The first thing you need to know, design is overrated!

Yes, I’m fully aware how controversial that statement sounds, but it’s true.

I started off as a designer nearly two decades ago, and I’ve learned the hard way. Design will almost never move the sales needle, not on its own.

My goal is to spare you the lackluster results I’ve been guilty of delivering others in my past.

Here’s the problem.

Whether you’re a business owner looking for a website or a designer building websites, if your web design is not built on a bedrock of research and strategy, you will fail.

Guaranteed.

This isn’t just another opinion piece. This article is my entire process as it is today. It’s everything I’ve learned. It’s everything I know. It’s the process I follow when building websites for my clients.

Table Of Contents

Click any link and jump directly to that section

1. Introduction
2. Understand your current environment
3. Define your customers
4. Define your competitors
5. Clarifying your goals and needs
6. SEO Audit
7. Keyword Research
8. Content Strategy
9. Wireframes and Design
10. Coding
11. Dotting your I’s and crossing your T’s (avoiding the pitfalls)
12. Understanding what your new website will and will not do for you.
13. Full Infograph

What will business owners get out of this article?

You’ll learn how to avoid getting ripped off.

It’s shocking how many agencies neglect the research and strategy that your business needs to be successful online.

Nothing in this article is profound. It’s all simple, common-sense stuff. I encourage you to go through the article, or at least skim it and read the parts that stand out to you.

You will walk away from this article more informed than most of the agencies and designers you’ll probably be researching. Use the steps outlined below as your vetting process.

What will designers get out of this article?

You’ll learn how to add real measurable value to your client’s websites.

You can learn how to deliver a new website and not have to hide from your clients 6 months later when their lead-gen has remained stagnant.

As a designer, your landscape has changed in two dramatic ways.

1.) The DIY site builders and theme marketplaces have made professional design and code a commodity. It’s good, and it’s dirt cheap. It’s near impossible to base a sustainable practice around design and code with such legitimate competition… plus, it’s now unethical for you to even do so. Your $5,000 solution may be more “customized” visually, but it’s doing nothing for your client’s bottom line. You can read more about the problem with web design here.

2.) Your client’s prospects are savvy. They’re not entertained by fancy sites, and they won’t be converted into paying customers with flashy graphics. Your clients are struggling to connect with their prospects. Prospects who have real world problems and need clearly defined solutions.

Without diving deep into this dynamic, you’re wasting everyone’s time.

Disclaimer: I know I sound harsh on you designers. I don’t mean to be, but it’s a hard lesson. It’s one that took me years to admit and adapt too. Everything I’ve learned these past several years has made me vastly more effective. It’s not rocket science, it’s just a commitment to the process.

Want to skip the article and get the good stuff?

Download the nitty-gritty detailed workflow and checklist I use when building new websites. The download is a 12-page spreadsheet. It contains just about every question and piece of data I use when working with a new client.

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There is one pre-qualification to getting the download, your email address needs to be a business/domain address. (gmail, aol, msn, hotmail and other free email providers will receive the download on a case by case basis)

Everything you need to know before you build your next website

What does it take to make my website a success?

Almost everyone’s first impulse is to start thinking about one of two things, design & functionality.

It’s understandable.

Design and functionality appear to be the first touch points with site visitors.

The thought, “Get the design and functionality taken care of, improve them, and the leads should naturally increase.”

Here’s the problem. Your site visitors could honestly care less what your website looks like or what it does.

Don’t get me wrong, those things are important, but they’re not the measuring stick for your prospects.

Your site visitors DO NOT CARE about you. They care about their problem. The only reason, and let this sink in… the ONLY reason they are on your website is an attempt to find a solution to their problem.

They’re not there to be entertained or impressed. They’re there to find a solution so they can get on with their life.

Design and functionality are powerless to help your prospects. Good or bad design is irrelevant if the problem and solution are not addressed.

You need to stop thinking of your website as a digital brochure and start thinking of your website as the hub of your entire marketing plan.

You need a marketing strategy. You need a business plan for existing online.

Disclaimer: The following process is not complicated. It’s not even profound. It’s all simple, common-sense stuff.

If you take a section or question on its own, then most points may be seen as trivial or insignificant. This would be a mistake.

The power of this process should be taken as a whole. It shouldn’t be seen as individual steps, but what each individual step builds collectively.


So, let’s get started.

Understand your current environment

It’s easy to lose the forest for the trees – for business owners and designers alike. (yes, I did just use a cliche to start this article)

It’s easy to want to jump in and get started, but it’s imperative to start your new website with an honest audit of your current landscape.

Before your website starts, you need to define the logistics of the process. It’s easy to gloss over, but many projects go off the rails because the very basics of the project were never defined.

First, define your business:

It should seem obvious, but you don’t want to assume anything during the process. What might be common knowledge and trivial to you could be vital to your designer, or vice versa.

Questions:

  • Where is your business located and how many locations do you have?
  • Is your business local, national, or is your business national but marketed towards each location as a local business?
  • Are you B2B, B2C?
  • What is your business offering?
  • Who is your preferred customer?
  • Who makes up the majority share of your current customer base?

These questions get to the very core of who you are as a business. It’s necessary to make this clear at the beginning. Knowing where your business exist, where your customers live, and the makeup of your customer base is the foundation for your entire website strategy.

Second, why do you want a new website?

Do you really need a new website?

Take a minute to answer this question honestly. Why do you want a new website?

Is it to get more leads? More sales? Are you even sure that your website is your problem?

Clearly defining why you want a new website often reveals quite a few misconceptions that prevent most projects from finding success.

Questions:

  • What are your current website’s problem areas? Where is it struggling?
  • What are your current website’s strengths? What’s working?
  • Who is visiting your website?
  • Why are they visiting your website?
  • How did they find and arrive at your website?
  • How many leads do you receive per month from your website?
  • How many of those leads are qualified leads?
  • How many of those qualified leads convert and close?
  • What is your average cost per acquisition per closed lead?

You need to identify the ballpark of your current pain points.

If your qualified leads are high, but your conversion is low, then you might be better off investing in your sales process, before getting a new website.

If your website is generating a substantial amount of unqualified leads, then the problem might not be your website, but with your messaging.

If your website is receiving large amounts of traffic with low-leads, then maybe your marketing is off. You might be blowing your marketing budget on bad traffic. In this case, you’d want to invest in clarifying your marketing position before trying a new website.

Third, audit your current and past marketing efforts:

How have you been using your current website?

You need to take an honest look at your past marketing efforts. Was it a failure in idea or a failure in execution?

You don’t want to repeat the same mistakes. You especially don’t want to waste time exploring areas that have already been clearly mapped.

Questions:

  • Have you ever worked with Adwords or any other digital pay per click campaigns?
  • Have you ever worked with an SEO agency?
  • A professional copywriter?
  • A conversion rate optimization specialist?
  • A graphic or web designer?
  • A web developer?
  • A photographer or videographer?
  • Utilized any offline marketing channels? (tv, radio, print)

It’s important to know if you’ve worked with other industry professionals. What was the outcome of those efforts?

You want to make sure the same mistakes are not repeated. It’s very likely one of two things happened if you’ve worked with other pros.

  1. The “pro” wasn’t really a pro and they just took your money and delivered a poor solution that was NEVER going to perform. This may not have been malicious. They may have misdiagnosed the problem, not taken the time to understand the depth of your need, or just not have known better.
  2. The pro really was a pro, and they delivered a solid solution, but the solution hasn’t worked because the failure was not in their solution, but in another area of your overall strategy.

