How do you know whether it is better to rebuild or start fresh with a new website?

You have had a website for a while but it hasn’t received much attention recently. Everyone has good intentions when it comes to keeping their website up-to-date and the benefits of doing so can’t be underestimated. However, all the best intentions in the world sometimes get swamped by other things demanding your attention.

If your website has been neglected for a while and you have now managed to find the time to do something about it one of the first questions you are probably asking yourself is, can I update what I already have or do I need to start from scratch with something entirely new?

There are no one word answers to that question so let’s look at what you need to consider.

Short Term

If it has only been 12-24 months since your website has seen any regular attention then you may be able to get away with a refresh by adding some new content and updating other material. A check to ensure that the existing content being displayed is still accurate and relevant should be a regular task anyway. Add some simple changes to the styling to ensure everything looks fresh and new and you might get away with it.

Long Term

On the other hand and this is the focus of this article, if it has been any longer than 2 years since your last major content updates then it will almost always be better to start fresh with a new website. There are more reasons to start with a fresh slate than you may think, so let’s look at the main ones.

Material

Even with a small business it is amazing how quickly content can become dated. Information about the business, the products, services, regions covered, contact details and staff members can all change in a short period of time and seemingly without anyone noticing.

Platform

Conventional coding practices can change a lot in a couple of years. So if your website was built using a content management system, as most are these days, then you have a lot to be concerned about. Not only is it likely that your CMS is seriously out-of-date but it is probably a potential security risk if it hasn’t had any patches applied. With new features being added to most CMS’s regularly you are probably missing out there as well.

Search Engine Updates

All the major search engines are continually refining the way they filter the results to searches in an attempt to provide more relevant, valuable and accurate results. In turn, website owners need to be adjusting the text, keywords and terminology used on their website to ensure they are well represented in the results for their field.

Social Media

Shifts in social media usage can mean that channels targeted previously are no longer as important as they once were. Re-examining your social media strategy, like most other areas, should be a regular task.

Design Methods

While trends in website design change at a more gradual pace it is not unusual to find that what was a cutting edge website design has become somewhat dated. The more cutting edge your design the faster it will date.

New Techniques

New techniques in website design appear constantly and adherence to standards by the major browsers is improving. That means you have the ability to leverage the newer styling methods earlier. At the same time it is important not to jump on the wagon of some passing fad. Make sure that any new techniques are well supported and going to be around for the long haul before using them in your website.

Industry development

Some businesses compete in industries that are constantly changing both in the products they produce and/or supply and in how they engage with their market. An example of this is the car industry where 2 years can see more than one new model release. If your industry changes as fast as that then your website needs to react quickly in both styling and content changes.

Conclusion

Regardless of whether your website has been neglected for a short or long period, any attention it receives will be worth the effort. Just as important is that you introduce a plan for regular checks and updates to ensure you aren’t facing the same issue again in the future. Assign the task to someone to spend an hour or two on your website at least monthly and more frequently if possible. The benefits will show in your bottom line.

The coveted 1st page listing in Google requires some basic steps to achieve.

Everyone with a website wants to improve their SEO. That means a desire to see their website appear at, or as close as possible, to the top of the first page of results in a Google search. In a lot of cases that can be achieved by ensuring a few basic construction principles are followed by your website.

  1. Ensure your content is relevant and concise. Let’s face it most business’ survive because they have a good product or service so promoting that correctly through a website shouldn’t be too hard, right? Apparently not. Some websites fail to clearly tell the visitor what they are selling in plain and simple terms. So if it confuses the human visitors it is bound to confuse a search engine. Make sure that your content is plain, easy to understand and jargon free.
  2. Understand your customers. You should know what your customers think is important and valuable in your market so that you can highlight the ‘looked for’ features in your offering. This is not only important for building relevant content but also so that you can understand the search process your customers use.
  3. Embrace the need to adapt to the different devices your visitors are likely to use. It is increasingly important to provide mobile friendly content. Websites need to display and read well on a range of different device types and screen sizes. Search engines like Google are placing more importance on having a ‘mobile friendly’ website.
  4. Include your website and its content as part of an overall marketing strategy that encompasses not only traditional marketing channels but also digital channels such as web and social media. All too often business owners think that online marketing replaces their conventional marketing. Online marketing does not trump conventional marketing methods, it enhances them.
  5. Don’t try and manage your online marketing internally unless you have the staff with the time and knowledge to handle it in a consistent and structured way. Many businesses, especially small businesses think that they can save money through do-it-yourself search engine optimisation and marketing. Sadly, a lot of the time spent doing that can be wasted in performing tasks that are not going to get the desired results. Pay a professional and spend your time working on your business, the results will cover the cost.

