19] BEWARE OF BEARDED WEB DESIGNERS
Total average SEO impact: ★★★★★
A new website that turns into a nightmare
Web designers love making new websites. If they would have it their way they would build a new website every 2 years. Creative destruction is what they really love. They like to start with a clean sheet. And who can blame them? Well, we SEO professionals can and we should. I have come across many new websites being built by ambitious web designers whose only focus is creativity and design. Before you think I have a grudge against web designers, I do not. On the contrary, I need them, but they need me too. I have to add that I know many web designers that know what they are doing and also understand that although beginning from scratch would be tempting it would not be wise.
So what’s the problem?
There are web designers (the bad ones) that throw away all existing website content and especially website content that they believe is distracting website visitors from the main company mission, selling products and services. They prefer a clear-cut communication by as little words and as many graphics and visuals. In essence they hate copy, especially if it is long and explaining. That just doesn’t fit their mindset of communicating with design. So what may happen? Someone in the company decides to build a new website for whatever reason (new design, new markets, new technical features). They hire a web designer. The web designer comes up with a sexy design. Everybody is thrilled with the proposal. The web designer finally (always later than expected) comes up with a brand new website (and yes, it is really brand new). The new website is going life, replacing the old one. Everybody happy. And then, after one month someone thinks, “hey, what happened to conversions and traffic?” And then they call you.
How wrong can it go?
Terribly. Web designers may make several mistakes that will lead to a drop in organic traffic. I have seen them all, unfortunately. Before I will get into these mistakes I want to stress the seriousness of the problem. I am not talking about a 5% drop in organic traffic whenever you put a new website in place of the old one. Such a drop is normal. In fact you will always lose organic traffic when you replace the old website with a new one. Even if all URL’s remain exactly the same. I must confess that I do not know the exact reason for that, theoretically when all has proceeded according to plan there should not be a drop but it occurs almost always. The serious problem I am talking about is loosing 15% up to 70% of all organic traffic. This 70% unfortunately is more common than you would think. If you do not follow any of the SEO rules of putting a new website “live” in general you will loose 70% of organic traffic. And I have seen this happening a lot.
And how can it go wrong?
In many ways. Here are some typical reasons why your web designer may have f-ed up your online presence. I will talk about “he” referring to such a web designer which is not correct because I have met some female web designers who also messed things up. But somehow I have a particular persona in mind when I am talking about the over-creative, zealous web designer that is single-mindedly focused on artistical design (not technical design unfortunately). In my persona this web designer wears a too short T-shirt with some in-your-face remark on it, and is bearded of course. Again I have to add that whenever I met someone who resembled my persona he proved me wrong. So I really have to reconsider my persona but somehow it has stuck with me. Forgive me! So what may this “bearded” web designer have done?
1. He threw away all your SEO content
This happens more than you would think. Especially with online shops this is a real danger. Redesigning an online shop automatically focusses all attention on getting the products into your shop and simple written content is often overlooked. This is not always the fault of the design team of the web bureau. In most cases it is the technical designer that just forgot about migrating website content that does not include products and prices. It is a mindset thing, designers are too focused on getting the products into new pages that they overlook the SEO content.
2. He chose a new URL lay-out
Why changing existing URL’s when it is not really necessary? Don’t do it. Keep the existing URL’s in place. It will make the migration process easier and the Google’s of this world do not have to work their way through numerous redirects which will hamper your online presence anyway.
3. He forgot to redirect
O, o, this is a classic. And it happens so often. Whenever new URL’s are put into use, please redirect the old ones and do it RIGHT AWAY! In many cases web designers forget about redirecting all together and when they think about it, it is often too late.
4. Finally we got rid of all that “bad” content
Another classic but we cannot blame the web designer completely on this one, although I think a good one should say: “sorry, but this is not a good idea”. What happens? When the decision is being made about making a new website, the web designer asks whether all current content should be migrated. In many cases the client will get the instruction to go through all pages and inform the web designer about pages that do not need to go over to the new website. Then things go wrong. It’s such fun striking out old content that some clients get hooked upon going for “new”. When you have a “new” mindset all things old are obsolete, so let’s get a fresh start. That feels right doesn’t it? Yeah, but they forget the traffic that these pages attract from search engines. Even these old pages that do not fit the company’s mission anymore may get in tons of traffic. Instead of writing them off you should rewrite them. Again, this doesn’t fit very well in a process when a new website is being designed. Bothering your mind with old content just doesn’t match with building a new website. But you really should! Before you want to get rid of an old webpage, look at your Analytics data. If it’s an “engine page” (a web page that sucks in organic traffic): Do think twice, it’s not all right!