So, be clear on what you’ve done in the past. Who did the work, what did they do, and what was the outcome?

Fourth, audit the project:

This is purely logistical, but still important to have this information decided before moving forward.

If you don’t clearly identify these key logistical points, you are likely to waste time back-tracking due to some pretty trivial issues.

Questions:

  • Identify the stakeholders and the decision makers in regards to the website. Who has the final say when it comes to approval and changes to the project?
  • Do you or anyone on your staff have technical experience?
  • Will you need a new website hosting provider for your new website?
  • If yes, is there a plan in place for migrating to a new host? (DNS and MX records)
  • Do you have Google Analytics integrated on your website, and do you perform regular or irregular analytic reviews?

These questions will help both parties understand what future conversations need to take place.

Knowing who will be involved, the roles each party will play, and the technical aptitude of those involved will all shape the upcoming conversations – making the process more efficient and effective.

Example:

Business Profile:

Rolio is a SaaS CRM solution for B2B’s. Rolio operates as a subscription based company located in Colorado.

The bulk of their clients are national with a few international clients.

Rolio’s preferred clients are mid-market businesses who deal in the B2B space. Their preferred client should be able to afford a monthly subscription fee of $250 – $500 per month, this means the client should be generating a minimum of $50,000 in monthly revenue for the solution to be viable.

Rolio’s current client base is dominated by clients at the lower end of their subscription service.

Rolio would like to attract and convert more customers at the $500 price point.

Website Profile:

Rolio is wanting a new website. They went through a redesign about 3 years ago with a slight improvement, but that was mainly due to their pre-existing site being over 7 years old.

Their current site did see initial improvements in lead-gen that first year (3 years ago) but since then, they’ve been stagnant.

Rolio isn’t sure why their site isn’t working. They think a redesign and a better responsive website will be the trick.

They love their customer testimonials. They think that’s the star feature of their website.

Rolio gets about 30,000 unique visitors a month. They average about 5 leads a day, that’s about 150 a month. They average about 80 qualified leads out of that 150. They close about 20 leads a month. Their average cost per acquisition is about $300.00.

Marketing Profile:

Rolio has worked with Adwords for the past few years. They manage Adwords on their own. They average about $8,000 per month in spending. They’ve never worked with an SEO agency. They’re not sure about the professional copywriter or CRO specialist. Their current website was built by another local web design agency, so they’re not sure what they were specialized in. They’ve never used a professional photographer or videographer, they rely on stock photography sites. They tried direct mailers in the past, and they attend a few tradeshows a year, but nothing else offline.

Project Profile:

Rolio has a marketing manager and a web designer on staff. The web designer has basic code knowledge but is not comfortable when it comes to server-side technologies. The marketing manager has no technical training. The marketing manager is the final authority and decision maker. The web designer will be involved during the process to help provide insights into past and current marketing efforts.

They know they’re hosted with cheap a hosting solution. They’re open to migrating to a better host, but they do not know how to make this happen. Rolio’s email is done through Google Business, so migrating host will require assisting any DNS and MX record changes.

They do have GA integrated. Occasionally the web designer takes a peak, but he’s not sure how to act on the data he sees.

Take-Away:

Rolio is fairing well. Their traffic is decent. Their closing ratio is healthy with their qualified leads. They could lower their customer acquisition cost (CAC) by closing bigger clients and enriching the amount of qualified leads that do come through the door.

They have GA hooked up so there is clear data to use during the investigation process.

It’s too early to make any assumptions to the problems and solutions that Rolio is facing, but they do appear to be a qualified candidate and a good project.

Important Action!If the project is given the green light then YOU MUST:

1.) Ensure that Google Analytics is installed and tracking

2.) The website is connected to Google Search Console

If the current website is missing either or both, then get those integrated before doing anything else. Without analytics, the entire project is running handicapped. Even a single month worth of analytics is priceless when compared to nothing.

Not only will this give you practical insights into how the website is performing, but it will also establish a baseline to measure against once the new website is up and running.


Define your customers

The absolute first thing you need to do when starting your website strategy – realize, your website is NOT ABOUT YOU!

You are not building a new website for your business.

You ARE building a new website for your site visitors, your customers.

From the very start, everything you do needs to be based on and built for your preferred customer.

Your website is the place your preferred customer will go to find the solution to what ails them. They’re not on your website to learn about you. They’re not even on your website to learn about your service or product. They’re there to learn and find a solution to what they want and need.

It’s about them, not you.

It’s important to understand that distinction. It’s subtle, but the outcome from those two different points of view are massive.

There are a lot of assumptions that build over time. And, over that time, these assumptions tend to distort our view of who our customers actually are.

So, to build a website for your customers, you need to understand them.

Define your customer personas and buyers journey

Customer Personas:

The first step is understanding, you are never selling to more than one person at a time. You can have 100k site visitors a day, but that just means you’re having 100k unique one-on-one “conversations” a day.

Understanding you’re creating your site for an individual and not a crowd is essential. Getting this wrong will derail your entire content strategy moving forward.

The second step in communicating with your customers is to identify them. Who are they?

Your customers are unique individuals. They each have a broad and diverse life full of experiences that motivate their decision-making process.

Your customers are diverse, but you can group them together into sets. It’s important to get a grasp on the core similarities between your customers.

Why?

Well, you’d present your offering/solution differently depending on who you’re talking to.

Let’s imagine you’re talking to a busy 45-year-old marketing manager. He has a staff of 10 under him and a team of execs above him. He has a healthy budget, high demands of ROI and little time. 90% of his work day is spent in meetings. 10% is left for email and managerial duties. He has a family with 3 children. He commutes to the office every day which takes 45 minutes each way. He tries to go the gym 4 days a week.

With that, it’d be a gross understatement to say your preferred customer is BUSY. He has zero time for research and a lot of pressure to get things right. He doesn’t have time to be wrong and any mis-steps have consequences on several people.

His main concern and value proposition would be your trustworthiness, your time-saving features, and your support for if and when things go wrong.

What’s the point?

You can now tailor your content, messaging, layout, navigation, etc… you can tailor your entire site or large sections to speak directly to this customer type.

Imagine you’d ignored this and assumed a robust feature list with lengthy descriptions and cost were the most important selling feature.

Your preferred customer 1.) doesn’t care about those value propositions and 2.) doesn’t have time to dig for the value props he does need.

It’s easier to bounce and try another provider.

Customer Persona Questions:

  • Personal Bio
  • Job Title:
  • Age:
  • Family / Relationship Status:
  • Location:
  • Avg Annual Income:
  • Education Level:
  • Hobbies / Interest:
  • Social Networks (on what platforms and how do they use each platform):
  • How do they prefer to communicate? (social, email, text, phone, person)
  • Professional Bio (If B2B)
  • Years with business:
  • Describe job position: (solo, boss, manager, exec, team member)
  • Daily duties:
  • Familiarity with your business / industry:
  • Are they personally budget or time driven:
  • Is their business budget or time driven:

It’s not complicated, it’s just thorough. When you understand who you are selling to, it shapes your entire marketing strategy.

But, there’s another part to understanding your customers. You need to identify WHERE your customers are in the buyer’s journey when they’re meeting you for the first time.

Buyer’s Journey

The buyer’s journey is a process a customer undergoes when making a purchase decision. You can get pretty granular with the breakdown if you need to, but I find using the three common buckets of awareness, consideration, and decision sufficient.

