt text for every image you add to your website to convey content (not background images). For users who are vision impaired, this alt text is how they know what’s in the image (and search engines too). Alternatively, if the image fails to load, users will still see the alt text, and have some idea of what the image should be.
Accessibility is especially a big concern if you know there is a chance your target audience is more likely to have visual impairments.
This is not an exhaustive list of what your website should have, only some of the most important considerations. Hopefully, you can check off all these items for your current website or start implementing them immediately with your new blog posts and content. And if your current website doesn’t meet these technical criteria, please consider learning more about our web design services and hosting here.
1 Barry Schwartz. (n.d.). The Google Mobile Friendly Update & Mobilegeddon Explained. Retrieved March 01, 2018, from https://searchengineland.com/library/google/google-mobile-friendly-update
2Ait Bahajji, Z., & Illyes, G. (2014, August 06). HTTPS as a ranking signal. Retrieved March 01, 2018, from https://webmasters.googleblog.com/2014/08/https-as-ranking-signal.html
3Basques, K. (2018, January 11). Why HTTPS Matters. Retrieved March 01, 2018, from https://developers.google.com/web/fundamentals/security/encrypt-in-transit/why-https
4Anderson, S. (2018, February 12). Duplicate Content SEO Advice From Google in 2018. Retrieved March 01, 2018, from https://www.hobo-web.co.uk/duplicate-content-problems/