Updated: Apr 6
Lessons learned from 1,027 website launches (and counting)…
Stuart from Phoenix Marketing spotted this great article highlighting the challenges in digital marketing in SEO.
The average website lifespan is 2 years and 7 months. Meaning: If you’re not about to take on a website project or in the midst of one, it’s likely you will be soon.
You know you want a site that performs—one that brings in quality traffic, drives qualified leads, and establishes or cements your brand’s credibility. The key to each of these goals is, you guessed it, content!
It’s incredibly common for companies to underestimate the “content” aspect of their websites. Especially during redesign and development projects.
Because content is everything—it’s copy, images, infographics, videos, ebooks, white papers, case studies, forms, interactions, buttons, and web pages themselves. For your website to be successful, it’s crucial to start thinking about content now, and bake it into every stage in the process.
Here are the most common content marketing mistakes we see in website projects:
1. Designing without regard to functionality and development
This might be the biggest mistake people make on their website. Getting this piece right means that your site is effective, not just beautiful. Launching an effective website means:
It can rank in search and nudge your visitors toward desired actions.
It allows for seamless functionality and data processing across platforms.
You can edit and add pages, and manage your website post-launch, with the ease and flexibility you expect.
Your site is mobile friendly.
Getting it wrong means none of that happens, and you have a lot of website rework ahead.
Your website must also be designed to bring in target audience traffic and convert potential customers. While brand marketers should have their say about visuals, user experience (UX) designers and developers should be as involved to partner on core functional aspects like:
Information architecture and navigation
Calls to action
Platform integrations and data storage expectations
Back-end search and social attributes
On pages, let’s break down the individual elements of content. Depending on the content management system (CMS) your website is being built in, content elements within web pages may be called widgets, page blocks, blocks, containers, fragments, components, items, or something similar. What’s most important as a marketer is to be sure of two things:
(1) Blocks should be designed and developed with flexibility in mind. Think about the layout of information and how you want website visitors to interact with elements, or move from page to another, across various page and content types.
Instead of thinking about how you’d want something like a featured webinar (for example), to look, think, “when we feature any piece of content, we’ll want to include a heading, an image, teaser copy, and a way to click to that content.” Having those content guidelines will help the design and development team create a template that houses those elements seamlessly for all of your featured content.
This content block is promoting a webinar, but with a flexible design mentality, you’d want to use the same design to feature an ebook, case study, report, etc.
(2) Talk with your design and development teams about defining requirements for all page blocks. You’ll want to define requirements for both the author (the person updating the website) and the end-user (your site visitors). For example:
“As an author, if I associate this block with a URL …
… And I would like to be able to manually override everything but the link.”
“As a user, I need to understand what the featured content is about by seeing its title, a sentence or two about it, and an image. I then need to be able to click the button to get to the promoted asset.”
Lastly, you want a website with content that can be updated by non-technical people. That means you should limit the need for HTML and CSS knowledge, technical understanding, and photo-editing skills for regular, ongoing site updates.
2. Not checking and preserving existing page rankings
Even if your company isn’t focused on SEO, your site likely ranks—or is close to ranking—for some terms. Check what your website currently ranks for, and which pages are performing, and coordinate content and development teams to preserve those rankings — especially if the URLs will be changing.
How do you see what keywords your website is ranking for?
There are several ways to find this information, including Moz and SEMRush, and also for free using Google Search Console. If you have GSC connected with Google Analytics, you can find ranking keywords under Acquisition > Search Console > Queries. (If you don’t have these tools connected, find out how here.)
I use Moz’s Ranking Keywords report. All you do is put in your website’s URL, click “Analyze” and Moz spits out a report with every keyword your site ranks for—and the specific page that’s ranking for each term.
On your new site, you probably don’t want to remove or dramatically edit these pages.
You can also use this as an opportunity to identify potential keywords for other pages. For that, you just drop down to “Keyword Suggestions,” put in your URL in again, and you’ll get a report with a ton of suggested terms that you can save in the system and/or export to a spreadsheet.
Enter a term you want to write a page about in “Explore by Keyword.” Moz shows the estimated search volume, difficulty, and competitive insights about it, as well as a list of similar terms to consider.
3. Not trashing underperforming content
Now that you know what terms and pages rank and what to preserve, what about everything else? A website redesign is a great opportunity to audit your website’s content and trim the fat.
Letting go of outdated, under-performing content does three great things:
Leaves you with less content to have to replicate on the new site
Gives you a cleaner, easier-to-manage content environment moving forward
Provides only the highest quality content for your visitors
4. Working on design and copy separately
What comes first, copywriting or design? In my experience, this is the web world’s chicken-and-egg question.
Copy often needs to be a certain length for design, conversion and SEO purposes. Conversely, content needs will likely dictate page templates, page types and page block design tweaks. This is why your design and copy teams should collaborate closely.
Longform content tends to perform better in search. But modern design for core web pages favors short and punchy copy with lots of content blocks and visuals. It’s important to think about this when planning your content mix and appropriate layouts for types of pages your site will have.
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Author Laurel Miltner