Surviving a Website Redesign

Toolbox Studios lifestyle

Do us a favor, Google this: how often should a company redesign their website?

That’s right. The answer is every 2-3 years.

If you are the person in charge of your company’s website, fear not! At Toolbox Studios, we are somewhere in the process of redesigning 5-10 websites at any given time. We have the people, expertise, and processes in place to step you through it. And we understand the pain points.

We just redesigned our own website.

What was our pain point? Time. We found ourselves too busy with client projects to focus on ourselves. It’s a common problem, so we addressed it head-on with our own process—which is the same process we implement with all our clients.

  1. Determine if you need a new website. Ours was 3-4 years old, and we needed to showcase our work in a fresh way.
  2. Set a timeline. We gave ourselves a launch goal, set weekly meetings, made them a priority, and kept each other accountable. We had to treat ourselves like a client.
  3. We evaluated our brand, researched the competition, and set goals and objectives for our new website.
  4. Create a sitemap.  This is really about deciding what kind of information to convey. We intentionally wanted to explain our services and also showcase them in real life case studies
  5. Develop content that fits the goals of the sitemap.
  6. Develop the design based on the content for each page, while conveying our personality.
  7. Attain assets. This includes developing the look/feel needed for photos and writing the scripts for videos.
  8. Build the website on a staging site.
  9. Optimize everything: pages, graphics, load times, content, meta-tags, snippets, redirects, backlinks, internal links, canonical tag, XML sitemap, robots.txt file, language, page titles, etc.
  10. It’s important to understand that steps 5-9 are all happening at the same time. As page content is approved, design starts; when design is approved, development starts; as it comes together, we have a better understanding of the assets needed—and photo and video shoots occur. And finally, everything is optimized, and security certifications implemented.
  11. Take time to test the site for Quality Assurance and User Experience and tweak as necessary.
  12. Launch (!!)
  13. Train the team responsible for updating the site.
  14. Keep it going. We evaluate metrics and write fresh content through our blog and social media.
Website Timeline
Toolbox Studios Sitemap

Questions you need to ask yourself

Before you embark on a website redesign project, ask these questions:

Why do you need a redesign?

Please don’t say, “because we don’t like our current design.” The reasons for updating your site should include:

  • Security (you need an SSL certificate)
  • Incorporating technology (if your site isn’t mobile responsive, you need to contact us ASAP, because Google no longer even recognizes you.)
  • User experience
  • Traffic, page ranking, and conversion performance
  • Up-to-code with Google requirements
  • It isn’t optimized, takes too long to load, no domain authority, etc.

Remember, your website isn’t for you. It’s for your potential customers. Keep them foremost in mind and the process will go a lot smoother.

What do you want to accomplish with your website?

Please don’t say, “more sales.”  Let’s just all make the assumption that you want more sales. Your website can accomplish a whole lot more:

  • Give industry insights, customer value, and make you a thought-leader
  • Arm you with metrics that can inform decision-making
  • Reflect your personality, culture, and tell your story
  • Become a lead generator for your business development team
  • … all of which can result in more sales

Toolbox Studios is offering a FREE analysis of your website, and a downloadable Website Toolkit that gives you specific and actionable items on these key components: Content, Design & UX, Lead Generation, SEO, and Web Security. 

Shout Out

We want to personally thank our wonderful photographer, Josh Huskin, who shot our portraits and lifestyle shots. Thanks for capturing the true spirit of Toolbox Studios!

And our go-to video guy, Ken Ashe, for your wonderful spirit and tremendous talent. You make us look and sound better than we actually do! Thanks for putting up with us for so many years!

If Toolbox Studios is privileged to do your website redesign, we will definitely encourage you to work with Josh and Ken for your photo and video needs.

