“Wait, are you a web designer suggesting that I NOT get a new website?” you might be wondering. Allow me to explain…
Like most business owners, you must have set up a website to support various aspects like marketing, branding, customer service, and client relationship building. In due time, you may feel that the website looks outdated and might consider starting all over again.
Most web designers and developers will unquestionably push you to start fresh, with a whole new design, new content — new everything. But, going for a complete makeover of your current site or replacing it with a new one can cost you thousands of dollars, and sometimes, it’s just not the right step forward.
“Why Don’t I Need a New Website?”
Getting an entirely new website isn’t always in your best interest, especially if it isn’t going to add value to your business. Before making this decision, consider the following factors:
1. Is your current website generating leads?
Your website may not look as great as it once did. But, has it stopped producing qualified leads for your business? Sometimes, blowing it up and starting over again feels like the best way forward, but if your website is generating leads, you might consider otherwise. Many companies want to re-design their website from tip-to-toe because their competitors have ones with fancy graphics, images, and animations.
While staying ahead of your competitors is necessary, you must first understand whether or not adding these elements is actually going to help your business. The truth is, none of these factors guarantee higher web traffic or more leads. It takes a lot more than just an attractive website to drive business growth.
Plus, if your current website is generating leads, it might mean that you have the right content strategy in place, but could use some love on the design side.
Remember: Clients drive your business, not your competitors. In your attempt to beat your competitors, you shouldn’t shift your focus away from your target audience or what is working for you.
Do you have any reliable data supporting a complete overhaul? Your decisions about your website should always be based on data, not assumptions. The data will shine a light on what to keep, what to change, and what to start over with.
2. Are Your Design and Content Evolving Regularly?
It’s amazing, really, how many businesses launch websites and then let them sit.
The digital world seemingly moves at light speed. To stay ahead, it’s best to undergo design and content-related updates regularly instead of every few years.
Whether your users are at the beginning or the end of the sales funnel, they want fresh, relevant, and actionable information. If your site fulfills this requirement, it has a content-driven design. A content-driven design, in turn, requires you to keep your site updated with fresh content regularly.
Similarly, the backend technology responsible for the core development of your site will also need to evolve over the years. For example, mobile optimization has now become a must for all websites.
3. Are Your Marketing Efforts Paying off?
Generating new leads is the primary goal of any website. Are your other marketing methods driving sufficient traffic to generate leads? There are many different ways to create buzz, such as social media marketing or even the old-school word-of-mouth publicity.
To continue to generate leads via networking, social media, or email, it’s important that your website has a strategy in place to convert these leads.
Of course, several successful business owners run their ventures without a website at all. Melanie Quirk, who runs a boutique marketing and PR company on the Mornington Peninsula in Victoria, relies on word-of-mouth to generate new leads. Her clients, mostly locals, range from pubs to interior designers.
Sheeren Kiddle, also a PR professional from Melbourne, uses social media to generate new leads. “Facebook, in particular, gives potential customers a far richer and more interactive experience to see campaigns I’ve been involved in. It’s a far better medium than a website for my business,” says Sheeren.
But for many, that strategy isn’t enough. At the end of the day, your website serves as the hub for your marketing that you have the most control of. No Facebook algorithm is going to affect your website’s ability to convert visitors into customers.
“But, How Do You Keep Thriving without a New Website?”
If you keep investing time and money in small installments over the years, your business can keep thriving without a new website. This approach is relatively affordable, less time-consuming, and more effective.
1. Keep Improving Your Site over Time
Whether it is a simple static website or an e-commerce store, building a website is never a one-time deal. You can’t ignore it once it is up and running. You need to keep improving it over time so that it continues to represent your brand in the best possible way.
This approach is far better than waiting until your website is no longer functional for a complete overhaul. The latter will cost you a lot more money and also affect your brand reputation.
a) Add Fresh Content
Your target audience is looking for fresh, relevant, and informative content. So, keep updating text, pictures, and videos regularly. Be sure you maintain a well-defined consistency to establish a brand personality over time.
Fresh content will also help you maintain your SEO ranking. Search engines are continually scanning your site for relevant images and text. They notice when you regularly update content on your site. And more importantly, they take cues from what you publish and how people interact with your content to place you in search engine results. If you already have a blog, keep updating it regularly. If you don’t, it might be time to start one!
You will also need to take into account various search engine trends. For example, voice search is now a growing trend that is likely to take over text-based search. You need to update the website with voice search related SEO factors to ensure better ranking today and in the future.
