11 Minimum Website Features for Internet Marketing

Whenever I talk to a new prospect about getting started with internet marketing, one of the first things I do is take a look at their website. There are certain minimum things that every website should include. These items make the site easy to find, easy to share and able to track all internet marketing activity. Before I started Webster Digital Marketing (and even before I started working as an Internet Marketing Professional), I was a project manager for a website  design company, and a web developer before that. So I know that none of these things are difficult to implement. In fact, there are free solutions available for most of the items on this list.

If you don’t have a website , share this list with the person you are thinking of having build one for you. They should know what everything on this list means and be able to include each item in your estimate. Or consider getting a website design by Webster Digital Marketing.

If you already have a website , take a look at it to see how many of these things it already includes. If you want to be effective at internet marketing, plan to add the rest. I’ll include information here about how to tell if your site has these items as well, where it isn’t obvious.

1. Select a great domain name.

Your site should have a domain name which fits these criteria:

a. The name should be easy to type and remember. That means that shorter is better, special characters should be limited (like underscores) and things which are difficult to spell should be avoided.

b. Check your domain name to see what happens if you make a common spelling error. For example, if you have the domain name “some-domain.com”, what happens if you type “somedomain.com” (without the dash)? Does it lead to a competitor? If so, you may be losing business.

c. If you can select a domain with both your business name and keywords for your business that’s really ideal. The domain name is one of the ways in which Google decides whether or not your content is relevant to any given search. On the one hand, people are more likely to type your name into Google to find you than they are to just enter your domain name into the address bar. You want them to be able to find you that way. On the other hand, if you have the words people are looking for in your domain name (i.e., “car repair Omaha” or “carpeting cleaning”) you are more likely to show up on the first pages of results.

What do you do if your domain name doesn’t meet these criteria? I would consider changing it. If you visit GoDaddy.com, you can see a box at the top of the home page that will let you type in a domain name and find out whether or not it is available. If you find one you like, you can add it to your existing website and domain. You don’t have to let the domain name you have go away, stranding your customers. You use both domain names until the new one is more established than the old one.

2. Include a basic content management system (CMS).

A CMS allows you to easily change your website content.  All you have to do is to go to a certain web address (youdomain.com/admin for example) and log in. From there, you can add and delete content and edit it. You can also add photos and documents to a page.

BONUS: If your CMS has a “copy from Word” function! It’s not unusual to use Word to create content. But without this function, its pretty common that when you copy from Word to a CMS, it adds all sorts of stuff you don’t want to your content – especially unneeded formatting.

3. Have a blog integrated with the site.

Blog comments are like gold stars!

Blog comments are like gold stars!

A blog is one of the biggest and best ways for companies to improve their website search engine positioning (SEO), engage with customers and establish themselves as industry experts. A blog is like a newsletter, but it lives on your website . As part of an internet marketing strategy, you will want to regularly update your website  and increase its use of keywords (the words you want people to find you under when they do a search). A blog makes it easier to do both of these things. I recommend that you blog (meaning add articles to your blog) at least once a month. Once a week is even better.

There are lots of totally FREE blogging platforms out there. WordPress is one of the most popular.

The blog should be part of your website. Really, its best if its completely indistinguishable from the rest of the site. The navigation should be the same and it should have the same design. It may, however, have different items in the left and/or right columns of your site (where applicable). It is typical to have a blog be accessed at yourdomain.com/blog or yourdomain.com/news.

The blog will work best if lets people leave comments on each article. Comments on your blog are like a gold star – its one of the ways you know that people are reading what you write and are interested in it. As part of your internet marketing strategy, you will want to respond to the comments on your blog if at all possible.

Note: Your blogging software can also used as a content management system, thereby checking off 2 items at once.

4. Include a short form to subscribe to the blog on each page of the site.

On every page of your website, give people the opportunity to subscribe to your blog. This is the start of your own opt-in email marketing program. When they sign up to get updates as you post them, indicating that they want to know what you have to say on any given topic, this is a good thing. They are asking you to stay in touch with them. And each time you contact them, you are reminding them of your business and the services you provide. This helps new leads convert to customers and helps existing customers become repeat customers.

For the short term, your form can be set up to email the new subscriber info to you so that you can add it manually to a mailing list. But eventually, you will probably want to have it integrate with some software which will keep a list of your subscribers and make it easy to email them. MailChimp is the solution I usually recommend. You can also have it link directly to Constant Contact or use a variety of blog plugins (add-ons to your blog software). Some of these solutions are free and some have a small charge associated with them. Usually, the cost will depend on how large your email list gets.

5. Include Google Analytics.

Google Analytics is a FREE tool which lets you know how many people are visiting your site, tons of demographic information about them, what they are doing once they reach your site, where they came from, and whether or not they decided to contact you or subscribe to your blog while they were there. This tool (or one like it) is the reason why Webster Digital Marketing will be able to tell you exactly how many customers it brought you and where they came from.

