I have participated in the creation and publishing of hundreds of websites. I have learned what are the crucial elements on every website to make it successful. Follow these tips and your website will likely attract a lot of visitors. Fail in more than a couple of them, and you will have a hard time getting anywhere with your website.
Use a Modern Website Engine
Chances are that you were not around when people used to create HTML websites, writing the code line by line. I have done that and I have to tell you, we are lucky with WordPress.
Talking about WordPress, there are other supposedly good platforms to build a website on. I am biased but believe me, none come close with flexibility, features, community and freebies.
The advantages of WordPress:
- Fully point and click. You don’t have to work with code (although you can if you want to).
- It has thousands of free high-quality themes and plugins.
- It has a huge active community that can help out if you have questions.
- It’s secure. Being open-source means that the code is visible to everyone. Vulnerabilities can be discovered by third-parties and fixed quickly.
- It is dead simple to learn and use.
The disadvantages of WordPress:
- It’s a bit bloated. Due to its visual engine, pages load a bit slower than with custom-built platforms.
Going forward I am assuming you chose WordPress.
Get a Mobile-Friendly Theme
The majority of searches are done on some kind of mobile device. Not having a mobile-friendly website makes it really hard for your visitors to read and navigate your pages.
If that’s not enough, Google is ranking separately and rewarding mobile-friendly pages. They are even building a mobile-first index, meaning the main rankings will be those of the mobile sites. Searches on desktops will be derived from that main index.
Luckily, with WordPress, you don’t have to go too far to get a responsive theme. There are thousands of them accessible right in your WordPress dashboard. You can preview them before you publish them on your site.
Pay Attention to Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)
Search engines (like Google and Bing) are a great source of traffic. By setting up your website in a way that those search engines understand, you can get better rankings in them.
This goes back to getting a good theme. Some themes support Schema structured markups. These are small code snippets invisible to users, but helpful to search engines. For example, you can let them know that you have written a review, and what is your rating. In return search engines can show little rating stars in the search engine result pages, giving you higher clickthroughs.
Free themes rarely support extensive schema markup. The theme we use (Enfold) is one of the best in terms of markup. You can still use a free theme and use plugins that add those markups.
Have Social Profiles Linked from Your Website
Register a page on the main social sites (like Facebook and Twitter). You can create a following on these sites, but only if you are there.
With time, these pages will be a good source of traffic.
Have Social Sharing Buttons
Each share from a visitor turns into more visits from his or her network. Some themes have their own social sharing solutions. There are many WordPress plugins that can add this functionality to your posts and pages.
Have an About and Contact Page
Write a couple paragraphs about yourself, your organization and what are you trying to achieve with your website. Visitors are often curious who is behind the content.
A Contact page is also easy to set up in WP. Some themes have them built in, but there are many popular plugins (like Contact Form 7).
Have At Least Five Pages of Content
Before directing any traffic to your website, write at least five pages of content. Your visitors won’t like your site it only has one page with a couple sentences. Depending on your goal with the website, you have to convince them that you are the real deal.
Don’t forget to use headings (H1-6), bold, italic and link out to relevant websites on the internet, but not your competitors.
Speed Up Your Website
Don’t install too many plugins. They slow down your site, even if they are not activated and just sitting there.
Install a good caching plugin. W3 Total Cache is free, but I would recommend Wp Rocket if you can afford it. That’s the one we are using on Hosting Manual and beats W3 Total Cache easily. The support there is also incomparable to what you get on WordPress.org for W3.
Set Up Analytics
Getting traffic without knowing about it is not fun. You should be able to track who visits your website, how many times etc. There are some very important metrics that tell you if your visitors are happy with what they are seeing. Two of them are Time on Site and Bounce Rate.
You should aim at increasing Time on Site and reducing Bounce Rate.
Avoid Technical Pitfalls
To enable search engines to index your website, pay attention to the following:
- Your robots.txt file should allow robots to crawl the site.
- You shouldn’t have the noindex tag in your pages you want to show up in Google.
- Don’t use too large images in your posts. They slow down your website. Use a plugin to reduce the size of your existing images.
- Noindex tag pages. They create duplicate content that’s frown upon by search engines.
- Use descriptive permalinks (e.g. for this post it’s “/publishing-web-site/” instead of something like “/2017/42864/”. The first one is easy to remember and indicates the topic of the post. The second one is impossible to remember and you have no idea what is that page covering.
- Either set up Akismet or disable comments on your blog. Spamming comments (for links and SEO) is a sad reality. If you are not careful, spammers can quickly fill up your blog with thousands of spam comments.