11 Secrets to Making a Successful Website

11 Secrets to Making a Successful Website thumbnail

Whether you’re a writer looking to reach a wider audience, a boutique manufacturer needing to boost sales, or you’re someone who just wants to make money online — you’re going to need a website. And not just any website — a great website.

Unfortunately, the World Wide Web has been saturated with sites for some years now.

Standing out. Making your mark. It’s not easy.

But here at DreamHost, we know a fair bit about websites and what makes them work — so here are our 11 secrets to making a successful website.

  1. Defined goals
  2. A good domain name
  3. Quality web hosting
  4. A clear description
  5. A top-notch CMS
  6. A great e-commerce platform
  7. Engaging web design
  8. SEO optimization
  9. High-quality content
  10. Using Google Analytics
  11. A site maintenance plan

1. Define your goals

Before you do anything else, you need to decide what you want to achieve from this website.

  • Is it going to be an e-commerce website that you use to sell products?
  • Are you looking to promote a service?
  • Do you want to make money via affiliate links?
  • Are you simply after a platform to share your thoughts and ideas?

It can be hard to change the direction of an established website. Make sure you know what type of website you want to create and what you need to get out of it.

2. Choose a good domain

Picking a good domain name is easier said than done. It’s also seriously important since it’s tricky to change it once you’ve started establishing your site and brand. (Yes, you can migrate to a new domain, but that comes with all sorts of complications.)

So what is a good domain? What does a good domain look like?

  • It is your brand name or includes your brand name.
  • It’s memorable.
  • It’s easy to spell.
  • It’s short (ideally under 14 characters; but the shorter, the better).
  • It’s free of numbers, hyphens, or other unusual characters.
  • It has a recognized, trustworthy extension (.com is the ideal).

It can also be a good idea to choose an SEO-friendly domain that includes one of your most important keywords.

3. Get secure, quality web hosting with good tech support

It can be tempting to skimp on web hosting and choose the cheapest service you can find. Don’t do this.

A cheap web host can cost you in other ways: excessive downtime, slow site speeds, limited or non-existent support.

It’s not worth it.

If you’re serious about making your website a success, invest in quality web hosting you can rely on. You won’t go wrong with DreamHost web hosting.

4. Include a clear description of your business

This is something a lot of companies get wrong. They know their industry and their business, inside and out. That’s great. But it often means they forget how to describe it to people that don’t.

Ideally, you should be able to sum up what you do in a couple of sentences. This summary should be displayed prominently on your homepage. And anyone should be able to read it and understand it.

If you have any doubts, ask someone who knows nothing about what you do what they think. Better yet, enlist the help of a professional copywriter.

5. Use a top-notch content management system

A content management system (CMS) is where you’ll manage your website’s pages and content. The right one can make this quick, easy, and fun. The wrong one can be the source of endless headaches and can even limit what you’re able to do.

Good content management systems allow you to build pages and posts on a site with no prior knowledge of coding. They cut down the barrier to entry and enable anyone to create their own site.

But how do you know which is the right one for you?

The following questions will help you decide:

  • Do I want a basic website with no frills?
  • Do I want to be able to build the website in the future to have more features?
  • What’s my budget?
  • Will I want to add the ability for a website visitor to buy products in the future?
  • Am I happy to pay ongoing costs, or do I just want to pay a one-off fee?
  • Do I need to integrate with other parts of my business (such as a lead generation tool or a payment platform)?
  • Is it SEO-friendly?
  • Will it scale with my business?
  • Can I use a website builder to make the design process easier?

Depending on what you want to use the CMS for, you may have other questions, but these basic ones should set you off on finding the right content management system for your needs.

6. Choose a great e-commerce platform

If you know that you’ll want to sell products on your site, you need to know what e-commerce platform you need to choose. You can choose from many platforms, but not all of them are built to scale or fit for your purposes. As with most things in life, you get what you pay for.

If you’re running a business website, you need to make sure that the platform you choose is reliable and sturdy. You don’t want to deal with customer complaints because you chose a platform that can’t deliver.

Before selecting a platform, ask yourself the following:

  • Is it SEO-friendly? While there are many cheap and easy-to-set-up e-commerce platforms, not all of them are particularly SEO-friendly.
  • Is it mobile-friendly? We live in a mobile-first world, and if that platform is even a little bit clunky, you’re going to be losing out on revenue.
  • Is it a trusted and secure platform? One of the most important considerations for customers is that their details will be safe when purchasing. Your platform needs to be fully secure, and it needs to communicate that to potential customers.
  • Will it scale? We all have high hopes for our businesses, and while not all succeed, a fair few do. When choosing an e-commerce platform, ensure that it will scale with your online business.
  • How do the systems work? One of the critical areas to investigate is how well the platform deals with product and order management. You need it to be swift so that you aren’t wasting time on the back end, and you can get on with delivering the best service to your customers.

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7. Create a beautiful, engaging, accessible website design

When you imagine a design that matches usability, one company usually springs to mind: Apple. They have managed to combine both of these into a wildly successful business.

Users appreciate good design, and when it’s combined with solid usability, you have a winner. A site that people want to revisit. A site that people want to buy from.

Google has always said that you need to create websites with the end-user in mind — and it’s more true today than it’s ever been.

Here are a few tips for creating sites that ooze design quality.

  • Know your target audience and design accordingly — what features would they want, and how design-savvy are they?
  • Don’t skimp on cost. With design, you get what you pay for. Don’t try to cut corners. Use a professional, experienced designer (like team of pros at DreamHost).
  • Look at the competition. Find some sites in your niche that perform well and study them. Google will rank sites based on niches, and design is crucial. If your competitors’ websites are winning with simplistic colors and designs, take notice. Then make yours better.