Awareness stage:

This customer is at the very beginning of the purchase decision. They may not even be aware of their own problem. If they are, their awareness is in its infancy.

This customer is largely passive. They’re absorbing information about their problem and what, if any, solutions exist.

They’re literally developing awareness about the problem/solution of their situation and your industry.

Consideration stage:

This customer is aware of their problem and of the viable solutions that exist. They may not fully understand the intricacies, but they know enough to research solutions.

This customer is now actively researching features. They are weighing the cost vs risk, benefit vs sacrifice of individual solutions.

Decision stage:

This customer understands their problem. They understand the solution they want. They also know the features they need. They are now actively looking for a provider that meets their requirements. It could be cost, time, trustworthiness, efficiency, thoroughness, support, etc…

Questions:

  • Answer each one of these questions for each stage for each persona:
  • Why is this person on your website?
  • How did they arrive on your website (how did they discover you) ?
  • Are they at work or home (time of day)?
  • What device are they using (desktop/mobile)?
  • Are they in a hurry?
  • What is their biggest question / problem?
  • What solution are they hoping to find?
  • What solution should they be looking for?
  • What solution/content/offer do you have to offer for their initial question?
  • What is the common objection to your solution at this stage?
  • What is the most effective rebuttal to this objection?
  • What would this person consider a success when leaving this website?
  • What would they need to progress forward in the buyer’s journey?

What’s the point?

Knowing where your customer is when meeting you is just as important as understanding who your customer is on a personal and professional level.

It allows you to tailor the entire experience to cater to their unique needs.

Imagine this:

Let’s say you’re a B2B that offers a $5,000 a month solution. A solution like yours is in-depth, robust, and complicated. It affects a large portion of how your clients do their business when fully integrated.

A solution of this size is most likely going to target multiple individuals. It’s highly uncommon for the decision maker to be involved during the awareness and consideration stages.

Using our marketing manager, he would most likely be meeting you for the first time during the decision stage. However, that would not be his company’s first introduction to you.

It’s not uncommon for one of his team members to have been the first touch point between their company and yours.

This team member would be the one who was won over by your awareness stage and consideration stage content. They would have vetted your solution before making their recommendation to the marketing manager, bringing him in during the decision stage.

Understanding this, you now see you would need to develop at least two different customer personas. One built for the team member who is in the awareness and consideration stage. Another for the marketing manager who is in the decision stage.

Example:

Personal Bio

John is the sales manager for his company. He’s 45, married, has kids and works downtown but lives in the burbs 50 minutes away (30 minutes on a good day). His annual salary is about $110k a year with bonuses. He works about 50 hours a week and likes to spend as much time with his wife and kids as possible. He’s an avid runner, so he tries to get in a few miles every day before work. He’s on Linkedin for keeping tabs on his industry and talent network. He’s on Facebook to keep in touch with this family and old college buddies. At work, he’s on the phone all day or in meetings. He prefers to text with his family during the work day and email with his co-workers. The phone is very personal and a highly guarded form of communication for John.

Professional Bio (If B2B)

John has been with his company for a little over 7 years. He started out as a Sr. sales staff member but was promoted to sales manager 3 years ago. He manages a staff of 6 with a few interns. His day is dominated with meetings, approvals, and jumping on the phone to support his sales staff with larger accounts.

He lives inside his CRM. So, he’s very familiar with your industry and some of your competitors. John has a healthy operating budget. His main concern is making his department more efficient. Too much time is wasted digging through the CRM for attribution, customer histories, etc… His only requirement is to have his staff meet their quarterly growth projections. However, he gets it done is okay with the execs.

Awareness Stage

John was first made aware of Rolio by one of his staff members named Greg. Greg mentioned your solution initially through a Slack conversation with John. Then, Greg brought up Rolio for a thorough discussion during their weekly team meeting.

Greg first discovered Rolio at home while scrolling through Facebook on his phone while watching a baseball game. Rolio had a pretty clever ad that caught his attention about how bad most CRM’s are.

Greg, along with his team members, often complain about their current CRM. It takes them a good half hour to generate their weekly reports. Customizing the metrics they need to report is near impossible and always requires manual cleanup. So, Rolio’s ad piqued his interest.

Greg would love to have a CRM that let him click a few boxes and kick out the reports he needs. Even better if it could do it automatically – set it and forget it. It’s just a spit-ball of an idea. He had no idea a solution like that existed. Your ad got him curious.

Rolio’s ad teased how easily customizable reporting was. So Greg dove in.

Consideration Stage

Greg was pretty excited when he discovered the possibility that his spitball of an idea actually existed.

Now, his dream feature is only one feature his team needs. There are a lot of features their current CRM does do well that they can’t afford to lose. So, Greg needs to make sure their daily activity wouldn’t suffer to get this new feature.

If he can find out if Rolio will not cost them any functionality and the onboarding(migration) process wouldn’t be an inhibitor, then he’s pretty excited about pitching Rolio to John. If he can get John to sign off, then he knows he and his team members could be saving hours every week.

Decision Stage

Greg dug into Rolio’s website and support docs to make sure that Rolio wasn’t too good to be true. He even talked to Rolio’s sales staff through their online chat feature to get some clarity on a few items that he couldn’t find on their website. Confident that Rolio would be awesome for him and his fellow team members, he mentions Rolio to John.

John likes Greg, and John is very aware of how painful their current CRM is. It comes up almost every team meeting that their current solution is … “disliked.”

John likes what he hears from Greg, but he needs to make sure that 1.) it’s within their operating budget, 2.) there would not be any downtime or gaps in their data when migrating, 3.) that his staff would be able to use the CRM on day-one without losing any efficiency.

John hops onto Rolio’s website and sees the price right off. It’s clear and easily within their budget. He also sees a detailed explanation about the migration process. Even better, there’s a plugin that syncs their current CRM with Rolio which makes migration a simple process, not requiring any data manipulation or dev resources.

John also sees a few specific testimonials and case studies from some of Rolio’s clients that were on his current CRM. Their praise at how easy it was to migrate and how quickly a few specific problems were resolved has John sold.

John and Greg hop on a call with Rolio.

Take-Away

Customer persona’s are priceless in their potential and near catastrophic if they’re ignored. Let’s put it this way. Let’s say you don’t see the value in understanding your customers, but your biggest competitor does. Who’s going to win Greg and John over as their customer?

So, the take-away? Make your customer personas!

More article resources about customer personas:

Everything Marketers Need To Create Buyer Personas – By Hubspot

How To Build Buyer Personas – By Shopify

Data Driven Approach To Creating Customer Personas – By ConversionXL

Essential Parts To Buyer Personas – By Content Marketing Institute

More article resources about the buyer’s journey:

Buyers Journey – By Crazy Egg

What Is The Buyer’s Journey – By Hubspot

Model Buyers Journey – By Content Marketing Institute


Define your competitors

You might surprised at who you’re actually competing against.

Do you now who your competition is?

It’s not uncommon for a business to be focused on the wrong competition, especially for brick-and-mortar businesses evaluating their competition online.

When you’re involved in an industry space, it’s easy to get caught up in other competitor’s brands.

We, being highly involved, are too close to the problem to see what our customers are seeing. What we think are big moves, might barely be blips on the radar.

Good news, it’s not difficult to discover who you’re competing against online. Bonus, you can easily discover how big the gap is between you and them.

