March 4, 2024 Content Chat Recap: Elevate Your Online Presence With A Brand Website Refresh

A Content Chat header image featuring an array of flowers behind a text overlay that says today’s topic is how to elevate your online presence with a brand website refresh, with guest Wendy Kramer.

“It’s important for your website to be informative and really speak to who you’re trying to speak to. Oftentimes, we don’t have that dialed in when we first build our website. As you get into what you’re doing and really settle into your niche, that information needs to grow with your business.” — Wendy Kramer

In this #ContentChat recap, Erika Heald is joined by website designer Wendy Kramer to explain how to navigate a brand website refresh. They explain how to know it might be time to overhaul your website and share plenty of tips to help you navigate the entire process, including the lessons they learned during a recent collaborative website revamp.

Watch the entire conversation on YouTube or read through the highlights below.

Q1: How do you know if it’s time for a full company website overhaul or a light update?

How much has your brand evolved since you last updated your website? Is your website an accurate reflection of your current brand? 

“It oftentimes comes down to how you and your business have evolved and whether your website still speaks to your brand and your brand’s image. Does your website currently speak to who you feel you are [or] your business? Does your content match what you’re doing now?” — Wendy Kramer

“If you’re constantly having to refer out because you’re getting hits for things that either you don’t feel like you specialize in anymore or you just don’t want to do anymore, then it’s definitely time for a refresh.” — Wendy Kramer

Does your website speak to your ideal buyers or clients? Does it convey your current product or service offering? 

“Have your offerings slightly shifted and we just need to update some copy? Or is your site not ranking well, and we need to rethink some of the copy to get better search rankings?” — Wendy Kramer

“So often, when people first go into business, you put up a website that is your best guess at answering all the questions that prospective customers will have. You can set it and forget it because you probably have a blog and social media where you’re doing more of those real-time communications. And then when you go back and look at your website, you go: ‘That doesn’t feel like me anymore. And frankly, I don’t want to do some of the stuff that our website says.’” — Erika Heald

Consider your website from the end user’s perspective. Do you address the needs of potential buyers? Do you support your business goals with your website content? 

“Think about it from the end user. Why are they coming to your website? That’s often to gain information. And there’s nothing more daunting than thinking you found what you’re looking for, only to be told, ‘Oh, we don’t offer that anymore.’ Well, why is it right here on your website on the front page? Then the other thing is, half the stuff you do offer isn’t on there, and the customer can’t find you.” — Wendy Kramer

Unless you need to adjust only a few pages, it’s likely time for a full website overhaul. 

Q2: What resources should you use to identify the appropriate pages for your new website?

Think through your personal or business brand, ideal customers or clients, and product or service offering. 

“The first thing is sitting down and thinking about yourself and your business. What’s the job of your website? Who are you trying to talk to? What are you trying to tell people? How many words does it take to tell somebody what you do? Do you need multiple service pages? Do you need just one page that talks through variations on a service?” — Wendy Kramer

Create a vision board of what your organization wants to achieve. Use mind maps to document, connect, and organize the topics you can address on the website. 

“A strategy that Derek Pillie has used in the past is doing a design kickoff. During your brainstorming, you ask the client everything they want to achieve as an organization. And you keep that up as a vision board. So that way everyone can come back to it.” — Erika Heald

“I’ve been somebody who has worked on a bunch of other people’s websites over the years. As they’ve done their overhauls and all the copywriting, I had a pretty good idea about what the structure needed to be and what pages they wanted to have. And I did a mind map.” — Erika Heald

“Start big and trim back to get all those ideas out on the table and really think through, and then figure out what needs to be consolidated, what needs to be cut, and what’s missing.” — Wendy Kramer

Research other websites to see how they are structured. 

“Go around and look at some websites that you really like from people you respect. [Ask if] that makes sense to you versus this is just too complicated. If you feel overwhelmed by somebody’s website, how will your customer feel if your website looked like that versus something more streamlined?” — Wendy Kramer

Consider the best content format for each element you want to include.  

“You might have a resource center, you might have a knowledge base, you might have links to templates and things. It’s important to make sure you’re using the right format. Because just like there are some meetings that should be an email, there are some things that should not be a webpage.” — Erika Heald

“It’s important to understand where you need a whole page to talk about something versus trying to cram all the things on the same page.” — Erika Heald

Use a website content planning form to document the purpose of each page, its keywords and SEO elements, and the copy. 

