It must be that time of the year. Are you having the February “I hate my website” blahs?
Your website is your cash register. Whether your website has 30 pages, or 300 pages. Whether it is ugly, or just hasn’t been updated since your first born University Grad finished grade 8, there are some important steps to take before you decide on your next website developer, CMS platform, consultant or creative agency:
Understand your goals: How will your website update improve your overall marketing and sales efforts?
I too have undergone a website refresh. I wish that I had considered many of the items on this list before I changed my wordpress theme – and then subsequently had to comb through 7 years of posts to update broken links and long lost plug ins.
What functions to you expect your website to have and why to you need those functions to improve conversions?
Do you need a Blog? Do you want to integrate social content to your website? Do you need a better check-out function?
This is an important exercise as the website CMS you choose will need to have the flexibility to work with your ecommerce solution, mapping functionality (if applicable), social plug-ins, and other functions of your website.
If your mandate with the new website is to improve website conversions, then your chosen developer or platform will need to accommodate by having social media plug in’s, a Blog platform, RSS feed, or a gallery.
If you are limited in resources to manage updates and creative changes, as well as the financial resources to continue to “add on” – you will need a platform that is easy to update and manage without a team or agency support. There are “do-it-yourself” solutions that may cost more initially, or monthly – but may save you some costly headaches in the future.
In my case, what I needed what a WordPress theme that was not different than the original theme I had used. A learning curve in understanding how to update your own website is not ideal.
“A learning curve in understanding how to update your own website is not ideal”.
Document current website performance for future benchmarking
Use Google Analytics (and any other analytics tool in addition) to understand what is working and what needs improvement with the new website.
Look at a typical month, as well as a year-over-year comparison over a period of time and identify key metrics that include:
- Number of unique visitors per month Bounce rate. The bounce rate should be under 40% at a minimum.
- Time on site (2 minutes, or preferably more than 2 min. per user session)
- Current SEO keywords used to find the site. If your website was verified in Google’s Search console, you will see this in Google Analytics.
- % of overall traffic coming from organic search and top performing referral traffic.
- Device usage breakdown – this illustrates how much of your traffic is coming from desktop, mobile or tablet devices. This is important to know when re-designing a website or moving to another platform. You must design for your user, and most of us are spending much of our time on mobile devices and tablets.
Website asset inventory: Create a site map – or road map of all pages of the website.
Inventory your website assets that include content pages, images, video’s, blog posts etc. Using Google analytics, determine high performing content pages, and highly indexed pages in search, and ensure you have a site map of all pages in the website.
If you are migrating to a new website platform, create a 301 re-direct plan to give your new website developer or platform provider. This will ensure that you carry over pages that were indexed in Google to the new website.
TIP: Many web designers miss this important step. Ensure that a 301 re-direct strategy plan is completed before you pull the plug on your current website. If you are working with a SAAS based platform, make sure that there are resources available to assist you with this as you make the transition.
Checklist – Must have functionalities for best performing websites:
Template designs, or pre-formatted design websites (for those of us who cannot code to save a life) are both cost effective and proven. CMS platforms, Design and theme layouts become templates because they have been used successfully for other similar businesses. Remember, the website has to be functional and visually pleasing. Consider this when working with your next website developer. New design is not always the best route to take.
“Take a consumer first approach to your website. Build what they like, and they will come.”
Prepare an action list for the new website. This should include:
- Mobile optimized website option included. (This should not be an add-on as any website/theme today must function well on a mobile device)
- Mobile responsive design option.
- SEO plug in or CMS platform that is SEO friendly (every page of a website should have unique on-page keywords, and back end meta-data to show the search engines the site is relevant and should be indexed for those keywords)
- Rich media asset manager: Check for storage, ease of use.
- Plug in’s to Marketing Automation tools
Note: Some photos and video asset manager’s are cloud based, and some may be included as part of a full digital marketing platform where photos and video’s can be pushed out to the website, as well as other digital marketing platforms including social media, and other online directories. Ensure you have taken the steps above to understand what you expect from your website to understand what you need to efficiently manage your content.
- Easy to use CMS: A website that is easy to update on the fly – with or without a designer or programmer is easy to find. Simple website updates should not incur additional costs to update on a regular basis.
- Google Analytics plug in or place for the code: All websites should be tracked via Google analytics. This is a universal and free analytics platform. Make sure that your analytics is set up under your property Gmail account so that you may carry your analytics data with you if you migrate to another website again. If you are working with an agency to support you with analytics, ensure that you have a second Google Analytics code added that is your own.
- Social media plug ins and share tools.
- Once the website is live:
Ensure that the 301 redirect plan has been applied so that none of the pages on the previous website become “broken links”. Google does not like broken links and will penalize. Verify your website with Google and BING search console. This will give you access to your SEO tools in Google analytics, and also may speed up the re-indexing of your new website in search.
7. Benchmark Improvements
Measure your new website month-over-month to benchmark improvements in search visibility, website user engagement (metrics like time on site increases and reduced bounce rates) and of course increases in sales.
A website is never done. Continuously optimize and adjust your website content based on best performing content pages, successful content shares in social media that drive traffic back to the website, user feedback and of course – increases in sales.
It’s that simple! 😉