Relaunch Your Website The Right Way

Your website has been live for over five years and has served you well: generating business, gathering new clients; but now you feel it’s time for a change. You have come to believe that it is outdated, or sales are not as strong as before, and your web development company has suggested it needs an update. Sound familiar?

Over the years, I have heard many a horror story of a once successful website, the owner then decides to change the look and feel of the site, only to see it drop off Google’s radar and hence compound the issues you were trying to correct in the first place. So before you take that big step to make changes, first determine if you need to do it and, if you do, make sure you do it the right way – so you keep your hard earned online gains and not lose them.

The first step is to determine why you need a redesign of your website. A couple of reasons are:

1/ Traffic numbers are down – while it can be easy to blame a dated website for this, be sure to investigate if there are any other possible reasons why traffic is down. Could the site be better optimised on its current platform with minimal changes to achieve the same result? Remember, an SEO-optimised site five years ago needs to be updated to allow for current algorithm changes etc, but this does not always mean you have to start from scratch. This can save time and money, as well as reducing any risks that a full website change involves.

2/ Web developer says site needs a revamp – it’s always nice to have a fresh website, however first ensure it is something that is actually required and not simply what your web developer wants. Get a second opinion from someone who has no vested interest in the site being re-designed, be it your customer base or an outside SEO expert. If people are accustomed to using your website in a certain way, changing things dramatically could alienate your user base if it is not needed.

If you still wish to launch a new website, make sure you have processes in place to ensure a smooth transition, and to minimise damage to your online rankings and traffic levels. If done properly, a new look for your website can help invigorate sales and increase rankings; if transitioned incorrectly, changes to your website can have disastrous effects, ruining years of hard work. To avoid this, follow a few simple rules:

1/ New site or new skin? – to give a site a fresh new look with minimal changes might mean simply applying a new skin, rather than fully redesigned website. The benefit is that the underlying site structure remains constant, so in turn remains indexed, and any links to those URLs are still valid. In addition, your current customer base is still familiar with the site and more likely to adapt to the change.

2/ Redirects – If the site must be fully overhauled you must plan for the change. When you change the URL structure of a site, it will affect rankings, as web pages that were indexed are suddenly not there. If they disappear, Google search bots will assume they no longer exist, and simply drop the ranking unless you tell them where the content has gone. Make sure all old URLs are redirected to the new relevant pages at launch, so you do not lose the current rankings those pages have.

3/ Get an outside expert opinion – Do not wait for the website to launch to get expert SEO advice, as the damage to rankings will be already done, and it’s easier to keep ranks than gain new ones. Employing an outside SEO expert from the commencement of the redesign means he or she can assess it and advise from an unbiased viewpoint as to what should and shouldn’t be done, and help avoid possible issues before they have unintended consequences for your new website.

So if you’re planning on launching a revamped website, take the time to talk to your local SEO specialist before, during and after the design process for the best results.

Part 1: Choosing the Right Keywords to Target – Keyword Competition

Everybody wants to be Number One on Google, but the big question is, Number One for what? When you do      a search on Google, you search by keywords or phrases and, based on your query, Google ranks pages it thinks are most relevant to your search. With many possible combinations, how do you decide what keywords or phrases you wish to target for which to be Number One?

Of course the easy answer is all of them, but in reality this is not achievable; you need to choose the keywords and terms you think will bring in the most targeted traffic to your site. When working up a keyword list, there are a few steps you can take to determine the best list for your site:

1/ Keyword competition– when talking about website competition you are referring to that keyword/phrase on Google. For every search query, Google references its database and determines from a list what pages should rank 1 etc. For every query you can see how large the reference list is, and, in very broad terms, the higher the number, the more competitive the term. In the example below, for “economical SEO NSW”, Google referenced over 21million pages to get it listed, which is actually considered a medium level of competition. Obviously, the lower the competition, the easier the keyword would be to rank.

comptetition

2/ Website competition – for every query, you are competing with other websites for the top spot. Google first generates a list of potential pages, then ranks them according to how relevant it thinks it is to the query. The higher the authority a site has, the higher it will rank, so you not only need to consider the number of pages Google is referencing, but the quality of the pages that appear. Are the first few pages of listing taken up by .gov sites, or sites like wiki etc? If so, especially for a new site, it will take time and effort to gain enough authority to outrank the established sites. You may need to consider other variations of the terms of the keywords/phrases that you wish to target for queries that are not as populated as such high authority sites.

There are of course many variables to consider when working up a keyword list, and in Part Two we will look at short and long term keywords and what it means, and how best to determine which keywords to target. If you are unable to wait, or need expert advice, feel free to contact us for a free website & keyword analysis.

Part Two: Choosing the Right Keywords to Target – Long versus Short Tail

You will often hear the term “short and long tail keywords” mentioned, but what do they mean and why are they an important concept to grasp?

To put it simply, every search query involves a series of words, be it a single word or a longer phrase. “Short tail keywords” refer to 1-2 keyword phrases like “party” or “party supplies”; “long tail keywords” refers to longer versions like “kids party supplies” or longer. Of course, knowing what they mean is of little use if you do not know how to utilise them in your keyword decision making process.

Determining which keywords to target is one of the most important steps in designing your website or SEO campaign. You need to find a niche that is not only low in competition, but also provides enough search volume that it will make the website viable. The lower the competition, the more likely your website will reach high ranks in a shorter time frame, but it is no use ranking on Page One if nobody is using those keywords to search. Generally, the short tail keywords are higher competition but higher search volume, while the long tail keyword are the opposite; the trick to good keyword selection is finding long tail keywords with low competition and good search volume.

We discussed how to assess keyword competition  in Part One, but how do you determine search volume for a keyword? There are many programs and methods to find out search volume for a particular keyword, but the cheapest way is to use tools provided free by Google. Simply sign up for an Adwords account and use the keyword planner. It can be a time consuming process, so if you are unsure or lack the time, hire a local SEO provider to help.

Using the keyword planning tool, we can give a quick example of how to narrow down your keyword list. In our example, let’s assume we are creating a kid’s party supply store, and need to determine our targets. Initially, we look at the most obvious keyword, “party supplies”; the monthly search volume is excellent at over 18,000 searches per month, but when we look at the competition it’s quite high at 138 million, so would be difficult for a new site to gain traction quickly. Added to that, the term is very general , so a lot of people searching for that term would not be interested in simply kid’s party supplies – so even once ranked, the traffic it might produce would not convert well.

Knowing that the niche obviously garners traffic, we then need to find keywords more targeted to our website, but with good volume. The next step is to look at the specific niche keyword itself, “kid’s party supplies”. Right away the competition is halved, and it gets good volume at 1,300 searches per month. The volume is not as high as the shorter tail version, but it’s very targeted in that all the traffic would be looking for your product, hence would make a much better target. You can also look at specific product lines to see if there are opportunities for good keywords; for example, let’s say the proposed store stocks “Peppa Pig party supplies”: the competition is only 1 million and the search volume is higher at 1,900 searches per month.

Searching to determine the best keywords and phrases can be a long process, however a few hours spent working out good targets can save you months down the track in working towards your site ranking and being profitable.