Redesigning Your Website For Users & Crawlers

Redesigning Your Website For Users & Crawlers

As most everyone knows, we have recently redesigned our website, which is what spurred the topic of the webinar we held last Thursday morning. As promised at the end of the webinar, here is the blog post summarizing what I spoke about, hopefully in digestible pieces that you can take and create action around.

In the webinar I covered three different topics. First, when you should redesign your website. Second, why you should redesign your website. Third, how you should redesign your website. As you will see in this post, I spent the majority of my time talking about the how. So let’s jump in.

When To Redesign Your Website

There is no hard and fast rule when it comes to how often you should redesign your website. HubSpot did some research and published that 39% of marketers feel that a company should redesign their website every 13-24 months. They also found that another 29% of marketers feel that a website should be redesigned every 25-36 months. So to sum it up, a large percent of marketers (68%) feel that a website should be redesigned every 1-3 years.

Why Redesign Your Website

There are many reasons why companies would want to redesign their website. Some of the more popular reasons are as follows:

  • Companies want a website that is more user friendly
  • Companies want to look more professional
  • Companies want to stay in check with their competitors
  • Companies want to improve branding or positioning
  • Companies want more freedom to customize their website without all the hassle
  • Companies want to better optimize for lead generation or sales

How To Redesign Your Website

As I said above, the majority of my time during the webinar was focused around the how. To get started, you should be designing your website for users first and then the search engines.

Structure For Users

Web design focused around usability generally has the following characteristics:

  • Descriptive navigation
  • Strong internal linking
  • Content that answers your customers questions
  • Content that helps solve your customers problems
  • Visible calls to action that helps guide your customers to their solution

Also, a website focused on usability typically generates a lot of content. When writing your content, you should remember to follow these best practices:

  • Get to the point quickly
  • Cut out unnecessary information
  • Use easy to understand, shorter, and common words and phrases
  • Avoid long paragraphs
  • Use headings to break up content
  • Put the most important or newsworthy content toward the top of the page or post
  • Use bulleted lists

After you have your site structure and content ironed out, you need to make sure that you have built in social awareness and social sharing features to help your users engage with you and your content.

I am a huge advocate of having the major social profiles that you participate on front and center on your website. When we redesigned, we built our profiles into a slider that you can see to the very right of each page. This helps your users know where you “hang out” online and encourages them to come “hang out” with you.

I, along with every other search marketer are huge advocates of making your content super easy to share. I like to doing this by  having your major social sharing buttons at the top and bottom of all content you want shared. The major social sharing buttons are Twitter, Facebook, Google +, StumbleUpon, and Pinterest. Since I’m on the topic of Pinterest, you should check out this three part series we wrote about a pretty robust Pinterest strategy.

Structure for Crawlers

Now that your site is easy to navigate, has great content that helps people, and is easy to share, we need to focus on site structure to ensure that the search engine crawlers can access your site, crawl it, associate your content with keyword themes, and then rank your site accordingly.

Whenever designing or redesigning a website, I always recommend using WordPress as your CMS. WordPress right out of the box is pretty search engine friendly, but by adding plugins to your WordPress install, you can supercharge your SEO efforts. Some of the WordPress plugins that I personally use to help with my SEO are as follows:

  • WordPress SEO by Yoast
  • Yet Another Related Posts
  • Google Site Verification
  • Google XML Sitemap
  • Redirection
  • SEO Smart Links
  • SEO Firendly Images
  • WP Super Cache
  • Broken Link Checker

There are many other SEO plugins that are really good, but these are my core plugins.While we are talking about SEO plugins, you should probably check out this great post by Claye where he talks about top three SEO plugins.

Attribution

When building your website, it is important to build in tools to help you attribute your successes to particular marketing efforts, either online or offline. I like to do this through installing an Analytics package and call tracking. I always use Google Analytics and tend to lean toward Century Interactive when choosing a call tracking provider.

When setting up your Google Analytics, please remember to use the most up to date code and also make sure to set up lead tracking, event tracking, ecommerce tracking or whatever type of tracking you need to track conversions.

Navigation

There’s not much to say here other than don’t code your navigation in flash or javascript. Yes, the search engines crawlers are getting more sophisticated and are getting better at reading both of these, however, I never leave it up to chance and prefer to code my navigation in HTML so that the crawlers can crawl my whole site and improve indexation.

URL Structure

The biggest mistake that companies make when determining their URL structure is generating URLs that are not easy to understand for users or the search engines. When structuring your URLs, remember to keep them short, descriptive, use a keyword, and absolutely, positively, avoid parameters in your URLs. Whenever possibly, I always recommend using semantic URL structures like www.somecoolurl.com/really-good-food/ vs www.somecoolurl.com/?reallygoodfood786.html

Internal Linking

As with having a solid navigation, internal linking helps improve crawlability and indexation, helps your users navigate to other relevant pages, and helps the crawlers understand what the linked to content might be about.

Schema Markup & Authorship Markup

Schema & Authorship markup are fairly new pieces of the puzzle when building and optimizing websites. In short, schemas are a collection of HTML tags that web designers can use to markup their content in ways that are recognized by the major search engines (Google, Yahoo, Bing, Yandex). Basically, these tags tell the engines exactly what your content is about, instead of letting them interpret it themselves. Some of the more popular schemas are products, locations, events, people, and reviews. Adding schemas to your website does require some additional code to your site, you can learn more about it here.

Authorship markup, aka the really cool pictures you are seeing attached to search results (see image below) is how Google describes “a way to connect authors with their content on the web”. As with schema, it does require some additional code on your site, but it’s pretty easy to implement, you can learn how by clicking here.

authorship markkup image

In conclusion, a typical website redesign should probably happen about every one to three years. When redesigning, marketing professionals redesign to improve usability, increase professionalism, improve branding, make customization or updates more easily, and help with lead generation. Also, when redesigning you should make sure that your new website is first and foremost, user friendly and then worry about the SEO friendliness of the site.

If you have any questions or would like to add to the conversation, please do so below.

In the meantime, take a look at the slide presentation from our recent webinar on this subject, and you can watch the replay of our Redesign Your Website: When, Why, and How webinar as well.

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