Website Redesign Checklist

October 20th, 2010

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Today’s article

With time, nearly every site owner feels that his or her website has lost some of its greatness. In case you too are not satisfied with your website outlook and layout, get ready for redesign. You’ll have many questions about the redesign process, so we’ve prepared some tips to make it easier for you.

There are 3 redesign steps to perform: set goals, plan the site changes, and launch an updated site.

1. Goals. First of all, you should have a clear understanding of why you want to redesign your site. Ask yourself: Why do I need to do this? What problems should I solve?

The main task is to define, what exactly is missing on your site. Our advice at this point is: you should only be guided by your site audience’s needs.

If you consider that the main drawback is that your site looks old-fashioned, you may try to add some trendy accents. For example, you can change colors, menus, or add social buttons. A complete site redesign is a time-consuming process; it may be unnecessary for you in terms of visitor benefit and site conversions. But if your site visitor navigation analysis and visitors’ feedback indicate your site has poor usability, then yes, prepare for your site’s redesign (or realign).

2. Plan Changes

It’s important to consider changes that you want to see at your new website. Based on your goals, describe the preferred website layout, information structure, changes in site content and SEO-improvements. As a result, other people involved in the upcoming redesign will have a chance to do their job correctly and efficiently to your and their satisfaction.

Graphic Design

  • Decide on the style that would perfectly match what your site is all about. Style and quantity of graphic elements, content layout, background and font colors, and font styles – all of these may vary depending on the niche of your project.
  • Consider a technical factor. Flash looks great and allows a lot of interaction, but it takes much more time to load a Flash page than an HTML one. Java Script menus make a website look convenient and pretty, but the content generated by scripts cannot be effectively read by search engines’ bots, which is bad for SEO.
  • Cross-browser rendering – if you have web analytics activated for your site, check browser statistics for your visitors, watch the overall global trends in browser usage, and define what browsers your site really needs to be compatible with.

Site usability and structure

After you have analyzed visitor statistics and gotten an idea of what pages and content sections of the site require your attention, you can easily plan changes. We’ve got some tips on how to improve the site theme and structure. You can also find a good checklist on usability corrections here. These corrections will help you make your site accessible and easy-to-use.

Textual information and communication

Redesign is a great chance to review your website content and check if it is up-to-date and if anything is missing.

  • If there’s a lack of information – add it. If your visitors cannot find important information on your website, make that more reachable and prominent.

  • If your site texts naturally encourage communication, add social elements to your website – add comment and poll voting plugins, organize contests, add Twitter and Facebook buttons and add an RSS subscription button. Make people talk to each other! This way they will visit your site more often.
  • If you sell goods and experience a lack of conversions, it’s high time to redesign the landing page.
  • Review images and their ALT tags throughout the website. Update screenshots and photographs, people love fresh stuff.

SEO

Since you’re going to remake the site, it’s a good chance to check how your site is optimized for search engines.

  • Look through the keywords your pages are optimized for. Use keyword research tools to find out what keywords are most highly queried.
  • Include the keywords in page names to make the page URLs search engine-friendly.
  • If you change your site structure, make sure to correctly redirect old pages to the new ones.
  • Update the Sitemap and robots.txt files.
  • Update the Title and META tags (at least the description tag) for each page. Make them unique for each optimized page.
  • All the images should be optimized with keywords in the ‘alternative text’ (ALT) tag.
  • If you use a visitor tracking system, make sure to move the visitor tracking codes to all pages of the redesigned site.
  • If you used webmaster tools (Google or Bing), check that your site ownership is still verified (check to see that the specified tag, file, record, or code is present on your site).

3. Before you launch …

Before you upload the redesigned site directly to the host, check it thoroughly. Broken links, orphaned pages, missing images, ALTs and META tags – all these should be fixed.  There are plenty of services for a site audit nowadays; choose a good one, like Web CEO Site Auditor.

Further site testing deserves more advice, and that’s exactly what we are going to give you next.

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Web CEO Metrics

Are SEO companies as good as they claim to be on their sites? Will they return the efficiency they promise? Are their skills qualified? The only way to find it out is to check how they optimize and promote their own sites.

Here we share Top 10 SEO Companies according to their search visibility rate for September 2010.

1. submitexpress.com
2.networksolutions.com
3. seoconsultants.com
4. majon.com
5. iprospect.com
6.patrickgavin.com
7. bruceclay.com
8. webmetro.com
9. seoinc.com
10. highrankings.com

Click here to see the complete rate.

Web CEO analysts use objective evidence to rate SEO firms according to their search engine visibility. SEO companies’ visibility rate is calculated using a special formula that considers the positions of SEO companies’ sites in search engines results pages for the keywords their potential clients use, popularity of these keywords and number of competitors.

Learn more about the formula.

