Entries Tagged 'SEO' ↓

A Checklist for Website Redesign

Redesigning a website can be a lengthy, complicated process. Done properly, it can give a dramatic boost you your online presence. Over the years I’ve had the pleasure, and pain, of being a part of several redesign projects.

Here is a checklist for website redesign, a series of steps that developers will go through in a successful redesign project.

  1. Document the reasons you’re redesigning the website.
    Having these listed will act as a compass through the lengthy project. When things get stressful, you’ll want this reminder.
  2. Test the old site, e.g. with an online intercept survey.
    How easily can users find key parts of the site? Other testing methods include focus groups and eye tracking. For the survey, get enough data to make it statistically relevant. The qualitative, descriptive feedback from one-on-one sessions with customers is also very valuable.
  3. Conduct a baseline analysis of the old site.
    A baseline analysis is a document which sets the bar by which the future site will be measured. It should detail how the old site has performed over the past year, including key performance indicators like visitors, bounce rate, conversion rates, pages/visit, etc.
  4. Set targets for the new site.
    These should be actual numbers and be based on the baseline mentioned above.
  5. Hire a design company.
    Choose a company which has experience in your industry and has demonstrated success in the past. Do they ask you the right questions? Do they understand your customer? Do they deliver on budget and on schedule?
  6. Map out the new site’s architecture.
    Work on a whiteboard or a blank piece of paper. Use one box per web page, starting with the home page on top. Draw lines between the pages to show logical connections. An alternative process, called Card Sorting, starts with cue cards. Create one cue card per web page, lay them out on a large table and start grouping and arranging them.
    When mapping out the architecture, remember to keep the site compact, i.e. don’t create too many levels. This is bad for usability and bad for search engine optimization.
  7. Do keyword research.
    Consider words being used by your customers, at conferences, etc. Take a look at your old site’s analytics to determine which keywords have been bringing traffic from the search engines, especially traffic that converts into real business. Also consider third party tools like Google’s Search-based keyword tool, Seo Book’s Keyword Suggestion Tool. And don’t forget Google Trends.
    How long should your keyword list be? That depends on your business model. But in most circumstances, a list of 20-30 is a great start.
  8. Audit all of your existing online collateral.
    This includes all old and existing web pages, online brochures, podcasts, etc. Make a list in Excel and leave a couple of columns for notes and an instructions, e.g. ‘keep’, ‘keep but edit’, or ‘throw away’. B2B sites should also make room for columns to describe the type of buyer that web page appeals to, e.g. technical buyer, economic buyer, and when in the buying process that web page would best be viewed, i.e. Phase I: Awareness of Problem, Phase II: Researching a Solution, etc.
  9. Write content for the new site.
    Each page should have a clear purpose, give an opportunity to continue, and be optimized for 1-2 keywords identified in number 7 above.
  10. Create wireframes, mock-ups, etc.
    Carried out for the most part by your design company, this is where your combined knowledge of the target market turns into a creative and user friendly design which works.  Have the design company give you at least a couple of unique designs for the home page to choose from.
  11. Test the mock-ups for usability.
    Let some customers loose on these mock-ups. The pages only need minor functionality for now, e.g. be able to click on a couple of key areas. Make note of how easily and quickly key parts can be found.
  12. Fix, adjust and iterate
    Based on the results of your tests, iterate until you have a design which you can live with for the next 2 – 3 years.
  13. Build out and populate pages.
    A lot of this may be handled by the web design company. Take all of the freshly written content and place it in the built pages. When choosing file and folder names for pages, consider using the keywords you identified in the keyword research stage above.
  14. Organic optimization (SEO)
    You’ve already written the content and used the right keywords. Now is the time to take it further by ensuring that each page’s title, description and header tags do the same. Include links between pages. Interlinking is great for usability and great for search engine spiderability.
    Don’t forget to create a sitemap. There are two types of sitemaps, one which is on your site and visible to the user, and one which is visible only to the search engines (an XML Sitemap).
    And, don’t forget inbound links coming to some of the old site’s pages. Put a redirect in place for each of those so the new visitors, and link power, know where to go.
  15. Testing. Try to break it before the site is launched.
    Get a large group of people you trust to poke around, find broken links, etc. Use various browsers, operating systems, look at it on a smart phone.
  16. Add tracking code to each web page.
    This will ensure you can measure what’s happening with the new site. For tracking software like Google Analytics, it will be a fairly easy process, i.e. same tracking code on each page which can be applied in the footer.
  17. Launch day. Flick the switch, uncork the champagne.
    Don’t forget to take a screen shot of the old site.
  18. Post-launch monitoring
    Make a schedule and force yourself to note the key stats at regular intervals after the site is launched. For the first few days, do it every day. After that, weekly. If you have budget, do a second intercept survey (see #2 above).
  19. Take the time to create a Content Development / Maintenance plan.
    Use a calendar and map out when you’ll be adding new content. How often will the ‘latest events’ section be updated? Who will update it? When will you review the product descriptions? Or case studies?
  20. Keep a journal of this whole process

