Almost every week, we release a new website or a redesign of an existing customer. All too often, I see the same mistakes made, usually in the name of preserving some sort of "brand identity". However, content and design are not mutually exclusive. If you want a website that's going to attract engaged visitors, and rank well in search engines, you need solid content on every page. So when the time comes to refresh your website, consider reshaping it to include enough text on the homepage, a blog, a page for your awards, recipes, videos, social widgets, and other noteworthy and relevant topics.
Here are the main reasons why people redesign their websites:
- "We want to freshen the look/feel."
- "We need to update our content, to be more relevant for where we are today."
- "We have too much information on our website...we need to clean house and provide a slimmed down version."
It’s typically not until launch is around the corner that folks start asking about SEO. “Sometimes” they have serious discussions about usability, but usually they want to know how to tweak their meta tags; that's usually the start and end for their consideration of optimizing the site. Unfortunately, meta tags alone will not help you rank for most keywords.
As you’ve undoubtedly read in recent years, Google cares about the “quality” of a website. “Good looking” doesn’t have to be tossed out the window in order to incorporate SEO. You can find that perfect balance of “good looking”, “usable,” and “search engine friendly” without sacrificing your brand image.
Top mistakes on winery websites
- No content on homepage. Instead, they have only an image slideshow, sometimes built in Flash. Since search engines can't "read" Flash content, this is effectively seen as a blank page.
- Lacking regional focus. From the Finger Lakes in New York to the Yadkin Valley in North Carolina to the Monterey region, people are always looking for general information on wine regions. Your site should capture these searches by providing useful information on things to do, sites to see, places to stay, maps, and general info.
- Poor navigation. Use keywords as navigation labels, and to link to other pages on your site. Link text passes relevant signals to search engines; so having "2008 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon" as the clickable text is much better than just "Cabernet" when linking to a product page.
- No blog. Every site should have a blog that's updated once each week. This provides a great outlet to build your site content, and write about a wide variety of topics to target more keywords.
Page titles and meta data
Each page on your site needs to have a unique title and description tag. These are crucial for telling users and search engines what your site is about. It's a good practice to put your brand at the end of the title, and not the beginning. Instead,
Do you know what keywords you want to rank for? When revising content on your site, start by focusing on quality keyword research and competitive analysis. Many tools (both free and paid) are available for keyword research, including Google's AdWords Tool. Keyword research is an art itself. You want to find relevant keywords that get enough monthly search volume, but aren't too competitive. For more on keyword research, check out these posts:
Once you know which keywords you want to target, you need to determine what it will take to compete (or if it's even feasible to try). If you determine that "travel" would be a great keyword, make sure have loads of content and links already, or have the patience to ride out the long process of building up this kind of authority.
You may want to re-think this keyword, unless your brand is already a household name. If you’d like to know how much content you – or your competitor – has around a specific topic/keyword, you can perform a “allintext:keyword site:www.example.com” search in Google to see what’s indexed.
Opensiteexplorer.org has a useful feature to compare multiple websites. I also have some great Google Drive documents that you can use. Just open them, click "make a copy" and enter your credentials (you need to sign up for a free membership at SEOmoz.org) and website information/keywords.
Multiple site authority comparison - Compare your site metrics against a few competitors.
SERP saturation comparison - shows how your site metrics compare with the top 10 ranking sites for any keyword.
Your Google Analytics data provides the best indication of how engaged your visitors are and bottom line data. The expression, "you don't know what you've got until it's gone," is so true for many redesign projects. There's such a rush to get the new website with the new “look/feel” live that you fail to review your analytics to see where you've been getting your traffic. This is crucial data; you need to compare your new site traffic metrics against your old one.
- Perhaps you'd want to run a ranking report for keywords before your site launch, and one a month after your new site launch?
- Perhaps you had rankings and traffic for a page that was about to disappear from your website, with the new launch? You may want to reconsider dumping that page.
- Are your bounce rates higher or lower with the new site? What about time on site, pages per visit, and per visit values?
- Are you tracking site goals like newsletter signups, store entrances, and purchases? Did the goal URLs change? If so, you should reconcile them so you can make accurate comparisons.
Need some help?
If you have an upcoming site redesign planned, or want to refresh your existing site, get in touch with Michael Meisner. He can consult with you to create a site that moves your company in the right direction.
Phone: (707) 260-0302