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.

Digital Knowledge Management

puppy on computer

The ways your customers find and engage with information about your business has changed. Simple organic results are now replaced by intelligent answers in maps, apps, voice search tools, digital assistants, search engines, GPS systems, and social networks. These AI-powered services have created an entirely new channel where customers can engage with your business — are you in control of the answers they see across all these platforms?

Free Directory Listings Scanning Tool

Manage the public facts about your business. Try our free tool to instantly see how your business is listed in web directories and search engines. Once you see how the internet is listing you, you can begin the process of getting listed correctly. This process is called Digital Knowledge Management, and its value lies in:

>Brand Consistency & Control
>Discoverability
>Operational Efficiency
>Customer Experience

On average, companies that invest in Digital Knowledge Management receive 49% more views after 12 months. Manage the public facts about your business across the digital universe to drive accurate, complete, and compelling experiences.

Start now!

 

Understanding Broken Links

404 error

There are three types of broken links: Internal, Outbound, and Inbound. When visitors follow links to, from, or within your site, they are expecting certain content to be available to them once they get to that page. When your site has broken links, it can affect user experience and your site could potentially lose a bit of hard-earned trust you’ve achieved from search engines, such as Google. Google’s web crawlers collect data about each page and rank pages according to their accuracy and content.

Let’s tackle outbound links first.

You may not even know that your outbound links are broken because you don’t have control over the external content you are linking to. A link could have been removed or relocated on that site. The first step is to find out if your site even has broken outbound links. At Toolbox Studios, our Google-certified staff employs a powerful array of programs that scan your site and deliver reports of how well your site is performing—this includes any broken link issues.

Finding the outbound links that are broken is only half of the job. Fixing them is the more time-consuming step. Things to consider:

>Can the context of the content stand alone without the link? If so, consider removing it altogether.
>Have you performed a site search on the external site to see whether the content has a new location?
>Are there more recent versions of the content to replace the broken link with? You can always refresh your content to accommodate a new source.

Inbound Broken Links (the dreaded 404 error).

A 404 error occurs when content on your site was either removed or relocated without proper redirects in place to lead visitors to the correct page. Remember that report that Toolbox Studios can provide? It also lists out any 404 errors.

There are a few ways to fix your inbound broken links. Rather than removing pages, try to update and refresh the content that is on the page. If your URL structure has changed, then employ 301 redirects. This is a permanent redirect that Google approves of—meaning your page will retain its ranking power. It will be a seamless experience for a user.

Internal Broken Links- Links within your site.

Often, there can be broken links within your own site—this is the way pages interact with each other. Common problems include:

>An inconsistent structure to your site. Google likes it when pages are linked together in a way that provides context to your structure.
>Orphans are pages that aren’t linked by any other pages. They still exist, but the only way to get to them is via a direct URL address.
>Duplicated versions of pages such as: mycompany.com/homepage/  mycompany.com/homepage (without the slash) www.mycompany.com/homepage, etc.

Auditing and fixing broken links is an ongoing process because websites are constantly changing. Toolbox Studios can fix the errors—but we also work on your user experience, relevant content, driving traffic, building links, page ranking and authority, and many more aspects of SEO to get your website humming.

Who Is Holding Your Website Hostage?

desktop marketing

A long time ago, someone in your organization (who’s probably no longer there) purchased your website domain. Someone else, probably a web developer, created a login for the platform where your website is built. And just possibly, someone else—probably an IT person, created a login for where your website is hosted.

Do you have any idea where these three critical logins are?

Toolbox Studios: Private Eye

It is sad to say, but we spend A LOT OF TIME hunting down logins for desperate clients. We rescue websites on a monthly basis, and it is often an ugly mess. It takes some detective work to figure out what’s going on with a poorly performing website. Generally, it’s because of changes in your hosting server, non-renewal of your domain name, poor SEO standards, not keeping up with Google changes, and possibly hacked, blacklisted, or crashed.

The process gets a whole lot tougher when nobody in your organization can find the three logins needed.  Let’s break these out even further.

