The most popular reason people redesign their site is to update the site’s look. Most never really take into account other areas of the site that could make or break the success of a site. I ‘m not saying design isn’t important; it is. However, designing without taking into account the history of the site and its current flaws and weakness can keep the site from reaching its full potential.
If you are going to take the time to redesign your site, why not take the time to improve its functionality? You need to find out what is working for your site and what isn’t. Many times I am brought into a project after the site has been designed and when I bring this topic up… it shocks people. Why? Because they just realized the opportunity they missed by not evaluating their current site’s performance. Don’t be one of them.
The most important thing to do is to list out what your objectives are and what you are looking to achieve with the new design of your site. Here is an example of what a checklist might look like.
- Improve PPC Quality Score – Lower CPC – Improve ROI
- Increase SEO Ranking – Improve current rankings – Start ranking
- Better User Experience – Make it easier for people to find what they want
- Better Usability – How easy is it for the engines and visitors to navigate the site
- Improve Sales – Increase call to actions
Of course every site will have different goals and issues. PPC, analytics and organic rankings need to be considered before finalizing a wire frame. In some cases, you may need to hire a professional to point out strengths, weaknesses and patterns in your data. Let me give you some examples of what you should look for.
Using PPC history you can see what pages converted on which terms. Pages that performed well and had a good quality score should be not only kept, but analyzed for modeling. If the quality score was poor for particular pages, research needs to be done to find out why. It could be that ad groups aren’t set-up correctly or that ads going to the wrong landing pages, so it’s important to rule out the external factors first. Once this is done, you should be able to ascertain what factors are hurting quality score and fix them in the redesign. I’d also check these pages against natural search and see how they rank. If they rank fairly decent and the PPC score is good…again, the page format is a keeper.
Analytics are an important tool in helping with issues such as bounce rates, entry pages, exit pages and even pages that no one visits. I recently worked with a client that had a lot of links in their navigation. Using analytics and Google’s site overlay tool, I eliminated links that less than 1% of their visitors clicked on. This allowed the client to trim down the navigation and get rid of unwanted bloat in the menu, resulting in greater disseminated PR for pages that are important.
If bounce rates are high we need to determine why. Are bounces high on organic or paid? If it’s paid, the bid terms may be wrong. If it’s organic traffic that bounces, the page could be optimized for unrelated terms, the page could be lacking a defined of call to action, the design could be conducive to bounces, etc. Rule out one issue at a time and move on to the next.
It’s also important to look at the site as a whole versus page by page. How well can people navigate from one page to the next? Are there breadcrumbs? Can search engines spider the pages easily and are all pages accessible? Where can improvements be made? Do you have menus in HTML or are you using images, java or flash for navigation? Go over the site and see if any pages haven’t been indexed and why. Work your way through the site with a fine tooth comb and see what your strengths and weakness are before finalizing the design. Only then can you put together a complete package that will be an effective online marketing tool.