So it’s been a while since your website was launched and you’re finally getting around to considering an update. Or perhaps your site just isn’t generating enough leads for your business or organization. There are dozens of tweaks that can be made to almost any website and because the internet is an ever evolving universe, the job of keeping it relevant and effective can be tedious. However, these 6 website tips should be a minimum to consider for any size company offering a product or service and wanting to see performance improvement. Some of these website design tips can also help in the initial rebuilding phase of an existing website.
1. NAVIGATION LABELING
Among the website tips this article covers is one which can easily affect user experience as well as search engine optimization (SEO), strategic navigation labeling. What is that, you may ask? Well, in simple terms, it’s the actual wording used in the URL bar for a page that corresponds to the content of that page and has the same words in the navigation menu label. That’s a mouthful.
A few questions to ask about your navigation labels may include: Do the labels have common words used on a majority of websites? Does the URL give a user a good indication of what content is on the page the navigation is going to? Does the navigation have internal links to improve SEO? There are more we could ask but let’s just address these three.
A good example of a common term for telling the visitor about your organization would be ABOUT US. Many websites may use variations of what to call that page like COMPANY or OUR STORY or other clever phrases. While it doesn’t mean those alternative phrases are wrong, a good habit should be use terms / words that are common to all websites because a new user will be able to access what they are looking for faster and not feel like they are lost in a search mission and wasting their time. It may not seem original or as catchy, but the whole goal of a website visitor is to learn what they are seeking out as fast as possible and the more familiar the navigation label, the better. Take some time to review more popular websites online and see how the labels are worded.
URL PATTERN / CONTENT
These website tips for navigation include a somewhat separate design / code function in how a page is named and the URL appears in the browser. While search engines certainly can locate a page with variables and numbers (index.php?page=123&stuff=abcde) it isn’t user friendly. Human readable URL’s are more effective because they are easier to remember and if they use content related keywords, it will definitely improve your user’s experience as well as create a SEO friendly indexing. So, instead of having the URL read like the previous example, it would be better to have the slug read (index.php/page-about-our-home-improvement-tools/).
It’s not absolutely critical, but having a page present in multiple parts of your navigation tree will improve SEO and make it easier for a visitor to find stuff. For example, suppose you have a couple top level navigation labels of CONTACT and another called SUPPORT. Both are very common terms (good) and both may influence a visitor to assume you have a live chat feature they can use. There is a good opportunity to improve a visitor’s experience by simply adding a sub-navigation link called LIVE CHAT to both top level menu items. In addition, when constructing the content of a page in the site, try to give additional links to those internal pages within the content body text. This is both an excellent SEO practice as well as a way to increase the likelihood a user will find what they are looking for in a faster way.
2. SEARCH ENGINE OPTIMIZATION
SEO is the gold standard for helping your website be discovered naturally (organically) without paid advertising. Obviously SEO is among the most important website tips in this article but it’s also not a simple formula. There is a hierarchy of SEO technique that has weighable influence on your website’s indexing and search page rank results. Among them, we’ll just touch a few here.
ALT TAGS FOR IMAGES
One of the easiest SEO requirements to help improve your site ranking is the simple task of adding relevant keywords to the alt-tag in the html code for every image used on the site. If the page is discussing customer support, for example, and you have a nice stock photo of an operator on a phone, instead of describing the picture with an ALT tag like “Woman on Phone”, use a combination of words like “ABC Company Customer Support” which will tell a search engine that the image has something to do with your company’s customer support. Likewise, a product image ALT tag should include the brand and model information or even the SKU number as well. Something like “Hudson Gold TR2000 Wiring Connector – #8129292” This will allow someone searching for an exact part number to possibly find your page simply because the ALT tag of your image includes relevant content information.