Your Domain Login

This is the web address where internet users can access your website. You must purchase a domain from a domain host or domain registrar. You find a name that works for your business and is unique (no one else is using), and then you pay the domain host/registrar an annual fee to use it. Generally, your email is also associated with this domain to provide cohesion and legitimacy to your brand.

www.mydomain.com, me@mydomain.com

Here’s the problem. If the person who set up your domain is no longer with you, the email associated with that person has probably been deactivated or is no longer monitored. So, any reminders to renew your domain are going unnoticed, and it’s likely your domain will expire.

Your Web Hosting Login

A web host is where your website is stored on a server. When an internet user opens a browser, they search for your website. Their computer connects to your web host’s server and your webpages are delivered to their browser. You pay an annual fee for this service.

Here’s the problem. How well do you trust your host provider? Websites are vulnerable if the web host’s servers are not secure, if they have policy changes that you haven’t agreed to (oops, missed that email), if they don’t perform regular management to stay abreast of Google changes, etc., or if your site traffic is too high for their server to handle.

Your Web Platform Login

This is where your website is actually built, the pages, posts, images, design, CSS styles, etc. all live on your platform. Toolbox Studios designs websites on WordPress for one single reason: it is the world’s most popular content management system. There are 1.3 billion active websites in the world and 35% of them are built on WordPress. Once we build your site and train you, we turn it over to you to manage and update—in other words, we don’t hold your site hostage.

Here’s the problem. If you don’t have access to your own website, then you can’t update the information on it. Google really likes fresh, relevant content. So, if your site has sat stagnant for 6 months, your Google ranking will diminish as people search for information.

The House Visual

Toolbox Studios partners with iNNOV8 to design and develop websites. They have a great visualizer for how your website works. Think of a house.

> The land is your Host Provider

> The street is the Internet

> Your address is the Domain

> The house is your Website

If your website is in trouble, and you don’t have the THREE BIG LOGINS, give Toolbox Studios a call. We have rescued websites out of some very bleak situations. We are here to help you.

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.

Meta Description Update: Short Is Back In

html code

Great news, Google has changed its mind on the optimal length of meta descriptions, yet again! If you detected a hint of sarcasm in that last sentence then you, like many of us, have experienced this ever-changing merry go round of a fluctuating character count. But, in an SEO’s world, what Google says goes, and we adapt.

Towards the end of 2017 Google increased the optimal length of a meta-description to around 320 characters, and now we have reverted back to the shorter character count we saw before this increase last fall, which we can assume is around 150 characters. Again, Google will never directly tell us exactly what this character count is, but they have confirmed via Twitter that it is “shorter on average.”

If you are worried about shortening your meta description and it’s affecting the chance of your content becoming a featured snippet, don’t fret, the majority of the content in featured snippets is pulled directly from the page on your website it is found, not your meta description.

And if, like us, you have re-written your descriptions recently to reflect this increase in characters, don’t panic. However, we are suggesting reverting them back and making them shorter again, start with your most visited pages and work from there. You wouldn’t want your meta description to be cut off middle sentence on a results page, and always make sure the most important information is at the beginning of your meta description just in case.

So, here’s to a new shorter meta description, may we enjoy it while it last and hopefully it will last a little longer.

Is This Site Really Who It Says?

ssl certificate toolbox studios

If you’ve used a web browser, you’ve almost certainly seen sites that display a lock icon in the address bar. It indicates the site has an SSL Server Certificate installed making it more secure than sites without one, but what does icon actually mean?

ssl-user-address-bar

A website with an SSL Server Certificate installed creates an encrypted connection between the website’s server and the user’s browser.  It prevents someone else from being able to intercept the traffic and read what is sent from and to the server and user (technically the traffic can be captured, but being encrypted it is unreadable).

Anytime you are providing confidential information on a website form (login credentials, credit card information, personal information, etc.), the page you are on should show the lock icon. If it does not, your information could be exposed.

But is your information secure just because the browser shows a lock icon?  While no one should be able to intercept your communications, how do you know who owns the website with which you are securely communicating?

