Every business is different and that means what you need on a website might be totally different.
Just as a case in point, I’ve launched a few websites this summer. One required my customer to be able to write articles regularly and to be able to organize those easily. Another client’s entire business is eCommerce based. Another had a physical location but also sells product on her website. And yet another just needed to have a good representation of his business online.
But want to hear something interesting? While I built all these websites for their wildly different objectives in mind, each one still has the same set of tools that are more or less required no matter the kind of website you have. Want to know what they are?
1. Email Integration
No matter what you’re wanting to do with your website, you have to give your ideal customers the ability to connect with you off of your website. Whether they have questions they want clarified, you want to start the sales process through a form, or you want to grow your email list, your website needs to have some kind of email integration.
The simplest type of email integration would be to have a contact form that gets sent to your email. That allows prospective customers to email you securely and easily without having to leave your website to do so. While you can collect those form submissions in a database, you might not think to go check every day. Having that send directly to your email will help you to be able to answer those form responses as quickly as possible.
Pro tip: I almost always set the contact form to also send a confirmation email to the person filling out the form, too.
You can also integrate email with your website to grow your email marketing list. A common method would be to give away something valuable to your target audience for free; all they have to do is fill out a form. That can integrate directly with your email service provider (i.e. Convertkit or Mailchimp). If you want to learn more about growing your email list, you can check out my rundown a few weeks ago.
2. Google Analytics
You’ve probably heard people talk about how important data is. Knowing who visits your website, for how long, and what they do while they’re there can help you grow your business and make tweaks like nothing else can. A simple way to do this is through Google Analytics. While not everyone is going to understand how to read Google Analytics (and that’s OK!), every website should have it installed.
Google Analytics is a free tool provided by Google. A simple tracking code that gets placed on your website, it can help to gather data that tells you how many people visit your website on a phone, on a desktop, what country/geographic location they’re in, how much time they’re spending on your website, and how they’re getting there.
Because it’s free, there’s really no reason to not have Google Analytics on your website. Honestly, even if you don’t plan to do anything with the data any time soon, having access to it and having it collect the data until you have someone to help can be huge for your website growth down the line.
3. Facebook Pixel
OK, I’ll be honest, maybe not every website needs to have a Facebook Pixel. But if you ever want to run Facebook Ads now or in the future, you’ll need this. Like Google Analytics, a Pixel is a tracking code that you place on your website. It gathers data about the visitors that come to your site and connects it back to Facebook’s database of users.
The Pixel is especially important if you want to retarget website visitors. That means, if you want to show a Facebook ad to someone who visited your website previously. It also can help you track what users are doing on your website once they’ve clicked from an ad to your website (whether they filled out a form, made a phone call, or purchased something). That kind of information is huge in helping you determine an ROI on your Facebook ads.
Much like Analytics, even if you’re not planning on using this immediately, I still recommend installing a Pixel and let it start gathering data. Having months or even years of data can help to massively improve your Facebook Ad campaigns and keep you from starting totally from scratch. You’ll need a Facebook Business account, but that’s totally free to set up so it’s worth it.
4. XML Sitemap
An XML sitemap is all about communicating to Google and other search engines what pages are on your website. Formatted specifically for search engines, having this sitemap will mean that Google will know quickly (and more accurately) what information you have on your website and keep it updated in their own search results.
We’ve talked about these more in depth before when I covered how to tell Google your website is live or updated, but if you have a WordPress website, the easiest way to get an accurate XML sitemap is by installing and using the Yoast SEO plugin. It will create one for you automatically and you’ll have the ability to customize it so that it’s only showing the pages and types of posts that you want Google to actually index.
If you’re using Wix or SquareSpace or another platform builder, you just need to Google for “how to find my XML sitemap in a ____ website.” I know for instance that SquareSpace automatically creates one.
Once you have that XML sitemap created and have the URL for it, you’ll simply submit that to Google and they’ll do the rest. It’s the fastest and most accurate way to be found in search engines, so again, an XML sitemap is not an optional feature of your website.
Planning for Your Website’s Long-Term
All of these tools are about long-term goals for your business. In fact, the most immediate items – the email connectivity and XML sitemaps – will still be benefitting you years down the line. Whether you have a brand new website or your website has been live for awhile, I’d highly recommend making sure you have all of these things on your website. And if you need help telling whether you do or not, of course I’m always here to help.