When Bad Websites Happen to Good Companies It Can Be Costly
We’re not in the rescue and recovery business. It only seems like we are. Recently some friends of ours who own a large and important interior design firm got in touch. They were contacting us to let us know about the launch of their new website – something which had been a year (!) in the making.
We wanted to be very excited about their brand new website. But our excitement was tempered by the fact that the website fell down in 8 different areas when it came to supporting their business needs:
Visibility in Search
The site runs 100+ pages but since many of the pages end in old-fashioned query strings that start with a question mark, Google and other search engines thinks that this kind of page is dynamic and will not index it. So the best practice is to rewrite the URL to drop the question mark, transforming a URL that looks like this:
into one that looks like this:
Both Google – and human beings – appreciate URLs that are rewritten in this way.
For an interior design firm, showing off the project images at full size is critical. After all, project images show results of the interior design process. Many firms spend a lot of money getting high-impact photographs done with photographers like Matthew Millman, Joe Fletcher, Art Gray, and David Livingston – all of whom are friends of ours here at Open Marketing. Likewise, if you are a technology company, it’s likely you have screen shots and other images you want to appear at full size.
Many people don’t realize that responsive design cuts both ways. Not only can you develop your website code so that pages look good on small devices – smart phones and tablets – but you can also make sure project images scale up to today’s big monitors in desktop settings.
Our friends blew it in this area. Their images were fixed size and did not scale for all users. Today we have to design for the 4 screen experience.
Clients ask us time and time again what the “number one thing” is that drives business. Our answer is consistent – that there is not one thing but two things that drive business for clients. The number one thing is your blog and the number two thing is outbound email marketing. Studies by Hubspot and others show that companies that blog get 55% more leads than companies that do not. And you can re-use the content you blog about in your email newsletter to keep yourself top of mind with prospects.
So we were puzzled why – after a full year of development – our friends at the interior design firm continued to deploy their blog over at blogspot.com – Google’s blogging engine. We have nothing against Blogspot per se. But to get the most out of your blog it needs to reside on your domain not a subdomain.
By hosting a blog on your own website, you ensure that you get credit for any inbound links to the content housed there which helps build your domain authority over time. And building domain authority is important if you want to show up on Page 1 of the search-engine results page.
No Email Subscription Form
Nowhere on their site did they provide a simple mechanism for people to subscribe to an email newsletter. Providing an opportunity for people to follow you via social media is great. But email continues to consistently drive business for our clients.
No Currency Markers
Blogging is a form of current content. And with the changes in Panda and other updates in the Google organic search algorithm, it’s important that you prove your website is updated regularly. One great way to do that is to blog at your site and to put your most recent blog entries – just the title, of course – in the footer of your website. This is easy to do if you use WordPress as your CMS for you can install the recent posts widget or the equivalent.
We call the recent posts listings at the bottom of your site currency markers. Creating currency markers are essential if you want to get and stay findable in search.
Another thing we noted about our friend’s site is that the home page and subpages had no copy! Sadly, this is pretty typical in the design trade. We are all for visual marketing and for creating a website that is a great reflection of your brand. Even with that said. you need to put copy – about 200-300 words – on every page. Without copy you are missing the opportunity for your page to be properly indexed by search engines.
Project Image Optimization
Don’t get us started here. The firm who put together the site in question obviously doesn’t know anything about alt tags, title tags, and/or simply couldn’t be bothered inserting them in the appropriate places. This is another opportunity lost as far as search is concerned. Without them, if someone searches on “interior design ski chalet,” our friend’s firm – and the fabulous project work they did in Lake Tahoe will not come up. So if someone is looking for an interior designer with experience in ski chalets … well you get the picture.
So What Happened To Our Friends?
The interior design firm in question asked their original designer to remedy the problems we identified – some 10 problems in all. (There were also problems with the navigation and Google Analytics was not installed – two problems we won’t go into detail about here.) Unfortunately, the cost to fix the problems is near the costs of the initial build, which is having friends at the interior design firm grinding their teeth in frustration. They’ve spent a year and tens of thousands of dollars creating a website that simply doesn’t work to support their business needs.
No matter what industry you compete in, you need to invest in a competent website designer or firm that can give you a website that looks great, reflects your brand, and performs even better. And no, it should not take a year or cost an arm and a leg.