4 Important Points to Research Before Launching a New Website

research-magnifying-glassIf you’re thinking about redesigning or rebuilding your website, there’s a lot to consider.

A hasty start or too much enthusiasm without a lot of research to support it almost always leads to increased budgets, disorganization, and an unexamined course of action rather than a win.

What follows are some tips on the things you must consider prior to doing anything to your existing site.

1. Know Your Goals and Research Them

With your realistic website goals in mind, ask yourself how you can serve your visitors and why that's important to your business. Why do folks visit your website and why do you want them there?

Consider the following:

  • Purpose: A site has many pages, each with a purpose. You should know the purpose of your web page, and your web page should either answer a question or solve a problem for your visitor where your business can help. Does your business offer a competitive advantage? If so, your site should, too. Know your purpose and be obvious.
  • Connection: Important pages should connect to your financial statement. This may be a little bold, but if your relaunch goals don’t connect to your business, you might need new goals. Research and find ways to make your website success impact your business this year, and know how it helps. If you have an ecommerce site, some of this is simple: gross sales, margins, cost of goods sold. You probably still need to generate leads. Count them, and the sales that come from them.

2. Understand What’s Broken on Your Current Site

something-isnt-right-but-whatIf you and your staff don’t frequently reference your website to help customers, it’s a sign that something isn’t right. If that’s true, do some quick internal research. It should lead you to the problem and the solution.

Ask your customer service and sales personnel to tell you which parts of the website they refer to most. Ask them if there is anything else the website could do to help them. If they don’t refer to your site regularly, is it simply that the brand has evolved since your site launched and it isn’t a good reflection anymore? Is the site isn't relevant to the conversations you have with your customers?

Find out what’s wrong. Your URL should be a part of almost every prospective customer interaction.

3. Discover What Web Pages Already Work Well

Thumbs upYour entire site can’t be a problem, right? You need some basic research so you know your most popular, highest converting, and lowest-bounce-rate pages. We need to take good care of these URLs.

Don’t add clicks to get to them or change them without careful consideration or testing. It would surprise you if you saw how often the “baby gets thrown out with the bath water” on a site relaunch.

You can improve these core pages, just make sure your research phase identifies, understands their purpose, and brings them forward so they can continue to serve your customers and visitors.

Don’t forget existing inbound citations.

Where are you getting your best referral traffic from? Do the research. Get a back link report and find your top referrals. Who are these people and why is your page such a great next step for them? What is the context of that great link?

Again, your research needs to identify and care for these important inbound assets. Go read the pages where these links are coming from to learn more about the author and their audience. Sometimes, one good inbound link can make a big difference; you should nurture and protect them.

At times, it’s a good idea to include in your research some subtle A/B tests prior to your relaunch. You may be able to capture some important information quickly and there might be an advantage to doing a test now while you can still make subtle changes. If you are planning a drastic design change, it may likely over power the subtle type of A/B tests we’d like to do now.

4. Examine What’s Already Working in Your Industry

Look at the following on competitor websites:

Page Elements

Ask yourself these questions to identify page elements you can use to tell your story.

  • What do your competitors emphasize on their home page? 
  • What elements (text, graphics, and interaction) are they using? 
  • How are they answering a question or solving a problem for their visitor? 
  • What are they not doing? 
  • Are you ahead of the pack? 
  • Do they lack an interactive tool your customers crave? 
  • Do you have a leapfrog achievement that’s ready for prime time?

Don’t “copy” them, but put in the work to know what they are doing. Within this exercise, you may discover your unique value proposition, if you haven’t already. This research is simple and knowing in advance, can help you find an early win.

PPC Campaigns

magnified-and-examinedResearch and use competitors’ PPC practices to glean insight into your audience.

If your competition is spending a ton on PPC (pay-per-click), do you think they have more into organic optimization and conversion practice than you do? What can you learn here?

Look at their copy, their landing pages. Use your Google AdWords account to determine the price they are paying for that click. Are you ready for that? If not, where does your business authentically fit in that landscape? How are you different?

This research is helpful because you can sometimes skip a step and avoid an expensive lesson. Of course, the dollar volume varies by keyword, but when multiple companies are paying good money over a prolonged period of time, it would just be foolish to ignore some tried and tested results.

Their “Voice”

What voice are your competitors using in their copy? Are they technical, warm, snarky? Sometimes there’s room for a new voice. And often, voice represents brand.

Think about “Flo” or the “Gecko” in the insurance ad world. Again, this isn’t to copy your competition, but to identify and prepare for your niche.

How your brand “sounds” will reflect in your new site. Know your voice, or find it.

Don’t Forget to Share Your Research

With these important research points in front of you, you should be able to keep your eye on the prize during the relaunch. Wrap up your research into a quick list of easy-to-understand points. Make copies you can share with every team member so, these important issues don’t get left out of future steps in the process.

Refer to them throughout the process so they stay part of the conversation. This can help two ways:

  • Increased focus.
  • Ward off scope creep: the number one killer of a successful re-launch.

About the author

With decades of experience and hundreds of software and Web development projects under his belt, Mark Knowles has an in-depth understanding of Web design, development, marketing and search engine optimization (SEO).

His professional background includes developing technology solutions for companies such as JELD-WEN, Intel, adidas Golf, PacifiCorp and many others. And as an entrepreneur, Mark has built several technology companies into multimillion-dollar organizations.

During the past several years, Mark's focus has been founding and developing the first-ever SEO-friendly content management system (CMS), Pixelsilk. At Pixelsilk, Mark leads a team that combines the Web CMS with SEO best practices for client websites across the globe.

In addition, Mark is also a speaker at leading search marketing conferences including SES Conference & Expo, Search Marketing Expo (SMX), PubCon, and others. He also serves as an advisory board member at SEMpdx in Portland, Ore., and is co-chair of the annual Bend WebCAM (Web + Creative Marketing) Conference.

On a personal note, Mark Knowles is known for having a relentless energy and a passion for craft beer.