Zombies don’t have hearts. Zombie websites aimlessly drone on about themselves … and drive us away.

This approach might have duped a few back in the 1990s but it certainly doesn’t work in 2015. No-one will know or care, as your zombie website dies an endless, silent death in a far-flung corner of cyber-space.

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A successful business website is the beating heart that helps you grow your business or career by attracting a profitable audience.

Like a human heart however, you need to take care of and nourish your website so it can look after you.

Here are 10 ways to turn your website into the beating heart that sustains and helps you grow your business:

1. A split-second is all you get…

You’ll never get a second chance to make a good first impression.

Studies have shown that you have just 50 milliseconds to appeal to a first-time visitor to your home page. Some say you’ve got 1/10th of a second, others talk about the 3-second-rule. I don’t know which is right. But it isn’t long for sure.

Discovering the right look & feel for your audience means truly understanding what they are looking for. And that takes time & patience.

On top of that, expectations of what a professional website looks like have never been higher. And the bar is rising all the time.

In less time than it takes to blink your eyes, a first-time visitor to your website will decide whether or not it’s for them. If not, they’ll click away and never come back.

Your most successful competitors know what it takes for a website to appeal to their audience as well as keeping pace with developing tastes, expectations and technology. Succeeding is an ongoing effort.

2. Be compelling

Unless you keep feeding your website with the ‘right content’ then the ‘right people’ won’t care about what you have to offer. ‘Content’ is a combination of text, images, audio, video that you create and publish for your audience.

Even if you pay someone to visit your site, if it looks like it hasn’t been updated since the 1990s they will click away. That’s if they haven’t written it off by it’s look and feel in the first second of course (see 1).

Regularly refreshing your content is as the Americans say table stakes. In other words, it’s the minimum entry requirement.

Publishing original, quality, relevant information can dramatically help you and your business. It will help your website show up in searches by your prospective customers, clients, partners & employees. It will build your credibility and earn their trust. And it gives them a reason to start a conversation and/or transact with you.

3. Defend from cyber-attack

A 2014 study showed that 60% of UK small businesses suffered an information security breach, and the average cost of the worst attacks doubled to between £65,000 and £115,000.

Your website is your public face and target. The technology behind it needs to be constantly kept up-to-date to counter cyber attacks.

4. Be mobile

In November 2014 the volume of mobile searches over Google surpassed the desktop for the first time. If your website is not usable on mobile phone and tablet screens then visitors will click away and you’ll lose business.

Continued take-up of mobile handsets means your website needs to constantly evolve to keep up.

As an example, from 21 April 2015 any site that is not deemed mobile-friendly by Google will be penalised in mobile searches. The good news is that if your site does work properly on a smartphone, as defined by Google, then it could become more visible in mobile search results. Doing nothing to make your site mobile-friendly will cause it drop down the rankings from 21 April, which could hurt your business.

5. Be fast

A slow website is more likely to keep potential customers and clients away because it is more likely to be penalised by search engines like Google, Yahoo and Bing.

Even if it does get found, a slow website will frustrate visitors who will leave and not return.

6. Be sociable

Successful 21st century businesses are sociable. They understand for example that interacting with potential customers and clients over Twitter is more like being at a cocktail party than shouting ‘come buy my stuff’ over a mass marketing megaphone.

They also understand that the goal of these conversations over social media is to get them to visit your website.

Likewise, visitors to your site should find it easy to share your content with their friends.

The ways and means to usher people back to your site, and to encourage them to share back to their networks are evolving all the time. Your website needs to keep up.

7. Be attractive

If Google and other search engines like Bing and Yahoo don’t rate (or rank) your website then potential new customers won’t see it. Towards the top of the first page for what they are searching for is where you need to be.

If you’re not paying ongoing attention to tweaking your website (and its content) to take advantage of the latest opportunities to get found, and to avoid being penalised then you & your business will fall behind.

8. Build relationships

Good old-fashioned email is 40 times more effective at acquiring new customers than Facebook & Twitter combined.

I’m not talking about blasting people with spam. That’s a zombie tactic.

The art and tactics for getting people to want to hear from you via email, then nurturing them into buyers over time are constantly evolving.

Your website needs to keep up.

9. Never forget

Scary I know, but one of the wonders of doing business in the 21st century is that everything your visitors do online can be tracked.

What data is your website collecting right now?

Not sure? Not collecting anything? Or maybe you’re drowning in a sea of data.

Making sure your website keeps tracking the right data, while not falling foul of the latest regulations (like the EU cookie law) is an ongoing requirement for the successful business owner.

10. Keep learning

It’s one thing to collect data about who comes to your website and how they behave, but what are you doing about it?

Is your email opt-in form worded & positioned in the best way to maximise the rate of email newsletter sign-ups?

Can you tell how many times your visitors came to your site in the last month split by where they came from?

Have you hooked up your AdWord campaigns to your website so that you can see whether you’re getting value for money?

Configuring your website’s analytics is not a set-and-forget exercise. It’s an ongoing activity you need to work at continually if you want to know whether anything you are doing online is working, and how to get better at it.

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What to do now…

Are you, or someone you trust, actively working to turn your website into a growth machine? How many of these 10 ongoing practises are you confident you’re on top of?

Look after it every day and your website can become the living, beating heart that helps you and your business grow and prosper.

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This article was first published by Ben Breen on BuzzIndie.com

Photo credit: Manphis