Bill Gates’ New Website and a Free Lesson in SEO

You’ve got to hand it to Danny Sullivan. Earlier yesterday, he wrote a blog post which scolds Bill Gates’ new website from an SEO perspective. For online marketers, it’s a fantastic lesson in SEO 101. For Bill Gates, a reason to smile, blush, or point a finger. You be the judge.

In case you hadn’t heard, or seen, Bill Gates launched his own website last week called The Gates Notes. Bill Gates’ new website allows you to “stay up to date on where Bill is at, what Bill is learning and what is on his mind.” The Twittersphere welcomed Bill Gates last week as well. In case you’re not following him, Bill Gates’ Twitter username is, unsurprisingly, @billgates.

So back to Danny Sullivan’s critique of The Gates Notes. Danny starts off by showing the Search Results Page for the query ‘bill gates blog’. The results show his blog listed in the top 10 in Google, but being outranked by some fake Bill Gates blogs. Interestingly, in Bing, his new blog didn’t show up at all in the top 10.

The blog post proceeds with a well-laid-out walk through SEO 101. And the example he uses happens to be the founder of Microsoft, the world’s second richest man who has just started blogging and tweeting. It points out the importance of:

– relevant title tags
– description tags
– unique title tags for each web page
– the power of inbound links, even from Twitter

I’ve just taken a look at The Gates Notes site and it looks like some changes have already been made to the Bill Gates site. Back on his blog post, Danny Sullivan is taking some heat, but also a lot of well deserved praise in the comments section. And it looks like Bill reached out to him on Twitter as well:

Bill Gates Twitter reply to Danny Sullivan

Bill Gates Twitter reply to Danny Sullivan

To read the original blog post, an SEO analysis of Bill Gates’ new website, visit: http://searchengineland.com/some-seo-advice-for-bill-gates-34303.

Google’s Future including Real Time Search

If you’re interested in the future of Search and have got an hour and a half to spare, I highly recommend sitting down with your favorite beverage and watching this video.

In this video, Google presents their most significant product releases of the year, including real time search.

Marissa Mayer starts off by presenting four main areas of innovation at Google:

1. Modalities
How people search, e.g. mobile devices, voice search, search by taking a picture
2. Media
The types of media appearing in search results, e.g. maps, books, video, news
3. Language
Translation services which open up the world’s content to people of all languages
4. Personalization
Search results with higher relevance based on your location, social networks, etc.

Later in the talk, Google Fellow Amit Singhal talks about the huge relevancy challenges faced when delivering search results, especially now with real time search. He shared Google’s 4 pillars of search delivery:

Comprehensiveness,
Relevancy,
User Experience, and
Speed,

with relevancy becoming more and more difficult. The audience poses several important questions near the end of the presentation, including the question of whether Google uses the same algorithm to rank its general index as its real time results.

Real Time Search is being rolled out gradually for all users over the next few weeks. Whether these results appear or not will depend on the keyword used. There is a way to see real time search results right away, through Google Trends.

To see an example of Google’s Real Time Search in action, check out:
http://www.google.com/search?esrch=&tbs=rltm:1&tbo=u&hl=en&q=snow

Bookmark Picks of the Week

During the course of a week, I’ll scan hundreds of tweets, receive dozens of newsletters and flip through numerous blog posts. Here are a few which I think you’ll enjoy.

1. What if Google had to design their user interface for Google?

Not brand new, but nevertheless a good laugh and SEO 101 lesson for any search marketer! How would you apply SEO best practices to the Google home page? Here the author demonstrates cross linking, fresh content, social bookmarking, reinforcing with keyword content, and a keyword-rich URL for Google’s search page.

2. Omniture’s Pick the Winner

Brilliantly designed for their target market, Omniture scores big with this new ‘Pick the Winner’ campaign. Step up to the vintage arcade machine and try your hand at guessing the correct results to A/B tests. How high did you score?

3. The Impact of Google’s Social Search

Jeremiah Owyang weighs in on how Google’s Social Search will change web strategy.

4. The Complete Guide to Google Wave

A little over a month after Google Wave was released in limited numbers to the public, the first Google Wave guide book has come out. It’s long, detailed and thorough. And the online version is completely free.

5. The 10 Best Leadership Books of All Time

A Washington Post article that presents a list of top leadership books, according to Jack Covert and Todd Sattersten.

