A website redesign is a colossal undertaking, and we could probably draft an entire manifesto about it. But don’t worry, we’ll spare you your afternoon. Instead we’ll give you the Cliff Notes in six steps:
1. Audit, audit, audit
A painstaking process that’s necessary to figure out what’s working, what’s just wasting space and what’s altogether missing from your site. What’s weak about your SEO strategy? Where are you missing opportunities to generate and/or convert leads? Free tools such as Google Analytics can go a long way toward helping you answer these questions.
2. Perform some serious competitive analysis
Make sure you’re also researching the competition and performing keyword analysis with a resource such as SEMrush, Google Keyword Planner and KW Finder. Find out who’s doing what well, and how your new digital branding will level the playing field for your business. Other good questions to ask: Does the competition have an online store? Are they linking directly to their channel partners? What keywords are they dominating?
Use these first two phases to establish website performance benchmarks such as overall SERP rankings, traffic, traffic sources, bounce rate and conversion. Know where you are, figure out where you want to be and begin planning how you’ll get there.
3. Map out brand guidelines
Assuming this isn’t just a quick spruce up, we highly recommend that you ideate your new brand vision with as much specificity as possible. From brand colors, to iconography, to design motifs (e.g., material design) to the tone and style of your copy. And if this is a more fundamental business shakeup (which we’ll get into later), the more you know about this new brand identity (what’s its favorite food? Is it a dog or a cat person?), the better.
4. Create your timeline for execution
Simply put, scope out a timeframe that identifies the order you’ll be tackling certain webpages and estimates the associated costs.
5. Let the content creation begin
Start with the actual copy, because it’s so important to nail your messaging if you want to create design that accentuates the point. Not to mention, this content needs to be precise and it needs to be optimized for search engines. It will live on your website until the next refresh, so don’t be afraid to take extra time to get the messaging just right.
Remember: Core landing pages (homepage, products and service pages that live in the top navigation) serve as the foundation of your website from which everything else should be built around. They’re the pillars of your search presence, and as such, should take top order of priority. They should drive the majority of traffic (depending on how well you target keywords and the quality of your content) and are also the hardest to change down the road. This content needs to be solid before designing.
6. Commence with design mockups.
From a performance perspective, the most critical piece of advice is this: Always, always use responsive design. This refers to UX and design strategy by which your webpages automatically adjust to fit the user’s screen. Google really cares about this and is slowly moving over to a mobile-first indexing system.
Again, these steps represent a high-level overview of what’s involved in a website redesign. The deeper you dive into the nuances, the clearer the enormity of the task becomes.
But this post isn’t intended as a detailed, step-by-step guide on how to redesign your website (that’s a discussion for another time). Rather, it addresses another issue associated with a website redesign, which is how to handle content creation during the above processes.
And while we’ve found that many organizations tend to struggle with this question, the answers, which are revealed below, are actually really straightforward.
Should you ever pause content creation?
The answer is almost always a resounding “no” and here’s why:
Let’s say you have a blog post or some sort of existing resource center on your website that you regularly update (and if you don’t, we hate to say it, but you have a lot of catching up to do). Letting your blog and/or resource center atrophy is incredibly risky for several reasons:
- Each new blog post is a new page that Google indexes. Slow down your posting, and you may miss out on new opportunities to rank and to be discovered in SERPs
- Google likes a website that updates frequently. This absolutely doesn’t mean you should focus on quantity over quality (searcher intent is hugely important). Nevertheless, 75 percent of the most successful B2B marketers deliver content frequently, according to the Content Marketing Institute and there’s good reasons for that (in fact, several of them are on this list).
- Your content drives much of the discussions you’re having on social media (or at least it should). The last thing you want is for your social engagement to drop off in response to a content drought.
- Likewise, content is the lifeblood of your email marketing campaign. Firstly, it’s often how you capture emails to actually get a certain prospect in the drip. Secondly, content is a great way to break the ice and start conversations over email. Whether it’s a newsletter, a “how to” blog post, or a comprehensive eBook, you have to keep your contacts list engaged if you expect to see ROI on email marketing.
An alternative scenario might be that you’re launching a brand new resource center, in which case, the more content you have ready upon initial launch, the better. You’ll need plenty of assets ready to promote over social, email and other marketing channels to hit the ground running and build an initial base of interest for your blog or resource center.
As taxing as it may be to keep creating content while planning an extensive redesign that has you spread thin, taking the foot off the gas is a strategic misstep to be avoided.
With one exception …
And that’s if you’re completely and fundamentally redefining your messaging and your business.
If your organization is undergoing a significant transformation and you’re still in the process of re-defining your product offerings and value propositions, you might actually be wasting time and money if you continue to produce content that aligns with old messaging or the half-baked version of your new messaging.
Under these circumstances, a pause is actually recommended.
But again, don’t slam on the brakes unless you absolutely have to, and you’re certain that you couldn’t possibly create anything of value to your future brand identity in the immediate present.
And as soon as you do have a strong idea about who your company is and how to convey that identity through written word, images, audio and video, get right back on the saddle.
Content is your business’s footprint on the internet. Stop leaving tracks, and your target audience will almost certainly fall off your trail, website redesign or no website redesign.