Your website needs to be a living digital document if you want it to be truly effective. It should evolve along with your institution and contain continually relevant content that appeals to your stakeholders. After launching a website, make sure it stays fresh, has a great user experience and search engine optimization—and gets results.
If yours doesn’t, it’s time to redesign your website. But before you jump into the deep end of the water, make sure you know how to swim. Otherwise, your traffic will sink into the depths and resuscitation efforts could take months, or even years.
Here are some common mistakes you’ll want to avoid when launching a new website:
1) Too Little Too Late
Ask any web developer and they’ll tell you it’s critical to revamp your website every two to three years. Of course, they do. It’s how they stay in business. And while you may have actually missed the boat for timing on a new site, the truth is whether or not you need a website revamp depends on how your current site performs. If it’s up to par, minor tweaks may be all you need. But if your site is out-of-date, not secure, or performing poorly, a band aide isn’t going to work.
However, before you speedily hire a developer to build out a new site, stop and plan. Rushing to get your site immediately online can do more harm than good. Don’t opt for quick and easy templates and cookie cutter plug-ins. Take the time and effort to build out a site that will get you the results you deserve.
2) Poor SEO Prep
In the excitement of setting sail, whether for a refresh or an entire rebrand, schools sometimes forget to take a hard look at what they already have—especially from an SEO perspective. Before you scrap parts of your site because you don’t consider them aesthetically pleasing, make sure to conduct a full SEO audit so you know what works and what doesn’t.
- What are the strengths and weaknesses of your existing site?
- What kind of traffic are you getting?
- From where and to what pages?
- How many pages on your site are getting indexed?
- What are your top performing pages?
If you don’t know where you’re starting from, how will you be able to judge the performance of a new site?
3) Old School SEO
Google changes its algorithm every day—literally. If you use old school SEO, even a new site won’t lead to better bottom-line results. But how do you keep up with all the changes? Instead of focusing on the Google algorithm and a few magic keywords that will trigger positive results, build intuitive content. After all, Google’s just trying to give the user the most positive experience possible; you should too.
Include long-tailed keywords and varied vocabulary in well-researched, written, edited, and formatted content. Build content that is interesting, entertaining and authentic. Instead of worrying about search engine algorithms, show concern for the people who matter to your school: students, prospects, faculty, employees, community members. Don’t use old-school SEO devised to trick the algorithm. Google’s too smart to fall for it—and so are your users.
4) Poor Usability Design
Take a step back before you build out a new site. Analyze the performance of the existing site, pull results from analytics and heatmapping. Consider your users and student personas and make certain that all you do on your new site aligns with who they are and how they act. Find out where and how users scroll your current site. Don’t discard good results! If your current CTAs work well, consider positioning them similarly on your new site. If your images work, find images that are similar but fresher. Don’t just throw out everything from your old site; improve it.
From a structural standpoint, you need to hit several marks. You need a properly formatted sitemap that you can submit to Google Search Console. You need optimized urls, that concisely explain what each page is all about. You need responsive design that is mobile friendly. And you need to test every aspect before you migrate or make your new site live
If launching a new website sounds daunting, it can be. Contact the SEO and design experts at ESM Digital before launching a new website. We can work with anyone on your team or anyone you hire to make certain it’s smooth sailing from launch to port.