Building a High-Performance Website

By in Web Design & Usability,

How to Build a Website That Performs Well

Performance By Design

Building a high-performance website is both an art and a science. While great web design is critical, other factors are equally, if not more important if your goal is to create a highly visible website that turns visitors into active prospects.

In the past 25 years, Webolutions has created and marketed more than 2,000 websites for industries ranging from professional services to manufacturing, healthcare, training, eCommerce and HVAC. One thing we’ve learned for sure is that website performance doesn’t happen by accident. It requires a clearly defined path, and the fact is, more than 90% of the sites we encounter are not on the right path. We developed our Performance by Design™ process to help ensure success on each and every website project we tackle. The tips outlined in this guide form the foundation of our Performance by Design™ process. These tips include:

  1. Define your website goals
  2. Know your competition
  3. Master your message
  4. Bottoms up SEO planning
  5. Make it EASY
  6. Lean forward with technology
  7. Mind the off-site performance drivers

1. Define Your Website Goals

It’s hard to talk about building a high-performance website without a more serious discussion of your website goals. Not all websites have the same objectives. An eCommerce site might be all about revenue per visitor and B2B service provider might want to generate leads via white paper downloads. Some of the most common website goals include:

The more specific you can be about defining your goals, the higher your chances are to meet them. Often when a website tries to be all things to all people, it will become cluttered and difficult to navigate. It’s fine to have more than one goal, but our advice is to stay as focused as possible. When you define and prioritize your website goals, you can make sure that you create easy-to-use navigation that will quickly drive visitors down the desired paths.

For many, scoring organically at the top of the search engines winds up being a key website goal. After all, nearly 90% of consumers go to Google, Bing or other search engines to find product, service and business information before purchasing. And, it is not likely that this number will go down. Following the 7 Tips will maximize your website’s chances to optimize page rankings.

 

2. Know Your Competition

Often when we talk about competitive research, it’s about gaining an understanding of competitor go-to marketing strategies such as product offerings, pricing, promotion and their sales approach. For website planning, however, competitive research is more about knowing their online stats. All those other factors are important for business and communications strategy, but to see what it takes to outrank your competition, you need to understand the nuts and bolts of their SEO profile.

Step one is to define your competitors. For website planning purposes, your competitors are those businesses in your category that are scoring higher than you on the search engines for the keyword terms that matter to you. By understanding their key website statistics you can determine what you’re up against when it comes to increasing your page rankings. Some of the primary data points include:

3. Master Your Message

Yes, people do read. But because they won’t read every word on your website, you need to make sure you’ve got the right message and that it comes across clearly and consistently.

CREATING HIGH-PERFORMANCE MESSAGING

Building a new website is a great time to re-evaluate your brand positioning. It’s hardly worth the investment in a fancy new site, if visitors aren’t going to be compelled by what you have to say.

We propose the following steps:

1. Understand your Audience(s)

Create personas for each segment you wish to address with your website. Include as many details as
possible such as age, gender, income, personal habits and interests. Understand what issues they are
facing that might make them interested in your product or service at this moment. Know what questions or
concerns they are likely to have and how you can address those.

2. Create your Unique Selling Proposition

In today’s world, if someone is researching your company online, you can be pretty sure that they are also
looking at several of your competitors. They need to understand within seconds of visiting your website
what makes you different from those other guys—what makes you the only or the best option for what they
need.

3. Own the Words

Oftentimes brand positioning can be a dry, analytical exercise where business leaders assess their strengths
relative to the competition and create an internally focused positioning statement. The magic doesn’t
happen until you igure out how to translate that positioning into unique ownable messaging that you will
use across your website and all company communications. Don’t shortchange the creative part of your
message development.

4. Bottoms-Up SEO Planning

Building a search engine optimized site requires an in depth knowledge of the technical drivers of the search algorithm. To keep it as simple as possible, we’re going to focus on the four most important considerations:

• Keyword Driven Information Architecture
• Optimized URL Planning
• SEO Technical Requirements
• Content Creation and Population

KEYWORD-DRIVEN INFORMATION ARCHITECTURE (IA)

The strategic keyword targeting and competitor site analyses discussed earlier help guide the creation of your information architecture. Each keyword you want to score for should have a dedicated champion page. For Google, it is best if only one designated page on your website is optimized for a speciic keyword or keyword phase.

