Know what you want but temper your expectations accordingly
At some time or other every business will have to think about a website overhaul. It can be a daunting prospect. Whether the requirement is just to freshen content or to completely revamp a site, a key consideration is going to be preserving your SEO ranking. Of course in writing this guide its worth considering that to get a perfect score on all of these issue your designer is going to have to spend time making it happen. Therefore, the concept of cost and value need to be factored into our thinking and a client’s expectations. If you are a medium sized business aiming for a highly professional website and have a suitable budget, then you ought to include everything we are suggesting here. But the concept of satisfying a customer who wants an e shop to offer the same functionality as amazon.com and contain almost as many products, for the price of an A5 flyer, is something most developers have to contend with from time to time.
As our SEO Guru, we just call him Dave, likes to remind our marketers: content is written for two audiences, a) real people and b) search engine robots. You ignore either of these key targets at your peril. And yet it is a frighteningly common occurrence to find the latter is often disregarded. At Azzurro-Blu all of our Marketers are required to do some basic coding and SEO training to ensure their interface with our SEO specialists are more meaningful. We also give our developers regular marketing courses to make sure the process works both ways. For the purpose of this article we are going to focus largely on the SEO aspect. So with that in mind it is worth remembering that what we are really talking about here is constructing data to ensure that a website is found and ranked in as positive a manner as possible by search engines.
Use a competent designer
Ask if they have a plan! Most competent SEO practitioners will be well ranked themselves. Assure yourself that they are there by design and not by default. A good web development company will be able to optimise your performance by using specific techniques under a planned strategy. Perhaps the company you are looking at had some expertise in the past but that expertise left a long time ago. Make sure you get a strategy and that the web developer knows what he is talking about.
Check their content: content is a key component in building SEO performance. But just as importantly it is key to persuading real customers that you are a credible business. Look at the content of your prospective web designer: Is it well written? Does it make sense? Does it represent brand values effectively? Would you want this company writing your content?
There is a balance: remember there is a balance to be struck. For example, if you want a great video to communicate what you are about to be the first thing visitors see that is a less effective SEO technique that text based key words. The ideal phrasing for your concept positioning and branding is unlikely to be the perfect SEO selection. But the SEO inputs can be accommodated in other ways.
Conversion Rate Issues: customer experience is of course important. A fast page delivery speed is nice to have. If your web site is more biased towards on-line sales this feature will be more important than a web site whose purpose is converting targets over a longer sales cycle. This isn’t really and SEO issue but gets brought up from time to time.
Social Media and news
Take the opportunity to add Social Media Content and in particular news content. Although this is an activity that in general sits further down the SEO priority list, its importance is growing. Of more importance at this time is the need for up-to-date news pages or blogs. This will give you the opportunity to refresh content regularly in a simple effective manner. If you want something more complex you might want to consider a Social Wall. The volume and quality of the information you produce on Social Media will ultimately have a bearing on your SEO but is also more important for marketing to real people as opposed to SEO Bots.
Keep your domain name
Be wary about changing your domain name. Unless you have a good reason for changing your domain name you should think about keeping it. Aged domains as a general rule have a higher intrinsic value. Trust flow, citation flow, and domain authority are key metrics that are more likely to score higher on aged domains. Whilst there are techniques our programmers can use to protect some of these features where someone wants to move to a new domain name – it is a decision that should not be taken lightly. New domain names can carry hidden risks and you should evaluate the various items of relative value before making this decision. Your web designer should have access to specific tools that conduct this complex analysis quickly and effectively. Check that they do.
Ensure that you have a record of current performance for each page that can be used to compare future performance. What you web developer should do is lovingly re-create the URL for each page to protect your SEO value for that page. Many don’t because it can be a painstaking process. You really want this to be part of the plan – unless of course there is limited value to the pages in question, or you can’t justify the expenditure.
Check alt tags
We strongly recommend that you make effective use alt tags or alt text throughout your website. Whilst this may not seem too important it can have a marked impact on SEO performance. Alt tags are an overlooked aspect of web design, they can easily be forgotten whether you are building a brand new website from scratch or conducting a rebranding effort.
Please ensure that your use of these tags is uniform throughout your site, accompanying all images regardless of how prominent or subtle. (Avoid images where the text is part of the image if you can.) Best practices for alt tags require you keep such text specific and brief. Describe the image clearly and precisely, and avoid the temptation to use this as an opportunity to plant key words. Keyword misuse is a hazardous activity, so we recommend you avoid it to protect future SEO performance.
Anyone who has ever used a website understands the importance of ease of navigation. It is a key aspect of the customer journey. But what you may not know is that ineffective navigation and poor website structure can affect your SEO performance. Even small changes can have an impact on your performance.
As they say. “it’s easy when you know how”. But the knowing is the key. In determining an effective structure, you will want to know
- why users visit your site,
- what search terms they used to get there, and
- how they interacted once they arrived.
Important pages full of relevant information for users must be easy to locate and take the customer journey into account. When you walk into a major store, some marketer has thought about your customer journey. It is just as important on a website – perhaps more so.
Please ensure that URL’s follow a structured approach that mirrors your navigation plan. For example, a visitor should be able to look at the URL www.technolag.com/gaming/totalwar, to know that on the TechnolAG website they can click on the gaming menu and then the totalwar submenu to get to the same page.
Consideration needs to be given to internal linking that locates high-ranking pages throughout your website, rather than locking them into one area. Every page on your site should have and internal link to somewhere. But note that there has to be a logic to the use of links and the content used. Poor linking and illogical content is similar to keyword stuffing and can harm your SEO performance. Beyond SEO focus, effective internal linking allows you to guide the customer through the site in a way that prepares them for purchase.
It is a feature that can be overlooked. A high bounce rate might be telling you something important. Unless you are a site that gets hit by mistaken visitors (and this can happen to certain sites for different reasons), a high bounce rate might mean:
- poor user engagement
- lack of clarity
- lack of information
- pricing or value challenges
Some of these questions will be dealt with in your marketing plan and so from a web-design point of view a) to c) are issues to address with the designer. Providing high-quality content on your site is one of the clearest paths to effective SEO performance, and your bounce rate might shed some light on how well you are doing on that issue. High quality, and changing content are issues that our Marketers and SEO team can agree on since they align to connect the requirements of both customers search engine metrics.
There is a lot to think about when undertaking a web re-vamp. Make sure you get a professional job done and include the considerations we have highlighted above. Without these considerations you are only getting half a job done. At Azzurro-Blu this is part of our process. Make sure you get the same service. If you are a web developer without detailed SEO support talk to us to find out how we can help you and your customer.