Unfortunately there is no magic potion for instant search engine ranking success, despite what some operators will tell you. However, adhering to the basics and doing a few things well will go a long way to putting your website front and centre.

You can’t ignore the need for a mobile responsive website any longer!

The incredible growth in the ownership of mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets has seen a corresponding jump in the use those devices to access websites for information gathering and shopping. Today’s internet users grab the first device at hand to surf the web and research products and services before making their purchase. That means you need a mobile friendly website.

A browse through the statistics of most websites can see as much as 50% of visits, depending on the industry, coming from mobile device browsers, not a market segment that can be ignored.

So what is a mobile responsive website?

By default the web browsers on most mobile devices will automatically shrink the size of a non-responsive website so that the site displays exactly as it would on a large computer monitor. The downside to that is that on a small screen such as a smart phone the material can be so small that it is unreadable unless the user zooms in, hardly a good user experience.

A mobile responsive website will adapt the layout of your website content to suit the size of the screen in use. That means some things may be hidden or collapsed, as in the case of menus, other material stacked vertically so that there is no horizontal scrolling, and text resized or maintained at easily readable sizes. These formatting changes mean that the user should find a website viewed on a mobile device just as functional as one viewed on a desktop computer.

Why do I need one?

If you are relying on a website built only for desktop viewing you are missing a large potential market in the mobile user crowd. Having potential customers frustrated and impatient at trying to navigate their way through a site designed for desktop-only is a sure way to exclude your business from the user’s consideration and ensure they probably won’t come back.

Time poor shoppers that still prefer to purchase at a bricks and mortar retail outlet will quite often have made their decision prior to arriving based on information obtained online while sitting on a train, waiting for a bus or as a passenger in a car and while using a phone or tablet.

Online (and even in-store shoppers) take advantage of their mobile devices by sending photos and prices to the key decision makers, friends and family influencing the purchasing process. Making this an easy task via a mobile responsive website will ensure that you are in the mix when a decision is made.

Impulse Purchasing

If you trade in area where impulse purchasing is common then satisfying that impulse by allowing customers easy access to your wares through a mobile responsive website is a given. With competition online fierce, businesses need to take the opportunity to allow shoppers every chance to “buy now” rather than seeing them browse to a competitor’s website where the mobile user is welcomed with open arms.

With internet use from mobile devices increasing exponentially website owners can’t avoid providing a more satisfying user experience by catering for such a growing segment of their audience.

Update: 20/4/2015

Google has announced that as from the 21st April, 2015 they will be “expanding our use of mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal”.

Search Engine Optimisation is a term you often hear mentioned in the same sentence as website. So how important is it?

Mentioned in our blog article Geek Terminology SEO or Search Engine Optimisation refers to the process of fine tuning your website so that it appeals to search engines. It provides the basis for good high ranking organic appearances in search results.

Search engines, Google in particular, have an extremely complex algorithm that is used to rank the results they display for a given search. This algorithm is continuously refined and adapted to suit the patterns searchers use, the results that search engines deem relevant to their users and the methods employed by websites to make their content attractive to the search engine bots (programs that crawl the web looking for new and updated content).

As search engine users generally only look at the first 20 or 30 results from a given search and sometimes not even that, it can be a tremendous boost to your website traffic if you appear well up that list. That makes effective SEO a necessity and as the only cost involved to the site owner is the work involved in optimising your website it provides great return on investment.

So how do I optimise my website?

Normally this is something that will be handled by your web developer, however you can and should have input into the process to ensure the best results.

While there are literally hundreds of factors looked at by the search engine algorithms there are some areas that are key to obtaining good results.

