The 7 Website Essentials You Must Have for Inbound Success

It's not hard to determine whether or not your website could use a facelift.

What is hard is deciding just how much of a lift it needs. The reality is (contrary to what many Web designers would have you believe), most businesses don't need a whole new site to begin attracting more customers. What they need is an inbound marketing plan and a few website tweaks.

Inbound marketing is the process of drawing customers to you by consistently publishing relevant content, capturing prospect information, and converting those prospects into customers.

According to Hubspot's 2015 State of Inbound Report, inbound marketing yields three times more leads per dollar than traditional methods. With numbers like that, it's no wonder 84 percent of businesses are now predominantly using inbound marketing.

At the core of every successful inbound campaign is a smart website. Notice we said smart, not sleek, not sexy, not expensive, but an intelligently-designed website built to generate more leads and sales. We see it all the time. Businesses wasting money on complete site overhauls, only to find themselves in exactly the same position a year later, asking themselves:

Where are they? Why isn't our beautiful, new website attracting customers?

This common sentiment is the result of redesigning without website essentials for inbound in mind. At Lean Labs, we recommend paying attention to the “must-haves” for effective inbound marketing, while tweaking your current website in stages along the way.

For the remainder of this article, we'll review the 7 website essentials every business that cares about conversion must have.

1. A Purposeful Homepage

According to various websites (that quote some long-forgotten, questionably reputable study), the average human attention span is shorter than that of a goldfish.

Regardless, it's safe to say you do have a short window of time to catch a visitor's attention. Unintuitive navigations, text overload, and too many options can leave visitors feeling confused, causing them to leave. An ideal homepage is clear, uncluttered, and purposeful.

Its navigation is clearly displayed, its menu options are list options in simple language, and there is an immediate understanding of what you do, why it matters, and which page the person should visit next. Most of these elements can easily be incorporated into your current site without making major changes.

2. Clear Messaging

There are many situations where updating site designs can increase business dramatically. But, more often than not, the biggest bang for your buck can be found in your site's copy. As the saying goes, "It's not what you say, but how you say it."

A common mistake is unwittingly writing for industry peers instead of Buyer Personas. The key players in your industry already understand what you do and don't want to buy from you, so why are you talking to them? Instead, explain what you do and how you do it in clear language that is easily understood by prospects. Bonus points if you say it in your own brand voice!

3. Lead Capture Sequencing

Your website exists to generate leads. One of the best ways to nurture those leads into customers is to obtain their email addresses for followups. Lead capture forms should be placed in sidebars, above the fold, or in other prominent places.

Pop-ups, scroll triggered boxes, and hello bars can also be used to gently interrupt reading experiences and encourage sign ups. Create a written "Call to Action" and choose a stand-out color for your box. If you already have a WordPress site, installing such forms can be as simple as downloading a plugin.

You may be asking yourself, "Why would someone just give us their email address?" That's a good question. The answer is, most of the time, they won't. Unless you have exceptionally compelling content (we're talking Oscar-worthy), those lead capture forms will largely stay blank. You can encourage signups by providing a downloadable giveaway in exchange for information. Whitepapers, eBooks, and other forms of content built around your Buyer Persona's key questions are all effective incentives. Just make sure to clearly explain what they should expect after signing up. No one likes to be bombarded with surprise emails or phone calls.

4. Zero Dead Ends

Have you ever turned down a street only to find out it's a dead end? Thanks a lot, Google Maps! That's how your site's visitors feel when they scroll to the bottom of a page with no direction. They're not sure where to go next.

Think of your website like an interactive brochure. The homepage is the cover, it should provide a hint of what to expect on the inside. The next page you direct visitors toward is like the left-panel of your brochure. It contains the most important information someone needs to orient themselves to your business. Each page is a step in the journey toward an ultimate action.

How do you encourage visitors to peruse your site in the order that provides the most comprehensive experience? You provide visible links and clear CTAs on each page.

5. Mobile Optimization

Another way to improve conversions without creating a whole new site is to optimize your site for mobile. This means either creating a mobile version of your current site or switching to a responsive design template that ensures things will automatically shift on all electronic devices.

According to Google, more searches now take place on mobile devices than on computers in 10 countries, including the good ole' USA. If your site isn't optimized for mobile, chances are it looks a little discombobulated on a smartphone. The good news is mobile-optimization is quickly becoming the norm. It's no longer hard to find affordable, responsive WordPress themes.

6. Social Proof

Anyone who's been in business for a while will tell you, their best clients come from referrals. That's because those clients often come in with a certain level of trust that you know what you're doing. If my neighbor Mary says NARS lip gloss is the best thing ever, I'm much more likely to purchase it than if I had just seen a regular magazine advertisement.

Online reviews seek to mimic that "know, like, and trust" factor we've historically attributed to family and friends. You can showcase your own social proof by featuring client testimonials on your website. Include photographs, names, and job titles to lend credibility. Just make sure these are genuine testimonials that really demonstrate routine results.

7. Accessible Contact Information

Finally, be easy to contact. Whether you run a local business or not, it's important to freely advertise how prospects can get a hold of you. Make your contact page easily accessible via the site's main navigation. Also, consider including contact information in the site's footer.

Whether you want to be contacted via email, phone, chat, or carrier pigeon is up to you. Just be sure to tell visitors when they can expect to hear back from you. Your business, your rules. Nothing's less welcoming than coming across a business who doesn't appear to want your business!

As you can see, getting a completely new website isn't always necessary. The key to maximizing your online real estate is incorporating key essentials that enhance user-experience. Once you've integrated these facets in your current design, monitor customer feedback and site metrics for improvement. And let us know your results!

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