Questions:

  • Identify your top 3 competitors:
  • Who do you think are your top 3 competitors?
  • Who does spyfu, similarweb, ahrefs identify as your top 3 competitors?
  • What are your 3 most competitive keywords?
  • What 3 valid competitors consistently appear in the search results?
  • How stiff is the competition level with each competitor:
  • What is their domain authority?
  • Global rank?
  • Country rank?
  • How many referring domains do they have?
  • How many backlinks do they have?(dofollow vs. nofollow / .gov vs. .edu vs .com)
  • What are their top link anchors?
  • What are their top organic keywords?
  • What are their top referring content pieces?
  • What is their social marketing engagement? (Facebook, Twitter, Other)
  • # of Followers?
  • Avg daily posting amount?
  • Avg post engagement?
  • Avg post content type?
  • What content offers or CTA’s does each competitor have on their site?

So what’s the value?

It eliminates the noise of opinions. It happens without fail inside every business. Someone sees a competitor’s website. They see some “cool” feature the competition’s website has, and they think it’s a must have for their website.

In the majority of cases, the competition isn’t that strong to begin with. Sometimes, they’re doing worse when it comes to reach and rank.

Either way, the assumption is wrong. If a feature, piece of content, or marketing page truly is valuable, then there will be definitive metrics that will back up that assumption.

Being able to answer and see all the data the above questions will present will eliminate the majority of assumptions.

Example:

Identifying the competition

Rolio believes their main competition is Company A, B, and C. They’ve identified their most popular keywords.

Based off of research from Google and Ahrefs, Company B isn’t even on the radar. Company C is competition, but there are 5 other companies that are bigger threats. They got company A right.

So, Rolio’s real competition is Company A, Company X, and Company Z.

Company A and Company X are comparable to Rolio in terms of domain scores. The backlink profiles are similar, but some unique opportunities did surface that will be visited during a later stage in the strategy.

Company Z has 80% more backlinks than Rolio. Their domain scores are a good 20 points better.

Same can be said about social engagement, just about everyone is the same except for Company Z. They’re killing it there too.

And… the same can be said about onsite CTAs. Everyone is doing similar things except for Company Z, they have multiple CTA options for their onsite visitors.

Take aways:

Company Z is and has been making a lot of the right moves. Their backlinks, domain scores, social engagement, and most telling – their top performing content pages give significant insights into what the market is looking for and engaging with.

Company Z would be a good model to analyze further. What are they doing that is working well? Where can Rolio take a unique and higher value approach? What backlink opportunities surfaced that Rolio can duplicate?

Use your competitors past and current performance data. Don’t waste your time testing out theories when your competition has already done it for you.


Clarifying your goals and needs

What are your goals

Now, after all of that, we can start to talk about you!

Finally, right?

So, what are your goals? That’s simple, to get more customers. (ie. make more money)

That’s obvious, but it’s not specific, and it’s not helpful.

If you have your stuff in order, you might have goals like:

– Get more traffic to the website

– Get more qualified leads

– Lower our acquisition cost

– Get better user engagement.

But… this still isn’t specific enough.

You need to set goals that are measurable. You need a very defined goal to aim at.

If you were a marathon runner, setting a goal of doing a marathon faster is fine. But a goal like that is arbitrary and impossible to measure.

For one, you didn’t say if it was going to be your next marathon or when the marathon is taking place.

You also didn’t specify the parameters for what “faster” means. Finishing your next marathon 0.5 seconds faster is considerably different than doing it an hour faster, but both would technically be considered as mission accomplished.

So you need to set specific goals. This will allow you to properly set your expectations and evaluate the cost of achieving those goals. Simply put, it allows you to prioritize what really matters.

Getting more traffic is great, and you CAN make that a specific goal.

– Get how much more traffic?

– In what timeframe?

– By what channe/medium?

– What’s the quality of traffic?

– Targeted around what keywords?

– Etc…

Questions:

  • Identify at least 3 goals:
  • What is the goal?
  • What is the unit of measure?
  • What is the timeframe to achieve the goal?
  • What are the qualifiers?
  • What is the method for achieving the goal?
  • What is the probability for success?
  • What are the known blockers / hurdles that need to be overcome to achieve this goal?
  • What’s the reason for the goal?

Example:

Goal 1:

Rolio averages about 1000 site visitors a day. Out of those 1000, they get about 5 leads, or put another way, 0.5% of their traffic becomes a lead. Not all of these leads are qualified leads, and they do span the gamut from awareness stage (sign me up for your newsletter) to ready to buy (I want a demo of your product).

Rolio would like to double their leads from 5 to 10 per day, or from 0.5% to 1% of their overall traffic. They would like to do this within the first 6 months of the relaunch of their website.

They currently have a bounce rate around 70% for their homepage. Avg time on site is less than 2 minutes and most users don’t go deeper than 2-3 pages. They only have two CTA’s on their site: 1. Sign up to our newsletter 2. Book a demo.

To double conversions, additional CTA’s and offers will be created to target the broader spectrum of their customer persona’s and buyer’s journey positions.

The probability of success appears to be good to achieve this goal.

Increasing the leads from .5% to 1% will double their inbound lead gen pool. The benefits are obvious.

A large hurdle to accomplishing this goal will be discovering CTA opportunities and creating the necessary collateral.

Take-Away:

Rolio has a very well defined goal. There are some gaps to be filled for sure. But, the goal is a good one and should be easily accomplished.

We still need to define:

– What CTA offers will be appealing to the customer personas?

– How will the CTA offer collateral be created?

– What is the workflow for the CTA offer once implemented?

– Defining the obstacles and roadmap for achieving the CTA offers.

Most of these will be completed/defined/created during the remaining steps.

Note: This example only contains one semi-broad goal. You should generate multiple goals, some even smaller and more specific than this example. Make sure your goals are always at least as specific as the one in this example.


SEO Audit

Don’t let the acronym scare you… or maybe you should, either way, DON’T SKIP THIS STEP!!!

Perform your SEO Audit

SEO stands for search engine optimization. If you’re not sure what SEO is, you can read about that here – How to Learn SEO In 2018

Conducting an SEO audit is imperative. Failing to do so could be… yup – catastrophic!

The last thing you want to do is delete some content that Google loves (think keyword rankings). Or worse, you don’t want to delete a page or move a page’s URL if it’s a heavy inbound point for your website.

There’s not much fluff here, just a lot of hard numbers that will paint a portrait of what your website really looks like when it’s all said and done.

Technical SEO Best Practices

So, when doing the audit, the first thing you should look at will be whether or not Google is indexing your website.

If not, stop what you’re doing and get this fixed, NOW!!!

If so, it’s good to see how many URLs you’re working with. It’s also helpful to discover if there are pages being indexed by Google that shouldn’t be (if you’re using a CMS like WordPress this is very likely).

Questions:

  • Using the SERP result pages (using google search “ site:searchspring.com “)
  • How many unique URLs does Google have indexed for your website?
  • Are there pages being indexed that shouldn’t be?
  • Are there pages missing from the index?

Next, you’ll want to identify any problems with your current website. If for no other reason, you’ll get an idea if there are some easy SEO wins in your future – if there are errors, then fixing those will give you an SEO boost with your new website.

Questions:

  • Technical SEO Best Practices: (this will require Screaming Frog and Google Search Console)
  • Are canonical URL’s being used?
  • Are there any broken internal links?
  • Are there any broken external links?
  • Are there duplicate or missing page titles?
  • Are there duplicate of missing page descriptions?
  • Are there duplicate or missing H1 tags?
  • Is there an xml sitemap?
  • Are there any sitemap errors?
  • Is there a robots.txt file?
  • Are there any robots.txt errors or concerns?
  • Are there any crawl errors?
  • Is the preferred domain chosen or ar there duplicate content issues?