Omniture-arcade

Straight From Google – What You Need to Know about SEO

This is a 45-minute video of Matt Cutts’ recent presentation at WordCamp – has to be one of the best recent summaries of SEO best practices you can find on video. My thanks go out to Jody Nimetz at the Marketing Jive blog for passing this my way.

The SES San Jose Survival Guide (Top Ten Things To Do Before Going to SES)

As I write this, thousands of us search marketing folks around the globe are packing our bags and getting ready to swoop into San Jose, California for the largest search engine strategies conference of the year, known by the industry simply as SES San Jose. Our company has been a part of these conferences for some time, but each show is a mixture of old and new. And for many of you who may be attending SES San Jose for the first time, here is something you may just want to bookmark and read during some downtime in the airport:

My SES San Jose Survival Guide

1. Follow the SES San Jose hashtag #sessj on Twitter. You will find a lot of great people there. And if the hashtag isn’t enough, here are two Twitter accounts you’ll want to follow right away: @matt_mcgowan and @SESConf.

2. Become a fan of the Search Engine Strategies Conference & Expo Facebook page. They currently have 503 fans and counting.

3. Join the SES LinkedIn group: over 8,500 members and counting.

4. Subscribe to the SES YouTube Channel. You’ll find over 300 videos which have been posted over the past couple of years.

5. Flip through the July 2009 edition of the SES Magazine. There will undoubtedly a lot of these to be found at the conference itself, but you may not have known that they also have an online version.

6. A closer look at the SES San Jose conference agenda. I won’t reveal my favorites in this post, but take a look at these buzz words, courtesy of wordle.net:
wordle-ses-500

7. Watch SES San Jose social media metrics on socialmention.com.

8. Check out the Search Engine Strategies blog.

9. For more official PR material, take a look at the SES press room.

and, last but not least…

10. Don’t forget to pack good walking shoes, a generous stack of your business cards, and an RSVP to the WebmasterRadio.FM Search Bash Tuesday night.

Have I forgotten anything? Please let me know by leaving a comment below!

How Does Your Risk Fit Into My Funnel?

I had the pleasure of producing Enquiro’s recent webinar titled Beyond the B2B Buying Funnel. Being a B2B marketer myself, I’m quite fond of the funnel concept and use it to map things like lead volume vs. position in the sales/marketing cycle. An interview I conducted with Jim Sterne takes a look at funnels of different shapes and how they reveal demand generation ailments and successes.

But where does the funnel fall short? One of the main messages I’ve taken from the material is that we shouldn’t look to the funnel model to imply a clear top-to-bottom progression in the sales process. Gord Hotchkiss refers to new research which shows that buyers are prone to experiencing a “risk gap” which, if not addressed by the marketer, acts as a plug in the funnel.

Risk is a fascinating concept in the field of B2B buying. One of the webinar presenters, Jon Miller, pointed out that a bad purchase decision can cost you your reputation or even your job, while good decisions will often benefit the company more than the individual.

So how does an individual mitigate risk? In-depth interviews with buyers, which were a part of the research methodology, show that buyers gravitate to six ways of dealing with it:

  1. Rely on own past experience and drawing upon company-approved vendors
  2. Listening to word of mouth and experience of others
  3. Asking their existing vendors for advice
  4. Assessing the credibility of the potential vendor
  5. Checking out the vendor online, including on search engines
  6. Weighing price options

Keep in mind that there is the risk to the individual, other individuals involved in the purchase decision, and risk to the organization as a whole. It becomes complex very quickly when risks to the different buyers aren’t the same – and they rarely are. And while companies have ways of giving structure to buying, e.g. through RFQ processes, findings show that the important decisions on a personal level aren’t always necessarily rational. We depend on our own library of heuristic shortcuts to come to decisions which can be irrational. Gord Hotchkiss also talked about these shortcuts, and how they are based on existing belief structures in this post on Herbert Simon’s concept of bounded rationality.

While it may be difficult to market against irrational buying decisions, there is hope, especially if we understand how irrational behavior is linked to risk. Part of eliminating the risk gap includes going back to basic sales and marketing principles, identifying and developing a market before we sell to them. As marketers, it is vital that we understand the specific risk gaps associated with buying from our company, in our industry, and help the buyer bridge those more effectively.

The 60-minute webinar was recorded and is available on demand. In it, you’ll hear Gord Hotchkiss present the new research along with Mark McMaster (Google), Ben Hanna (Business.com), Jon Miller (Marketo), Matthias Blume (Covario) and Chris Golec (Demandbase). The B2B Expert Series of webinars is moderated by Bill Barnes.