“[Erika’s] template is a great one for people to draw on. Because as you fill out that template, if you realize that you can’t figure out what your page’s focus is, you’re putting too much information on that page. Or if you feel like you’ve already said this three times, you probably have multiple pages that could be one. Go through a template that helps you understand what’s the focus of this page and what are we trying to say. If this page has no focus or I want to have 80 different keywords, you’re probably trying to put too many things there.” — Wendy Kramer

AI can help you refine your approach and generate a sitemap you can workshop. 

“What’s fun with using an AI tool is you can ask it what I missed here. What have I not included? You can say ‘If I was a person looking for [whatever it is you provide in this market] what would you expect to find on the website?’ And the AI can give you that skeleton of your sitemap.” — Erika Heald

A website designer can help you streamline the process and strike the right content balance.

“Not working alone can be really helpful in finding that right balance for not just the technical SEO purposes, but also are your customers more likely to go one or two or three pages deeper. It’s really understanding your target audience and your business segment, and working with someone who can hold your hand on that.” — Wendy Kramer

Q3: There are so many website CMS options available. What are the pros or cons of the ones you most frequently use?

WordPress is a great option for many businesses, but it’s not your only choice. 

“Every single client I’ve worked with has had something different. Whenever possible, I’ve tried to move people to WordPress, because it’s something I’m super comfortable with. But it’s not always the right tool for everybody.” — Erika Heald

“I am a big proponent of WordPress. That is my happy place. But it isn’t the right fit for everybody. I’ve built websites in HubSpot’s internal CMS, on Wix, Squarespace, and Weebly (a lot of these tools are meant to be more for beginners). It’s cheap to host there, except as soon as you want to have any of their marketing tools, suddenly it’s much more expensive.” — Wendy Kramer

Many visual website builders aimed at beginners are adding more integrations. However, the costs quickly increase as your site becomes more complicated. If your website has just a few pages, then a visual website builder could work well. 

“All of these services are trying to add more integrations. I often tell people if they have a lot of things that they need to integrate into their website, WordPress is probably going to be where you want to be. If your website is really just a brochure and it just needs to be one or two pages and a contact form or a sample of your work and some booking information, it might be easier to use some of these other types of platforms.” — Wendy Kramer

“If you’re not maintaining a blog or doing long-form content, then something that is just a simple point-and-click website builder may be the better choice.” — Wendy Kramer

“Squarespace or similar might be a really great way to set up a simple online store. Whereas WordPress with WooCommerce might be really overwhelming for their management needs. But if you’re running a really heavy traffic, big ecommerce space, Squarespace is likely not going to keep up with your needs.” — Wendy Kramer

If you’re updating an existing site, first ask if your current CMS is doing its job. 

“It often comes down to: Do you already have a website? Where is it? And is it doing the job it’s supposed to be doing? Or is it underpowered or overpowered for your needs?” — Wendy Kramer

If you’re starting from scratch, revisit your organizational goals to understand what you need your site to do. 

“If you’re starting from scratch, it’s really about going back to your organizational goals and your goals for your business. What automation do you need? How many integrations to other things do you need? Do you have no idea what I’m talking about?” — Wendy Kramer

A discovery call with a website designer can help you understand your current and future website needs. In many cases, you may need to be prepared to overhaul your website in a few years, and that’s OK!

“I sit down and talk about what your needs really look like and what you think your needs are going to be in six months to a year, two years, and what you think your growth arc is going to be.” — Wendy Kramer

“Sometimes it’s ‘Hey, this is what fits now.’ And recognize that this is going to grow and change later and realize that you’re going to have to expect to refresh your website in a couple of years.” — Wendy Kramer

Consider how self-service you want your website to be for ongoing updates or changes. 

“One of the big challenges is that frequently small business owners and solopreneurs will work with an external designer who may do things that make it really difficult for the person whose website it is to go in and make minor edits themselves. So they get in that situation where the website is too hard for them to go in and make a small text edit or add something new. It’s going to stay there until the next time it gets overhauled.” — Erika Heald

“Some of the common things that people hear that sound really daunting have become a lot less so. But it’s still helpful to have that initial setup helping hand; having someone able to get you going.” — Wendy Kramer

“My goal is to make the tech not suck for my clients. And if that means being able to then take stuff on themselves after we’re done with our project, that’s totally fine. It’s just being able to meet people where they’re at. And it’s scary for a lot of people to even figure out what that should look like at the start.” — Wendy Kramer

Q4: How should you project manage a website overhaul to ensure every page and detail is accounted for?

Use a collaborative tool to access and edit all website revamp assets in one place.

