airt insights

June 23, 2013

New Life for Underperforming Websites

There are about 10 billion websites on the Internet today. Unfortunately, most have low search engine page ranks and remain virtually hidden from potential site visitors. Some of these sites look fine from the outside. But on the inside, it's a different story.

Why most websites aren't fulfilling their potential

Beneath their flashy banners, borders, and photos, most websites are basically snoozing on the job. Five bad habits are usually to blame:

  1. They leave out critical programming and content that search engines need to catalog, rank, and archive web pages.
  2. The heart and soul of these sites—the text and informational content—is weak, insubstantial, off target, or static. In either case, it fails to attract or satisfy the needs of potential customers or members.
  3. They rely on invalid programming, extraneous code, and unneeded file types, which confuse web browsers and search engines.
  4. They fail to meet current web standards—the Internet's rules of the road.
  5. They emphasize design or bells and whistles at the expense of user experience (UX).

How come so many sites have content and programming issues?

These practices came to be because many websites were created by graphic artists (trained in print design) or web dabblers, rather than by professional web developers. What's more, the sites were built with no understanding of contemporary web standards and web-marketing practices. As the medium and technology have advanced, they've become less forgiving of shoddy programming. If this scenario describes your website, don't worry. You can still make your investment pay off.

10 steps to website revival

The good news is, no matter what state your site is in, its performance can be dramatically revitalized. And you don't have to throw it away like some web designers will tell you—or rely upon quick-fix search engine optimization (SEO) techniques. You just have to improve its wellness from within—with smart, clean, strategically savvy programming and intelligent web-marketing practices. What's more, reviving your website doesn't have to happen all at once. You can take it a step at a time, beginning with the steps that offer the best return on investment (ROI). Each of the following can go a long way.

  1. Use research to learn the search terms your customers really use. They're not what you think. This research informs a latent semantic indexing (LSI) strategy for each page on your site.
  2. Create unique head elements for each page on your site, as indicated by the keyword and LSI strategy. This step can give your search engine page ranks a mega-vitamin injection.
  3. Attach state-of-the-art web analytics to your site, not just a traffic counter. Then you'll be able to accurately measure site performance and fine-tune your web-marketing program.
  4. Eliminate unneeded programming, scripts, inline styling, graphics, and effects that slow down and baffle search engines, web browsers, cellphones, and mobile devices.
  5. Convert all the old-fashioned or invalid html code that was used to build your site into pure xhtml. This will bring your site up to date and in compliance with web standards.
  6. Enrich the content on your pages that really matters: headlines, subheads, text, lists, links, and image tags. Much of this text you probably already have in other forms—articles, brochures, flyers, news releases, white papers. There are easy ways to get that rich content onto your site.
  7. Begin and maintain an ongoing link-development campaign. One of the biggest factors search engines use to rank sites is by checking how many other sites have "backlinks" to them. Maintaining a site newsroom and sending out optimized press releases is a big first step.
  8. Pull the design out of those obsolete, blocky tables that roadblock search engines and browsers and put it under pure CSS control, the leading edge in web design.
  9. Register your site with the major search engines and directories as well as various Yellow Page directories, 2nd-tier directories, and specialty industry directories.
  10. If your business or organization is geographically focused, optimize your site for local-search. Most searches are not just for a particular product or service, but rather specify a locale as well. Too many sites either fail to program this information or put it in the wrong place.

You're website might not need to undergo all these steps. The airt web-marketing team can help you figure out which ones will give your web-marketing effort the biggest boost.

Who can benefit?

If your website meets any of the following criteria, it's time to consider a revival effort.

  1. It was designed more than 4 years ago and the programming hasn't been updated.
  2. It doesn't come up in keyword searches that matter to you.
  3. Site traffic has remained low month after month, year after year.
  4. It doesn't provide many phone or email leads, which was the whole point.
  5. Its Google or Alexa page ranks have remained low or have fallen over time.
  6. The layout jumps around, breaks up, or goes blank in some browsers or devices.
  7. The layout looks boxy, cramped, cluttered, dated, confusing, or busy.
  8. Its content is outdated; wasn't written, optimized, or organized for online search; or focuses primarily on the merits of your company or organization rather than the needs of your customers or members.

The benefits of website revival

  1. You'll get much more qualified site traffic, which means more leads (calls, emails).
  2. Conversion rates (sales, donations, memberships, sig-ups, requests) will increase.
  3. Visitor time-on-site will increase; bounce rate (they leave right away) will decrease.
  4. Visitors will begin landing on more different pages on your site.
  5. Your pages will show up in more kinds of searches and on different search engines.
  6. You'll have higher search engine page-ranks, moving your pages closer to the top in searches that matter most to you.
  7. You'll have a Web standards-compliant site that will render similarly in all browsers, cellphones, and mobile devices-past, present, and future. It also will meet forthcoming accessibility standards for impaired Internet users.
  8. You'll be able to track site activity using metrics that positively correlate with bottom-line performance (conversions, sales, sign-ups, memberships, requests), not just meaningless traffic stats.

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