What makes a website successful?

Your website is your online portal that can generate leads and sales 24/7. The internet never sleeps, so optimise your website correctly and you’ll be driving organic leads and sales around the clock.

What does it take to have a successful website that works for your business? It’s more than just design. SEO and optimisation is the difference between success and failure.

In this guide, we’ll be covering everything from what CMS to use, how to structure your website and some of the best SEO practices that you’ll need to carry out to reach the top of the search engines, beat the competition and be as successful online as you can be.

Is it a definitive guide? No. However, it is a very detailed guide covering a range of areas. SEO is a forever evolving field with new algorithms rolling out several times per year and hundreds of factors determining where a site ranks. Therefore we can’t list everything in one post.

Sit back, relax, and buckle up as we cover various areas of the keys to digital marketing success.

Choosing the Right Domain

The first step is to choose the right domain. There are a few factors to consider here and what’s best for one business is not necessarily going to be right for another.

When choosing a domain, think ahead. Are you going to be targeting just one country, or international traffic? If it’s the latter, be sure to choose a TLD (Top Level Domain). There are strategies that can be later applied to help with driving organic growth from other countries, which we’ll get into later.

What is a TLD?

A top-level domain refers to the extension after the dot symbol. There are country-specific TLD’s and international ones. If you’re targeting UK traffic only, you might choose a country-specific extension such as .co.uk. If you’re targeting international traffic, try to find your domain name with one of the following extensions:


The first is always preferable. There are currently over 1500 domain extensions and many website owners are being forced into choosing one of these generic extensions due to the low availability of TLD’s. However, your domain extension is important.

An official statement from Google’s John Mueller states that no preferential treatment is given to one extension over another. Whilst supposedly they are all treated equally, several case studies would argue that point. It’s also more brandable to have a .com than .design for example.

There are other factors you should consider when choosing your domain name. As it happens, there are several, but we’ll focus on three.

Keep it short and simple

Try to keep your domain short and simple whenever possible. This means around 15 characters, no hyphens, underscores or numbers and easy to spell.

Make it brand-able

Branding is crucial to your digital success and promotes trust over keyword-based domains. Words such as Google or YouTube don’t mean anything, but we associate them with specific platforms and therefore they are easier to brand.

Would you buy shoes from Nike or WeSellShoesOnline.com? You get the idea.

Secure your domain

We’ve seen businesses make the mistake of not auto-renewing their domain and then forgetting to renew. It’s a big risk for such a low cost. Therefore, set your domain to auto-renew, or even better, register for 10 years at a time. If you’re building a brand, building a business, it’s not a big outlay for the sake of protecting your domain.

You should also protect yourself from having your domain hijacked. People get hacked. It’s a sad fact of life. However, when it comes to your domain, you can’t afford for this to be hijacked. Thankfully there are a couple of things you can do to ensure this doesn’t happen.

First, be sure to enable domain lock through your domain registrar. Secondly, enable two-factor authentications so if someone manages to steal your login credentials, they still can’t access your account. It takes minutes to set up and will keep your domain secure.

Choose the Right Hosting Platform

Hosting platforms differ wildly. Some are great and feature the best hardware and support. Others are cheaper, overcrammed and will slow your website down.

Good hosting doesn’t mean expensive costs. It’s a competitive market, and there are plenty of players out there offering great hosting at competitive prices.

We use and recommend to all our clients to use SiteGround. They’re rated as one of the best in the market, and their pricing may surprise you.

One of the main benefits that a good hosting platform will provide, is the level of hardware they provide without overcramming their servers. What does this mean for your business? A faster loading website.

Why Does Website Speed Matter?

The speed at which your website loads is crucial. In short:

A fast loading website reduces bounce rates.

A bounce rate is defined as a website user who lands on a page and then leaves without browsing your site. This signals to Google that the user did not have a good experience, and this isn’t what you want.

You’ll increase conversions

A faster website means a higher conversion rate. This means more leads and sales.

Speed is a ranking signal

You read that right. Speed is a direct ranking signal. Got the best-looking website but one that is slow to load? Good luck in trying to gain decent organic rankings and traffic. It simply won’t happen.

There are various reasons why speed is important, and if you want to find out more, we have a dedicated blog post here on why speed matters.