“It comes down to good collaborative tools. Even something as simple as working within Google Docs. Creating a shared workspace to have all the assets in one place.” — Wendy Kramer

Create a website outline that links to all the pages. 

“Sit down and create the outline. We need that outline that says what the overarching structure of the website is going to look like. And that allows us then to track where we are within each of those pages.” — Wendy Kramer

Use templates for each website page to account for your SEO elements and copy. 

“Templates for building out those pages. Again, very collaborative and a way to check things off and say ‘done.’” — Wendy Kramer

Checklists keep you on track. And a mood board can help you align on the visual elements before you start building the site. 

“Checklists. A mood board so that we can make sure we’re really capturing the brand identity. Is your current branding really where you’re at and is this what you want to bring forward to your website, or has your branding changed? And do we need to sit down and go through that process to make those adjustments? [Create] a Google Slides with a nice mood board and make sure you know the colors you like and have the design elements you want.” — Wendy Kramer

Our team loves using Canva Pro for its brand design features. Check out this blog post to learn how to use Canva Pro to create a powerful brand image. 

“I’ll praise Canva Pro for helping me with those kinds of design decisions. When you use Canva Pro, they have the brand kit section where you upload your logo, you can put in all of your colors, you can put in your preferred fonts, and all that kind of good stuff. And then you get this nice brand rectangle that shows you your branding and it makes it really easy to go ‘Oh, yeah, that was a good idea. And I don’t like it now.’” — Erika Heald

“[Canva] is such a great tool to help with the process. Being able to bring in your logo and a couple of graphics and it can automatically detect the colors that are part of it. And you can say ‘I really love these colors’ and bring them together into the brand kit.” — Wendy Kramer

Q5: What essential planning steps should marketers take before starting the website revamp process?

Wendy shares the main planning steps for a website revamp below: 

“If your website already exists and you’re ready to do an overhaul, the big ones are: 

  • Revisit your organizational goals. What are you trying to accomplish? How has your business changed? Has your target market changed? 
  • Look at your brand. Does your website reflect your brand as you feel like it is? Go look at all of your other spaces, go look at your socials. What does your brand look like on Instagram, on Facebook, on anywhere else? When you go back to your website, do they look alike?
  • Look at your content. Of the existing pages you have, what is relevant? What’s not? What needs some content massaging and what isn’t what you do anymore? There’s some stuff you want to keep, some stuff you want to just modify, and a list of things that need to be cut. 
  • Audit your blog. What content do you have out there? What articles are irrelevant entirely? What needs to be updated? What are your gaps? What new content should you be creating that really speaks more to who you are and what you do?” — Wendy Kramer

Check out this blog post to learn how to audit and refresh your existing blog content and access our audit templates to streamline these planning steps. 

Q6: What hurdles will brands commonly face when updating their website, and how can they overcome them?

When planning your site, it’s easy to get caught up in small details.

“It’s really easy to get lost in the weeds and really bogged down in the details. That’s where you have to zoom back out. Start high, then get more specific. Get everything on the table and then start to weed it out. Get it into a general shape that makes sense, then start digging into the details. If you go for the details first, everything’s interconnected and it starts to feel overwhelming. You have to have a map first, then start to trace that out.” — Wendy Kramer

“Talk about the goals. What are we trying to do and who are we trying to talk to? That’s always going to be the way to mitigate [getting lost in the details]. Bring it back to the brand and the goals. Does this align with both? Does this make sense in the context of what you’re trying to do?” — Wendy Kramer

It’s also easy to get off track of your timeline, which checklists and schedules can help with.

“Have a checklist. Keep things you can track where things are. You don’t build a house by trying to decorate the walls before you put up drywall. You build the frame first, then you put in all the details. You have to think about it like that. We’re going to build the high-level structure, and then we’re going to zoom in, and then we can worry about the finer details when we get there.” — Wendy Kramer

Stay focused on what elements you need for an effective website. Avoid unnecessary elements.

“People sort of want to put everything. What is it telling in your brand story? Is it doing something for what you’re trying to communicate? People sometimes get a little overexcited and want to have too many elements. So sometimes, there’s a need to narrow things down. Pick your favorites and then think about your brand and your goals.” — Wendy Kramer

“We’ve all been to those websites [where] all of a sudden music starts playing, or there’s an autoplay video that takes over your screen, and you’re like, ‘Why? What happened?!’” — Erika Heald

“Think about how you like to use the internet, and that’s going to tell you a lot about what you should and shouldn’t have on your website.” — Wendy Kramer

Conduct thorough testing on your website to ensure everything is set up correctly and responds how you intend. You can also enlist users to test other websites to identify elements you should include. 

