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Strangely, just about everyone I meet in my role as an advisor on PR & marketing matters is unhappy with their current website. In fact, I can’t remember meeting someone who said, “Isn’t my website great? I’m very proud of it!”

The common response is "I don't like it, we're just about to re-build it."

Often, as an outsider to the business, you can review the website and draw the conclusion that it is just that they have “grown apart”. 

The website that they were proud of at its birth, is now adolescent and no longer says what they want it to say or does not look the way that they want it to. Somehow it got “teenage” and is upsetting its creators! Sound familiar?

But what is the solution?

When people say, “we are just about to redo the website,” my question is then, “Why? Why spend that amount of time and cost completely re-modelling the website?” If your business has fundamentally changed, or if your website is so old that it does not allow you to do things easily – for example, it’s built on an old proprietary CMS – then, of course. Or if you are completely re-branding your organisation, of course you will want to.

But rebuilding a website will be physically costly for the technical element, software licences etc. and will demand a substantial amount of time from a number of senior people in your organisation – from project oversight, to reviewing and approvals, to physical copywriting and editing. So any change should be based upon a planned improvement in what you will get out of it. And needs to be done based upon an appraisal of how it is performing at the moment. Do you know how it performs for you at present? What data do you extract and review at the moment? Is this data for data’s sake, or is it valuable and are you acting upon it?

So why would you spend thousands of pounds on a new website if you don’t understand how the present one is performing? Just because you don’t like the look and feel does not mean that it is performing badly in search. So be careful not to “throw the baby out with the bath water” and lose all that wonderful “SEO juice” you have built up with the current site when you re-build it.

My advice to those in this situation is run your analysis of the site first, get some clear “before” statistics in place. There are various online tools and software solutions that will enable you to investigate which of your web pages are read and which never get touched. Which pages your visitors land on first (it’s not always your home page) and which pages they read and leave from. It will help you with your SEO analysis and it will let you compare yourself with your competitors. Use the analysis to optimise the structure of the site you already have, and potentially the copy itself – besides, search engines will like the changes. And make sure that at all times throughout the site, you are deploying call-to-action buttons to push people to your most important content – ideally that which they need to register for.

You may be surprised at what you learn about your website and all the while, you are building up precious data to tell you what you need to change and improve. You never know, you may end up learning that actually it’s not such a bad site after all and maybe a ‘lick of paint’ and a content refresh is all you need!

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