I have been getting a lot of questions lately about the core components of websites, as more clients build new, updated and/or revamped sites. I figure they aren’t the only ones with these types of questions, so I thought an article with a short website primer would be helpful to everyone.
Home Sweet Home
When you’re building a home, you need an address, land to build it on and the actual house. The same holds true for a website. Your domain name is your address (i.e., www.thrivepublicrelations.com); your website host is your land (i.e., Blue Host, GoDaddy, etc.); and the website platform (i.e., WordPress, GoDaddy, etc.) is where you select and build your floorplan, walls, floor, ceiling, cabinets, doors, windows, etc. that becomes your “home.” You must have all 3.
You can purchase your domain name from a variety of sources (Alldomains, Godaddy and many more). In some cases, you can purchase your domain through the same company that hosts your website (like BlueHost and Godaddy), although you definitely don’t need to, and there are some experts who suggest using different companies for your domain and hosting to help guard your site against hackers. And finally, you need to select a professional website developer to create your site.
Content is King
Before you select a company to build your website, understand which website platform they are using and ensure that it has a content management system that is easy to use. A content management system (CMS) is the back-end part of your site that you or someone on your team can log into and easily (or not-so-easily, depending on the CMS) update the words and photos on your web pages. It’s also important to identify who on your team will have access to and the responsibility for keeping your website up-to-date over time.
The next task – and the one that overwhelms many companies and stalls their website project – is to determine your site’s content: the words, flow/navigation and images that will tell your story the way you want it told and provide the information your visitors need.
What’s Google Got to Do with It?
Now more than ever, Google also loves and prioritizes quality content – content that is relevant, natural, unique and updated. They are in the business of serving up search results to their users, and the way they keep their customers (and their #1 search engine ranking) is to continue providing the most relevant search results possible.
Content is the most important part of your SEO (search engine optimization) strategy. Before you worry about anything else related to SEO, make sure your website’s content is written well. Quality content is king – for your website visitors and for Google. Resist the old, outdated tactic of key word stuffing. Google will now penalize you if you’re just filling your web pages full of key words, rather than natural content.
Can You See Me Now?
Speaking of Google, it also cares whether your website is mobile-friendly. If they deem that your website is not, it will impact your search results when someone is searching on a mobile device. Need to test your site? Go to https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/mobile-friendly/.
According to Google, a page is eligible for the “mobile-friendly” label if it meets the following criteria as detected by Googlebot:
- Avoids software that is not common on mobile devices, like Flash
- Uses text that is readable without zooming
- Sizes content to the screen so users don’t have to scroll horizontally or zoom
- Places links far enough apart so that the correct one can be easily tapped
There are 2 ways to accomplish a mobile-friendly website. The first is to create a mobile version of your website. The second way is to create a new website with a responsive design.
No new website should be built without a “responsive design,” which simply means that the website is crafted using technology to automatically respond to the user’s screen size — from desktops to laptops to tablets and mobile phones. This goes beyond pleasing Google by providing your visitors with an easier way to see and use all the content on your website, no matter which device they’re using.
If you’ve ever worked or talked with me, it’s likely you’ve heard me say, “Don’t compete with yourself.” It’s difficult enough to establish your brand, get the word out about your company and stay top of mind with your prospects and customers. Don’t make it more difficult for yourself by not being consistent across ALL your marketing materials, including your website. Your site’s look, feel and content should match the way you present yourself anywhere and everywhere else. Don’t compete with yourself by acting and looking like one company online … and another offline.