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Live, Learn and Launch: 8 Tips for a Successful Website

11.15.2011

Creating and launching a new website is akin to giving birth to a baby of Guinness Book proportions; if done right, clients and potential clients alike will leave your site with not only an enhanced understanding of your organization, but a desire to know more. The Alexander Group began the painstaking process of building a new website earlier this year – our first in seven years with me as Project Manager. Many times we thought, “I wish we would’ve known this sooner.”  So now that the website launch is complete, here are some of the most important things we learned.

1. Getting into Google’s top results is easier than you think.
Everyone wants to make sure their website gets found. All the fuss over Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and reaching Google’s coveted No. 1 ranking makes it seem elusive, and well, sometimes like the rules are written in another language. If you want to get technical, here is Google’s full guide; otherwise, here are some buzz words broken down into layman’s terms.

Key Words = Words that when typed in the Google Search Bar will produce your site in the results.
Meta Data = The short paragraph that pops up under your organization’s name in the Google results.
Title Tags = The titles of the web page that are visible in the very top of your browser, above the website address.

Work with your website designer to determine what key words will work best for your organization.  For us, that means using the key words “executive search” and “recruiting” as well as the cities where we have offices to ensure that “Houston + Executive Search” yields The Alexander Group in the results.

2. Navigate AFTER you know your destination.
Develop content first, and then decide on the appropriate names for the navigation bar. For example, if your organization develops a page containing a list of all your clients, that section should be labeled “Our Expertise” or “Our Portfolio”  to avoid confusing individuals that come to your site seeking to become a client. Have you ever found yourself on a page only to wonder, “Why did I click here? This isn’t what I was looking for.” You looked at the section called “Employees” to find an employee and all you see is a way to become an employee.  Everyone has been to a site that is the navigational equivalent of a broken compass. Make sure key sections for prospective clients/customers and talent are clearly marked. If visitors can’t easily find what they are looking for, they will leave.

3. Content is king.
Keep your content fresh, concise, and give your target audience a reason to return. Blogs are one way to keep new content on your site weekly. We use our blog to provide a tool to educate our clients on executive search, hiring, and management. We also like to write about travel stories, crazy candidates, and life lessons.

4. See it before you build it.
Think the comprehensive client list would be an excellent way to exhibit your client portfolio and attract clients? We learned this the hard way after we tasked our developers with building a revolving bank of all our clients before we  actually saw what it would look like on the site.  Hours of programming later, we realized it resembled a flashing Las Vegas billboard featuring Celine Dion one moment and Cher the next. It was too much.  We hated it and “killed” the carousel. Lesson learned: You need a visual to learn what feelings a feature will evoke.  Get your web consultant to provide you with a draft before programming to save time and money.

5. No one tells your story like you.
You know what drives your organization, culture and core values better than anyone else.  Be as involved as possible in the writing process, and think of unique ways to showcase your organization. For us, it was a set of three unscripted videos describing who we are, our culture, and backgrounds on our consultants.

6.   Web and Print – There is a major color difference.
Your website is part of a major rebranding; test any colors you decide to take from your website to use on print materials such as stationery and business cards. Our newly hued brilliant blue logo looks impressive on the website, but there is a subtle sheen that, when printed, causes the logo to look faded. Get proofs and swatches directly from your printer rather than relying on on-screen PDFs to determine the true color.

7. “Go Live” scared us “to death.”
Once you realize months’ worth of work on your website  are about to go live for the world to see, panic sets in, and heavier scrutiny begins. “Do we really want to the title of that page to be Locations, or should we use Contact Us?” “Do we want the outer border of that box to be gold?” We learned from our web developers that it’s normal to want to pump the brakes when you are close to launch. You want it to be absolutely perfect. The truth is that no matter what, your site won’t be perfect when it launches, but no site is. Websites are ongoing projects, and once the site goes live, you may realize the border of the box really doesn’t bother you that much. We repeatedly heard the phrase, “Live with it for a while” from our developers when we were at that panicky stage, and it was the most useful tool in determining the parts of our site that we were over-thinking and what parts we wanted to change.  Note to website developers: don’t use the phrase “go live.” It is too loaded. “Soft launch” is easier on the nerves.

8.  Know how to measure success.
Know your benchmarks and objectives before you launch your new site and have solid numbers of past site views, client feedback and SEO ranking against which you can compare the new numbers. If you don’t already have an analytics tool in place, now is the time to install one. Google Analytics is the best option but hosting sites such as Go Daddy often offer comparable analytics for a fee.

So, once again introducing: The Alexander Group.

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