Here you can see how Top 10 SEO companies’ visibility rate has changed from July till September 2010.

top-10-seo-companies-september

Top 10 SEO Companies

How to Help Dynamic Websites Get Indexed

October 6th, 2010

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Today’s article

The more people go online without “Web” training, the more tools Web professionals offer them so they can create content or sell things without knowing much about webpage coding.

Nearly all of the newer generation websites are built using one of the data-base driven site building techniques that organize content such as products, news, articles, etc.

Optimizing such sites is a formidable challenge from the SEO standpoint.

Dynamic vs. static

What’s a dynamic page and how is it different from static? Unlike a static .HTML/.HTM page, a dynamic page does not exist as such until the information for the page is requested and pulled from a data base with the help of a server-side program, and as a result such a page is built on the fly. Search engines have difficulties with crawling dynamic sites basically because their requests may result in an infinite number of URLS, especially if URLs contain session IDs.

Search engines don’t want to store multiple copies of the same page in their indexes (if the same page can be built with the help of different request syntax elements that results in different URLs or also, if parameters are used to produce unique URLs, but do not change the page content).

You – as a webmaster – should help a search engine to solve these problems.

What approaches can be applied to dynamic site optimization?

First, webmasters should focus their efforts and follow webmaster guidelines for Google and Bing. Google is the top referrer among search engines (as of August 2010, more than 71% of US searches according to HitWise and 83% worldwide according to HitLens), and Bing is its main rival since Yahoo! has been losing ground on the SE battlefield (as of August 2010, Bing+Yahoo! have more than 24% of US searches according to HitWise and 13% worldwide according to HitLens). Moreover, Google’s Chairman has named Bing as Google’s primary competitor.

Second, one should consider rewriting URLs for all search engines to crawl more effectively.

As Apache servers and Microsoft servers are most often used (56% and 17% share respectively of active servers across all domains), we’ll mention how to optimize URLs of sites hosted on Apache and IIS servers.

What Google recommends

Basically, Google recommends three things:

  1. Use of the rel=”canonical” tag in the head section of the dynamic pages to specify a preferred URL of a page that Google will store in its index:
    <link rel="canonical" href="http://www.example.com/dresses/greendress.html">
  2. Creating and submitting a sitemap that lists your canonical (preferred) URLs for the dynamic pages.
  3. Specifying URL parameters for Google to ignore in your Google Webmaster Tools account. In this way, you can make Google omit all kinds of IDs, “sessionid”, “source” and a multitude of other parameters making a URL unique but not really creating a unique page.

Note that Google gives no guarantee that it will take into account all the information that you gave to help it better index your site.

What Bing recommends

  1. Bing does support the rel=”canonical” tag (together with Google and Yahoo!), so you may follow the above Google advice for better indexing of your dynamic content by Bing. Read this article for more information.
  2. A sitemap will also help you have Bing index all of your important site pages.
  3. Although MSNBot (Bing’s crawler) claims to be able to read and follow URLs using more than 30 variables, Bing recommends minimizing usage of parameters. Unlike Google Webmaster Tools, there is no possibility for webmasters to tell Bing directly which URL parameters it should ignore.

Server-side rewrite engines

These programs are used as a part of server software to replace pieces of URL syntax in a query string (question marks and parameters) with static-looking slashes and directory names so that the URLs could look as plain HTML. The replacement rules based on usage of regular expressions or more simple replacement techniques are entered into the configuration file (for instance, .htaccess for an Apache server).

For example, with the URL rewriting rules in place, the below URL

http://www.some.site.com/agent/answer/256

corresponds to the following GET request:

http://www.some.site.com/index.php?person=agent&command=answer&id=256

If your site is hosted on an Apache server…

You may use the favorite technique of many SEOs – use of the “mod_rewrite” module. More information and step-by-step instructions can be obtained on Apache Module mod_rewrite page.

If your site is hosted on a Microsoft IIS server…

A similar regular expression-based technique can be used to rewrite dynamic URLs on IIS servers. Refer to Rewriting URLs for detailed description.

If you have a WordPress-powered blog…

Use the All in One SEO Pack,  a WordPress plugin that optimizes your blog in many ways, including support for advanced canonical URLs.

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Web CEO Metrics

Here we are sharing the generalized numbers from our HitLens Web Analytics service. It covers 300,000+ websites from all over the world.

This September the world searched Google more than they did in September 2009: Google referred 83% of all visitors. Yahoo referred 7% of visitors to sites against 10% in September 2009. Bing is stable: it referred 6% of all visitors in September 2010 as well as in the same period of 2009.

se-share-september-2010

Global Search Engines (%)

You can see how visitors are being referred to websites.

In September 2010 visitors used search engines in 47% of all searches (down 2 percent compared to September 2009). Bookmarking and linking are more popular – 2 and 1 percent up correspondingly. The amount of people who used paid advertising has decreased – 6%.

site-ref-september-2010

Visitor Referrers (%)

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