Five Essentials for Web Success

Well, I’m going to change things up and instead of writing a lengthy, philosophical article on the direction of the web, I’m going to focus on a couple practical, concrete ideas to help build success now. In no particular order, and not to the exclusion of anything not mentioned, here they are:

1. Say something original

Ow. Maybe it would’ve been easier to start off with something simple, like “use title tags” or “name URLs after keywords.” Those technical requirements, while important, are not only covered elsewhere but useless unless your site is saying something. Search engines still aren’t that smart, but they’ve figured out most of the cheap SEO tricks and personalization trends suggest that the future of search lies in original, user-preferred content, with less emphasis on keyword love.

Furthermore, “say something original” should be an exciting challenge, not an aggravation. What really makes your business unique? What are the key points you always say to customers? Put your store hours on your page, sure, but present that information in a way that captures the imagination. Tell a story if possible.

2. Structure your site to get that message across

Right. Even though title and h1 tags won’t get you to the top, if you write luminous prose about the merits of your company that would win any prospect, if you don’t organize it on the technical end so that search engines understand it, that prospect will never read it.

3. Update, update, update

Now that you’ve written that stellar content, you need to write more. Unfair, isn’t it?

Luckily, robust content management systems are more affordable than you might think and search engines love them. Get a blog, get a news section, post press releases, write articles about the making of your product. Put yourself in the web surfer”s shoes for a minute, and think about the random articles that you stumble across late at night. It might not seem like qualified traffic, but what happens when the random user sends a link off to some of his/her friends? Puts you del.icio.us? Puts you in their blog? The effects are not quantifiable, but potentially awesome.

Search engines love content, too, of course, and timely updates will score you love in the search engine results page as well. There’s really no way to get around this if you want your site to make it long-term.

4. Focus on conversion

I”ve been to many sites where I bought into whatever I read hook, line, and sinker… But then I didn’t know what to do. Have you ever been sold on something but not seen the link to buy it? The attention span in this situation lasts less than ten seconds. Make it as easy as possible for the user to buy into whatever your selling, whether that’s gizmos, services, advice or ideas.

5. Know thyself

If you know for a fact that you”re just not going to keep that fancy new blog updated every week with insightful commentary on your industry, then hire a professional to do it (like me!). If your site has had the same design for years and you cringe when customers ask you for the URL, think about what the long term prospects of that site are as a marketing channel for your business. On the other hand, if you write outstanding press for your newsletters and haven’t made that content available online (providing it’s public information), get going!

Keeping realistic expectations based on your knowledge of your business and the behavior of your customers is key to making the web work for you long-term. Don’t spend a huge chunk of cash expecting to be #1 for “real estate” and never update the site again, nor drop your budget to a fraction of what you spend on the light bill and expect same. Understand that the web is a challenging, ever-changing environment, and that getting to the top is a lot of hard work and diligence, but well worth the effort.

But with the right message, and the right attitude, you”ll see payoff that you’d never find in radio, TV, or the newspaper. These are just five little things to get that ball a’rollin.