  1. Relevant content – the Google website itself will tell you that the best way to help your site rank well with them is to provide high quality, well presented and relevant content. This means including terminology that is unique to your product and/or industry, also referred to as keywords.
  2. Don’t try to spoof or trick the search engine crawlers by using keyword stuffing. Include material that is only related to your site and only use methods that legitimately present your content. Included in the search engine algorithms are methods for identifying trickery and if detected you can expect your website to be penalised or even excluded from results.
  3. Ensure your pages are optimised properly – this means the carefully implemented use and placement of page titles, meta tags and keywords.
  4. Links – both incoming and outgoing. The more valuable of the two are the incoming links and the more valuable of those are from websites that rank well themselves. Needless to say it can be difficult to obtain incoming links from websites that already have a good reputation with search engines. Avoid links to and from sites that have no relevant association with your site content because they can be seen as trying to inflate your ranking illegitimately (see point 2).
  5. Commit to a long term program of refinement – the best results cannot be obtained overnight (despite what some hawkers would have you believe) and require a dedicated program of fine-tuning to change your optimisation to suit the habits of users and the changes to the search engine algorithms.

Given some effort and time it is not impossible to rank well in search engine results without the need to spend large amounts of money. What’s more, results obtained through a dedicated approach to SEO will not only be more sustainable but they will also be more resilient.

To expand on our original blog entry on terminology frequently used in the web industry here are some more terms that everyday users may not be familiar with.

Image Use

JPEG

Probably the most widely used image file type on websites is the Joint Photographic Experts Group format. Commonly referred to as jpeg or jpg files and using either a .jpg or .jpeg file extension this format is best suited to images with large numbers of colours such as photos.

GIF

The Graphics Interchange Format or GIF file contains a maximum of 256 colours and is best suited to flat images or graphics type files such as logos which may only use a few colours. These files have a .gif extension, generally are small in file size (weight) and therefore are not suitable for photos.

PNG

Ideal for images that have transparent backgrounds the Portable Network Graphics or PNG format has become increasingly popular as an all-round image file type. PNG files have a .png extension.

Navigation

Menu Bar/Navigation Bar

A list of links that connect the various pages of a website. Usually displayed as a row of labels or tabs at the top of each web page and common to all pages in a website. Menu items are commonly used to divide website material into important categories that may also include sub-categories available through drop-down or fly-out sub-items.

Home Page

The first and main page of a website. The homepage can be accessed by using the website address (URL) in its most basic form e.g. www.netmaintain.net and is the page a visitor is returned to after clicking on a “home” link or button.

Landing Page

A specially designed page that can be substituted for the home page or act as an additional page targeted specifically as part of a promotional campaign or advertising strategy. Landing pages can be used to track visits to help determine the success of advertising or provide information as part of the campaign and may only be referred to in advertising material produced as part of that campaign and might not appear in the website menu.

Redirection

Used where a website visitor is automatically sent to an alternate page. Most commonly used when a website has moved, changed name or a specific page has been removed or replaced.

404 Error

A website page that displays a message stating that the website page you were trying to view is no longer available or does not exist.

iFrame

Used to display the content of another webpage within the one you are currently viewing. The content can come from the current website or from an entirely different website and can be displayed in a way that the user is not aware of where the content originates.

Layout and Design

White space

A term used to refer to empty or blank areas of a web page that are left free of images or text to provide space around content. The use of white space is a design technique that provides focus to the content by presenting it in an uncluttered way.

Above the Fold

Above the fold – refers to the part of a web page that is immediately visible in the users screen without the need to scroll down.

Below the Fold

Below the fold – refers to the part of a web page that is only visible once the user scrolls down past the material initially visible i.e. past the fold.

Usability

The degree to which a user can manage to use a website functions and features including ease of navigation, ability to find information and how the content displays on the users device relative to the intended use of the site.

Front End

The parts of a website, including text and images, that are publicly visible – sometimes called the user interface.

Back End

The parts of a website that are not publicly visible and may consist of programming code, databases and other resources.

General

CMS

A CMS or ‘content management system’ is a type of web application that allows users to edit and update website content through a web interface that does not require technical expertise in web design and development.

Cookies

Cookies are tiny files stored on your computer by a website you have visited. Cookies are commonly used to remember preferences you have selected while at the website so that you do not need to select those options again on your next visit. A common use for cookies is to remember login usernames.

Meta Data

The details stored in the source code of a web page. Not displayed visibly on the page, meta data can contain information such as a description of the pages contents and keywords relating to the information on the page.

Plug-ins/Widgets

Standalone functionality that can be added to a web page without the need to modify the underlying core of the page code. Examples include Adobe Flash Player and QuickTime video players.

Spider

The means by which search engines “crawl” the internet. A software program initiated by search engines that follows links from website to website indexing content for use in search engine search results pages.

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