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Embracing new ways of thinking when it comes to website design, online marketing and SEO

Written by Brett Sidaway, June 9, 2011
 | Embracing new ways of thinking when it comes to website design, online marketing and SEO

Embracing new ways of thinking when it comes to website design, online marketing and SEO

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A website revolution is occurring

The impact of social media, major changes to Google’s algorithm and the importance of local search etc. are all having a major change of how websites are built, maintained and marketed. A website revolution is occurring – whether we are at the beginning, middle or end of that revolution only time will tell.

In my home city, Birmingham web design and digital marketing are a growing part of the City’s economic and employment base. For those involved in creating websites – whether building or maintaining their own or working on behalf of clients – these changes are having a major impact. However, I want to argue that rather than seeing these as an additional set of rules to be followed the changes should make us rethink our whole approach to websites. Rather than think that, whereas before we dealt with keywords, tags, links, site maps etc. we must now do all that AND add create video content, update the home page regularly and maintain a blog, we must develop a new approach, not just a new set of priorities. Google’s so-called Panda changes to its algorithm are in part designed to more closely reflect the changes in web-users behaviour, and therefore reflect the increased importance of social media, new media and content. But am I the only person who thinks they also want to drive this change further forward as much as reflect changes that have already taken place? Google want the ‘website experience’ to be a richer, wider one; they want it to become more conversational, less authoritarian. It fits their brand image: challenging convention, inclusive and original. It will also be good for business if the website experience is seen as constantly changing, improving and enriched. Revolution? Google would perhaps prefer the term ‘evolution’ as that is a constantly progressing, never ending process. So, whereas in Web 1.0 most of us started with a URL, three photos and some nice sounding copy, Web 2.0 demands are different – not a different list but a different approach:

1.     Content is Prince

If not quite king, it is clear that content is increasingly important – and that is absolutely right because it is what users actually want. But content is no longer conceived as static copy that remains virtually unchanged. Content curation will allow for creating on-page copy as well as sourcing and linking to off-page content as part of making the website more interactive, relevant and user- focussed.

2.     Strategy is King

Perhaps design was once the ruling monarch of website build. There was almost a feeling that if it looked good people would find it. Today, it has fallen well down the list of importance, providing basic navigation rules have been applied. Having an overall strategy is perhaps the key to a successful website. The strategy will involve design, of course. It will also include a social media strategy – the who, what and how – a plan for content curation, an overall structure that assigns roles and responsibilities throughout the organisation for a bottom-up approach and sets time aside proper time for vital areas like proper analytics, competitor analysis and  online marketing. The tools to manage all these are increasingly available online (and usually for free), but the will to do so cannot be downloaded.

3.     Words are not enough

Whilst content is increasingly important, this must not be confused with ‘copy’. Algorithm changes confirm the importance of other digital media, including videos and photographs – even audio – in providing a richer website experience. This is often the most difficult area for SME’s – they have little experience of sourcing or creating such elements but need to realise these are no longer ‘optional extras’.

4.     Be responsive

Of course the biggest change over recent years is the growth of social media and this has again led to a change in attitude for website owners or creators – and it goes far beyond adding a blog or opening a Twitter account. It actually means ‘thinking interactively’. Of course, you need to respond timely and honestly to customer-generated enquires but beyond that everything – copy, content, offers, case studies – needs to be geared to generating user responses both directly and across other blogs and social media. These will create the quality links that webmasters have spent years trying to create by all kinds of methods, but will also genuinely turn using the web into a more ‘rounded’ experience. Hopefully the above will give some indication of the kind of thinking required to create successful websites that are no longer geared to pleasing Google, but to actually pleasing your intended audience. Ironically, by doing this, they will not only be pleasing your intended audience, but they will also please Google. Website design Birmingham or anywhere will continue to grow in importance for every location, providing it embraces this new way of thinking.

Image credit – NOGRAN s.r.o.

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