SEO Analytics / Performance

After you deal with those pesky technical aspects, you’ll want to see how the website is performing. Getting a broad overview of what users are doing on your website will help you put a microscope over what is and isn’t working.

Are you above or below industry standards? Where are you driving the most traffic and what is bleeding the most traffic?

Questions:

  • Traffic Behavior (Identify your new user count, bounce rate, pages per session, and average session duration for each of the following metrics)
  • Overall Site Stats:
  • Direct Traffic:
  • Referral Traffic:
  • Organic Search:
  • Social:
  • Paid:
  • Website Performance (Identify at least the top 5 most visited pages URL, pageviews, unique page views, bounce rate, avg time on page)
  • Overall:
  • Direct:
  • Referral:
  • Organic:
  • Social:
  • Paid:

Ranking and Engagement

The remaining areas of your SEO audit should have been completed during your competitor research. If you didn’t include your own website when doing so, then you can do it now.

Questions:

  • Website Rankings:
  • What is your domain authority?
  • Global rank?
  • Country rank?
  • Website Link Profile:
  • How many referring domains do you have?
  • How many backlinks do you have?(dofollow vs. nofollow / .gov vs. .edu vs .com)
  • What are your top link anchors?
  • What are your top organic keywords?
  • What are your top referring content pieces?
  • What is your social marketing engagement? (Facebook, Twitter, Other)
  • # of Followers?
  • Avg daily posting amount?
  • Avg post engagement?
  • Avg post content type?

Your SEO Portrait

Getting a clear picture of where your website stands and how your site visitors interact with your website is… well, it’s priceless.

The above SEO audit will save you from some serious pain. Such as, removing content that is ranking high in the SERPS or changing your URL structure and creating missing pages or forgetting to create 301 redirects.

Failing to address any of these common pitfalls could cause your website to tank in the results, potentially losing all your current SEO value you may have built up.

Example:

The technical audit:

Rolio has a few problems. Their website is being indexed, but they do have some “pages” that their CMS is creating that have little to no value. These need to be removed from the index. The CMS also needs to be formatted correctly so it will stop generating these pages.

They are following technical SEO best practices for the most part, but they do have a few pages that are either missing or have duplicate titles, descriptions and h1 tags. They also have a handful of broken internal and external links. (all of these violate Google’s recommended best practices)

There won’t be much of a boost when fixing these issues, as they are small and on low-value pages, but they do need to be fixed.

They also have a valid xml sitemap and robots.txt file, both error free.

They do have one significant issue. They are seeing some crawl errors and duplication issues. Last year they switched from HTTP to HTTP (non-secure to secure). When they did this, they failed to set the preferred domain so Google is indexing both HTTP and https pages. It doesn’t appear that they’ve been hit with any duplication penalties, but only bad things will happen if it’s not fixed.

The performance data:

Note: I’m going to spare you the nitty gritty numbers and just hit on the highlights for the sake of story and readability

Out of their 30k hits per month, Rolio is averaging a 77% bounce rate. Their traffic sources breakdown to – 41% is direct, 9% is referral, 23% is organic, 17% is paid, 7% is social and 3% is email.

They do have a login button on their website. This may account for a sizable portion of their direct 41% and the high bounce rate on the homepage.

The home page is the clear winner at dominating traffic, their pricing page is second and the other top pages are split between a few blog post and a feature page.

Rank and link profile:

Rolio is sitting around the 30’s in their rank and authority scores. They have about 270 backlinks from 119 referring domains. The links split about 60/40 with do/nofollow. They do have 2  dofollow .edu backlinks.

Their top link anchors are largely brand based: rolio, rolio crm, crm software, rolio crm software, rolio crm solution

Keyword Value:

Their top 5 performing keywords are largely brand based as well: Rolio, Rolio CRM, Rolio login, Rolio review, crm software

Social Engagement:

Rolio’s social engagement is wanting. They go days without posting on Facebook, weeks on Twitter, and sometimes months on LinkedIn. They average around 200-300 followers on each platform. They’ve been on all 3 platforms for the past 5 years. They have zero engagement other than employees liking posts. They only post about their own blog post or news events.

Take-Away

Overall, their current website is healthy. There are a few things to clean up which might result in a tiny bump, but there won’t be any significant movement in the rankings with a new website, at least, not from a technical perspective.

Their performance data is close to their industry average. The negatives are closer to the high end, so there is room for improvement.

They do have that login button which does affect their initial conversion rate metrics. Their conversion rate is actually higher. If half of the direct traffic is using the marketing website as their login portal, then their real traffic per day is less than 800 instead of 1000 per day. This should be investigated further to better set the expectations for achieving the goals previously set.

Their top performing pages are typical. There were some pleasantly surprising but under-utilized blog post pages that were performing well. This will need to be taken into account during the content strategy phase. Also, there will need to be a detailed plan created for link preservation and a 301 redirect strategy when building out the sitemap to protect these few established SEO valuable blog posts.

It appears their link profile and leading anchor text is closely correlated to their top performing keywords. Branded terms being top performers is not uncommon, but the lack of non-branded terms is a considerable negative that leaves open a lot of room for improvement.

Rolio’s social marketing plan is non-existent. They’re missing out on a very large pool of opportunity. Including a social marketing plan that works with their content strategy will probably give them the greatest returns out of this entire project.

Additional resource articles for conducting your first and best SEO audit:

SEO Audit – By Ahrefs

How To Perform An SEO Audit – By Moz

The Ultimate SEO Audit – By Backlinko


Keyword Research and Strategy

Unless you have an experienced SEO on staff, or you’re one of those rare-breeds who does keyword research without even realizing it, then you need to pay attention.

Define your target keywords

Keyword research will help your new website in many ways.

You’ll discover:

– How real humans are actually searching for solutions in your industry

– How competitive is your page rank

– How competitive is each keyword

– What keywords are awareness stage vs motivated buyer’s stage

– New keyword opportunities

What you’ll find doing this research will be the foundation for your content strategy, site-mapping, and even your paid marketing initiatives.

You really can’t afford to skip this step… but then again, you really can’t afford to skip any of these steps.

How to do your keyword research

There are virtually hundreds of different ways to do your keyword research. Of course, in this article, I’m showing you my way.

Disclaimer: While this keyword research is a significant step, what is detailed below is not exhaustive.

Keyword research is a never-ending long term strategy. It’s something you should always be doing and using to develop your long term SEO and content marketing strategies.

Consider the process outlined below as a “starting framework” for you to use on how to discover new keyword opportunities.

You should explore other keyword research methodologies and find the one that works best for you.

Evaluate your top 5 keywords

We want to pick the top 5 keywords for your website that are not branded terms. (keywords that have your business / website name in them) You can use Google Search Console to find these. You can also use other tools like SimilarWeb, Ahrefs, or Spyfu if Google Search Console is not integrated or if your keyword report is a little light.

Note: I personally set a minimum limit of 5 keywords to get started. If there are more valuable keywords, then those need to be included into this process. You want to make sure any keywords that are providing search traffic are accounted for and evaluated.

Once you’ve created your keyword list, note down what pages are ranking and where. You’ll also want to identify the estimated traffic each keyword generates per month and that keyword’s estimated competition level.

You can find the estimated traffic per month and competition levels for each keyword with Google’s Keyword Planner

Once you’ve identified your top 5 keywords identify the following metrics for each.