Running a WordPress website and looking to improve the performance of your site? Then our 10 tips on how to speed up your WordPress website is worth a read. We’ll cover optimising your website in more detail further on.

Choosing the Right CMS (Content Management System)

Majority of websites these days are built on some form of CMS. It’s essentially the first layer in website development. If you’re having your first site developed, or an established site re-developed, be sure to be careful about what CMS you choose to develop on.

There are various platforms to choose from, but we would recommend that you seriously consider using WordPress.

There are several benefits to using this open-source platform including:

Low development cost

WordPress has a low development cost due to the fact its open source. This means the CMS is free to use for any business, and it’s kept up to date. Being open-source means that unlike licensed software, developers all over the world can contribute to keeping the code up to date and secure. For you, this helps towards a low development cost.

Not held ransom by a web development company

As the CMS is open source, it means your not tied into one web development company. We’ve often seen businesses using a platform that ties them into one agency. This isn’t what you want as it means when you’re looking to implement new features and functionality, it’s going to incur high development costs.

It’s free

Open source means the CMS is free to use. And as the CMS is updated over time with new features and security implementations, you get these benefits at no cost.

WordPress is just for blogs

It’s a misconception that WordPress is created primarily for blogs. This may have been the case when it was first released but it has quickly grown into a fully-fledged CMS. WordPress has the largest market share and powers over a third of all the worlds websites. It’s used by some big names including Mercedes Benz, Sony, and Disney to name just a few.

It’s become so popular that it’s market share has grown to 60% for content management systems.

WordPress doesn’t allow for advanced functionality

One of the many benefits of WordPress is that it can be as simple or as advanced as you wish. From a simple perspective, you can install a theme, modify it and get up and running in no time. From an advanced perspective, you can hire a web developer to integrate custom code to implement advanced functionality.

Simply put, a WordPress user does not need to learn or understand coding languages such as PHP. Most users can use the CMS without any prior coding knowledge and can hire developers for more advanced work that requires knowledge of PHP, HTML, CSS, JavaScript etc.

Choosing the right WordPress theme

The 2nd layer after your CMS is going to be your WordPress theme. Themes make it easy to get started with WordPress development and like a lot of platforms, there are plenty of themes to choose from.

Think of themes like a collection of templates that define the appearance of your website. Of course, these are editable, so you’re not limited in terms of design. It’s just a starting point.

Free vs Premium WordPress Themes

When looking for a theme, be aware there’s a huge variety that offers different designs as well as functionality.

Free WordPress themes can be found at the official WordPress repository. Premium themes, on the other hand, can be found from several marketplaces. There are however several things to consider when choosing what WordPress theme is going to manage your website.

Free WordPress Themes Advantages

Completely free

Free themes are completely free. Some developers have a collection of free themes to gain exposure to their premium offerings. Others may release free themes with pro upgrades. Either way, free themes are simply put, free.

They’ve passed a strict review

To be listed on the official WordPress repository, developers who upload a theme need to have them pass a strict review process. Therefore, it’s not recommended to download a free theme from anywhere other than the official WordPress repository.

Free WordPress Themes Disadvantages

Limited Functionality

Free themes normally have limited features, so if you’re looking to start an online blog, it’s probably not much of a disadvantage. If however, you’re looking at having a website with more capabilities, you’re probably better off looking elsewhere.

Less Frequent Updates

Free themes are known to have less frequent updates. That’s not ideal as the WordPress CMS has regular updates to cover not only not features, but security implementations and compatibility. The disadvantage of free themes is they don’t normally receive updates to remain compatible.


Normally free themes don’t offer dedicated support, which you may find you need if you don’t have an external marketing agency who manages your site for you.

Premium WordPress Themes Advantages

Superior in every way

Premium WordPress themes, on the other hand, are normally superior in every way. From design to functionality, these themes are superior and more unique because the developer is earning for their work.

Kept up to date

Premium WordPress themes are kept up to date ensuring they remain compatible with the latest versions of WordPress, well-known plugins, and bug fixes reported by the community. It’s also not uncommon to see premium themes gain new features and functionality over time.

Dedicated support

Premium themes come with dedicated support. Normally this lasts for 6 months from the date of purchase, though can be extended for 6 months at a time for a relatively low cost.


