Billions of websites compete against each other for the attention of Internet users, some with great success and others with virtually no success at all. The difference between a successful website and one that never makes it past the last page of a Google search result is simply how well the website is thought out, designed, and maintained over time. To make a good website that attracts Internet users requires a great deal of planning, a thorough commitment to timely updates, and an understanding of how to encourage engagement among users.
By building a “sticky” online community that keeps people coming back for more, new website owners can defeat the odds stacked against them and create a real, lasting online destination that is as good in its design as it is in its execution and content. There are a few simple tips that will make this process much easier to pursue for those who have never launched or built an online community before.
First, Focus on the Site’s Design and Overall Usability
Everyone has had an experience that led them to abandon a website because it was simply too confusing or time-consuming to use or navigate. This can happen for many reasons: Perhaps the site’s navigation is nowhere to be found, or the site’s text is unreadable. Maybe the website has “dead ends” and “404 error” pages that make it an unappealing place to read new content. Whatever the reason, everyone has stumbled upon a website that they visited briefly for a few moments, and then never visited again. How can this be avoided? There are several key ways.
First, make sure that the site has a usable, visible navigation area. The navigation doesn’t have to include a link to every single part of the website, but it should include all of the basics. Make sure that the navigation at least links to the homepage, to the site’s blog or discussion form, to an “about us” page that explains why the website exists, and to any other major content on the site that is key to its usability. With a strong navigation in place, it’s time to remember another key rule of website design: consistency.
One thing to avoid is creating a website that doesn’t offer the same, uniform design on all of its pages. Users should only have to learn how to use the website one time. If they spend the vast majority of their time on the site learning where each page’s content, sidebar, and navigation are located, they’ll quickly tune out and they’ll leave the site permanently. Create a design, or use a template, that offers consistent page design across all pages. Any changes made to the design should, of course, be reflected consistently across every page in the website’s index.
Create a Schedule for Adding New Content
The design of a website is the “cover” of a great online book, and it’s the first way to engage users and keep them coming back for more. A great design, however, is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to creating a great website that will leave a lasting impression on Internet users. The next step is to create compelling content that will connect with users, change constantly, and make them want to come back for more on a regular basis. As with site design, the key is consistency. Website owners should create a schedule that encourages them to post regularly. This might mean daily posts, weekly posts, or some other kind of regular update schedule. When users know what to expect, they’ll also know when to come back to read the latest content and engage with other visitors who share similar interests.
In addition to website content, don’t be afraid to branch out and engage social media. Many website owners fill the “gaps” in their updates with short posts to Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, just to name a few of the most popular social networks. This is not a required step, but it will certainly improve user retention and interaction in an era when social media plays an increasingly important role in everyone’s daily routine. Social media, and search engines, also play a role in the next fundamental building block of a good website.
Engage the Broader Internet Through Social Posts and SEO
A website should be built first and foremost for its new readers and repeat visitors, but that’s not the only kind of audience that website owners need to be targeting. In fact, websites also target another audience that lies just below the surface of everyday Internet usage: search engines and social media websites. These two powerful elements of modern online life can help direct users to the website even as they peruse content on some of their favorite networks and search engines. It’s done in a few basic ways.
For search engines, website owners will want to create content that is considered authoritative, keyword-rich, and viral by the likes of Google and Bing. This means writing new content for the site on a regular schedule, as mentioned above. It also means creating content with proper spelling and grammar, incorporating new information that cannot be found on competing websites, and using keywords in each new post that tell Google what the site is about and who will find its information most relevant. By taking time to learn the basics of search engine optimization, or SEO, website owners will be able to reach a global audience through keyword-targeted search results. This, in turn, builds the site’s audience and turns it into a viral juggernaut.
On social media, catering to new users is a bit more direct. Instead of using keywords and blog posts to “hint” that the site is a good match for users, website owners can simply buy social media advertising that will advertise the website to users with similar interests. This attracts a user base that is already interested in the topic. These users may be more willing to share, engage, and cultivate a sense of community on the new website. As this happens, the site will grow more popular on search engines and will benefit from word-of-mouth referrals from existing users as well.
Make a Good Website: Focus on Design, Content, and Outreach
The key to making a good website is to cover the three primary bases of promotion, content, and design. For this reason, a good website features a highly intuitive and consistent design. The site also features great, authoritative, and keyword-rich content that is updated on a predictable schedule throughout the year. This content, and its predictability, will drive traffic to the website and cultivate a sense of community among the readers who stop by for the latest information. Finally, the website must reach out and embrace the power of search engines and social media sites as promotional tools.
With each of these building blocks in place, websites will quickly gather a sense of real momentum. Regular visits will increase dramatically over time, and content creators will find themselves managing a bona fide online community. As long as the website sticks to these three key components over time, and makes sure that users have great content and design elements to keep them coming back for more, this success can easily be maintained for a very long stretch of time. It’s the same formula that has been followed by some of the Internet’s oldest and most popular blogs for nearly two decades, and it has shown no signs of losing its effectiveness when used by newer websites.