We’ve Got This

toolbox team on zoom

As much as we would love a good “April Fool’s” joke right now, the reality of the last few weeks just makes us thankful to reach April! Our entire team is now working from home. We’re spending a lot of time on video calls (nobody wants to turn on the camera and this photo will probably never happen again). We’re rocking our Office 365 with Outlook, Calendar, Teams, Sharepoint—huge shout-out to our IT Provider SandTech Solutions for all the great training and peace-of-mind security. (If you are a small business owner, check them out—we created their brand and built their website.)  And we’re doing all the things our leaders are calling us to do: washing our hands, maintaining social distance, and taking precautions with our senior citizens.

We’re also working harder than ever.

Our team hasn’t missed a beat. We’re designing, writing, developing, and building websites. We’re creating brands through graphics, taglines, colors, fonts, and messaging. We’re helping our advertising clients do business — delivering qualified leads. We’re virtually meeting with new and prospective clients — and are encouraged by the positive “let’s move forward” attitude. We’ve all been thrust into this transformative situation, and those who adapt will thrive.

We are adapting, and we are thriving.

Toolbox Studios is in our 25th year. We’ve re-invented ourselves more than once. We’ve taken those deep breaths and made those hard decisions.

If you are re-thinking your business model, assessing your website, reviewing your brand and messaging, struggling to get critical information out to your customers, employees, and communities — we can assist you in making that pivot.  We’re here to help.

Stay safe,
Cece Smith, Owner

Latent Semantics Indexing – a guide

keywords seo
  • Latent:  lying dormant or hidden until circumstances are suitable for development or manifestation
  • Semantics: the branch of linguistics and logic concerned with meaning.
  • Indexing: an indicator, sign, or measure of something

Your target consumer, “Joe,” is searching for something, let’s say “Blue Moon.” Google will pull up a list of items including a lunar occurrence, a beer brand, and a song. If your website or blog is about the history of the song, then Joe will find his answer by seeing descriptors such as Rodgers and Hart, Billie Holiday, and The Marcels. (Maybe Edward Roman—this song has a scandalous history). 

In essence, Latent Semantics Indexing (LSI) is the relevance of the keywords around the keywords.

The LSI war

There are those who say that LSI is an ancient and outdated mode of thinking about SEO (it was developed in the late 1980s). At Toolbox Studios, we take our cue from Google itself and Google actually gives suggestions for latent semantics. You just need to know where to look.

Where do I look to find LSI? 

Put your keyword into Google’s search bar and Google immediately begins to make suggestions in the dropdown. Jot down the relevant ones to your topic. On the search page is also this feature, “People also ask” jot down anything relevant here.

where to find LSI

Now scroll to the bottom of the page. You’ll see “Searches related to blue moon”.

searches related to blue moon

These are the most common related searches and these terms should be in your article/web page/blog, etc. Click on “blue moon song” and scroll down.

LSI searches related to blue moon song

Go back up to the top and click on “Images” and you’ll see a whole row of new suggestions.

blue moon song images

Now you are starting to gather a pretty decent list of semantically related phrases and subtopics based around your main keywords “Blue Moon” – all suggested by Google itself. There are also many SaaS tools for digging deeper into keyword research. At Toolbox Studios, we use a variety of paid tools and good old Google Analytics.

How do I incorporate these latent keywords?

Gather up your list of phrases and cross them off as you write your content. Just keep in mind, that your content is meant to be read by an actual person, so it has to make sense—just throwing a ton of semantically related keywords into paragraphs won’t be helpful to anyone. As Google’s bots are reading your content, they are seeking quality content that is genuine in offering answers that are being sought. So, use common sense, and write content that will help  “Joe” in his quest for information.

Toolbox Studios can help

We strike the balance of well-curated content that includes top keywords and the semantically related keywords needed to give context to your searchability. As consumers and technology become more sophisticated, so do websites and search engines’ ability to locate pertinent information. Toolbox Studios has the expertise and personnel to manage your SEO, improve your online reputation, and write applicable content.