We would always recommend that you choose a premium theme, and one from a well known and highly rated developer. The small outlay at the beginning will save you a lot of time and stress in the future.

Adding features and functionality

Features and functionality can be added using plugins. These are essentially ‘modules’ that can be plugged in allowing for extended functionality.

Think of plugins like apps on your phone. There’s probably one for everything. Some are free, some are paid for.

However, we should mention that whilst plugins allow for adding functionality into your website, you should always backup your website before installing them. The problem with plugins is that they may not always be compatible with the version of WordPress you are running, your theme, or your server configuration.

So be safe and always take a backup first. That way, if something breaks, you can restore easily.

Secure your website with an SSL certificate

Assuming you chose the right hosting provider as mentioned earlier, you’ll be able to install an SSL certificate for free. However, you may be wondering, what an SSL certificate is and what it does?

When you visit a website in your browser, you’ll find that most of them start with the HTTPS protocol, i.e. our site’s address is https://www.silverscopemedia.com.

However, some websites, are still using the non-secure HTTP protocol. Sites that have these addresses are essentially not secure meaning that data can be intercepted as it’s sent over the browser.

Let’s put it another way. If you on a website that starts with HTTP and is missing the crucial ‘s’, data can be intercepted as it’s sent between the browser and the corresponding server. That means if you were to enter your credit card details on a website with one of these addresses, you’re risking your details being stolen.

We’ve written a blog post on the importance of using an SSL on your website, which you should read for a more detailed explanation.

Security is so important that Google’s Chrome browser has started blocking non-secure content, and we can only imagine that other browsers will start implementing the same security feature.

We do however still see websites not using an SSL certificate to secure their site as well as their users’ information. Make sure you’re not one of them.

Use a CDN if targeting international traffic

If you’re looking at gaining organic traffic from more than one country, and you have a TLD (Top Level Domain) be sure to use a CDN (Content Delivery Network).

What is a CDN?

A CDN refers to a group of servers which work to deliver internet content quicker to users loading it within their browser.

How does a CDN differ from a web host?

Your website is stored on a server with your hosting provider. However, it has a fixed location. Let’s look at a working example.

Our website is stored on a server which is located in London. So when users from the UK visit our website, their browser makes a request which travels to the server in London and then back to them with the contents of the page.

But what happens if someone in Australia visits our website? Without a CDN, the same process occurs. Their browser sends a request, asking the server for the contents of the page. However, due to the distance from their location to our server, their load time would be significantly greater than if there was a server with our website which was located nearer to them.

With a CDN, copies of our static files are placed on several servers around the world. When a visitor types in our address, and visits us from a search engine, their browser can load these files from the server nearest to their location. This results in much faster loading times and if you recall from earlier, website speed is crucial for reducing bounce rates and increasing conversion rates.

Some web hosts, including SiteGround, have partnered with Cloudflare to provide their customers with the ability to enable a CDN free and easily. If you’re with another hosting provider, you’ll need to inquire with them if they have a similar partnership in place.

If they don’t and you’re looking for a simple solution, consider switching your hosting provider to one who offers the latest hardware, functionality and support such as SiteGround. Their pricing is not only very competitive, but they also offer a free website transfer service as well, so you don’t need to worry about the switch itself.

Optimising your website – introduction

You’ll want to not only optimise your website to start with but ensure that you keep it optimised going forward. Doing so will benefit your business and your visitors. We covered speed optimisations earlier on with our 10 tips on how to speed up a WordPress website but speed is just one factor of optimisation.

There are other optimisation techniques that you’ll want to carry out for the benefits of SEO and UX. This section is the largest part of our guide, however, it’s worth noting as mentioned before that search engine optimisation is not only a forever evolving field, it’s also a technical one which covers hundreds of ranking factors.

We’re not covering everything, or we’ll never finish writing this guide, however, we will be covering some of the key areas.

SEO 101 – Driving Organic Growth

For many readers, you may have skipped to this section of the guide. It makes sense as you no doubt have a website and are looking to increase your traffic, conversions and lead/sales generation. You might be taking care of your SEO in-house or outsourcing to a freelancer or an agency. If your digital marketing budget is an issue and you’re doing your own SEO, then this section is defiantly for you. If you’re outsourcing to an SEO agency, this part of the guide will still be beneficial for you if you have any involvement with your own website such as looking after the blog section as many businesses do internally.

