This information could be regarded as over-the-top for the first stage of a simple website. However, many projects we have undertaken included all of these aspects in the first stage.
Whatever the steps and process you choose, please remember the most important area of your website is the written content.
If you have a decision on spending money in a particular area over another then I believe the default position should always be to spend money on developing content.
Google likes content, customers like content. Website content, good website copy, should always be a priority.
My advice, for new websites especially, is not to be fixated on the website design and development as you will often revisit some of your website structure in 12-18 months after the initial design and development. However, your content, unlike the design and layout, will remain and should continue to grow. Website content is a great investment.
1. Website Platform
For content-based websites (not online shopping) a WordPress content management system is a good base system.
- Stable content management system in use since 2003.
- Development and improvement is ongoing and updates can be automatically installed.
- WordPress reports over 25% of all websites use their system. This means your staff have more chance of exposure to this system than any other. Less training required.
- Search engines like WordPress. Optimisation is easily manageable within WordPress.
Preferences when implementing WordPress:
Not to use commercial WordPress themes. Instead use a self-developed simple WordPress theme developed in-house that only includes the plug-ins you require.
Reason: Commercial themes often include third-party plug-ins and bloated code that is difficult to customise, but often easy to hack.
Have the developer explain the plug-ins they recommend for your website and why.
Reason: To get an indication if the developer understands your requirements, has a good handle on WordPress and is not just using a standard commercial theme installation.
Responsive website design (most commercial themes are now responsive).
Reason: Google will index a responsive (mobile-friendly) website above desktop versions when searching on mobile devices. It is unlikely anyone would develop a website that was not mobile-friendly.
Confirm you have full access to all website files and database.
Reason: You may want to move your website or have someone else do work on it.
2. Website Design
A custom interface developed in-house by the website designer would be a preference. The interface should be a responsive website design that works on all devices.
This option could be more expensive, but if you are requiring a specific layout and look this will provide an improved result. However, the variation in costs can be quite wide depending on how much graphic design is requested.
Our advice is generally to implement a simple clean layout with fewer design elements. Your website will be viewed mainly on small screens so there is not much screen to waste on excessive design. Note that in excess of 50% of website views are now on mobile devices and increasing.
If you find a theme or website layout that you like then consider having a website developer replicate the layout so you can reduce the graphic design hours required.
3. Website Hosting
Most website developers have a reseller account with large hosting companies. This is generally fine as you may have a better chance contacting your developer with hosting questions or problems than a large hosting company.
- Ask developer to explain the recommended hosting setup for the website.
- Ask the developer to explain their backup and disaster recovery.
Points to Note:
For Australian businesses your website should be hosted in Australia.
Reason: Benefits in speed and local search results.
Ascertain the developer’s hosting arrangement with their provider. How long have they been with them?
Reason: Indication of stability.
Do they have shared hosting only or do they also have clients on their own servers?
Reason: Operating single servers (VPS or other type) indicates they have experience operating busy and/or security-critical websites for clients.
4. Initial Website Strategy
After the first stage of developing a WordPress responsive designed website your most important next stage is the website content.
A copywriter, or suitably qualified person, that can write your website information would perform these tasks. A self-appointed “SEO Expert” or “Search Engine Marketer” is generally not the best choice. Here are the priorities and tasks for the writer.
- Increase your Google listings by adding new pages to your website.
- Each page should cover a single topic.
- Ensure your page-title is well written and contains the keywords you want to be indexed for. This is the most important element of search engine optimisation.
- Write an impressive meta-description. This is your sales copy and is not used by search engines for ranking your website. You have two lines available, use them wisely.
- Content headings. Use a main heading on each page in keeping with the page title and your page keywords. As per standard copy writing procedure use subheadings and short paragraphs to make it easier for people to read quickly and absorb your message.
- Extensive content. The larger the quantity of relevant content included on a page the better for search engine indexing. There is no penalty for a lot of content, in fact it is the opposite.
- Install Google Analytics and use Google Webmaster Tools.
Monitor your website performance regularly with these tools.
Manually checking results by searching on Google yourself should be a regular task also.
5. Ongoing Strategy
Adding information and new pages to your website should never cease. If the structure of your content is being added regularly with your page titles, meta-descriptions, headings, subheadings and content in position the search engine listings will generally look after themselves.
However, there is a multitude of other things you can do to increase traffic and business online. You may want to consider doing something in the following areas. These are listed in priority order.
- Google+/My Business page. Add posts with information about your website.
- Listings on credible business directories.
- LinkedIn page.
- A separate blog with posts containing a brief description that points to the full page on your website.
- Using Google Adwords sparingly (or more depending on budget) is an option, but organic search results will always provide better quality leads. Google Adwords used in conjunction with quality content is beneficial. Return on spend needs to be monitored very carefully.
- Low priority: SEO Expert or Search Engine Marketer could be considered if you cannot achieve the ranking positions you desire. Be very careful when selecting a company for this work.
- Low priority: Twitter announcing new posts on your blog, topics on your website and “re-Tweets” of relevant information.
- Low priority: Facebook announcing new posts, topics, etc.
Remember the default position recommended is to always add new content in preference to anything else.
All of the above points have merit, but other than the first three, I would always spend the time and money on writing content as a preference.
This strategy of adding content should be implemented as a priority on any business website.