 

 

Technology in Marketing

marketing plans

In 2017, there are so many different devices being used that marketing companies must find ways to reach all of them.  It is key to be able to understand people’s motivations and use that data to sell a brand or product to the consumer.  Technology allows a marketing firm to accomplish that.  Speed, relevance, and reach all increase when a firm works with technology closely in their business.  To have those kinds of resources at your fingertips it is crucial to have total collaboration between your tech people and your creatives.  In today’s industry, you need to be dexterous in both digital and creative, an experienced marketer uses the data as research and uses creativity on selecting a direction or idea for a job.

Technology has opened the doors to so much information it can be overwhelming but rather exciting.  Big data, social media, digital engineering, and analytics become a great resource for those trying to get the best results in their marketing strategies.  Things like programmatic ad buying, where a computer buys and places online ads in an automated way is a strategy only a few people can really understand.  Some say that a company that diversifies their work force with a mix of millennials and experienced staff takes long strides in the race for technological excellence.

It is amazing the advancements that have been made in the past few years in speed, relevancy, and reach.  The more we grasp with technology the faster we can move.  Allowing our speed in processing, building, and delivery to go way up.  Relevancy might be one of the most exciting discovery we have achieved.  Being able to target an ad to a very select and specific group makes sure the client is getting the most for what they pay for and allows the marketer to be as accurate as possible.  With so many devices being used today and the wide reach of the internet a modern firm has the world at their fingertips.  Companies can now place ads anywhere and at any time giving their business an advantage over their competition.

A modern firm has their creatives and digital working in unison.  Creatives need to be willing to learn and use new strategies and data.  Technologically minded staff use creativity to find patterns, discover fascinating information, and build amazing sites.  Marketing teams could possibly begin having data scientists, engineers, and developers.  Obviously, marketing isn’t an industry grounded by tradition.  Marketing is rapidly changing and it’s the job of a modern firm to keep up with new trends, strategies, and devices.  Technology has shown us what the future of digital marketing has instore for us, but at the end of the day data can only take us so far.  Even though marketing is nothing like what it used to be it still relies on the marketer’s intuition to make the final call.  From what I have gathered from my research it seems the best strategy is to collect as much information from the data as possible but let your experience make the decision.  Data is not here to do the job but rather help you accomplish it.

Hashtags most #FAQ

hashtag toolbox studios

You have most definitely heard about hashtags, what they are and probably have even added them to your social media posts. With their growing popularity there is a lot of confusion about where to use them, how many and when. Below, we have gathered some of the most frequently asked questions about hashtags to help shed some light on best practices.

How do hashtags work?

When added to posts, hashtags act as categories that get indexed by social platforms and become searchable by users. If you click on a specific hashtag, you’ll be brought to a page that contains all the posts with the same hashtag. Once a keyword acquires popularity, it becomes a “trending topic” that when used correctly, can help posts get a lot more reach.

 

Can hashtags be trademarked?

Yes. By trademarking your branded hashtags, you can increase consumer engagement with your business. Make sure they are relevant, unique and memorable. Also, “branded” doesn’t necessarily mean your company name, but it can relate.

Nike twitter post

 

What hashtags should I use?

Do your research. Regardless if you are joining a conversation with an already established hashtag or if you are creating your own, it is important to make sure there is nothing negative associated with those hashtags that can harm your brand, inside your industry or out. Tools like Hashtagify.me [link: https://hashtagify.me/hashtag/smm] and Rite Tag [link: https://ritetag.com], can help you find hashtags, popularity trends, and who else is using them.

When building your hashtag strategy, make sure it is specific to the audience you are trying to reach. The more targeted your audience, the better content you will deliver and the more engagement you will receive.

mcdonalds social media post

 

Avoid using too broad keywords and make sure they are relevant to the topic. Trying to get more reach by using unrelated hashtags to your posts won’t help you in any way. If anything, you might annoy your audience.

How many hashtags should I use?

Don’t over-tag a single post or add them to every word. This might make your post look spammy and confusing. If your post has more hashtags than words, it weakens the message you are trying to get across.

hashtag-spam

 

Where should I use hashtags?