If you’re interested in developing your SEO skill set, we offer in-house SEO training which is particularly useful for anyone who has direct involvement with their companies website. We also offer managed SEO services for businesses looking to outsource to an SEO agency.

What is SEO?

SEO stands for search engine optimisation. It’s the practice of optimising your website to improve your search engine rankings. Doing so will increase the number of customers your business reaches online and potentially the number of leads and sales you therefore generate.

On-Page SEO vs Off-Page SEO

SEO can be broken down into two categories. On-page SEO and off-page SEO. The former is everything that you can control on your own website whereas off-page SEO refers to actions taken externally such as link building or brand mentions.

Free SEO Audit/Analysis

It’s always a good idea to carry out an SEO audit of your website. It will highlight not only errors that you may have but will also give you actionable insights into key areas of improvements.

We offer a free SEO audit for all businesses covering 120 metrics which is a good place to start. If you’re struggling to get more visitors and sales to your website, our free SEO report might just contain the answers to why.

Keyword Research

Keyword research is a key area of search engine optimisation. Rather than guessing what your customers search for, use data which will give you the answers. You should be targeting the keywords and phrases that work best for your business.

Carrying out keyword research will ensure that your website’s content is optimised as best as possible, that you’re targeting phrases that have higher search volumes and lower competition levels and will, therefore, drive traffic and sales to your website.

However, keyword research is a large topic in itself, so we’ve written a detailed guide on this topic titled, Keyword research – the beginner’s guide. We’ve also covered how to increase your website traffic with one simple method which you’ll find useful as a follow-up.

Content Strategy

Now you have an understanding about keyword research, it’s time to create or optimise your content around those phrases.

Your website’s content is one of the most important aspects of your website. It will not only help with your search engine ranking positions, but it’s what you’re going to use to convert your website visitors into revenue-generating customers.

You’ll want to make sure that your content answers the searchers intent. Google’s search engine has evolved over the years and its primary goal is to provide search results that meet a user’s needs and answers their query.

Their mission is to “Organise the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.” Your mission is to optimise your content to meet theirs.

What is search intent?

Search intent is all about why people carry out a specific search query. Are they searching for an answer to a question, a specific website or maybe they’re looking for a product to purchase?

As Google has evolved, it’s become more able to determine the search intent query of the user and wants to serve them with the best possible results that will answer their query.

Types of search intent

There are 4 types of search intent and it’s important to understand the differences between them.

  1. Informational

As it states, the first type of search intent is informational. This user is simply looking for an answer to a query. It could be as simple as ‘what is the time?’ or a more in-depth answer such as someone searching for ‘SEO’. If a user is looking for information, then their search intent falls into the informational type.

  1. Navigational

This searcher is looking for a specific website. They know what they’re looking for and are trying to get there quickly. It’s quicker to search for ‘Amazon’ and click the link than type the address into the browser.

  1. Transactional

Next up, is transactional. This user is looking to purchase something. They know what they want to buy and are looking for somewhere that sells that product or service.

  1. Commercial investigation

Sometimes, users are interested in a product or service but are not quite ready to purchase. They may be searching for product reviews, or holiday comparisons (as an example). These users have transactional intent, and possibly partial informational intent depending on the query. These type of search intents are known as commercial investigation.

Understanding and optimising your content for search intent

Now that you understand the different types of search intent, you’ll want to make sure your content is optimised to fit the search intent of the user.

Doing so will help with reducing your bounce rate as your website visitors won’t be landing on pages that are not relevant to their query and as bounce rate is one of the metrics that tells Google if the user had a good experience and the webpage fitted their query – you’ll have more success in increasing your search engine rankings.

Let’s explain that again in a different way.

Rankings move up and down. Your webpage could be 5th in Google search one day for a specific query, and 10th the next. Whilst there are hundreds of factors that determine where a website ranks, user experience is one of them.