Some common mistakes we see; organizations often optimize many pages around the same keyword term which creates confusion when the search engines spider the site. Similarly, we often encounter businesses that expect to score for terms that are used in copy but have no dedicated page content.

At Webolutions, we use a two-step process to create website IA. First, we create an experienced-based architecture that takes into account the visitor personas and most likely reasons they are coming to the website. Next, we hand this over to our SEO team to validate that all target keywords have prominent champion pages within the IA. This two-step approach helps to make sure that the IA will achieve both the SEO and user experience goals.

 

5. Make it Easy

Making things easy is a lot harder than it sounds. Steve Jobs once said, “Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.” With that as his mantra, he created the iPhone, the iPad, and revolutionized the digital world.

One part of making things easy is to go back to your goals and remember the importance of focus. The other part is to always put the user irst – remember, you are building the site for your external visitors not for your internal constituents. As much as we wish to the contrary, your visitors are not going to come to your site and methodically plow through each page to see what you have to say. You need to build your site around their most likely paths:

• Are they coming to your site to buy something
• Are they looking for information/research
• Do they need to access an application on your site
• Are they looking to schedule or register for something

You should build your user experience around the primary needs of your visitors. The information they need most should never be more than two clicks away and the main navigation should be as streamlined as possible – under six options at most.

In addition to a simple navigation, where things are placed on the page, color and font selections, and the amount of white space all contribute to a more enjoyable and easy user experience.

6. Lean Forward with Technology

The rate of change in today’s digital world is mind-boggling. If you don’t select the latest technologies when developing your new website, chances are you will be shut out from deploying
new functionalities as they arise.

Perhaps the most important technology decision you will make is the selection of a content management system (CMS). While there are many CMS to choose from, three of the most popular
include WordPress, Drupal, and Joomla. Some of the advantages of developing your site on a major CMS platform include:

• Does not require technical skills to load and update content
• Access to an ever-expanding pool of useful functional plug-ins
• Continually updated with new releases
• Easier to make design changes
• Easier to maintain

On top of your base platform decision, you will want to assess which plug-ins are needed to deliver the optimal user experience and internal management experience – users might beneit
from Online Chat, Bill Payment, Form builders, dynamic content generation and a myriad of other available tools. Internal teams might be more interested in CRM integration, measurement
dashboard tools, A/B testing functionality, heat maps and other enablers of business success.

If you haven’t been involved in a major website project recently, you may not even be aware of many of the options that are available to simplify business for your customers and your own team.
As part of your initial planning, research the latest options to determine which make sense for your business needs.

7. Mind the Off-Site Performance Drivers

Some of the most important drivers of SEO are not on your web pages. Your inbound link proile may be the single largest contributor to SEO success or failure. Inbound links are the number one factor in Google’s determination of your page rank, which has a huge inluence on your position in their search engine results. Managing your link proile requires constant vigilance and more is not necessarily better.

There are two sides to link proile management:

ACQUIRING MORE GOOD LINKS

Common tactics for acquiring inbound links include; posting to directories, posting to forums and social media sites, online press releases and directly asking your key trading partners to link to
your site.

REMOVING BAD LINKS

Ongoing management of your backlink proile will help avoid costly penalties that can tank your SEO rankings. A detailed review of your backlinks will easily reveal the ones that are spammy and irrelevant. Once uncovered, you must take steps to have these types of links removed.

Reviews are another form of off-site performance drivers. 92% of consumers claim to use online reviews as a driver of purchase decision. Few businesses today can afford to ignore their ratings on Google+, Yelp, Amazon, Facebook and other prominent review sites. Online reputation management is a key component to website success.

Lastly, the search engines will look for duplicate content. If the content on your website is not 80% original, you risk incurring penalties – it’s worth the heavy lifting to create original content.

 

For more helpful information, please download our free ebook: 7 Critical Steps for a High Performance Website ebook

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About Webolutions Web Design Company

Webolutions has been providing custom website design, web development, and digital marketing services since 1994. For 18 consecutive years, we have been selected as Denver's largest web developer by the Denver Business Journal.

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