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Five things to do BEFORE you redevelop your website.

If you’re thinking of upgrading your website it might pay to stop and consider what quick wins you can gain from your existing website first.

A website rebuild will take you weeks, and more likely months, and involve a significant investment of time and money (we gave ourselves a pat on the back for consolidating 12 websites down into just one in 'just' six months).

Before you commit your old website to the scrapheap, you might be surprised how much you can achieve by a simple website refresh. Not only can you address some of your business challenges quickly and cheaply, but you'll capture some important insights along the way.

Last week, I was talking to a friend who’s going through a significant marketing review, and with an eye on the road ahead they were lining up a development partner for a new website. The amount of time and effort required came as a surprise to them, so we explored what quick wins might be available instead.

We discussed five activities that could dramatically and quickly improve their website performance; they could do the same for yours.

So BEFORE you redevelop your website

Action 1: Set clear goals for your website

Your list of goals will almost certainly fall out of the challenges thrown up by your wider marketing and business strategy. 

Once you have achieved a clear focus, there may be some simple changes you can make to your existing website. For example, we discovered that our customer’s online distribution model didn’t allow them access to, or visibility of their end customer. That's a great website challenge, and we discussed setting up the existing website to capture leads (it didn't currently) for the company's distributors. These leads could be then followed up with distributors and also directly with the end customer.

Start with the business challenges and see what the website can do to help you tackle those challenges. For example, do the sales team need more leads in a particular market? Are your distributors being asked the same questions by prospects?

Action 2: Audit your current website

Here are some of the things you should evaluate.

  • How does your current content rate? (see Action 3 below)

  • How effective is your design? For example:

    • how clear is the eye-path for users?

    • how well signposted is your important content?

  • How easy it for people to contact you? For example:

    • is your phone number easy to find?

    • are you capturing email addresses to build your database?

  • How well is your content honed for Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)? (See action 4 below)

  • How well does your website integrate seamlessly with social media? For example, are you offering users an opportunity to easily share key information?

You can do this yourself or get some help from your web agency. Hubspot's Website Audit Guide or WooRank both provide simple insights to get you started.

Action 3: Get under the bonnet of your Google Analytics Account

Google Analytics can help you understand how your current site is performing for users and Google:

  • Most visited pages - it’s easy to downplay or even skip over pages like About us and Careers when you’re redeveloping your site.

  • Least visited pages - may be an opportunity to remove some content and amend your new content strategy

  • Bounce rates - can also help you identify underperforming pages and content

  • How are users interacting with your current site? Behaviour flows can show how users are flowing through your website, and where they’re not finding their way.

  • Site speed - with Google including site speed in the search algorithm it’s definitely worth reviewing your overall site speed and key pages. Google gives you specific insights and feedback on how to fix issues here

  • Site search - is another great place to find (excuse the pun)

  • What technology are they using? Desktop vs Mobile. Browsers

  • Identify Keywords driving visits (See action 4 below)

And don’t forget to set your new site up with GA and goals for reporting performance.

Action 4: Understand keywords searched on Google

As part of your audit, there will be some Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) work, but it’s worth extending that to investigate what’s being searched on Google.

Your web agency should be able to do this using keywords tools like Google AdWords, but they'll need your input. It’s helpful to provide them with:

  • The words and phrases that are common to your business area

  • Any customer ‘problems’ that are likely to be searched on your website

  • Your frequently asked questions (FAQs).

With this information, you can use Google Adwords to see what keywords related to your business are being searched on Google. You can capture invaluable data like the volume of searches against each keyword (per month or year), which will help you judge their relative importance.

The idea is to emerge from this exercise with a sound understanding of what your potential market is looking for online and how many of those people you are currently helping via your website. There will be a performance gap (searches vs how many people your website is helping) that will provide you with a clear benchmark, and you'll be able to use your new keywords to guide and shape your content to help improve your performance.

Action 5: Start work on your content NOW

The work you did in Actions 1 - 4 will have identified clear opportunities and priorities. Whilst you get the developers off and running (or even better before) now is a great time to attack that content. You’ll be able to transfer that new and improved content to your new site, and your design and development team will love you more if you turn up with ready to go content or at least some examples of how it’s going to look.

First, I’d suggest tackling the key content and pages you identified in your website audit using Google Analytics. Upgrade your copy keeping an eye on your keyword research, update your images and consider producing some richer content like video to further engage your audiences.

99% of the time, content takes longer than development on a new website

This always surprises people on a website redevelopment project and I’m not sure why.

Next steps

Carrying out these five tasks is inexpensive and will provide you with the information you need to either make immediate improvements to your existing website, or identify a clear direction when you build a new one. It will also give you an opportunity to test how savvy and helpful your current web agency is.

A final word: be realistic! If your content management system (CMS) is a dinosaur, or your website isn't responsive or mobile friendly, you are going to have to act sooner rather than later on a new website (17 percent of our total traffic now comes from phone or tablet, up seven percent year-on-year). If this is the case, significant investment may be required and quick wins may not be the best way forward.

Original blog post written for NZTE 2014 and updated.


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