Website navigation helps users find what they want and also improves your search engine ranking. As your website grows, you may need to add or change navigational elements.
For example, you are wise to add new social media buttons as you create new accounts or add new internal links for fresh content. Be sure to use descriptive navigation to provide an intuitive browsing experience to users.
c) Design and Layout
You will also need to keep updating the design and layout as fresh content is added to the site and as digital trends keep changing.
Remember, design and layout changes are not limited to only adding new graphics, images, and animations. You will need to add new pages, improve loading speed, check browser and device compatibility, or even add new features if required. For example, you will need to ensure your website stays mobile-friendly or power it up with features such as Google AMP.
2. Keep Track of Your Target Audience
Who is your target audience? Are they students, stay-at-home moms or traveling nomads? While setting up your website for the first time, you must have considered how your target audience would interact with your website.
However, over time, their preferences and expectations from your brand are going to change. As your website needs to remain user-oriented, you have to keep track of your target audience, too.
a) Keep Track of Your Social Media Activity
Social media activity can tell you a lot about how your target audience is reacting to your content. Do they still find it engaging? What topics are they more interested in now? Do they like blog posts, photos, videos, all of the above?
You can get answers to these questions through a thorough analysis of social media activity. Use social media listening tools or platform-specific features such as Facebook Insights for social monitoring.
b) Monitor Your Content
Next, keep track of your best (and worst) performing content. This analysis will help you figure out what your target audience wants to read and whether their pain points have changed over time. Look for social shares, page views, and time spent on a webpage to determine how successful a blog post or video was.
c) Conduct Annual User Surveys
You can also conduct annual or bi-annual consumer surveys to find out your target audience’s sentiment. It can be a simple email-based survey. Compile the survey results to find out what is and isn’t trending.
d) Study Your Competitors
Monitor the online activity of your competitors. Keep track of their tweets, Facebook and Instagram posts and how the audience responds to them. Find out if they are offering or doing something different than you.
3. Take Special Care of Your Website Search Engine Optimization
SEO is one of the critical factors that affect the performance of your site. While you are updating your website in bits and pieces, make sure to retain or (if necessary) improve your SEO efforts.
a) Ranking Keywords and Topics
Use tools such as Google Analytics to keep track of various SEO factors, particularly keywords. Keywords may change over time. Always add fresh, SEO-optimized content to ensure steady traffic flow.
b) On-Page Optimization
Monitor your on-page elements like page titles, Meta descriptions, and headers. Track your 301s and 404s, and update your backlinks to allow seamless indexing and ranking of your site. Use a website analysis tool to identify technical issues concerning SEO over time.
… Sometimes You Just Have to Start Over.
Sometimes, however, you have to start over with a brand new website. The primary reasons include the lack of updates for years, incompatibility with the latest browsers or devices, a content management system (CMS) that is difficult to use, poor design and content, among others. If this is the state of your website, a complete overhaul might be in order, while keeping the following in mind:
- Keep the old site live on a temporary web address until your new one is up and working. “Coming Soon” pages are rarely, if ever, acceptable.
- Make sure to save a crawl of the old site for future reference.
- Export your on-page SEO elements from the old site if they are currently working.
- After launch, create your new XML sitemap and submit it to Google and Bing.
- Keep track of the changes made to the internal linking and navigation structure.
- 301 redirect all old URLs to new ones.
- Keep your target audience, latest industry trends, and brand image in mind when setting up the new site.
- Most importantly, to avoid spending on another complete website redesign, keep updating your new site from day one.
The three most common reasons we are approached for web redesigns is that either (1) the website doesn’t look good but works, (2) the website doesn’t look good and doesn’t work, or (3) the website looks great but doesn’t work. And by work, I mean generate leads.
We’re big believers in gradual, data-based design and content decisions. With our proven process, we’ve been able to generate triple traffic and generate more leads for our customers.
Still, if you think your site needs a complete overhaul, the sooner you do it, the better. In the end, your website should naturally align with your brand and keep generating desired leads.
Let’s schedule a strategy session and I’d be happy to evaluate whether it’s time for a new site or a better plan at improving the asset you’ve already invested in.
Jack Shepler is a Marketing and Search Engine Optimization expert. He founded Ayokay, award-winning marketing, and web design firm in Indianapolis, Indiana that has built brands, increased sales for businesses, and helped nonprofit organizations fulfill their missions since 2011. He uses his decades of experience to educate through the Ayokay blog and through public speaking. You can follow him on LinkedIn.