5. Bye bye old images, time for something 3.0
The truly graphic web designer loves images and graphics. But not old ones. There is always a new design format, a new sexy way of building a website that makes all older designs soooooooo booooooring. There is only one solution: Get rid of it right away. Okay, these older images with those nice Alt Tags may come up at top spots in Google images, but who cares! Not your casually but cleverly dressed web designer. But I do. Image Search is important, especially for those among us who don’t like reading and love images, like bearded web designers. Please incorporate these well-found old images in your new website. You may replace them to a dedicated page, although that bears some risks, but do not throw them away.
So, what to do?
- Beware that a new website is by no means a win-win. It is a real challenge to keep the organic traffic stable after migration.
- Make a migration plan. Get your SEO strategist on the table. Don’t leave it all to the designer.
- Is it really necessary to have a new website? Do you really think that this new design will drive sales? Do not chase every new styling craze, web design is not a fashion, it is a craft.
Cherish what you have. Do not throw away that what made
your online success. A new website is fine, a completely new design is
sometimes needed but that isn’t the same as starting all over again. You can
have both: a great new website, a modern design AND old website content that
still drives organic traffic and sales. Don’t settle for less!
20] OPTIMIZING YOUR RETURN ON PERSPIRATION
Total average SEO impact: ★★★★★
Getting the most out of your sweat
In essence Search Engine Optimization is free of charge. It only requires smart-thinking, concentration, writing and publishing. In practice it is a time consuming exercise that often leads to headaches and occasional spells of gazing out of the window related to temporary writer’s blocks or plain blackouts. But on average it is all good fun. Really, it’s a great job that so many people hate to do that they are glad to outsource it which makes my bread and butter. It is true, there are not many people that love the exercise of writing which is the essence of SEO. It doesn’t come without effort and it creates sweat, sometimes the smelling one but always the exhausting one. That leaves us with one of the most important questions of this book: How can we make sure that we get the most out of our perspiration? In fact, in my day-to-day work as an SEO consultant I try to teach marketing teams to really make this their number 1 concern.
Motivation by results
Well performed SEO will drive in free and relevant traffic to a company’s website. In this world of cut throat online competition where driving in traffic through advertising is getting more and more expensive every day SEO is number 1 on everybody’s online marketing to-do list. That makes sense, but it is not true. In fact, it is way down on the bottom if it’s on it at all. Why is that? For one thing: SEO takes time to get in the results. But this is not a valid argument as in most cases results can be picked up within 2 months (if your website/domain is not brand new). Another, more common reason, is that many marketing departments do not take time to monitor the results. They are not going through their Analytics in the right way or they have the wrong reports before them. Then there are numerous managers who don’t believe in SEO. They either think that Google is so smart that you don’t need to do your utmost to boost your organic traffic or they think that SEO is just a scam. So what do I do? I try to drive in organic traffic as fast as possible and I will show that their efforts really materialize by showing the right hard data. That will cause the mindshift I am after. For action motivation is always number 1. And the best motivation is fast results.
Going for the low hanging fruit
To drive in relevant organic traffic the fast way, we must look for search themes that are really relevant to our website. Search engines will understand these themes better and faster as relevance is clear. To come up with these themes I always start with a keyword research report. We need to know what keywords are relevant to our market. I always list them up by themes so we get an overview of keywords that makes sense, not a hotchpotch of unrelated keywords. Then it is time to take a look at our website. What keyword themes are really important to our specific product or service but are underexposed on our website? That is where you should start. These keyword themes should be as close as possible to what we are offering and here we must add theme-depth. With theme-depth I mean getting to the content bottom of a specific keyword theme. Let’s say we are a local car rental firm in Houston Texas. Of course keyword themes involving “car rental” and “Houston” are extremely relevant. There are a lot of different keywords that include these subthemes but we can’t trigger them all (otherwise we would be too manipulative for Google and friends). But we can do more than we might think using some creative thinking. We can add brands we rent and use the combination “Houston” and we can make pages that describe our location at the airport in Houston or describing how to get there from the airport and so on. These themes are the most low hanging fruit available. Just a bit higher in the tree are themes like “car rental near me” tapping into mobile search and “car rental”
+ “discounts” tapping into large search volumes and relying on local searches with that combination. We always must go up in the tree starting from the bottom. That is why it is called ORGANIC TRAFFIC, it grows slowly from root to top. In order to bear fruits we must fertilize it with our ideas and actions and then we can reap what we sow. It goes without saying that your back will hurt a little in the process.