You can add them to essentially any social platform. However, there are some best practices that can make your posts more successful:

  • On Facebook, hashtags can expand your reach to people who are looking at posts about your industry. Try keeping it to 1-2 hashtags per post for more engagement.
  •  On Twitter, they are useful to join conversations or to start one on your own. Studies have shown that tweets with 1-2 hashtags perform better and generate the most engagement.
  • On Instagram, the purpose is to discover new content and follow new users. Even though you are allowed to use up to 30 hashtags per comment, please be wise and always think: “less is more”. Remember, you don’t want to look spammy.
  • On LinkedIn, hashtags can help you increase brand awareness and gain more followers. As with other platforms, keeping them relevant and 1-2 per update can get you better results.

Rebranding Your Company’s Image

neon sign

Think of this scenario, you just purchased a company that has been established for years.  They have a set brand and a specific message being shown, but you don’t like it.  You want to totally change how people see the company while keeping the logo that has been well recognized for years.  In this situation, a rebrand is something that should really be considered.  A rebrand is a complete redesign on a company’s brand, it consists of changing how the company is represented and what the brand stands for.  A rebrand requires a long process, bigger budget and hours of research and design.  Rebranding does not always require a  demolition of the logo, in fact, most rebrands consist of creating a new message.  While changing the imagery and delivery.  But when do you know you need a rebrand?  This blog will explain a couple situations that would lead to a rebrand.

Today’s leading companies work hard to have brands that stand out above all others which is crucial in a competitive market.  Rebrands can help companies to be distinct, just by saying something new, fresh, and creative can give your company the competitive edge you need to distinguish yourself.  Consumers like to see new things, when a company relies on a message that is old and not up to date people get bored and your company can become invisible.  To have a good brand means to have a good message and that message needs to target the right people.  A great brand can really help point your company at a specific demographic.  I think that staying ahead of the new generations in terms of branding is smart.  It can open the door to untapped audiences looking for fresh hip businesses.  I myself am part of that next generation and I can understand that a young consumer does not want to be caught up in the past.  They are looking for what’s the newest on the market and a modern rebrand could be just what they are searching for.

Unfortunately, sometimes a rebrand isn’t always a positive decision made by a company.  There are times where a business needs to disassociate with a negative image built around their brand.  Whether it was a nasty legal issue, bad reviews, or possibly a company’s reputation of bad business, a rebrand can leave behind the negativity.  You know your business is great, well run, and positive, but the consumer doesn’t see the good work you are doing.  They look at what they can see and if your brand is tainted with negative connotations a rebrand can change consumer’s perspective of what your company represents.

Your brand is reflection on you and the work you do, why not make it the best you can?  Rebranding can work wonders on getting you noticed as well as help you dial in to the right demographic.  A rebrand lets you establish a new, positive, and modern message.  Whether you are trying to say something new or trying to stop an off-putting reputation a brand is the voice of your company, hopefully its speaking the right language.

To Refresh Or Not To Refresh?

branding strategy

In today’s ever-changing marketplace, your business needs to demonstrate that it’s in step with the times as well as your customers .  A  refresh is one way to make sure to keep your brand from appearing stale and musty.

A brand refresh retains your brand equity, but opens the door to new opportunities for other brand messages you want to convey.  A refresh has a visual connection to the original brand, but focuses more on your current audience, voice, and products.  A refresh should help elevate your brand.  Google’s refresh is a great example. In 2015 they changed from the 1999 logo because it had become outdated and no longer accurately represented the company.  A new, more contemporary logo was created that spoke to Google’s evolving audience and capabilities.  The key to Google’s successful refresh was recognizing that they ran risk of looking or becoming passe. Today, adjusting is competing and if it makes sense for your business, a refresh could be the perfect adjustment.

Having the capability to evolve with the changes of the consumer is right on track with what a refresh is trying to accomplish.  LEGO is a brand that has made a science out of it.  As a company that started in 1939 they’ve been able to keep with changing times for nearly 80 years.  Originally LEGO marketed to children and parents and saw the adult as an irrelevant market.  But they soon realized that adults were taking a new interested in their beloved childhood toys.  LEGO added new products, adding 5,000-piece model sets as well as updating their digital marketing.  They also created videogames and movies that has earned them around $400 million.  Updating your products is a great way for your already established brand to find new interests from consumers who were waiting on a change.

