When it comes to your website, what’s most important to you? Do you want something that looks amazing, has groundbreaking features and has all your friends talking? You wouldn’t be alone and many web design companies will often sell their services based on such ‘brand enhancing’ outcomes.
But, at the end of the day you need a more calculated and reserved approach to any web design or development project, whether it be a modernisation of your existing website, or a new website launch.
You need to think about revenue, more specifically how this website is generating it for you or how it will in the future. And you need to be aware that while there are some great developers out there, there are also many that focus only on design and functionality, make huge SEO mistakes and could seriously damage your business’s revenue.
Be aware of what’s actually important before development starts
In most cases, your website will be generating revenue based on it’s search engine rankings (mainly Google) for key phrases related to your products or services, and how many people are clicking on your links in those search engine result pages.
An improvement in those rankings = more potential customers visit your site = more $$$ for you
But likewise, a drop in those rankings = less potential customer visits = less $$$ for you
This is why you need a calculated approach that looks beyond bells and whistles.
First, you need to do a stocktake of your website and become aware of how your existing webpages are ranking and attracting visits. Those visits will quite possibly be the lifeblood of your business, and therefore any new development project must be handled by someone that thoroughly understands SEO, and will ensure that the re-development does nothing that could jeopardise those existing rankings.
What good is a visually improved website if your traffic tanks overnight?
If your website build is completely new, you don’t have as much to lose, but you still need it built in a way that will lead to future rankings, traffic and revenue. Otherwise you are just wasting money on building a pretty yet invisible website.
Remember to prioritise your design and development project on safeguarding and improving search engine rankings, traffic and conversions.
Watch out for these common website design mistakes
So how do you move forward and get a beautiful, functional website that also enhances rankings, traffic and revenue?
You ask hard questions up front, choose the right developer and then ensure they don’t make any of the following mistakes during the development process.
1. Failure to think about keywords
Let’s say you have a 10 year old website, it’s ugly and looks dated yes, but it’s well structured and has well written product pages that rank well in google. It’s well visited and generates a lot of sales each month.
A designer comes in and redesigns the whole website. The new product pages look great, they are more visual but they have significantly less words. Also, the design company have a content writer who revamps everything for you. Awesome.
Unfortunately, what no one picked up was that your top ranking page which accounted for most of your sales had the keyword “scooters in Hamilton” and it was used throughout the page. The new design removed most of that content, and the new writer decided on a whim that “mopeds Waikato” sounded better and used that instead.
Within weeks of the re-launch, traffic to the page has dropped significantly. Sales are well down but no one knows why because the developers haven’t even tracked keyword rankings before and after the project.
The Lesson: If your site already exists, make sure you take an inventory of it’s keyword rankings and traffic to key pages before the redesign project. Ensure keyword density on your successful pages stays similar, and most importantly that the key phrases stay in the page titles and descriptions.
If it is a new build, make sure solid keyword research is completed to identify the best phrases to target. Then ensure each page of the site is aimed at one of those phrases.
If there is little to no mention of keywords by prospective designers, be wary of working with them.
2. Changing URLs without redirects
lf your website already enjoys significant traffic from search engines, you must be very careful when changing the URLs of any pages.
Over time, your best pages have found their way to the top of Google’s ranking for various keywords. And each of those pages is identified by a unique URL or address e.g. https://yourwebsite.com/product-page/
What often happens during development is someone decides the URL structures need to change. So your highly ranked and visited page changes to https://yourwebsite.com/products/product-page/ and the original one disappears off the face of the earth.
Now the consequences of this can vary but the worst case scenario is that Google realises that the well ranked page has gone and they remove it from their index. You lose all that traffic and any sales it was generating. It may be offset once the new version of the page starts to rank, but it’s highly likely the original position and traffic may never be recovered in full.
The Lesson: If there is no good reason to change URLs, don’t change them. If they do need to be changed because the old ones were unnecessarily complex for example, make sure that 301 redirects are setup to redirect the original URL to the new one. That will maintain your rankings and traffic as much as possible.
On a new build, get your URLs right first time by planning ahead and where possible, build keywords into the URLs too.
3. Shifting your site from HTTP to HTTPS without telling anyone
Now this mistake is really a variation of the above, but it is so common these days it deserves a mention on it’s own.
For some time, Google have been pushing for websites to be hosted securely, that is on HTTPS, rather than HTTP. That’s all fine, however moving a site from HTTP to HTTPS is effectively like moving the website’s domain name and URLs completely to a new address.
If you don’t tell Google that your making the move via 301 redirects, traffic can also take a huge hit as many site owners have found out. The drops in traffic can be short-term and recoverable, but there have been many cases where the effects have been negative and long lasting.
Unfortunately, some developers just make this change without telling anyone, unaware of the SEO implications.
The Lesson: The change to HTTPS is something you should look to do and re-development can be a good time to do it, but it’s best to have a SEO professional handle the whole process and monitor the results.
On a new build, make sure it is done on HTTPS and save yourself the future hassle! Surprisingly, some developers are still putting out new sites on HTTP.
This is really just the tip of the iceberg as far as the many website design mistakes that can be made. There are other more catastrophic ones that happen, but to be honest the above 3 are so common that you do need to actively ensure they don’t happen on your website development project.
Getting SEO right when developing a website is crucial. We manage this process with a thorough checklist which ensures your developers are meeting best practice. Find out about SEO services here or if you would like to discuss how we can help you improve your business results you can contact us here.