“Test. People who maybe aren’t super tech savvy or who feel more like your ideal client, ask them to navigate a few different example websites that maybe you think are cool but aren’t sure if they are. Have them tell you what feels informative and what feels helpful and what they absolutely hate.” — Wendy Kramer

Pick an ideal time to switch your website over. Communicate with customers well in advance to prepare them for the downtime.

“Pick a good time for when you’re doing the switchover for your website. Frequently folks pick a holiday weekend when they think there’ll be less traffic. But the thing is, if you pick a holiday, for example, it may be harder to get technical support from the company that hosts your site, or from the developers of a plugin, or all of those things because they might be closed. Also, some holidays actually could mean that you’d be getting more traffic to your website.” — Erika Heald

“You’re going to experience some downtime. There’s just no way around it. That’s how the internet works. The better plan is to recognize you’re going to have a day that’s going to be a little bumpy. And you message ahead of time [telling customers] you’re going to relaunch your website and to expect downtime on such and such date between these hours. Having a communication plan out to your customer base can mitigate a lot of the [issues].” — Wendy Kramer

“This isn’t going to take five minutes. It’s maybe going to take five hours. Hopefully it takes five minutes to press all the buttons, but it may take a few hours to iron out all the wrinkles.” — Wendy Kramer

Plugins may auto-update and mess up your website. Be ready to revert to an old website version, and update plugins manually.

“There’s always some glitches. There’s always things like auto updates of plugins hosing your site. That always happens, which is why: Don’t do that. Just don’t. Make sure you’re comfortable with updating them manually, because then you can do them one by one and it really makes it less likely that you’ll have to restore from backup.” — Erika Heald 

Brands and solopreneurs must decide whether to take their websites down during the revamp or leave outdated content up during the process. Consider how AI could be learning from your existing site, which may include old or inaccurate information. 

“You have to decide, is it better to have outdated content out there, or is it better to have no content for a little bit. You also have to think through the impact of AI could be with having outdated content that represents you in a way that’s no longer accurate or valid. You do have to weigh some of those things. Do you want to be training a whole generation of AI tools that you are somebody who specializes in something you hate doing and want to transition away from?” — Erika Heald

Consider how website visitors can contact you to learn more or request your services. When redesigning the Erika Heald website, we created an adaptive contact form to filter requests.

“We put together a contact form that changes based on who the person is and what they’re looking to do. So that way, we don’t overwhelm people with a bunch of irrelevant questions. But we also make sure people have thought a little bit about what they want to do. For example, we don’t want to take on content clients who don’t have a content strategy, unless they’re looking to have us create a content strategy and then help with content that maps to it. ‘No more random acts of content’ is not just a slogan, it is how I feel.” — Erika Heald

Q7: How can marketers design a site with SEO best practices and AI-powered search in mind?

Avoid keyword stuffing on your pages.

“We’ve all been to those web pages where it just feels like you can be reading the same keywords over and over again but you didn’t learn anything. Keyword stuffing has also become an old hat thing, and it’s useless.” — Wendy Kramer

Tell a coherent story that addresses the main points, and sprinkle keywords into your headings and subheads.

“You want to know what the page’s focus is. You need to tell a story. You need to say the important pieces. If you think about what a machine is going to read, what do you want it to come away with? You want it to know who you are, what you’re an expert in, how you do what you do, and why you’re special.” — Wendy Kramer

“It’s not just about how many times you say content marketing specialist on your page. It’s about talking about how you do what you do, what’s magical about it, and what’s different. So when a person or machine is reading it, it can strip out all the cruft and consolidate down to ‘this person does this thing, and here’s why they’re so good at it.’” — Wendy Kramer

Include validation that you are experienced in the topics you say you are.  

“That’s where content hubs come in, because AI is looking for that validation and proof that you are who you say you are. You can have all these pages that say you do these things, but if you have no other content on your site that says anything about them, you have no social proof that you do these things.” — Erika Heald

Develop a backlink strategy. 

“Make sure you have good backlinks, good links to your own long-form content, and all those pieces are connected. Consistency is absolutely a key thing there as well for building that whole site view for the robot.” — Wendy Kramer

Do you need help with your website content strategy and planning?

We’ve helped numerous companies create compelling websites to engage their buyers. Contact us here to tell us what you’re planning, and how we can help.

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