Thirty years ago, the only business storefront that needed upkeep was a few display windows and a couple of front steps. In these modern times, websites are the new storefronts. David Kelly, CEO of Zeald, an online marketing company, says this about a website’s ‘storefront’, “Websites are very important when it comes to creating a great first impression of your brand, and it’s not as easy to do that online. In a store, you always have the luxury of employing salespeople that can greet your customers in person” (New Zealand Herald, 2011, p. 19).
When people think of online content marketing, they think of internet ads. However, what must come before a good internet ad is a solid website that promotes one’s content or product well. If an ad leads a potential customer to a dysfunctional website, the advertisement only hurts the company. A beautiful and easy-to-use website is the best online promotion for a product. But how does one formulate a website in a way that makes a splash in the ocean of online content?
The most important audience member a website has is its search engine. What Google thinks one’s website has to offer determines whether a website flails into obscurity or thrives. Metaphorically, Google could be described as being your girlfriend’s mother. If Google does not think that your website will provide for, protect, and serve internet users properly, it makes sure to recommend other websites first. Just like how your girlfriend’s mother may be trying to set her daughter up with that one family friend with a trust fund, even though you have been dating for six months. That is the thing with Google or any other search engine, a website could be fully functional for months and get hardly any traffic. The ‘approval rating’ of search engines is referred to as ranking. A website’s ranking shows how much search engines trust that site and believes it provides a useful service. To help boost a website’s ranking, one must pay attention to the aesthetic, reliability, and accessibility of content.
An important aspect of the aesthetic of online content is that it boosts the absorbability of content. Whether that means formatting articles into bullet points or creating a video to display the purpose of the website, the goal of all content is to relay information by the path of least resistance. The more senses that are targeted in a piece of media, the less resistance that information has in making an impact on a patron. Videos utilize more of the senses than reading does, using both sight and sound. Jakob Nielson did a study on the average retention rate websites have on users and found it to be as little as ten seconds (Nielson, 2011). Turning those ten seconds into a couple of minutes is the goal of every web developer. A short three to five minute video can be an energetic element to communicate what would otherwise be thousands of words of reading. A video on a website’s home page could even summarize the majority of a website’s textual information (Shetty, 2019).
Pictures offer results similar to videos. An infographic can concisely relay information, making a user more likely to scroll or click to read the details. Images are especially valuable when they are formatted correctly since they can be found on an image search and link to the article. For this to happen, one must attach the correct alt tag and use the proper keywords and alternate text fields to optimize the image’s ranking in an image search.
Ultimately, when discussing aesthetic, a website must be conscious of both its user interface (UI) and user experience (UX) design. These terms are often thought to be interchangeable, but they refer to very “different parts of the process and design discipline” (Lamprecht, 2019). UI refers to the graphic design of a site and UX refers to the structure that allows the user to interact with the design (Lamprecht, 2019). Emil Lamprecht quotes Rahul Varshney, co-creator of Foster.fm, as saying “A UI without UX is like a painter slapping paint onto canvas without thought; while UX without UI is like the frame of a sculpture with no paper mache on it. A great product experience starts with UX followed by UI. Both are essential for the product’s success” (Lamprecht, 2019).
The reliability of a website goes beyond its design and structure, the reliability of its content is perhaps the most important part of a website and its best shot at improving its ranking. Google is a company and has customers. They want to provide the best product for their users, so the goals of websites must merge with those of Google and other search engines to succeed. If search engines want to be reliable and authoritative, that must be the goal of our material. This is done by putting out content about that which we are knowledgeable. It is also important that new material, whether it be videos or blog posts, is released frequently. New information will keep a visitor returning and the website looking updated.
A frustrating issue that website owners commonly come across is a lack of traffic. The liveliest video could be playing on the home page and beautiful pictures could accompany weekly blog posts, but if tools such as keywords, titles, and headings are not taken advantage of, there will be no viewers to appreciate it.
In an interview with Leon Yoder, a web marketing director of seven years, he said one of his colleagues spends as long as 20-30% of his time on formulating the perfect title for his content (L. Yoder, personal communication, July 29, 2019). The ideal title will catch the attention of internet browsers and include keywords relating to the article. These keywords are also important to include in one’s headings and in the body of the article. The keywords should not be so broad that one’s article is competing for clicks against companies like Amazon, but they should not be so specific that they are hardly searched for either. Using variants of commonly searched keywords help broaden the reach of an article.
Putting the article and its headings in HTML format over FLASH will also up the article’s ranking. HTML is a more straight-forward format in comparison to FLASH, it loads more quickly and is more easily recognized by search engines (Shetty, 2019). It is also vital that headings and sub-headings have h1 and h2 tags. This gives a post more organization, optimizing how well a search engine ranks the article’s legibility (L. Yoder, personal communication, July 29, 2019).
There are many aspects of online media design that have not been addressed, but the three main categories include the aesthetic, reliability, and accessibility of a website’s content. How one presents their business on their website affects how companies like Google promote the website to potential customers. The set-up of a business’s website is fundamental in online marketing, and its quality must be the priority before focusing on internet ads. If an ad leads a customer to an unpleasant or difficult website, the money spent on that ad was a waste. On focusing on implementing quality photos and videos, reliable and consistent information, and proper keywords and formats in the content of one’s website, one will surely win over Google’s attention.
Lamprecht, E. (2019, February 6). The difference between UX and UI design – A layman’s guide. Retrieved July 30, 2019, from Career Foundry website: https://careerfoundry.com/en/blog/ux-design/the-difference-between-ux-and-ui-design-a-laymans-guide/
New Zealand Herald. (2011, April 30). Websites that create trust. New Zealand Herald [Auckland, New Zealand], p. 19. Retrieved from Gale in Context: Opposing Viewpoints database.
Nielson, J. (2011, September 12). How long do users stay on web pages? Retrieved July 30, 2019, from Nielson Norman Group website: https://www.nngroup.com/articles/how-long-do-users-stay-on-web-pages/
Shetty, R. (2019, April 14). Successful online SEO WordPress website – 8 essential must-haves. Retrieved July 30, 2019, from Being Mad website: https://beingmad.org/successful-online-seo-wordpress-website-8-essential-must-haves/
Yoder, L. (2019, July 29). [Personal interview].
Article Written By: Cherith Brooke Yoder
Ivy Tech Community College-South Bend/Elkhart