At Toolbox Studios, we look at refreshes as a way to elevate your brand to new heights.  We understand the value of having a enduring brand, but it should be ready to evolve when the moment arrives.  Refreshing does not have to be a drastic change in your brand or company. Although a complete a rebrand is sometimes necessary under certain circumstances.  A refresh is a minor, yet noticeable, change that can potentially lead to a new audience without sacrificing the customers that already know and respect your brand. A strategic brand refresh can brush away the cob webs and shine a new light on the message your business wants to communicate.

Changes in the Google Search Algorithm

google logo

Google is in a constant state of searchability improvement—there were over 3,200 changes last year alone. Hourly, daily, weekly, and more notable “core” updates are all designed with the goal of returning relevant and useful search results to the searcher. With any Google update, search results may change.

How do Google algorithm changes impact your website?

Your site ranking may go up, it may go down, or it may not change at all. It all depends on what the Google updates are focusing on: prime keywords, click-through rates, indexing, security, mobile responsiveness, specific industry verticals—the list goes on and on.

What can you do about it?

Don’t panic. You don’t have to “fix” anything to improve your site’s rankings when Google rolls out a new update (which averages 9 per day). Instead, focus on your content and make sure that you are providing “relevant and useful” information to the searcher. Google algorithms seek to reward websites that offer quality content with a purpose, expertise beyond the obvious, free from spelling errors and distracting stylistic issues, and genuine in offering answers that are being sought.

What are all those acronyms?

Google’s Quality Rater Guidelines (QRG) places a very high value on Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness (E-A-T), especially for Your Money Your Life (YMYL) sites. Let’s break that down.

Google’s Quality Rater Guideline (QRP) was created for raters—people who provide feedback to Google on algorithm changes. It’s a great document to understand what Google is striving for, and therefore how your website should respond. In the QRP, you will notice many references to E-A-T and YMYL.

E-A-T: Google is looking for Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness as it pertains to the creator of the main content, the content itself, and the website. Be credible. Google looks for reviews, references, recommendations, expertise, news articles, press releases, certifications, etc. How do you “up” your E-A-T factor? Improve your online reputation, don’t deceive searchers into believing unsubstantiated claims, disclose who you are and why you should be trusted.

YMYL: Google pays particular focus on websites that deal with finances or health—Your Money Your Life. If you advise people who are searching for answers pertaining to money or health, then Google wants a heavy E-A-T environment. In reality, if you sell any kind of product from your website, you are considered YMYL because money is being transacted.

SEO: Search Engine Optimization is the technical process for making your site better for someone to find the information you provide. Google has published an SEO Starter Guide that breaks down the intricacies, but in essence, think of SEO as your daily work-out. It’s a vigilant discipline to keep your website healthy and ranking.

Toolbox Studios can help

As consumers and technology become more sophisticated, so do websites and search engines’ ability to locate pertinent information. Toolbox Studios has the expertise and personnel to manage your SEO, improve your online reputation, and write relevant content.

The Importance of User Experience on a Website

cell phone work

“2 seconds is the threshold for eCommerce website acceptability. At Google, we aim for under a half-second.” —Maile Ohye, from Google on load times for websites in 2010

“The average time it takes to fully load a mobile landing page is 22 seconds, according to a new analysis.” —Daniel An, from Google on load times for mobile websites in 2017

“To help users find the answers to their questions faster, we included page speed as a ranking factor for mobile searches in 2018. Since then, we’ve observed improvements on many pages across the web. —Genqing Wu and Doantam Phan, from Google Webmasters in 2019

Factors That Affect User Experience

As the web and the devices that access it become more sophisticated, Google continually asks more of websites to attain a positive User Experience (UX). We’ve all been on websites with long load times, clunky navigation, or a sketchy purchasing process. Add into the mix GDPR (the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation) and ePrivacy compliances, SSL certifications, WordPress PHP 7+ updates, mobile-first indexing, and Google’s never-ending logarithm changes—all of these factors affect the User Experience and your target consumer’s ability to find you, trust you, and get the information they are seeking.

