Having recently launched a new website, our client, Barney Bell, Head of Marketing & Business development at David Salisbury, a company manufacturing and installing luxury extensions, shares his advice on how to ensure the project runs smoothly, SEO considerations to bear in mind, and pitfalls to avoid.
Over the course of the past year, we have successfully launched a new website here at David Salisbury, from a standing start, having selected a new website agency and developed and migrated to a new CMS.
Whilst the project ran as smoothly as we could have possibly envisaged, there were certainly some key takeaways, which we have distilled into the following recommendations for anyone else considering a new website build.
Set your objectives and timescale
Right at the very start, we developed five key objectives for the new website, which we referred back to at every stage. Setting some site KPIs were paramount; for us, SEO was a key driver of the new site, and seeing improvements in rankings for a range of keywords that spanned our offering was essential.
Consider a realistic timescale and where this fits into your marketing schedule and the operational requirements of your business.
Choose the right agency
This might be stating the obvious but, looking back, this was perhaps the most important step. Rather than conduct a lengthy agency review process, we did our research and took recommendations from our partner PPC agency. We shortlisted two agencies that we felt were most closely aligned with us as a business: big enough to cope, small enough to react promptly to our needs.
In combination with the usual pitching process, arranging telephone testimonials with a couple of former clients provided opportunities for independent verification of the quality of each agency’s work.
More than anything, make sure you gain a clear understanding of the project process – the critical path and key milestones.
Don’t underestimate the importance of the internal project team
Assigning an internal project team leader is obviously logical but think carefully about the wider internal team that might be involved, especially the sign off on the creative and technical elements.
Keeping this internal sign-off team briefed in advance of key decisions and managing their expectations were as important as handling relations with the external agency.
Audit your existing content before creating a sitemap
A thorough review of the current site content should be conducted, carefully assessing analytics to consider traffic, usage and landing pages, to ensure you aren’t inadvertently making decisions that could result in a loss of traffic to the site.
In conjunction with this, developing a sitemap for the new site is a vital part of organising the content into a logical, structured format. Our agency used a digital whiteboard tool that made for clear and effective collaboration throughout this part of the process.
Specific consideration was given to the orientation of our photography (most of which is landscape due to the size and scale of the types of buildings we design and build). Video was also going to play a far more prominent role in the new site (again, as our orangeries and garden rooms lend themselves well to this medium).
Make sure key landing pages are optimised
We involved our SEO agency, Browser Media, early in the process to optimise the relevant pages for the keywords that we are targeting organically.
Through reviewing our Google Search Console account, they were able to ensure that the new pages were still well optimised for the terms that are currently driving the most traffic to our site, as well as to identify new opportunities to help the new site perform even better.
Pay attention to the design and testing of forms
Although part of the content development phase, it is worth separating these out to provide specific focus, as these elements of the new site are arguably the most important to its overall success. As a lead generation site primarily, one of our key objectives was to ensure we were capturing a regular flow of enquiries (brochure and design consultation requests).
Having designed and built a range of contact forms and landing pages, we thoroughly tested them alongside ensuring the right goal completions were set up in Google Analytics.
Wireframes and style guides were an essential step towards the final design
Once the sitemap was signed off, the development of wireframes for all of the main types of templated pages for the new site began. This prototyping phase essentially provided live blank pages to allow us to carefully consider user experience.
In parallel, a style guide was collated, so that we agreed a colour palette and typography, in line with our existing brand guidelines.
Whilst the design phase always felt it would be the trickiest part to nail, the process that had evolved in order to agree the wireframes and style guide, ensured this went as smoothly as we could have anticipated.
Combining these agreed elements into the first design iteration meant we were pretty close in terms of the end result, right from the start. Our project plan allowed time for several design iterations which provided plenty of scope for review, as well as coordinating the internal sign-off team.
Don’t forget testing sites and third party services
With the final design signed off, the development team at Atomic Smash started on building out the testing site. Setting up any third party services, such as hosting, and video plug-ins were completed at the same time.
There was a period of a few weeks when this development work was essentially all with the agency, but it is well worth using this time wisely – organise content for migration, consider image optimisation (as well as titles and alt tags) and copywriting requirements to ensure you are ready for the next step.
Allow enough time for content migration
Before we started the content migration, we had set up a team and divided up the task using a combination of internal and freelance resources. Regular progress check-ins ensured we stayed on top of the task and time frame.
Allow time in the project schedule to thoroughly check each and every page, ensuring the fundamentals are all in place: informative, structured content; relevant images and videos in place; SEO requirements completed.
We had to consider the balance between image quality and site speed, where some of our larger hero images were positioned to provide maximum impact, given the visual nature of our industry – something we returned to during the pre-launch testing phase.
Plan your testing and launch carefully
Atomic Smash conducted a particularly thorough round of pre and post launch testing, ensuring that the new site went live without any issues.
During the initial days after launch, it is worth closely monitoring all of the key metrics (in GA and Google Search Console), to check that traffic is where you expect it to be and being reported as such.
David Salisbury now has a new website, showcasing the very best of our award-winning orangeries and conservatories, with these key features:
- Leaner, faster, greener website
- Streamlined design
- Inspirational content
Looking back, the success of the project hinged on the successful collaboration between client and agency, the project plan and clear structure, along with a shared understanding and commitment to meet the overall objectives.