Questions:

  • Keyword:
  • Position Rank:
  • Page Title:
  • Page Description:
  • Page URL:
  • Industry Estimated Traffic Per Month:
  • Competition Level:

The top 5 keywords you’ve identified are the keywords that are bringing you traffic right now. It’s important to identify these keywords so you can ensure you do not lose them during a redesign.

The importance of long-tail related keyword

Now that you’ve gotten your current keyword library identified, it’s time to discover a richer set of keywords – long tail keywords.

Long tail keywords are search terms users type into Google that are multiple words instead of single searches.

For example, searching for “web design” is a short term keyword. Searching for “how to build a saas website” would be a long tail keyword.

Long tail keywords have a higher level of intent which you can use to your advantage. With long term keywords you’ll be able to target users during each stage of the buyer’s journey with relevant content.

For example, “web design” is a short term keyword that is very broad in its search traffic. It’s a very early stage search term as well.

It could be a term used for:

– Researching web design programs

– Looking for web design inspiration boards

– Design tutorials

– Coding tutorials

– Etc…

A longer tail keyword contains more specificity in the user’s intent.

“How to build a saas website” is a highly targeted term for an individual with a research intent goal. This user is most likely looking for content about the process, methodologies, and tools involved in regards to the SaaS industry’s needs.

A longer tail keyword like “denver saas website design agency” is even more specific with a much narrower intent from an individual with a decision intent goal. This user is most likely looking for a vendor who they can partner with.

Discover long-tail related keyword opportunities

So, to start your research, you’ll want to use your previously defined set of keywords.

  1. For each keyword go to Google.
  2. Conduct a search for that keyword.
  3. Scroll to the bottom of the page and look at Google’s suggestions “searches related to your keyword.”
  4. Click on each longer tail keyword that is relevant.
  5. Answer the following questions for each of those clicked keywords.

Questions:

  • Keyword:
  • Competition Level:
  • Does your website show up for the suggested related search?
  • If yes – Position:
  • If yes – Page Title:
  • If yes – Page Description:
  • If yes – Page URL:
  • Do competitor websites show up for the suggested related search?
  • If yes – Position:
  • If yes – Page Title:
  • If yes – Page Description:
  • If yes – Page URL:
  • If the you or your competition does not show up, are you sure this is a relevant keyword?

You can even take this a level further and investigate the suggested “searches related to” keywords that are displayed for the current suggested keyword results page.

Again, there are dozens and hundreds of different ways for you to do keyword research. And, your keyword research should be a continuous process after your website is live.

But, with that said, you can’t afford to skip it when building your new website. Doing the research now will keep you from losing your current SEO value. It will also be a valuable part of your content strategy, which is next.

Example:

Current Keywords:

Rolio has never really invested in content marketing or any SEO strategies. Their current keyword list is dominated by branded terms. The most relevant keywords even remotely generating any type of search traffic are:

Online crm

Crm tool

Crm software

Rolio does rank for these search terms. They’re in position 8 on the first page of results for “online crm” with a link to their home page.

“Crm tool” and “crm software” both return search results for Rolio but not until the second and third pages of search results. Both go to feature pages.

They also rank for “crm tips and tricks for small sales teams.” It’s a blog post that appears in position 6 on page 1. It’s an older blog post, but it is promising and insightful. However, they only get about 4 clicks per month on that link. It’s very low search volume.

Long Tail Keywords:

Using their top performing keywords generated a very insightful list of keywords. Most of the terms, Rolio does not rank for, but most of their competitors do.

Search terms like “best crm for small business”, “best crm for realtors”, and a few others have revealed a large opportunity.

Take-Away:

We’ve identified some keywords we absolutely must preserve. Ensuring these existing page’s retain their keyword value will be a priority.

In addition, based on the long-tail keyword suggestions, drafting a content strategy and sitemap to target industry verticals is sounding like a BRILLIANT idea at the moment!

Note: your research should generate quite a bit more of insights and takeaways. It’s kept short for the example… well, because we’re already pushing 9k words here 🙂

Here are a few different articles on keyword research:

Ultimate Guide To Keyword Competition – By Wordstream

Keyword Research – By Moz

Keyword Research – By Backlinko

Keyword Research – By Ahrefs

How To Do Keyword Research – By Hubspot


Content Strategy & Sitemapping

Congratulations! Your research is done! It’s time to use all that research and build your content strategy.

Your content strategy

Here’s the tricky bit. Developing your content strategy and sitemap isn’t as formulaic as your research.

All your findings are going to be unique to you and your customer base.

That makes it hard to build a set of questions and a formula for what to do next. There is a process, but the questions asked and the direction taken are dependent upon all of your research findings.

Before we get to that though, let’s hammer out a few logistics.

Questions:

  • Keyword:
  • A keyword (or set of keywords) should never be duplicated. Each page should have it’s own unique keyword target.
  • What keywords are we targeting?
  • What keyword (or set) will each page target?
  • Go ahead and define a working page title for each:
  • Define a working page description for each:
  • Define a working page H1 for each:
  • Call To Actions (CTAs)
  • There should be at least one CTA per page. Unlike keywords, the same CTA can appear on multiple pages.
  • What CTAs will be implemented?
  • Which part of the buyer’s journey does this CTA target?
  • Which customer persona is this CTA targeting?
  • What is the offer language?
  • What does the customer get?
  • What should be the customer’s next step if the CTA is effective?
  • What page does this CTA belong on?
  • Media Files
  • Is there custom, stock or provided graphics being used?
  • Is there custom, stock or provided photography being used?
  • Will there be audio or video media files? If yes, how will they be hosted?
  • Will there be downloadable pdf files?
  • What is the purpose, use, and distribution method for each?

What your content strategy will include:

Keywords

You’ll define and map out which keywords you’ll be targeting. You’ll also define what keywords each page will target.

Established SEO

You’ve identified which pages hold page-rank and generate site traffic already. Your content strategy will take this into account. You’ll either preserve the URL structure for these pages or formulate a 301 redirect plan.

You’ll also evaluate the content on each page. While Google has found SEO value, is it clear and valuable to your human readers?

Most likely the keywords and surrounding copy will need to be protected, but the overall flow of the content will need to change to better fit your new marketing strategy.

Defining Long-Term Strategy

If there’s one thing that Google devalues the quickest, it’s stale content.

That doesn’t mean you’ll need to change the content on every page all the time. But it does mean you need to always be adding value to your website. That could be blog posting, creating resources, new content pages, etc…

You need to establish a plan on who will be doing this and how often. This will play into your initial content strategy.

You want to ensure the entire flow of your website is strategic and linear.

A fragmented content strategy will lead to a fragmented experience, lowering the effectiveness of your CTA’s and end goals.

CTA’s & Content Offers

You’ll want to plan on communicating with your customers based on their personas and their position in the buyer’s journey.

Every page should have an action item, a “what to do next.”

It could be as simple as moving a customer to the next page or pushing them to schedule a demo or registering for your service.

Whatever your CTA’s are, they need to be valuable and relevant to your customer’s needs.

Remember, not everyone who lands on your website is in the “buy now” position. Some are simply researching the industry discovering what solutions even exist.

So make your CTA’s relevant.

Landing Page Strategy

You need to consider how people will be arriving at your website. While the majority of traffic will probably be landing on the home page, that’s not always the case.

Consider your entry points or landing pages. Some of these will be your internal content pages. Some of these will be isolated CTA pages that you’ll use for your paid marketing initiatives.