As mentioned in the website tips above for navigation, how you name a page is very important for SEO and users to immediately understand what the page is about. So if you’re providing specific owner’s manuals for various products your company offers, instead of just ONE single download page, perhaps having sub-pages where the product id is part of the page name will improve traffic from a search engine. For example, your current site has a url like “index.php/support/downloads/” it may improve user experience and SEO if it was “index.php/support/downloads/hudson-gold-tr2000-wiring-connector-owners-manual/”
Aside from having relevant keywords in the page title and on image ALT tags is the importance of using a set of predetermined keywords or keyword-phrases about what is on that page. Perhaps the phrases “wiring connector” along with “wiring fastener” and “wire nut” are all common search terms people may type to find a product they need. Having these present in your page’s copy will help your likelihood of having your site found in an organic search engine query from a user. So while writing the text copy for a page, it’s good to include those key phrases in every paragraph and as close to the top of the page as possible. Redundancy is important, so don’t catch yourself feeling awkward if the same phrase appears multiple times in the page. It’s a good thing.
3. TEXT VERSUS IMAGES AND VIDEO
A difficult balance for some is how to ensure you have enough text on the website for SEO purposes, but not so much that people will leave a page quickly if they can’t quickly learn what they are seeking. The website tips included here definitely include the importance of content type and how it’s presented. A picture is worth a thousand words. A video is worth a lot more. In today’s high-speed internet environment, it’s easy to watch video on a wifi or even mobile data network. Most web users are used to watching videos on their mobile devices, so including graphic heavy content on your website will improve the likelihood of your targeted demographic being able to obtain the information they seek.
4. MOBILE FRIENDLY DISPLAY
An often overlooked reality of websites today is that older designs may not have paid as much attention to how it appears on a mobile device or tablet. Scalable and fluid content that changes size depending on the viewing area is extremely important. Also, there may be some items that make sense to see on a desktop computer or laptop, but won’t really be as effective on a mobile device because it’s view port is a vertical one versus horizontal. Slideshows, for example, look great on a desktop or laptop monitor because they are horizontal in default shape. Having a nice sprawling photo that spans left to right may be great on a desktop screen, but it may appear tiny and hard to view on a mobile phone. In that case, perhaps a stationary image would work better on a mobile display and the image having been created with a vertical portrait display in mind. There are other known factors that mobile devices include like a simply mobile browser feature where it makes phone numbers automatically a link to click whereas a desktop or laptop browser does not. If your site has link coloring that is part of the design, sometimes a phone number that is written in black type over a white background on your desktop monitor may appear as the primary LINK color on your mobile device. Trust me, I’ve had many designs where my link color ended up being identical or close to the same color as the page background and the phone number disappeared visually on the mobile device. So it’s important to thoroughly review your site on a mobile device and make not of odd layout issues where things aren’t aligned correctly or maybe some content forces the mobile browser to use horizontal scroll bars because it’s too wide to view vertically in portrait mode.
5. SITE LOAD TIMES
6. SOCIAL MEDIA AND UPDATED CONTENT
Any good marketing strategy should include the importance of your website having links to all your social media accounts and the ability for the posts of your social media to appear natively inside your website. There are many social platforms that provide embeddable code that will let your posts show up within your site’s pages. This will help your website appear relevant and fresh. One of the easiest things to do when owning a new website is to be zealous about the content on it for the first few weeks or months, but then lose consistency and let the site grow stagnant. First of all, search engines will eventually skip indexing your site because each time their web crawling bot visits, it sees that nothing has changed and it reports back to the home base that your site is outdated and unchanged and to stop ranking it as important as perhaps a competitor’s site that does have fresh content. So, for example, a site having a consistent blog with new posts on a regular basis will likely get better rankings in search results but also will give your site visitors something new to read and a reason to return to the site for updates. Brand loyalty in the context of a website is usually connected to fresh content. Even if you’re just swapping out photos or updating videos to view, it can make a huge difference in optimizing your site for more potential traffic.
If you pay for a production machine and it requires regular maintenance to keep it in good working order, it is wise to do that maintenance if you expect it to return an investment over the long haul. Websites are an investment that needs regular maintenance in order for it to pay back through customer leads.