Setting up a website is a pretty simple process, and there is little preventing someone else from creating a website that “spoofs” another website, which means it mimics the appearance of the target site (it can be a very simple process). The fake site owner can even purchase an SSL Server Certificate so visiting users will see a lock icon in their browser.

There are several options available when a site owner adds an SSL Server Certificate. All provide encryption. Certificates with Organizational Validation (OV) provide arguably the most important feature of SSL Server Certificates. In order to be issued, the Certificate Authority (CA) who issues certificates has to verify the organization requesting the certificate is actually who they claim to represent and that they own the domain for which the certificate is being issued. The certificate issued and installed on the server includes an embedded key from the CA who is vouching for the authenticity of the site. Your browser is set up to recognize and trust hundreds of these CAs, and if the browser validates the site and server keys match the certificate, the lock icon will be displayed.

As a website user, you can view the site’s certificate details which, if it has OV, would include the owner of the site. Some SSL Server Certificates have an option that displays (on most browsers) the name of the site owner within the address bar and is often highlighted with a green background or text color.

ssl-user-address-bar

Unfortunately, browsers don’t always make it easy to view the certificate details. Below are basic instructions to see more information of a site’s SSL Server Certificate. Note that there can be major differences for these instructions depending on the browser version you’re using. So, if these instructions don’t work, internet search for ‘view ssl certificate in ____’ with the name of the browser you are using.

[accordion]
[panel title=”Google Chrome”]
Go to the Three Dots Menu -> More Tools -> Developer Tools.
Click on the Security Tab.
This will give you a Security Overview with a View Certificate Button.[/panel]
[panel title=”Firefox”]
Click the padlock icon in the address bar.
From the panel that displays, select the first item that should show secure connection.
That displays the ownership information for the certificate and site.[/panel]
[panel title=”Microsoft Edge”]
Click on the padlock icon in the address bar.
Should show a panel that displays message that your connection is encrypted, and just above if the certificate is OV or better the name and address of the owner.[/panel]
[panel title=”Safari (Mac)”]
Click on the padlock icon in the address bar.
Should show a panel that displays an encrypted connection is being used, including if the certificate is OV or better the name and address of the owner.[/panel]
[panel title=”Safari (iOS – iPhone/iPad)”]
While you will be warned if the site’s SSL Server Certificate is not valid, there currently is not a way to display more information about site’s certificate within Safari on these devices. Hopefully that will change in the future.[/panel]
[/accordion]

To test some of the differences in certificate, our blog site and our primary site use two different types of SSL Server Certificates. The blog site is a basic DV style certificate, while our main site has an EV (an upgrade version of an OV certificate with extended validation). When you view information on both sites you should discover the main site provides more information about the owner of the site then the blog.

So to be sure the website you are visiting is secure, view it’s certificate information to verify it’s really owned and operated by who you think it should be.

OMGOMGOMGOMG!

google partner logo

Toolbox Studios is now a Google Partner Marketing and Branding Firm.

At Toolbox, we’re always searching for ways we can learn more and get the training needed to help our clients succeed in their marketing efforts.

We’re extremely proud to say we have recently earned our Google Partner badge. You may have seen the badge displayed on other websites before, but weren’t sure what it actually signified. So we have compiled some truths and myths to help illustrate why it’s a good idea to do business with a certified Google Partner agency.

Truths

  • The Google Partner badge shows that we’ve demonstrated advanced knowledge in Google AdWords advertising products that help us improve your campaign and deliver results.
  • We’ve been trained and certified by Google to help businesses grow online. (we’ve studied and we’ve passed the tests).
  • We get access to exclusive trainings, industry research and product updates that help us help you.

Myths

  • We have inside information that gives us and advantage to manage campaigns.
  • We have access to the secret sauce (psst! There is no secret sauce).
  • Google endorses our services.
  • We get to play golf with Larry Page and Sergey Brin.

OK. Let’s be honest. Earning a Google Partner badge is not like winning a Gold Lion at Cannes. But becoming a Google Partner is pretty big deal to us – and our clients. Especially those who could benefit from a highly targeted Google AdWords campaign.

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