Not sure if you have Google Analytics? Pull up your site in a browser like Chrome and right click on the page background. You should have a choice to “view source” or “view page source”. Select this when the new page opens, click Ctrl+F (on Windows). That will pull up the “find” box. In that box, type the word “google”. If you don’t get any results, you probably don’t have Google Analytics installed.

BONUS: If you also have another web traffic analytics tool. Many hosting platforms include one at no additional charge.

6. Include social media sharing icons on all the pages of the site.

On your website pages, there should be a row or column of social media logos which, if you click on them, will let you share that page easily on social media. You should include Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Google+ and email at the minimum. If your site uses a lot of pictures, you should also include Pinterest.

BONUS: include Digg and Tumblr.

7. Include links to follow your social media accounts in a prominent place on all pages of the website.

I’ve seen these in the header or footer of the site or on the left or right column. Where they are doesn’t matter, but don’t hide them!  Make them easy to see and find without even looking for them. If a visitor to your site clicks on these links, they will be taken to the specific page on that social media platform where they can follow you. This is another way for visitors to stay up-to-date with your company, what you have to say, and see any specials or sales you might run.

8. Build a contact form.

Lots of businesses have just an email address or phone number listed on the website. This is not ideal because for 2 main reasons: 1) it’s not as easy to track and 2) it may increase the amount of spam you receive to that email address (depending on how this is programmed). I always recommend a contact form instead. At it’s most basic, the visitor to your site fills out the form and you receive an email with the information the visitor submitted.  More sophisticated forms will automatically insert the information into a database or a CRM system like Salesforce. Here are things the contact form should always include:

  1. Locate the form where it can be seen as soon as the person goes to the page (without scrolling).
  2. If you ask the visitor for a phone number on your form, it should very clearly indicate that the phone number is optional (doesn’t have to be filled in before the form can be submitted).  Having the phone number field required can seriously reduce response rate.
  3. If a visitor fails to fill out any required field, highlight or mark the one they didn’t fill out and give a specific error message telling the visitor the problem.
  4. The form should go to a separate submit page from the page the form is on. In other words, the address in the address bar needs to actually change when the form is submitted. A nice thank you message can be displayed on the page. Google Analytics does a better job of tracking conversions (form submissions) when the two pages are separate.
  5. Make the submit button for the form big and brightly colored.
  6. Under or near the submit button, say “We never sell or share your contact information!” Obviously, only do this if it is true.
  7. When the form is submitted, send an email confirmation to the person who filled it out letting them know that their information was received. You can also use this thank you email to ask a follow-up question. The email confirmation should come from a real email address which is monitored by people. Some people will hit reply and you want to receive that mail.

BONUS: if you can manage the content of the thank you email in the content management system.

9. Put an attention-getting call-to-action on each page.

The call-to-action is the request from you to the visitor to perform an action. Usually, the action is to call you or fill out the contact form. It may also be other things like downloading a document, visiting another page, taking a quiz, etc. Calls to action in the form of buttons can sometimes do very well. For best results, every single page should tell the visitor what action you feel they should take from the page.

10. Give people visiting your site using mobile devices a good experience.

Over 50% of people are now using mobile devices (smart phones and tablets) to surf the web. And Google started penalizing businesses which aren’t mobile friendly in April of 2015. Be sure that when someone visits your site on such a device, they are still able to interact with your site and find the information they are likely to want (like the location of your office or store) in a reasonable amount of time. Test the site on your own phone to see how well it performs. If it is slow, if the visitor can’t use the navigation, if the fonts are too small to read you need to make a change.

11. Sites are best when they are accessible on all major modern internet browsers.

Whether I’m using Chrome, Microsoft Edge, Firefox or Safari, I should get the same wonderful experience when I visit a website. If you have Internet Explorer 6, don’t expect anyone to still support your browser, but if you have the most recent version of Chrome you should be able to expect good things.

These are the kinds of things you are likely to see in the Digital Marketing Checkup.

Contact us today to find out more about how to be excellent at digital marketing and social media marketing. 

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2 comments on “11 Minimum Website Features for Internet Marketing
  1. Polly says:

    Hmm it appears like your blog ate my first comment (it was extremely long) so
    I guess I’ll just sum it up what I wrote and say, I’m thoroughly enjoying your blog.
    I too am an aspiring blog writer but I’m still new to the whole thing.
    Do you have any recommendations for novice blog writers?

    I’d really appreciate it.

    • Thanks! Sorry your first comment got eaten.

      Are you looking for your blog to eventually make money? If so, I’d suggest that research is a huge part of it and some people may not appreciate. Be sure that you know what your audience would like to see (as far as article topics) and that you are providing it in a way that is a cut above the competition.

      Good luck with your future endeavors!

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