8. Optimize for search engines

One of the simplest, fastest ways to help make your site successful is to optimize it for search engines. While search engines might be smart — and every day they get better at understanding the meaning and context of web pages, their content, and users’ intent — they still need us to help them along.

In most cases, the first step to optimizing for search engines is keyword research. This will help you identify the sort of keywords you should be targeting through optimization.

Popular keyword research tools include:

If you want to take a more sophisticated approach to keyword research, try Semrush. It’s a great tool for advanced digital marketers, and it’s accessible to people with less experience too. We love it so much, we’ve set up a free 14-day PRO trial for our readers!

Semrush’s keyword research section works similarly to most other keyword research tools; however, in addition to keyword suggestions, search volume, and difficulty scores, you also get global volume data, keyword variations, and questions linked to your starting keyword. You also get insights into the current state of the SERPs.

How to Choose Which Keywords to Target

The right keywords to target can generally be determined by three things:

  1. Search volume
  2. Difficulty/competitiveness
  3. Relevance

Ideally, you want to target keywords that lots of people are searching for (how many searches you can realistically expect this to be will depend on your industry), that have low competition (which increases the odds that you’ll be able to rank), and that, of course, are relevant to your site!

How to Optimize for Target Keywords

The main places for including your target keywords are:

The title tag

This forms part of the snippet of information that appears in the search results. For example, this is the title tag for the DreamHost homepage:

<H> tags

H tags are header tags. You might know them as H1s, H2s, H3s, and so on. They are used to help organize the information on a page, particularly in terms of hierarchy.

While search engines use all the text on a page for ranking, H tags have extra weight behind them — particularly the H1 tag. Include keywords in them where you can (but never, ever be spammy about it!).

On-page content

Search engines use all of a page’s content when determining its subject matter and what it should rank for. It goes without saying that keywords should be included here. Just be tactical about how you do it.

Use words and phrases naturally. Use permutations where possible. Consider entities. And most importantly of all, write for users, not search engines.

If you need more help with optimizing your website, consider adding SEO toolkit to your hosting plan for $4.99/month. It’ll help you improve your search engine rankings and drive more customers to your site with its suite of DIY tools, helpful analytics, and a step-by-step SEO plan.

9. Create high-quality content

It’s hardly a secret that websites with high-quality content have a better chance of performing well than those with poor-quality content.

Great content should be informative, well written, and easy to understand. It should be formatted in a way that guides the user through the copy.

But “create high-quality content” sounds somewhat subjective, doesn’t it?

It’s not quite as subjective as you might think. Here are some ways you can ensure you’re writing high-quality content for your niche.

  • Invest in good writers — as with many points in this guide, cutting corners won’t help your website succeed in the long run. Our SEO marketing service can help.
  • Have experts write your content — Google has been working towards making sure only the best and most accurate content reaches the top of the search results. Middle-of-the-road content isn’t going to cut it for much longer.
  • Conduct deep research — you need to find out what your customers want, not what you think they want. Many websites miss this point entirely. If you don’t satisfy your users’ needs, you can’t really call your content high-quality.

It’s not just about the words — you need to make your content sing. Make sure it appeals to different users. If it’s right for your target audience, then introduce videos, images, infographics, and charts.

10. Track your progress with analytics

It’s tricky, if not impossible, to know whether your site is a success if you’re not tracking your progress. While many tools allow you to track your website and even spy on the status of others, there is arguably no better website tracking tool than Google’s own Analytics.

To get started with Google Analytics, you will need to:

And that’s pretty much it. You can create filtered views of the data to help you hone in on specific data elements, but the above is all you need to do for Google to start gathering extremely detailed data that will enable you to assess the performance of your site and adapt your strategy accordingly.

11. Set up a site maintenance plan

What do you do once your site’s up and running? Should you sit back, relax, and let the visits/leads/money roll in?


Depending on your goals, you may be able to slow down. But you can’t just forget about your website. Things will go wrong.

Instead, implement a maintenance plan, like what we offer as part of our DreamCare service. Your maintenance plan should include a list of periodic must-dos and when you will do them. The most important will likely be:

  • Running security scans
  • Backing up your site’s data
  • Checking Webmaster Tools, primarily for any glaring errors that have gone unnoticed

Another thing we’d advise is to run Hotjar or another tool that monitors user behavior. While you can use its findings to gain a deep understanding of your website’s user experience (UX), you can also use it periodically to pinpoint specific issues or points of contention.

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Your New Website Is Waiting

As you can see, creating a successful website isn’t quick, and it isn’t particularly easy — but knowing the secrets to a successful website will help.

Get started with these key takeaways.

  1. Define your goals. Decide exactly what you want your website to achieve.
  2. Choose a good domain name that’s relevant, memorable, short, and has a trustworthy extension.
  3. Invest in quality web hosting that’s secure, with great tech support.
  4. Describe your business clearly on your homepage, and anywhere else it’s relevant.
  5. Use a quality content management system: one that’s robust and easy to use.
  6. Choose a good e-commerce platform that can grow with your business.
  7. Create a beautiful website design that’s one step above your competitors.
  8. Optimize for search engines. Ensure they understand what your site’s about and the terms it should rank for.
  9. Create high-quality content; substandard content doesn’t rank.
  10.  Track your progress, starting with Google Analytics.
  11.  Create a site maintenance plan, including backing up data and checking Search Console.

Ready to get started with your website? If you’re starting from scratch, we can help with our Pro Services. Our expert team can design, build, manage and market your website — everything you need to launch yourself or your brand online. Learn more about what DreamHost can do for you here.

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About the Author:

Armed with 10+ years of experience in social (a lifetime in internet years), Ellice is DreamHost's resident social media marketing expert. A native Angeleno, her passions include trivia, bunnies, bowling, and social justice for all.