For episode 31 of Made You Click, Director of Marketing Success, Allison Gibbs, and Marketing Services Manager, Stephanie Fisher, sat down once again with Senior Front End Developer, Sam McKinney, to discuss web development and design.
Specifically, the team worked to dispel some of the biggest myths around developing a website, such as the idea that a new site magically solves all your problems, or the belief that there is a perfect word count for your homepage. Let’s dive in!
Sprinkle Some SEO
There are a number of complaints and requests that every web team has heard seemingly thousands of times. One of the most common questions is, “Can we just do a little bit of SEO?” or “Can we just fix the SEO?”
The short answer is: no. “The joke we always say is, ‘Let me just sprinkle some SEO,’” says Allison. “The reality is, from an SEO perspective, it’s not just something we can go in and clean up and have it magically serve results. We tend to take an approach both technical- and content-based.”
Truly developing great SEO for a website is everyone’s goal, and if it were as simple as pulling a lever or sprinkling some bits and pieces onto each page, every web developer and/or digital marketer’s job would be far easier. To really increase your SEO from top to bottom, it requires a multi-faceted approach, and it doesn’t happen overnight.
The first part of the SEO strategy is on the technical side. “I like to think of [the technical stuff] as the border of the jigsaw puzzle,” Sam says. “You start with that, then you fill in all the other pieces. You can go in and rearrange some things, but really it’s best when you start with a plan and really design that backend out.”
This includes making sure the code is correct and making sure the documents are correct at a large scale. Often, it ends up being a better idea to tear down and rebuild than to repair existing sites. Next comes educational content, making your site a resource to help people.
Combined, technical and content-based SEO can be promoted, creating a holistic approach to digital marketing for any brand. “It’s an art and a science,” says Steph. “Which we’re big fans of here at Mojo Media Labs,” Allison continues.
Set it & Forget it
Another popular and extremely wrong myth of website development and design is that, if you do it well, you can set up your website and then just forget about it while it functions autonomously. At first it might seem overwhelming, but your website needs to be constantly updated, edited, and modified so your audience knows they can visit it for trusted information. You also have to stay diligent to make sure that it’s functioning as efficiently as possible.
For the same reason that you can’t just sprinkle a bit of SEO, your website needs to be producing content and staying up-to-date. “I always say our website should be our best-paid salesperson,” Allison explains. “When it comes to a new website, it takes time.”
After a website launch, there’s this big sigh of relief, as if now it’s time to relax. “In reality, you need to be adding content and optimizing on a regular basis,” she continues. “Big fans of not setting it and forgetting it.”
At the beginning of this episode, the team discussed the recent lawsuit involving Domino’s Pizza and concerning ADA compliance, in which the Supreme Court ruled that the chain could be sued by a blind customer since they cannot fully use their website through screen-reading software. This is a big reason why you can’t “set it and forget it”: things are constantly changing, not only within the industry but also when it comes to the law.
“Your website should be a living thing,” Sam says. “Your content needs to be updated constantly.” From industry standards to legal compliance needs and even browser settings, there are tons of reasons to update your site frequently.
A New Website Will Solve Everything
Another big myth is that a new website will magically erase all of your problems. While a website can help alleviate many issues, they are likely not going to fix the negative things that have led many brands to wanting a new site in the first place.
If you’re lacking traffic and your site was built ten years ago, sure, your website can help. But if you’re resting on a website fixing everything, the cold truth is, you might need to step back and take a look at your whole entire business and marketing approach.
“A website is a marketing tool and a way to grow your business,” Allison says, “but if that is the be-all-end-all, then we have to reset some expectations for how we’re going to put this together.” Like we mentioned above, a website is, essentially, a living, breathing part of your business. You need to be prepared not only to get a website designed, built, and launched, but also to continue nurturing and updating that website once it’s up.
My Website Needs X Words
“I heard this one this week,” Steph says. “‘I need to have X amount of words on my homepage.’ I think this is a myth overall, that there’s a magical number of words that [you need on your site.]” While it is important for your website to have enough words, there isn’t some bar that will take you over the top from a word count perspective.
“There’s not a magical number but you don’t want to have an entire document or page served up for one sentence,” Sam says. “Google looks at your website giving value to something. It’s all about giving value.”
Basically, there’s a balance. You need to have enough words that Google recognizes the value your page offers for users, but not words for the sake of words. Google and other search engines are smart enough to understand value, so filling your page with empty words isn’t going to necessarily lead anywhere.
“What I always say at the end of the day is, what are the words you’re trying to communicate and what message are you trying to share?” Allison says.
Top Level Advice
Before wrapping things up, Steph asked Allison for the number one piece of advice she would give to people who are starting a new website project. “We have to think about, what is the end goal, what is the timeline, and what is our budget?” Allison says. “With those three pieces of information, we can guide you to the best possible solution.”
A good agency is going to tell you if your expectations for any of these three questions is unrealistic, and work with you to develop realistic goals instead. No project goes exactly to plan – something always changes – but starting with realistic expectations goes a long way, as well as understanding that things can change. If you'd like to learn more, take a listen to the whole podcast below, or contact us today!