When you consider all the things you need to do to prep a website to be crawled by both real people and search engines, the checklists begin to stack up. Here are some of the most common mistakes we see when new websites are launched.
1) Key Term Research
Too many companies jump into a website redesign without having Key Term Research pulled first. This report will tell you what short and long-tail keywords you should be writing content and restructuring your site map around. There are lots of tools to help you do this.
2) Meta Data
This one might seem obvious to many, but there are far too many websites launched without any meta data. And even on the sites that DO complete meta data, it’s done wrong (set to the CMS default or copied content).
Meta Title: Should be 50 characters or less and include keywords. This is what appears in Google, and should be descriptive of what users will find on the page. It should be unique for every page and should compel a user to visit the page.
Meta Description:Should be between 50–160 characters long and include keywords. The entire purpose of this is to get a user to click, so make sure it reflects the page and presents compelling information. This should be unique for each page.
3) Heading tags
When search engines crawl a website to determine if it’s the right result to serve, one thing they look for is page headers. That’s why it’s important to follow a strict heading tag structure. You can do this by identifying H1, H2, H3, paragraph, and so on. Keep in mind that the size and styling of the website must be identified in the backend of the website. You can’t just change paragraph text to a larger size and consider it an "H1". In general, H1 would be the most important element (think: page titles or a main content section heading). H2 would be the second degree heading (think: major section headings). Then H3, H4 and so on. Lower degree headings should be contained under the heading of the next highest degree (H3 should be housed under an H2 section).
For example, within this blog, "10 Vital Things You May Have Overlooked When Launching Your New Website" is an H1. "Launching a website in 2019 is complicated" is an H2. "1) Key Term Research" is an H3. It's also important that you follow semantic order. If you've used an H2, the next subsection should use an H3, not an H1 or H4, etc. I've fallen into this trap many times before. I think the H4 might look more aethetically pleasing and use it out of order. But it's important to be rigid with the semantic order.
4) Quality content
Search engines get to decide whether your website is worth serving up as a result. But search engines work in mysterious ways. One way to “hack” the system is to create content that your audience actually *wants* to read.
Too many companies create content that is thin and full of clichés — content that doesn’t serve a purpose or provide any value. When all is said and done, the search engine is just doing it’s damnedest to serve up relevant content. By creating quality content that your audience wants to read, you’re already doing what the search engines desire. Sometimes this means talking about the hard stuff. Does your audience want to know about pricing, but you’re nervous to share on a public platform? You may need risk it in order to stay relevant. Want more good insight on content marketing? Here you go.
5) Call-To-Action buttons
I’ll admit, this one seems a little odd to include in a list like this in 2019. CTAs have been around for a very long time, but we still see brand new websites without any CTA strategy. These are the buttons strategically placed throughout the website to help users on their journey through your website and ultimately through your sales funnel. By placing relevant CTAs to share downloadable content, contact opportunities, free trials, demos, etc., you’re giving the user control to determine their path.
Curious what a good CTA click through rate should be? Check out this article.
6) Quality design
I may be biased because of my background in design, but I think this is one of the most important aspects in creating a credible website. The fact of the matter is that brand perception matters. It matters a lot. Your website design needs to reflect your company in a way that shows you are a leader within your industry, you are capable to handle a customer’s needs, and you are miles ahead of your competitors. If you are trying to cut corners on your website project, design is not the place to do it.
7) User experience
UX is evolving rapidly with the changing landscape of user interaction. When designing a website, you must make sure that it both looks good AND functions well. The counterpart to bullet 6 would be that the design of the site should never hinder the usability of the site. Don’t obstruct the navigation, don’t force users to explore aimlessly to find what they need to find, and don’t overcomplicate things. Designing and developing a responsive website is also a critical part of user experience. Optimizing for the mobile experience is absolutely essential.
8) ADA Compliance
ADA compliance is quickly becoming an important part of the website design and build processes. According to Forbes, about 56.7 million Americans have disabilities- roughly 17.5% of the entire U.S. population can't access all of the internet. And that's just in the United States. Accessibility is already mandated in Europe and it’s clear that some form of ADA compliance will be mandated in the US soon enough. To be proactive, it’s important that you consider accessibility during the design and development phases of a website build. There are three primary levels of ADA compliance: A, AA, and AAA. Here’s a good resourceif you’re wondering what all goes into an ADA compliant website.
9) Page speed
It’s no secret that slow websites get penalized. Search engines are less likely to serve up websites that have poor speed rankings, and users abandon websites if content doesn’t load in a matter of seconds. A lot goes into ensuring you have a speedy website. Making sure your image and video files are properly sized and compressed, optimizing the backend code, using a content distribution network (CDN) – these are just a few of the ways you can speed up your website (see more here). We like to use a tool called Google Lighthouse for quick audits on website pages. It’s an open-source Chrome plugin you can get here.
10) Google My Business
This tip is important if you have a physical location— especially if you have any sort of storefront. Your Google My Business page should be claimed and optimized. You’ll need to make sure your Contact page includes the NAP (name, address, phone number) info exactly as it's listed in GMB, along with an embedded Google map.
For businesses with several locations, each one should have its own page and URL structure that’s optimized for local search. Learn more here.
Yes, there are a lot of steps.
If you can address the 10 things above, you’re already on your way to a solid website. Websites have become a key part of what we offer at Leighton Interactive. Because of this, we’ve developed a really solid process. A typical website requires hours of upfront research, 60+ tasks, dozens of internal meetings, several rounds of review (both internal and with client), and at least 6 pre- and post-launch checklists.
Websites can often result in 400-500 agency hours spent on creating a lead-generating machine that not only looks good, but also functions and focuses on the user experience. These 10 items are the tip of the iceberg, but hey, you’ve got to start somewhere — right?
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