4 Keys To A Successful Website

If you read my twitter posts you know that I was very impressed with the Revolve Dance Company’s performance that I went to recently. I was so impressed I started thinking about what I could do for them.

Tech Guys Not Pretty

For most of my adult life I’ve built websites. I know HTML, CSS etc. When I see a crappy website for an organization I like that is the first thing that pops into my head to do. Build them a website that doesn’t suck.

Now I have learned over the years I’m a tech guys, not a designer. While I technically know how to create webpages, I don’t necessarily know how to make them look good. I’ve learned a few tricks along the way, like using a theme designed by someone else with a platform like WordPress.

But basically when I want it to look really cool, I hire a designer to design it. Photographer and Model is an example. Interestingly designers normally draw the page in Photoshop and then cut it up to make their HTML.

It is More Than Some HTML

Over the last 18 months I’ve been building an online business, PhotographerAndModel.com. In that process I’ve learned a thing or three about what it takes to really use the internet to succeed in spreading whatever it is you want to spread.

In my case it is teaching photography. In the case of something like Revolve, it would be promoting dance.

So now when I think about helping them with their website it is about more than just a web page, or even a blog it is about community building via a complete online presence.

What does that mean?

In the past it was good enough to just have a website with a little information about your organization. Now that would just get lost in the flotsam and jetsom of the internet. You need to be able to rank well in the search engine and create multiple means for people to join your community.

Here’s a quick overview of things I’d suggest for any organization wanting to use the internet to expand their audience/market/community/following.

#1 Build an Email Mailing List

You need a way to push information to your followers and the best way to that is still email. So start building an email list from day one. Some people think twitter could replace your email list, but that is a fantasy. Twitter isn’t there yet, and email is still better because people read all their email, but not all the tweets that go by.

Do it right. Require a double opt-in and use a quality emailing list provider like Aweber.

#2 Have a Blog

Even if you don’t plan on daily updates, blogging software makes organization and creating new content so much easier. This is especially true for organizations without a lot of tech knowledge. Your average person can figure out how to write an article with WordPress and respond to comments.

I also believe your blog should have its own domain. That domain is where you send all your traffic from other sites and if you need to change things in the future you can use that url to do it.

#2 Use Multiple Social Media Sites

People connect on the internet via a bunch of different sites. Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Myspace, etc. You need to have a presence there. And you need to update it regularly.

“Wait, I have to not only update my blog, but all the these other sites as well? I don’t have time for this.”

No, you need to make them update each other. This is a bit of technical alchemy, but a tech guy can set it up and then you only have to keep it going.

Mostly you do this by having one site’s info drawn from another. When you post to your blog, a tweet is created and sent to Twitter. Twitter updates your status on Facebook and Myspace. When you create a video on YouTube, you post it to your blog.

#4 Put the Most Important Thing On the Front Page Above The Fold.

What do you want people to do when they come to your website? Buy something? Signup for your mailing list? Learn more about you?

I remember a long time ago reading one of Seth Godin’s books where he put forth this idea. At the time I had a site for my shareware business. I did a redesign and put buy and download buttons on the front page of the site. Before they had been on each product’s page. Afterwards I sent Seth this email:

I just wanted to drop you a line and say thanks for your online book
“Fixing Micah’s Website”. I read it and it inspired me to redesign my
company web site. After doing so I quadrupled my sales, which is pretty
good.

I went out and bought “The Big Red Fez” as a thank you.

Put your email opt-in on your main page above the fold. If you sell something, put that there too. It works.

Do these four things and your internet presence will be a quantum leap better for what ever purpose you are working toward.

Back to Revolve

For instance, Revolve’s website isn’t even on the first page of search results for their name. That should be a no brainer, given their domain is revolvedanceco.com, a few dozen backlinks and they should be ranked #1.

Ticket sales are buried. There should be a buy tickets now button on the front page. A list of upcoming events would be nice as well. A blog post allowing visitors to connect with the members of the company would be good to. Obviously they need a email opt-in and some incentive to get people to opt-in.

Revolve is so talented, it is a shame their website isn’t as talented. I don’t like to be critical, even for a good cause, with out offering a solution. So if anyone from Revolve reads this, I’m willing to do all the suggestions for you and talk to you about other things you could do to make your site not just good, but incredible.

This message is getting long so I’m going to stop. Hopefully readers you get something out of this to make your website better.