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5 Essential Ingredients Of Successful Websites (Do You Use Them?)

By Fairhead Creative — Get free updates on new posts here

When helping websites grow in sales and influence is the focus of your whole company, you get to thinking…

…”what essential ingredients determine whether a website’s going to be successful or not?”

Beyond bringing traffic to a site.

Beyond converting traffic into leads.

Beyond nurturing leads into customers.

Download a printable cheatsheet of these 5 essential ingredients, along with a bunch of other website success resources to achieve results from day one.

We’ve come up with 5 essential ingredients of successful websites.

My question to you: do you use them all?

1. Lead your traffic forward

The first core principle in this list, is about the offer you present visitors on your site.

First, you need to actually have an offer.

A good offer does 3 things:

  • it gives visitors a path forward
  • it makes that path forward easy
  • it makes going backward (or doing nothing) illogical

Bouncing off your page - leaving without entering your funnel - means that they’re going backwards.

Remember: they came to your site in the first place because you may have the solution. Don’t let them leave without taking their first best step.

Show them that you can serve them. Make them an offer they can’t refuse so that they can move forward.

Getting them to move toward the solution to their problem is a service you’re providing them.

Here's an example.

  1. Lead by example

    We help companies build successful websites. When visitors find our website, they need to learn that we’re different.

    Most people with websites have seen the state of our market.

    Studios that measure success by “prettiness” rather than ROI. visitors need to learn that we’re not full of hot air, and that we do actually get results for the people we serve.

    People usually come to our site with two things:

    • a need for a better website,
    • a whole lot of skepticism.

    Our offer addresses that skepticism. We show them how we’ll get them a better website, at no cost to them.

    Our offer takes away the risk of hot air, by letting them try us without risk.

    This is our way of helping people move forward toward their goals. Without it, they may not move forward, or they may move down the wrong path.

    A great offer, that serves people, and gives them your best, helps them, and gets response.

  2. How to apply this

    Your website needs to do less selling, and more serving.

    The best websites serve, as a trusted source and trusted advisor.

    Now's the best time to ask yourself, "How can we do a better job of serving people with our site's offer?"

    It may feel daunting, as though you're opening a can of worms. But trust us: better to solve it now, than to let it continue for another six months unresolved.

2. Show them 'why'

Ever written about what you do? Then you've likely made this mistake.

We see this one all the time.

Most people make a direct connection between what they do, and what people buy.

People don't buy what you do.

They buy the result you get them. A better version of themselves, or a better version of their business. Or a better version of their family.

Simon Sinek famously spoke about the power of why in his book, Start With Why. Seth Godin also covers the need for community leadership in Tribes: We Need You To lead Us.

Simon's TEDx talk. Link to page.

It's why it'd be weird if Dell made a phone.

And why it's totally normal for Apple to.

They're both tech companies. What's the difference? The 'why'.

It’s a well documented leadership trait that websites need to adopt to be great.

  1. An example of 'why'

    For example, people don't buy websites from us. They buy how their audiences perceive them as socially-conscious online authorities. They buy the ability to make more sales online, and to make an impact in their market.

    That’s a whole lot more than “making websites”!

    That's how we get testimonials like this:

    I had no idea that I would be getting so much more than just a new site. Our work together has become a creative partnership that’s tremendously benefited my business & the way I see my role in my industry.

    In the content you create, you need to make it clear why visitors need what you offer.

    Not because you think it’s great. Not because of how many dollars off they can get it for before midnight tonight. But because of how it addresses their goals, and can prescribe the future they want.

  2. How to apply this

    You know what the perfect outcome is for your clients. If you don't, simply ask them, and they'll tell you.

    The picture of the future they paint for you, is your roadmap.

    That 'better version' of themselves, or their families, or their businesses, or their communities.

    Sell that.

3. A design that says ‘look at this’, not ‘look at me’

Design is not the product, it’s the delivery model.

Great design is forever tweaked and refined to better deliver the message the people need to hear. That's why it's good design.

  • "Look at me" is decoration, not design. It distracts visitors.
  • "Look at this" is design, not decoration. It leads visitors.

Design leads people toward a desired solution.

If your website design doesn't have regular testing, there’s definitely untapped opportunity:

  • Could certain layout changes increase engagement?
  • Could a change in design personality increase engagement?
  • Could a faster load time increase engagement?
  • Does it work well on all devices? Have you checked?

  1. An example of 'look at this' design

    While looking through Basecamp’s homepage, you can tell it started with the message, then the design catered to the message.

    That’s exactly how we advocate designing for the web.

    Normally, websites are born in design form, and the copy bends to suit the design. For example, an off-the-shelf WordPress template or overly-complicated design that’s easier to keep the same than to change.

    By starting with the message, the design literally says “look at this.” By starting with the design, the design is, by default, saying “look at me!”

    Basecamp.com homepage. Link to page.
  2. An example of 'look at me' design

    I won’t attach a screenshot here, as I don’t want to humiliate anyone.

    But I'll be clear:

    Almost all stock themes are 'look at me' designs.

    Think about it. If you go to a template directory, you're looking at prefab designs. That you can buy. And then shoehorn your own message into.

    By definition, that's 'look at me' design.

  3. How to apply this

    This essential ingredient may feel a little esoteric, so let’s list our some things to look for on your site:

    • What came first, the message or the design?
    • If you change your message, how much of a pain is changing the design?
    • Would the design 'break' if you chose a different message?
    • Does the design limit how much or little you can say, in each section?

    If you answered 'yes' to any of those questions, it's entirely possible that you have a 'look at me' design.

