A website is a major component of a brand’s online presence and should accurately reflect the brand, communicate its mission, and engage its target audience. Because your website is likely to be the first experience a potential customer or client has with your brand, it’s critical for your website to make a great first impression.

As humans, we’re programmed to evaluate situations so we can identify potential threats quickly—it’s a survival mechanism. In fact, when we meet someone new, it only takes seven seconds to form a first impression. In the case of viewing a website, Google conducted a study that found people judge websites even faster (50 milliseconds). Whether you’re introducing yourself to your audience online or offline, you have little time to impress, so you need to make it count.

Your business website has the potential to be your sales superstar—not only does it represent your brand, but it works around the clock to educate visitors and convert leads. To ensure your website makes a good first impression on potential customers, here are a few must-have elements:

1. Security. When visiting a website, we want to know our personal information is safe and secure. In fact, website browsers like Google Chrome now mark “HTTP” website pages with financial or personal information as “not secure.” To avoid your website looking sketchy to website visitors, you should purchase an SSL certificate (if you don’t have one already) as soon as possible. This digital certificate authenticates the identity of your site and encrypts information sent to the server to ensure a secure browsing experience for your users. Once installed on all pages, your site will read as “HTTPS” instead of the former, “HTTP.” If you don’t do this, you could lose website visitors and ultimately, lose business.

2. Clarity. A website needs clear, concise language throughout its website pages, especially the homepage. As the most visited page on the site, the homepage MUST pass the blink test. The blink test refers to the amount of time it takes for someone to land on your website, judge it, and decide whether or not to leave. Basically, if a person enters your website for the first time and cannot determine who are you or what you offer in approximately three seconds, they will leave your site (and go to your competition) in search of something better. To avoid losing traffic and qualified conversions, make sure you have a strong, short, and clear positioning statement on your homepage. Clarity is key—don’t expect people to understand witty, clever phrases.

3. Credibility. Did you know that the average website visitor spends fewer than 15 seconds on a website? Did you also know that according to web credibility research from Stanford, 75 percent of people judge the credibility of a company based on the design of its website? Unfortunately, even tiniest imperfections can add up and drive visitors away, so it’s important to make sure your design is up to par. An overwhelming design or confusing navigational structure will lower your credibility, so keep it simple and easy to use.

A website is essentially another team member that has the ability to work 24/7 and stay presentable. While many other features and assets contribute to a strong, lead generating website, security, clarity, and credibility are absolutely required if you’re hoping to make a good first impression online.

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