Five Things to Do When Developing a New Website

May 11th, 2010 No Comments

The world has moved online and, despite the explosion of mobile marketing and social networking, your website is an even more important component of your marketing strategy and brand identity than ever before. Yet, many companies still have sites that look like they were designed in 2003 or earlier.

There are a lot of things that go into web design – usability, content writing, SEO, SEM, functionality, content management systems and IT decisions. But there are a few easy things that everyone who has a company and a website needs to know about today. Before you sign a contract with a web designer, here are five things to discuss. Here are five things every company needs to do when developing a new website:

5. Meta Description – As with titles and links, Search Engine Optimization is a complicated process, which factors in many considerations. Good SEO is also not enough to get your site found and building customers but best practices are a minimum. It’s important to learn about these factors when designing your website. But as soon as your website is live, there are a few things that you need to learn how to do and evaluate on your site.

One of the major things that you need to check that each individual page has a unique metadescription. A metadescription is a short (ideally 154 characters or less) description of your page. It’s not visible to your reader, but rather written in your XHTML code. If you’re lucky, and one of the reason to include it, instead of trying to guess what your page is about, Google and other search engines will use your meta description in their site description.

For example, when searching for “brand development”, the focus2 agency has no metadescription and when there results appear in Google’s search results, I have no idea what they are about – and therefore am likely to search elsewhere.

Note that this isn’t just about SEO. Focus2 still showed up on the first page of Google when searching for brand development, albeit at the bottom. Other pages that have metadescriptions appear on the second, third, even thirtieth page. Although maybe this company would have ranked higher had they had a compelling metadescription on their page. But it’s not helpful to their potential customer.

Alternatively, look at the first result. Even though it’s not what the whole site is about, this insider page shows up as the first result in Google. More importantly, the reader learns more about the topic of the page.

The same can be seen when searching for CRM system. Without a meta description:

With a meta description:

4. Title – Does your page title adequately reflect your content or is your homepage title “Homepage”. If your title of your landing page is “homepage” well, your readers don’t know what your site is about and you certainly aren’t showing up in search engines.

Do each of your individual pages have unique titles or is every page the same, repeated title? Besides not being helpful, duplicate titles (and duplicate metadata) can hurt your search engine rankings. Yes, it means that every single page – including individual blog posts, about pages, and boilerplate content – needs to be unique and original.

3. Links – Are people linking to your website?  While link exchanges reflect the worst of the web, and hark back to banner exchanges at the birth of the Web in the early-1990s, the more quality links your site has, the better ranked it will be in the search engine. Consider press release distributions, finding like minded trade groups, blog aggregators, and partner organizations, and asking them to link to your site. Start building quality links – and don’t stop.

However, don’t rely on the low-wage, offshored labor that promises you 25 links for $10, frequently found on eLance and other services. That’s link farming. Those links may include links to black-hat sites or other low-quality sites and may actually do more harm than good. Farms are for growing food, not website traffic.

2. Mobile – The Internet isn’t just for the Personal Computer anymore. It’s gone portable. With the iPad, iPhone, Blackberry, Nexus, Nokia phone, Symbian, WebOS, Android, or other mobile operating systems, the Internet has gone mobile. A recent Nielson study has shown that 43% of all mobile phone owners are able to access the internet with their handsets, with about 29% of those now actively using the internet via their phones. Additionally, smartphone users are most prominently using their smartphones for searching, with 73% of mobile internet users having conducted an internet search on their mobile. The iPhone and iPod Touch, which have been around for almost three years now, have roughly 85 million users. At the same point in their histories, Netscape and America Online (AOL) had just 18 million and 8 million users, respectively, according to ReadWriteWeb.

1. Usability – How do people use your site? Is it easy for them to find what they are looking for or do they have to click through a variety of menus to find their information. If your potential customer can’t find what they are looking for quickly, that potential won’t be realized and the sale won’t be made.

Conduct usability research, invite others to try to perform tasks, and think about what tasks your potential customers will perform.

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