Let’s assume that one of your webpages is steadily climbing the positions in Google. However, as it does, your bounce rate increases. This tells Google that the user did not have a good experience. It could be that the page took too long to load, and the user didn’t want to wait. It could be that they landed on your webpage, but it didn’t fit their intent. If this is the case, you’ll find that you’ll start to slip in terms of search engine result positions. That’s why on-going SEO is so important if you want to increase your rankings and keep them there.

Optimise your content and be sure to analyse the data – which we’ll cover in more detail further on.

SEO Tips & Strategies

Below are some SEO tips that you can implement to improve your search engine rankings. These are mini sections, though feel free to reach out to us if you’re looking for further advice into one of these areas.

Optimise your images

Images and videos take up the largest percentage of space on a webpage. Pages are made up of HTML, CSS, JavaScript (and maybe some other languages if you have something particularly special) but these don’t normally account for the largest percentage of a webpages size.

That’s normally down to the media that’s displayed on the webpage such as your pictures and videos.

It’s worth optimising these before upload as they can really slow a website down if not managed correctly.

For most people today, a smartphone comes as standard with a camera that can take photos that are 10MB+ in size. The average webpage, on the other hand, is around a third of this size.

Upload a few un-optimised images to one of your webpages and your site speed will suffer badly whilst your bounce rate rockets.

When uploading images, make sure they are resized to the size of the container, saved in the optimal format, and compressed using online tools such as TinyPNG. It’s very easy to knock 90% off the size of a photo/image if correctly optimised and will help your site to continue to run quickly.

Want to go one better? Utilise next-gen format image formats.

Optimise your Metadata

There are different types of metadata, but if you only focus on four, make sure you fill out your page titles, descriptions and image titles and alt attributes.

The most important of these will be your page title and description. When someone searches for something, they are presented with a set of results.

The top part highlighted in purple, is the meta title. The section below the URL is the meta description.

Ideally, you’ve read our carrying out keyword research section above. Assuming you have this data to hand, you’ll optimise your titles and descriptions to be informative and something that stands out that makes users want to click on your result.

Ideally, these should contain your primary keywords and be compelling whilst answering the search intent.

You’ll want to make sure your titles and descriptions are not truncated by Google. It doesn’t look great and yields a lower CTR (Click Through Rate)

The limit for titles and descriptions are based on pixel width, not character counts as often reported.

However, it’s harder to measure pixel width (There are online tools if you really want to go down this route) but as a rule of thumb, keep your titles to 60 characters or less and keep your descriptions to 160 characters or less.

Structured Data

Structured data is an important part of SEO. It helps search engines understand what your pages are about and gives context to content and improves the way your pages appear within search results. The best way to do this is to implement Schema Markup.

Schema.org is a collaboration between Google, Yahoo, Bing and Yandex. It’s also used by smart devices when people carry out voice searches. Find out why you should be utilising Schema Markup on your website and how to implement it.

Sitemaps and Robots

Every website should have a sitemap and robots.txt file. It tells Google and other search engines where all your content is among other information. We have a dedicated blog post on creating and optimising your sitemap and robots.txt for improved SEO.

Noindex ‘Thin’ Pages (AKA Low Quality) or 301 Redirect Them

People make the mistake of asking search engines to index every single page. However, this shouldn’t be done as your ‘thin’ pages don’t contribute to your SEO efforts.

Having these pages indexed can hurt your overall search engine rankings so it’s important that you only ask search crawlers to index your high-quality content that provides value to your users.

Pages such as category pages (for most users), tags, shopping cart, duplicate content and similar pages should be set to noindex. This requests that search crawlers ignore these pages and don’t include them within their search results.

Sometimes there are alternatives, and this depends on the page itself. For example, you may have a blog with several similar posts or products that are similar in terms of description. In cases like these, you’d be better off in updating/consolidating these pages into one, and setting a 301 redirect to the main page.

Using 301 redirects to boost your organic traffic is an SEO strategy that if used correctly, can have a dramatic impact on your SEO performance.

Internal Linking

Internal linking are hyperlinks that link to pages on your own website. If used correctly, you can send link authority to less valuable pages. Internal linking also helps search engines understand structure on your website.

You can also use internal linking for the purpose of guiding your website users to another page. Consider using this SEO strategy to always have a CTA on your website. Correctly used will help with keeping users on your site longer and it will help with reducing bounce rates.