    Remember, Look at me" is decoration, not design. It distracts visitors. "Look at this" is design, not decoration. It leads visitors.

4. Dynamic followup that serves people to the best of your ability

Effective dynamic email followup is on the list for three reasons:

  • It's rarely ever used
  • It's rarely ever used well
  • It's hard to quantify from watching others

Let's unpack each of these in a little more detail.

(If you want to skip straight to the download link, click here.)

  1. Rarely ever used

    For some reason, this is often seen as optional.

    As though having assistants or cashiers in a physical store is optional.

    This approach limits people to either making a sale on the first encounter, or remembering to come back later if they were interested.

    Neither of these scenarios are likely!

  2. Rarely ever used well

    For those that use it, a simple linear, treat-everybody-the-same funnel is commonplace. Send them a thing, tell them about the thing, pitch them service, repeat.

    It's a great way of leaving money on the table, and an even better way of treating visitors like numbers.

    A good example of this could be "subscribe for updates".

    Who needs more ‘updates’ in their lives? Valuable content I can’t see myself living without, on the other hand, I’ll subscribe to.

    It’s worth asking the question: Just how valuable is the content you’re putting out there?

  3. It's hard to quantify by watching others

    You can pull up a pretty website in your web browser. You can click through all the pages, and soak it in.

    You only get a tiny fraction of a sophisticated dynamic email sequence, though. You only get the parts that matter to you.

    Because of this, knowing what a great sequence looks like is tough as a recipient. Knowing how to quantify its development is tough too, since you need to see real usage data to decide.

  4. Email as a service

    Email is a way of serving people one-to-one, rather than one-to-many. The best email sequences take full advantage of this.

    You can capture the data your subscribers give you, from what they read, don't read, open, don't open…

    The information they give you can help you serve them better.

    If a visitor doesn't like to read, give them video. If they don't like your do-it-yourself product, offer your done-for-you service. Serve them.

  5. How to apply this

    Do you see your website as just a website, or do you see it as a system?

    You’d think the latter would be the right answer. And it's certainly closer.

    In truth, you should see your website as a service.

    This essential website ingredient is about serving people to the best of your ability.

    If, for example, a visitor wants to buy from you, but hates videos, why send them videos?

    If you have a visitor that stinks using the computer, why not send him/her an SMS message instead?

    Dynamic followup that can determine these things and respond automatically, is absolutely an essential ingredient of successful websites. We create systems like this all the time - and it works.

5. Stop holding back the good stuff.

If you spend years creating a fantastic product or service…

Then spent an afternoon or two cranking out a compelling hook for people to engage you with…

Whats the likelihood of that hook being as compelling as your full product?

“If only they would just try it, they would see!”

You need to treat your cold website visitors in the exact same way you would treat your premium customers and clients. Give them the good stuff.

Visitors need a way of experiencing the fullness of your product or service, to the level of quality you truly provide. Is there a better way for them to determine the level of quality you provide, than to experience it for themselves?

  1. An example of not holding back

    A good example of not holding back is utilized by mentor of mine, Jay Abraham.

    On his website, he has what he called "50 Shades of Jay".

    In there, he compiles huge amounts of content, advice, downloadables, videos, transcripts and so on.

    50 Shades of Jay. Link to page.

    It's all freely available for his audience to experience, without ever requiring a transaction.

    He gives the good stuff, so that visitors can experience it for themselves.

    This leaves little doubt as to whether he's as proficient as his site claims he is. How would your business change if your visitors could be completely clear about your proficiencies?

  2. How to apply this

    This one's simple, but not easy.

    Here are some questions to ask yourself, to get this ball rolling:

    • What is your best content, messaging, or technique?
    • What is the secret-sauce your customers love you for?
    • What's your most effective strategy for delivering value?
    • How can you share these with your prospects, proving your quality?

    A good example could be this essential ingredients list. This is exactly the sort of material we cover with our premium clients. And you're welcome to experience it at no cost, to see we know our stuff.

    What material can you share?

BONUS 6. Give visitors something to belong to.

We’re in business to help difference makers make a difference.

If you've been around here long, you'll be intimately aware of that.

Everything we do, we do to reach / engage / serve difference makers. Our clients know they’re playing a part in furthering that mission. That they're helping other difference makers like them.

They also know that we donate profits to charities making a difference around the world.

Anyone who works with us, knows they’re playing a part in making those differences, too.

When you work with us, you belong to something bigger.

Make it clear that your website exists for a higher purpose than the service you render customers.

Make it clear that your website (and business) has a heart. Chances are, your competition doesn't.

Chances are, your competition isn’t doing this. Chances are, you’re the only one doing this.

While that itself is great reason to do it, to set yourself apart, it also means you’re a part of something bigger. People can buy into an idea, not just your service. Something they can relate to and be a part of, rather than just buy.

Next Steps

When it comes to creating a successful website, we can’t imagine ever getting there without these 5 essential ingredients.

But it can be hard to take action on 5 ingredients at once.

There’s deciding which ingredient to tackle first…

Figuring out exactly how to do it…

There’s the little nuance you’re not totally clear on that could hold you back from everything else…

That’s why we created a cheatsheet of the 5 essential ingredients, along with a bunch of other website success resources to achieve results from day one.

It’s yours already. No charge. All you need to do is download it.

If you’re not sure it’ll be worth it, or if you think it’ll just be one long pitch, that’s understandable.

If you didn’t know already, we’re here to help difference makers make a difference. That’s it.

So download it now, while it’s still available, and let us know if you have any questions. We’re here to help you succeed.

Download your guide

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