Essential ingredients for a valuable website

Guest contributor, Sonja Jefferson of Valuable Content Ltd. explains the essential ingredients for a valuable website.

If you want your website to be valued by your customers and generate a consistent stream of good leads for your business what do you need to focus on?

Here are eight of the most important elements you’ll need to address with your web content and design if you want your website to fulfill its potential.

 1. Focus on your target reader

If you want to create a website that genuinely works for your business, put your customer’s needs first. This means defining exactly who the website is for, building a deep understanding of their needs and designing the site and its content around them.

Just describing your company, what you do, the services you deliver is not enough. You’ll miss the mark with your customers and miss an important trick with your marketing.

Remember: your website is not for you, it’s for your customers.

2. Content matters

Some mistakenly see a website’s content purely as filler. Bung a few words down to replace all that Lorem Ipsum text. Nobody reads it anyway do they?

The content is vital: your words ARE your message. So think content first, then get the web designers in.

3. Valuable content matters most

We see many sites without a shred of valuable content.  Remember: this is the type of information that your buyers seek so make your content USEFUL to those you want to do business with. Think library, not brochure with valuable articles, video, slideshows, guides. Fill those shelves over time.

4. Good design is essential

Investing in good design is crucial if you want to give a professional image, entice people to stay on the site, read what you have to say and find the information they want to find, fast. Skimp on good design at your peril. There’s nothing more off putting than a poorly designed, confusingly laid out site with content that is hard to read.

5. Make your website simple to navigate

Make it simple for your visitors to find the information they want, fast or they’ll quickly get frustrated and click away. Can they get from A to B? Pay attention to the site’s information architecture and make sure it’s structured around your visitors’ different needs. This takes thought and planning.

Remember to follow conventions – don’t try and reinvent the wheel.

6. Learn to label for search engines

Search engine algorithms are getting better and better but if you don’t label and link your information properly then they will struggle to index your stuff. If you’re going to get the most from your investment in great content, optimize your site and learn how to index it properly so you get found.

 7. Make your website sticky

The longer your visitor stays on the site, the higher their level of engagement and the more chance you have of starting to build that relationship, get them to sign up, contact you, buy your stuff.

Fill the site full of information they genuinely value. Link and direct them to related content: “If you like this, you might also be interested in this.” Invite them to sign up – give them an opportunity to come back for more.

8. Clear calls to action

We don’t mean just putting your details on the Contact Us page. We mean having clear signposts to action across the site – telling your visitor what you want them to DO if they like what they find.

So many sites miss out on this. Retailers tend to be better at it – ADD TO BASKET, BUY NOW. For service firms – the purpose of the site is to engage your visitors, to build the relationship, not always to elicit an immediate purchase. Give clear calls to action and spell out the next step you want the reader to take.

Build your website around these eight elements and you’ll reap the rewards in terms of visitors, leads and sales.

By Sonja Jefferson, Sonja’s book Valuable Content Marketing – how to make quality content the key to your business success will be out 3 January 2013. Available for pre-order from