Your entry points need to be relevant to your customer’s intent when they are landing on that page.

Blog Strategy

You don’t have to call your blog a blog, but you need a blog.

You need a place on your website where you’re consistently posting valuable content. This will be completely relative to your business, your industry, your market, your offering and your customer base.

Identify why someone would be on your blog reading your content.

Are you creating content that is shareable but with a short life span (content that is valuable but never needed to be revisited once read). Or, are you creating deep content that will be bookmarked as a resource?

Your blog is the perfect place to not only add value for your customers, but it’s where you can grow your keyword library, your marketing influence, and engage with your network.

Evaluate who is coming to your website.

What is their intent? Where are they in the buyer’s journey? What would they consider a valuable experience if they were to visit your blog.

Remember, write for what your customers want and need, not for what you want to tell them.

Note: This example will be very light. We’ll hit on only the brightest highlights, but suffice it to say, this is where the rubber meets the road. This is where you put in the work. This should be the lengthiest part of your entire web design project!

Example:

Rolio has some valuable content already, but through the research a few concepts were generated.

They will introduce a brand new section to their new website which will target industry verticals.

They’ll also begin developing an on-demand video library, one for webinars, another for tips and tricks on CRM management best practices.

They see the value of what some of their competitors are doing and will begin crafting a blogging content calendar.

They’re going to introduce a set of CTA’s starting with the awareness stage customers and progress all the way down to the decision makers.

They realize the majority of their content is focused on their business and rarely addresses the customer. They’re going to need to overhaul their tone and style to be much more conversational and helpful – instead of condescending and elite.

Keywords:

Rolio has identified the set of keywords they want and need to target.

“online crm” will target the home page.

“Crm tool” and “crm software” will target the feature pages.

“best crm for small business”, “best crm for realtors” and additional keywords like these will target a new content section on Rolio’s website – industry vertical pages.

Long tail keywords will target resource pages and blog pages.

Example: “crm tips and tricks for small sales teams.”

CTAs:

Based on their customer research, Rolio is aware that they need to create CTAs for every part of the buyer’s journey.

On each industry vertical page, they will create a video demo of their CRM and how to generate reports relevant to that industry. That will lead to a CTA at the end of the page. This CTA will be to request access to their video library of all their tips and tricks for CRM management. The video library will contain a CTA for signing up to Rolio’s free trial.

Their pricing page will contain a CTA that is a simple form. The form will question the site visitors current CRM needs and spit out time savings report. This will include an upsell CTA to start a free trial.

Their blog and resource pages will have a CTA urging visitors to sign up for their on demand webinar series. (The on demand webinar series was a natural outflow of the research. It was determined to be a valuable marketing strategy that will be employed with the new website and content strategy)

Additional resource articles on how to develop a content marketing strategy:

Beginner’s Guide To Online Marketing – By Neil Patel

Developing A Marketing Strategy – By Content Marketing Institute

Content Stratey To Drive Organic Traffic – By Hubspot

Beginner’s Guide To Content Marketing – By Moz

A Content Strategy Development Guide – By Kissmetrics


Wireframes and Design

NOW… Now you finally get to the design of your new website.

Take a minute.

Soak all that in.

Look at all the work you just got through doing and we’re just not getting to the design. Do you now understand why I said: “design is irrelevant?”

Now you get to your web design

In context, if you jumped straight to design, now knowing everything you would have skipped, is there any doubt your website would be doomed to fail?

Okay.

So let’s talk about the design. If the content strategy lacked a pre-defined formula, your wireframing and website design lack it even more.

While design is largely subjective, there are some objective truths and best practices you need to follow.

Questions:

  • Layout Considerations:
  • Do the majority of conversions happen from mobile or desktop users?
  • Is there enough whitespace?
  • Are false bottoms avoided? (Too much space giving the allusion the user is at the end of bottom of the page could cause site visitors too leave, missing valuable content.)
  • Does the navigation give prominence to priority items, or are all actions given equal weight?
  • Is each page broken down into a linear story? (Does the content-flow or walk the user through a conversational discovery, or is it reliant on the user piecing together content blocks?)
  • Is there any content on any page that does not fit with its’ surrounding content? Is there anything contextually not relevant to progressing a user closer to completing a CTA? (eliminate the noise, even if it’s fancy)
  • Design Checks
  • Are all button styles consistent?
  • Are all link styles consistent?
  • Are all heading styles consistent?
  • Are all font styles consistent?
  • Are font-families consistent? (headings, links, body copy, etc…)
  • Is the font-stack (sizes) consistent?
  • Does the existing brand have an established color scheme?
  • Is the color scheme compatible with basic color psychology for the industry and target audience?
  • Does the design fit within user expectations in regards to industry and value position?
  • Is the design overpowering, obscuring, or distracting from the content?
  • Do all images have visual context or associated captions?(If the words were taken away, is it still clear what story your images are telling – ie, do they ad value or are they visual fluff?)
  • Are you positive you’re not being too conceptual? Do you images help clarify its associated content or does it require thought to process?
  • Is the design code-friendly or is it unnecessarily complicated creating potential browser/device layout issues or overly complicated coding solutions?
  • How likely is the layout to break or how difficult would it be to modify if the content needed to be changed?
  • Is the design, layout and presentation taking into account the site owner’s technical ability and need to modify the content? (consider how this will be coded for the site owner’s CMS)
  • Responsive & Mobile Friendliness
  • Are all link targets touch friendly?
  • Are all hover actions addressed for touch?
  • Are navigational elements easy to locate?
  • Are CTA’s easy to complete with a finger?
  • Does the layout and design respond well to all device sizes or is there an over emphasis or devaluation to a particular device size?
  • Call to Actions
  • Are desired user actions in a logical and easy to find location?
  • Are all CTAs prominent and consistent?


Coding

The most commoditized part of the entire process.

You need to ensure that your site is coded following best practices. You’ll be able to double check the code during the
“Dotting your I’s and crossing your T’s” stage.


Dotting your I’s and crossing your T’s when going live (avoiding the pitfalls)

There’s a lot to check before launching your new website.

Most coders will use a validation service to check their code, but this barely scratches the surface and honestly holds the least amount of consequence.

Here’s a list of things to check. It wouldn’t be a bad idea to give this list to your coder while they’re coding out your website.

Questions:

  • SEO:
  • Have all removed pages properly been assigned 301 or 302 redirects?
  • Does every page have a unique and proper length page title?
  • Does every page have a unique and proper length page description?
  • Does every page have the appropriate Open Graph meta tags?
  • Does every page have the appropriate Twitter Card meta tags?
  • Does every page have the appropriate schema markup?
  • Does every page have a single unique H1 tag?
  • Does every page have at least one unique H2 tag?
  • Do all images have unique alt text?
  • Are there any internal links that 404?
  • Are there any external links that 404?
  • If https:// is there any mixed content or insecure content present?
  • Have all pages been tested for social sharing (cache, image, title)?
  • Page Speed:
  • Are all images optimized?
  • Is there browser caching?
  • Has compression been enabled?
  • Have expiration headers been set?
  • Has HTML been minified?
  • Has CSS been minified?
  • Has JS been minified and concatenated?
  • Migration:
  • Are the DNS records correct?
  • Are the MX records correct?
  • Are all URLs using production URLs? (are any staging urls present – links, images, pages, etc..)
  • Integrations:
  • Have all the social channels been connected with the sameas schema markup?
  • Has Google Tag Manager been integrated, tested, and published?
  • Has Google Analytics been integrated and tested?
  • Has Google Search Console been connected?
  • Has the preferred domain been selected inside Google Search Console?
  • Has the canonical version of the URL been properly set?
  • Is the website indexing without error?
  • Is the robots.txt file properly configured?
  • Has the sitemap.xml file been indexed with Google Search Console?
  • Have all paid conversion tracking codes been included? (retargeting, adsense, adwords, facebook, etc…)
  • Have all third party integrations and tracking been enabled and checked?
  • Browsers:
  • Have all browser bugs been fixed for Chrome, Safari, Firefox, IE, iOs, Android?
  • Does code pass validation?
  • Updates:
  • Is WordPress up-to-date?
  • Are all plugins up-to-date?
  • Are all included open source script files up-to-date?
  • Is the WordPress environment properly secured through the wp-config file and the htaccess file?
  • Responsive:
  • Are all link targets single touch? (Do any links require a double touch)
  • Are all hover actions contextually optimized for touch interfaces?
  • Are images optimized for smaller screens?
  • Do font sizes optimize for smaller screens?
  • Do any popups or modal windows display properly?
  • Is closing modals done easily?
  • Is opening and closing slide-out menu easy?
  • Is there any broken horizontal scroll?
  • Has whitespace responded properly?
  • Does mobile friendliness usability pass Google Speed Insights with a high score?


Understanding what your new website will and will not do for you.

You’ve made it! Your website has a solid foundation and you’re ready to take over the world!!!

Just so long as you understand what your website will and won’t do for you.

Your website, as great as it now is, is just a tool. It’s a great tool. It’s an essential tool. It’s a powerful tool, but… it’s just a tool.

Think of it like this.

You build houses for a living. You’ve been chugging along with a hand-me-down reciprocating saw, which has served you well, but you’ve really needed an entire workshop.

So, you went out and got it all. You now have a new table saw, circular, miter… you have everything you could ever need.

Great.

But, if you don’t use those tools if you continue to do everything the way you use to if you don’t change how you operate, then what good are those tools going to do you?

It’s the same with your website.

Yes, your website should make a difference. And, yes, depending on where you were before your new website, it may appear that your new one is doing all the work on its own.

But here’s the deal.

While you may have received a small bounce in your traffic, leads, or other metrics, they WILL plateau. They will eventually dwindle, and you will wind up exactly where you were before you started.

What your website will not do – the two most common misconceptions

Your website will not make you #1 in google.

This is the biggest misconception about websites today.

Your new website will not shoot you to the top of Google. It’s just not going to happen. Not on its own.

Your new website can and will help you get there, but you have to put in the work.

Just like a new set of power tools won’t bring you new business on their own, if you’re smart with how you use them, you will be a success.

Ranking high in Google is tough, and it takes a wide range of marketing initiatives to get there.

Your website content and code do play a part, but you’ll need to do more. It’s a long-term effort to get to the top, and it’s just as much work to stay there.

Here’s the good news, you have everything you need to make this happen.

All your hard work that was put into your website should provide all the insights and strategy you need to execute over the long term.

Consider your long-term marketing strategy the bi-product of your solid research and strategy planning for your new website.

Your website will not close more deals.

Yes, your website can help you get more leads. It should also “help” close more deals.

However, it will not close more deals if humans are involved.

Your website can make it easier, but if your sales process is broken, you’re just going to be losing more leads.

Your new website should be creating leads spread across the entire buyer’s journey. This means not everyone who becomes a lead is in the BUY NOW mode.

You need to modify your sales process to cater to each lead’s current buyer’s journey position.

You’ll need to create and commit to nurturing campaigns. Your website can play an enormous role in the process, but you and your sales staff will be the determining factor.

Caveat: Yes, your website should and will close more deals if deals can be closed online, without human involvement.

What your new website will do

Your new website will be your best salesman.

Based on all your research and strategy planning, it’ll help your site visitors find the answers to their questions.

If your site visitors are looking for industry solutions, feature sets, pricing information, process requirements, etc… Whatever they need, they’ll find what they’re looking for.

A good salesman listens and then ask questions. A good salesman provides value. A good salesman doesn’t sell, they help consumers buy.

That’s what your new website will do for you.

It is your #1 salesman who never turns off. It’s there 24/7, 365.

Suggestions on how to use your new website

Your research and strategy sessions should provide all the fuel for your marketing fire.

However, it’s up to you to keep the fire going.

PPC and landing pages

Maybe you have a reason not to use online paid marketing. (PPC – Paid Advertising – think Adwords and social network ads.)… but, I honestly can’t imagine what that reason would be.

If you’re online to do business, then you need to advertise. No matter how niche your offer is, if you have a consumer base, then you have a demographic that is open to advertising.

Advertising online is a powerful tool you can use to target your customer personas, individually. You can also market to them in their unique position along the buyer’s journey.

Delivering your audience to your home page from paid channels is one of the worst things you can do. Since you’re able to target your audience on the micro level, you should deliver a hyper-relevant landing page experience.

Create landing pages unique to your campaign offers, customer personas, and position in the buyer’s journey for optimal returns on all your paid offsite online marketing initiatives.

If you want to learn more about landing pages and online advertising, there are really only two resources you need:

Unbounce’s Brilliant Landing Page Resources

Klient Boost Voluminous & Priceless PPC Resources

“Blogging” – aka. Content Marketing

You’ve probably seen a bump in your page rank with your new website. Your new content is most likely getting Google to rank you higher in the search engine result pages (SERPs).

That’s great, but you need to know, if you’re not actively pursuing content generation, then your rankings will eventually begin to slip.

Your rankings will slip for two reasons.

One, Google sees a stagnant site increasingly irrelevant. If you’re not actively posting new or updated content on a regular basis, Google will suspect a number of problems – like your site is abandoned.

Two, your competition is posting regularly.Maybe not all of them are, but some will be. Which plays into the first reason. Content generation is a best practice marketing method for many reasons.

Since regular content generation is a best practice, Google sees any website not practicing best methods as lower value for their search users.

And, since your competition IS posting when you’re not, guess what happens to their rankings, and guess what happens to yours.

So, you need to be posting.

With that said, posting for posting sake, while it’s a step in the right direction, won’t do much for you if you’re posting irrelevant nonsense.

Create new content that is of value for your audience.

Content generation is a whole 20k+ word article of its own, so I won’t cover it here. I’ll just say this. Think of the research and strategy you did for your initial content generation. Take this same methodology when building out your content strategy.

Social

The ability to connect with your consumer market directly, with granularity is unparalleled. If you’re marketing at all, then it’s a MUST to be on social.

Instead of preaching about its importance, I’ll just say this. If you’re not on social, don’t see the value of social, or don’t know how to get started on social… or social isn’t relevant to your business – then go subscribe to Gary Vaynerchuk, spend a few hours, you’ll come out the other side a changed person!

 

 

Analyze and Optimize

This is simple.

Watch. Capture. Analyze. Respond. Optimize. Repeat.

If you’re not going to take the time to watch your traffic and marketing initiatives, capture data on every performance, analyze that data, respond with new, improved, optimized content… then seriously… forget about getting a new website.


The End.

Phew. That was a long one. You made it!

There’s so much more that can be said. As long as this article is, I did my best to make it as brief as possible while still providing take away value.

If you have any questions, disagreements, or anything at all – leave a comment or message me. I’d love to hear everyone’s feedback – I’d love to hear YOUR feedback.

Thanks!

Everything You Need To Know Before Starting Your Next Website By Dan Design Co.

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