What makes a winning Website?

Is it visual appeal? Regularly updated, unique content? Or perhaps it’s ease-of-use and sensible navigation?

The answer is all of these and then some. Experts agree that professional business sites should incorporate several different elements to maximize their effectiveness. After all, the site is an extension of your business.

Each of this year’s Pool & Spa News Top 50 Builders maintains a presence online. But only a handful manage to seamlessly integrate the content in a visually pleasing package. Following are this year’s top Websites:

No. 1: Californiapools.com

For pool builders, an eye-catching Website is a virtual necessity. California Pools’ site features a strong color scheme (light and dark browns with contrasting blues) with clean graphics and exceptionally well-written text.

A prominently placed homepage link to the photo gallery takes visitors on a tour of the company’s portfolio, which offers brief, descriptive captions with each shot.

The content of the West Covina, Calif.-based builder’s site is excellent. Rich and complete without ever feeling cluttered, the Website includes sensible, consumer-friendly videos with titles like “Overcoming Small Yard Challenges” and “Deep Pool or Shallow?”

For those who prefer the written word, the site offers “10 Great Reasons to Have a Pool” and dispels “10 Myths of Pool Ownership.

“Our goal with the site was not just to promote California Pools, but to promote pool ownership as well,” says CEO Ryder Steimle. “As contractors, sometimes we tend to lose sight of that.”  

Though referrals remain the primary lead source, Steimle estimates that 90 percent of prospective buyers have stopped by the Website first.

“You can tell a whole lot about a company through their site,” he says, “and if a potential customer isn’t impressed, they’re going to go elsewhere.”

The site also contains A Pool Buyer’s Guide DVD, and Pool and Landscape Design service, both free.

Site designed by: ForSight Marketing

No. 2: Keithzarspools.com

From its tasteful color palette to a clean, almost magazine-style layout, Keith Zars Pools’ Website conveys a sense of sophisticated, high-end design.

In fact, the San Antonio-based company’s site hits all the right notes. Great indexing provides simple navigation, while most pages require minimal scrolling (a key to maintaining reader interest).

Sections like “What Makes Us Different” and “What People are Saying” speak directly to consumers. And testimonials come from both homeowners and business partners, lending further credibility to a site that places its owner’s face on the homepage. The message is that of an established, reputable company that stands by its work.

 “It represents our company — it’s who we are,” explains CEO Keith Zars. “So it had to show off some of our specialties and elevate our image in the customer’s mind.”

In addition to generating leads, the site also carries a bit of commerce. Online visitors in the company’s market area can purchase several types of chemicals, and orders of $50 or more are delivered free of charge.

Site designed by: Internet Direct

No. 3:Essigpools.com

Boasting a complete redesign that went live in May, the Website for Essig Pools is one of the most comprehensive sites in the business.

Its polished design is set against a slick, solid black background, and handy drop-down menus further enhance the user experience.

“I wanted the site to convey the fact that we do quality work,” says Dan Essig, president of the North Miami, Fla.-based firm. “It’s important that the site makes us look classy and high-end, and that it helps separate us from the competition.”

A running testimonials ticker can be found on nearly every page — some accompanied by videos, while others show high marks on questionnaires or unsolicited letters of appreciation.

Also not to be missed: “See a Pool Built in 3 Minutes.” The time-lapse video was a gift from a client who had recorded the entire construction process on his security camera.

The build was completed a few years ago, and is accompanied by a familiar ‘80s tune. But in the world of unique online content, it’s as fresh as can be.

No. 4: Geremiapools.com

While flair and excitement help attract visitors, they must not distract from a site’s overall mission. Geremia Pools’ Website has plenty of pop, but also contains a wealth of information that’s presented logically.

A trio of ever-changing images on the homepage alternates between striking pools and splashing kids. The indication is that of a master builder balancing artistry with healthy doses of fun and safety.

The content is rich with extensive yet easy-to-understand descriptions of both the design and construction phases, where section subheads like “Plan Approval and Permit,” “Excavation” and “Interior Finish” leave nothing to chance.

Additionally, the photo gallery is exceptionally well organized and contains an eye-catching “Featured Pools” section where visitors are enticed by titles like, “Adding Zen to a Small Yard.”

Geremia Pools has created an informative, easy-to-use site that communicates confidence and stability. In today’s economy, those are valuable trademarks.

Site designed by: Synmark

No. 5: AnGpools.com

Art Allen refreshes his company’s Website at least every few months. The owner of A&G Concrete Pools in Ft. Pierce, Fla., also regularly visits his competitors’ sites just to “see if there’s anything there that we should be doing.”

“We’re always updating with new pictures,” Allen says. “Those images get old too, and when you get new ideas, you update, just as you would for an advertisement.”

The site’s vast, uniquely configured photo galleries run the gamut — “Tile Work” alone contains 28 high-quality images.

Ultimately though, Allen says he envisioned a product that could speak for the company: “It’s there to say, ‘Here we are — we’re one of the leading pool builders in town, we’re trusted, and we’re not going anywhere. Come learn more about us.’”

Site designed by: Trefelner Technologies