Pulling the Weeds from your Web Site

If you’ve had a web site for awhile, it likely has a few weeds in it; pages that are orphaned, missing titles, descriptions, poorly organized content, and more. So do you clean it up, or completely redesign it?Run Down commerce Sign

Before embarking on a site redesign, you should first measure the performance of your existing site(s) and take action to improve the existing site first. One way to make your site work better has nothing to do with the content or the visuals of your site- it has to do with Standards Compliance. Well designed HTML will always perform better than bad or broken HTML. I highly recommend using the FireFox Web Developer Extension by Chris Pedrick to automate checking your site at the W3C. You may download it at: http://chrispederick.com/work/web-developer/

  1. Make sure you declare a Doctype and Encoding method in each document
  2. Troubleshoot your coding errors starting at the top and working down from there.
  3. After you clear the HTML coding errors, make sure you have proper META tags on your pages for Description and Keywords.

After you have HTML issues cleared up, take a look at Google analytics and add it to your site- GA started life as the Urchin web server log analysis program. As a Google product, it is now free and all you need to do is add a few lines of code to your tracked pages to start using it. You can set up tracked actions, monitor what search terms your visitors are finding you by, and see what sites link to you. After you do this awhile, you may find the search terms may not match your perceptions, and that some terms you rank well for may bring visitors who simply bounce away. You can use this info to fine tune your content for keywords that convert well and avoid those that don’t.

After you’ve done the above, you should be able to get a handle on whether you should redesign your site- but I caution you not to simply replace an old site with a new one. You need to identify pages that bring you traffic and keep them alive (with the same or similar content) on the new site using redirects (e.g. 301 redirect). You also want to avoid using technologies that do not fully expose your content when you do a redesign (e.g. database query URLs, Flash based sites or Flash based shopping carts).


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