Use A/B Testing to improve conversion ratios

If you’ve carried out keyword research, you’d know that there is a search query per phrase, per month. You can’t make more people search than those who do. Therefore, there’s a finite number of visitors you’re going to gain per keyword/phrase.

The true key to digital success is using A/B testing to increase your conversions and sales. You cant get above the top of the search results. You can increase the number of visitors that convert into revenue-generating customers.

Do you know the true value of increasing your rankings or conversation ratios? Use our free organic growth calculator to find out.

Use SEO tools to measure and improve performance

SEO tools will help you on your path to success and there’s plenty to choose from. Some are free, and some are paid for. However, the first three (which are free) should be utilised by all website owners. Using these tools you’ll be able to optimise and improve your conversion rates.

Google Analytics

Google Analytics is a free tool that allows you to analyse in-depth details about how your users interact with your website. You can use it to measure and analyse various metrics including where your visitors have come from, what pages they’ve looked at as well as their traffic flow throughout your site.

There are various reasons to use this free popular tool, but one stand out reason would be to measure the bounce rate on a per-page basis and optimise those pages to reduce the number of users landing on a webpage and leaving without navigating through your site.

It’s a good indication as to which pages don’t answer the user’s intent or provide a less than optimal experience. If you’re not already using this free tool from Google, make sure you sign up and start using it.

Google Search Console

Another free SEO tool worth utilising is Google Search Console. It offers a collection of tools to analyse data. You can submit your sitemap, view search queries that resulted in users visiting your website and identify errors with your website among other things.

GTM (Google Tag Manager)

Google Tag Manager is another free tool from Google, that enables easy conversion tracking of events on your website. For example, you may want to track which users convert into leads or sales.

Let’s say you have a webpage with a CTA for a signup form. Wouldn’t it be great if you could measure which users signed up and which ones didn’t? That’s one of the main purposes of GTM.

Using GTM and Google Analytics together means that you’ll know where your conversions came from. Was it from social media, organic traffic or paid advertisements? Using this data, you’ll be able to optimise your conversion rate, yielding a higher ROI.

We’ve written a dedicated post on how to track conversions with Google Tag Manager. If you’re not using this free tool from Google, now is the time to do so.


Looking for a premium all in one SEO tool that offers all the functionality that you can think off? If so, SEMrush is defiantly worth checking out.

This premium tool features a plethora of features including:

Organic research

Discover your competitor’s keywords, where they are getting their traffic from and their CPC for advertising campaigns.

Backlink research

Conduct deep analysis on backlinks to any domain, find backlink opportunities and disavow spammy backlinks before they negatively impact your rankings.

Keyword research

Probably one of the best features is the ability to carry out keyword research, find untapped phrases and optimise your content for high volume, low competition keywords.

Traffic analytics

Discover where your competitors get their traffic from, organically, paid and other online sources.

Website Analysis

Set up audits on schedule to be informed about key areas of improvements and be made aware of all errors as soon as they happen before they negatively impact your rankings.

Content optimisation

Analyse all page one search results for any keyword and optimise your content in real-time to ensure you have the best possible chance of ranking for those keywords and phrases.

The above is just a small insight into what you can do with SEMrush. Yes, it costs a monthly fee but if you’re serious about your digital marketing and SEO strategy, you’ll want to leverage such a tool.

Analyse, Optimise and Improve Conversions

A website should evolve as do SEO algorithms that are forever rolling out. That means staying up to date, following best SEO practices and always striving to improve user experience and conversions.

Using just the free tools mentioned above will give you the data you need to improve your click through rates, reduce bounce rates and improve user experience overall. Do so and you’ll find that you’ll not only improve your search visibility but also your return rate.

Closing Notes

As we mentioned at the start, there are hundreds of ranking factors and listing them all would make for an extremely long post. We’ve therefore covered key areas to aid with your digital marketing route to success. Be sure to bookmark/follow our blog as we regularly post informative/detailed SEO tips, strategies and digital marketing news updates.

We hope this guide has been helpful. If it has, please click one of the share icons below and help spread the word.

Looking for help with your digital strategy? We offer managed SEO services, consultancy and in-house training. Get in touch with us and let’s explore how we can help drive your organic growth to the next level. We focus on increasing traffic, conversions, leads and sales.