“No matter what, faster is better and less is more.” —Daniel An, from the above article

“I didn’t have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.” —Mark Twain

Build a Website That Users Will Love

It is surprisingly difficult to create a simple and elegant website that is intuitive for a user to navigate. It takes an effective combination of technical expertise, brand strategy implementation, and UX integration so your ideal customer will keep coming back.

Gone are the days of clever copy and theatrics. Content must be suitable and concise to be SEO-friendly with relevant H1s and long-tail keyword metatags. If the right words aren’t on the page in the right order, Google isn’t ranking you. Graphics and files must be optimized; navigation must be simplified; and the computer language, plugins, and interfaces must be up to date (see note below). Once those items are in place, the gratifying work of design begins: color, fonts, illustrations, animations, photographs—all the elements that convey your brand without having to explain your brand.

It’s easy to be too close to the project. YOU understand how your website works, why doesn’t everyone else? YOU can find your website easily, why can’t anyone else? Ask someone on the outside of your company to search for your product/industry and see if you pop up. If they aren’t easily finding you, that’s a UX issue, too. What is their experience on your website? How does it work in a mobile environment? Multiple clicks and drilled-down pages get frustrating on a device that’s designed to scroll. How does it look in different browsers?

There are some immediate things you can do to improve the UX on your website:

Compress your images.
Optimize any files that are being loaded to your site.
Delete obsolete graphics, videos, fonts, CSS
Fix broken links or 401 errors.
Update your plugins.
Get an SSL certificate
Get your H1s and metatags in order.

If it starts to get overwhelming and the quick fixes aren’t improving your website’s UX or searchability, Toolbox Studios can help. We have the designers, writers, web developers, and SEO experts to create a cohesive and relevant website experience across all devices and browsers.

NOTE: A word on keeping computer language, plugins, and interfaces up to date. Our web developer, Lorne, explains it this way. “Imagine you have an iPhone 3. Apple no longer supports the firmware that the iPhone 3 was built with, so updates are not possible, apps are no longer compatible, and cellphone service providers have moved on to 4G networks. It’s the same with a website that is using an old computer language and out-of-date plugins – if they aren’t supported, your website will start to break.”

Multiple Touches In Your Marketing Strategy

consumer behavior

We all know in the past 20 years huge changes have occurred to the internet, marketing, and especially to the consumer. But for those who are not ahead of the “learning curve” with ever-changing technology often struggle to reach the modern consumer. Nowadays, people receive information in various ways like blogs, Social Media, etc. It is a marketer’s job to touch all bases to place ads and compelling messages in arms reach of those receiving the information. Marketing strategies must be executed and tracked to collect data to observe what is working and what is not. The catch is understanding that the goal of every step of the strategy is a closed sale.

Without marketing analytics, it can be challenging to decipher if every element in the strategy being used is truly working. The type of purchase or item being sold plays a huge part in the response time for the consumer. Frequently, we are asked why we “touch all bases” if some are not showing results or generating leads. That is when we look into what is being advertised. A consumer looking at their phone and seeing an ad for a pizza would generate a fast response as opposed to a consumer seeing an ad for a new car. But that does not mean that the car ad on the phone did not work. That same person could go home that day look in the mail and see a postcard advertising the same car seen online, creating another layer onto shaping the decision for that consumer. Multiple touches ensure that a potential client becomes familiar with your brand.

Looking at the part of the strategy that generated the lead is fun, the real work is done when looking at the layers built to persuade the consumer into making a decision. Especially with a business to business marketing approach, it can take time for that business owner to choose your company over another. They want to know that you want their business and that you are willing to reach them on any platform to show them that your company is the right fit for them.

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