For some reason, website design always seems to be the forgotten red-headed stepchild of content marketing. We see brands exasperate budgets on creating amazing content and distributing it to all the right channels, only to drive their traffic back to a website that hasn’t been updated since 1999. The truth is, you can create the best content in the world, but if you site’s user experience is awful, no one is going to give you a chance. While there are many trends that come and go in website design, we’ve identified six key features that all content-driven websites should have. These elements are very simple, but many, many sites lack them.
1. Include categories across the top to show visitors what space you are in
Think about the first thing you do when you visit a new site. Do you scan the top to get an idea of what categories are covered? So does everyone else. By not having categorized navigation in your top bar, you’re leaving your visitors guessing at what they’ll find on your blog. Help them out by clearly stating what space you’re in. When naming these, be sure to use concise phrases or single words and avoid internal jargon anyone outside your company will have trouble understanding.
2. Choose images that are authentic and create context for the content
I’ve written a few posts about the importance of imagery and my disdain for bad stock photos, but I really can’t emphasize enough how important this is. Imagery sets the tone for your site. While amazing imagery can captivate an audience and draw them into your content, bad imagery can repel them just the same. Take the extra time to find images that are realistic and also create context for the article they support. Trust me, it makes a difference.
3. Include published dates to show frequency
Content marketing is all about consistently publishing quality content. The only way to showcase your consistency is to include published dates with your content. A common objection we hear is, “What if we can’t publish as often as we’d like? Should we still include the dates?” Yes. If you brand struggles to keep a consistent cadence, focus on producing evergreen content you can continue to re-share. Your audience won’t discount content because it’s a few months old if it is still relevant. Some publishers even embrace promoting evergreen content with special “from the archives” features.
4. Share buttons encourage social sharing
Social sharing can be quantified as free distribution so this feature is particularly important. Although this may seem like a simple addition, a lot of sites get this wrong. First, your social share buttons should be colorful. Our eyes are trained to spot these colors so you’re not doing yourself any favors by camouflaging them as black or grey. Second, include the social share call-to-action as either a stick feature on the side of your page (like the example above) or have several social share calls-to-action throughout the article. Third, make it easy to share with pre-populated text. This text should include the name of the article, a condensed link an @mention to your social handle and relevant #hashtags if possible. If you’re not sure how to configure this, ShareThis is a great tool.
5. Related articles or “top stories” increase engagement and time on site
Related stories, recommended articles or top posts are all different ways to bucket your content and improve engagement. Guide your visitors through the buyer journey by putting their next step in front of them. These recommendations are populated based on how you structure your posts in the backend of your system, so be sure everything is tagged correctly.
6. Heavy call-to-action + Subscription
Finally, including a strong call-to-action is crucial for content marketing success if you’re looking to drive conversations. In the example above, The Four Seasons is likely considering an app download or hotel booking as conversion metrics. They do a great job at this by having the “find a hotel” button called out in red and also the pop-up box for the app. Another typical content marketing call-t0-action is for visitors to subscribe to a newsletter. This is asking visitors to give you exclusive access to their inbox and opening the door for you to market to them. Encourage this behavior by having this option apparent and available multiple places on your site.
This post originally appeared on LizBedor.com