October 2008 Newsletter

Improve Your Website's Performance

**** The 4specs Perspective

I propose that building product websites are different than most other websites. The purpose of a building product website is to get your products specified and to support the design and sales process. Most other sites are classified as search or information resources or selling consumer products, travel, news or blog sites.

Building product sites (especially commercial and institutional products) have a very targeted audience and should not be concerned about being oriented to consumers. I frequently see building product sites with serious design problems from both a search engine's perspective and the user's needs.

This starts a series of newsletters looking at how I would approach a complete redesign of a site or an updating of a site keeping the same basic design with a focus on improving your results. These newsletters will focus on white hat principles and not black or gray hat ones. WilsonWeb has great articles on websites and marketing. Here is one of their newsletters on how to get visitors to your site:
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Before you start and redesign, I would include Google Analytics code on all of your existing pages. This will provide a baseline of performance of your old website. Without a baseline, you will not know if your changes improved or decreased performance.

I would then start to understand what problems your current site has from the search engine's perspective. Install a site map on your site. I recommend (and use) the Google Sitemap program to improve 4specs' Google search results. We covered this in an earlier newsletter. Besides ensuring that Google (as well as Yahoo and Microsoft Live Search) know the parts of your site you want indexed and let the search engine robots when the pages change.

Register for Google's Site Map program and start to get information on your site. Here is some of the information you can learn:

  1. Which pages have duplicate titles and meta descriptions - each page should have a unique title and meta description tag.
  2. Problems in crawling your site - including urls not found.
  3. Information on your search terms and position on the page for the top 20 terms. Here is a screen shot of a recent 4specs sitemap page from Google:
Top Query Searches

You will want to know the words used to get to your current site to help design the new site. Using the same words currently leading users to your website can help you keep your rankings. Add new terms you think users should find your with.

You also want to pay attention to having "Every page should be reachable from at least one static text link." This can be done through an html site map (for sites under 100 links or so, or multiple site maps each with 100 links or less) or the Google sitemap program.
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The three major search engines have webmaster tools to help you improve the searchability of your web site. I was planning to write about these tools and received a newsletter that covered the topic fairly well. Bruce Clay's newsletters are worth subscribing to for their information.
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Great article - Search Engine Optimization is Not a Last Ditch Effort - and is something that should be thought out on every website redesign and reworking. Jill Whalen has continually excellent articles:
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Free and low cost tools for SEO - I was going to list some of these tools in this article and found an even and longer list:
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Colin Gilboy
Publisher - 4specs
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