If you’re here, it’s because you’re on our new website, launched on January 18 2020! This project took us less than 4 months and it was a complete 100% overhaul… and I’m not talking a team here: it was just me and 1 web guy… both part time.
I decided to write this blog to help others like me, launch a successful and effective website with the least amount of hurdles while minimizing costs. In my career, I’ve lived through the launch of 4 other corporate websites, all for tech companies, and so I’ve learned a few do’s and don’ts. This last experience was by far the fastest, the easiest, the cheapest, and definitely the most productive. If you’re a Marketing Director for a small to medium-size B2B tech company, with limited resources and a website that absolutely “has to go!”, have a read.
My 5 major website considerations:
- Hiring a web developer/designer consultant vs. a web agency.
- The best website builder platform. WIX or WordPress?
- Optimizing your SEO… climbing to the top!
- Generating more leads.
- Multilingual websites and their challenges.
- A Web Guy or a Web Agency?
I’ve done both and I can tell you, that for us, a web guy (or girl) was definitely the way to go for 2 main reasons:
- Agencies tend to be a lot more expensive than independent developers
- Working with an agency takes a lot more time from start to launch
But the person you select, can’t just be anyone — it has to be the right one. Here’s what to look for in your web person:
- Lots of experience in developing websites in the design platform that you plan to use – WordPress, in our case.
- Must have both web development and graphic design abilities.
- A solid portfolio with a style that you like.
- A personality that you get along with and that you like… you will be working quite closely and the better the synergy between you, the better your site will be.
- Experience in your industry is definitely an asset because understanding your business, your message, and your audience will make your web developer a better resource for you.
- Someone who asks a lot of questions in order to understand your objectives and your goals and is able to take the initiative to propose best practices for the actual implementation of the site to meet your objectives. My guy actually challenges me (because I’m not a web expert) and most of the time, his way makes a lot more sense than my original proposition.
As a disclaimer, my experience with agencies has been limited and perhaps there are some that operate differently and are not so costly.
WHY GO WITH AN INDEPENDENT WEB DEVELOPER/DESIGNER:
- Less expensive!I got quotes that were 5 times and 1 that was even 10 times more expensive for the same website from an agency. Why? Because you have a team behind you. There’s a team of designers and developers, formal change requests, several iterations, a project manager, a lot of back and forth and every hour is billed… which brings be to the next reason:
- Quicker and more efficient! You can be sure that with an agency, you’re looking at at least doubling your delivery time. My developer and I met in person only twice. We worked together back and forth using Google Docs where I delivered all my content to him and he implemented it with 1 live working document. I trusted him to design as we go. He presented the core pages and initial design. We had some back and forth and once the theme was established, the rest of the site development flowed beautifully. With an agency, you will have a full wireframe design of your entire site in advance. Any changes you want to make along the way require change requests and more time and money. Every change request may take several days since there’s a team involved versus a few minutes. And of course, in 6 months, things will change anyway, because 6 months for a tech company is a lifetime!
- What website builder platform to use? WordPress? WIX?
My answer: WordPress for any corporate website.
Today, it seems like everyone is on WordPress (about 30% of companies it turns out). It appears to be the best free, open-source platform that’s super flexible, relatively easy to use, has a great CMS, is SEO friendly, and offers great security features.
My journey to this conclusion: The first web developer I interviewed for the new site suggested WIX because of how easy it was to maintain. Something in my gut just didn’t trust the guy so I decided to do my own research. I spent hours and hours online reading, talking to everyone I knew and it was clear to me that WIX was not the right solution for us. We are a serious company that is growing quickly, with customers and employees all over the world, selling to Fortune 500 companies globally. WIX is a great platform for smaller local businesses or independent consultants or portfolios with just a few pages. Although it’s very easy to design, I could have probably done it myself, it cannot deliver the performance that WordPress can and is limited in design/functionality customization and plugins. For sites that are content heavy, have a lot of traffic, are focused on SEO, security, integration with 3rd party tools, etc. — WIX is definitely NOT the way to go.
I selected WordPress for 3 main reasons:
- It has a really powerful website builder with a lot of great themes and plugins available to customize websites as much or as little as needed, making my design and user experience requirements virtually unlimited.
- It has a really robust CMS (content management system) so that once the site is launched, I can easily add and edit content myself without having to rely on a website expert.
- SEO: Apparently, WordPress is very SEO friendly right out of the box. This is why WordPress sites tend to rank higher than others in search engines.
There are tons of websites and blogs on this. Here are a few that I found useful:
- Why You Should Use WordPress
- WordPress Best Platform
- Wix vs. WordPress: Which is Best?
- A great comparison video
- Climb to the top of Google Search! With SEO, of course — but how?
Understanding how SEO works is key when you’re creating content and developing a new website. As the main content creator of our site, this is what I learned about SEO in my journey:
The SEO algorithm that Google uses has changed over the years. It is very complex and there are hundreds of factors, so there’s no cheating it. Your website has to be genuinely awesome from the way it’s built architecturally in the back end to having really good relevant content on the front end.
HERE ARE THE TOP 5 THINGS WE’VE BEEN FOCUSSED ON TO IMPROVE OUR SEO.
- Content is king! Your site will rank better with new fresh content. In addition to new content, existing content needs to be relevant and not too repetitive. Images need to have tags and metadata. Here’s how I plan to make that happen on our site:
- To address this, I decided to create a blog section. To make this successful, I appointed a few brilliant people in the company to write just 1 blog per year. Also, I’m seeking out guest bloggers, customers and partners, to contribute to our blog section. For now, I’m committing to once a month with a goal of once a week… eventually!
- Press Releases.We distribute an average of 1-3 press releases every month! To help us with professional writers, editors and media distribution, we work with InGear Communications, a PR Agency.
- Case Studies. Anyone in charge of case studies knows this is the hardest one! Much of what we do happens in control rooms within military applications or government agencies and even within commercial business, it’s usually part of their security infrastructure and so it’s extremely difficult to get permission to publish a case study, but we do chase whoever we can and are very proud to tell the world about our projects when we can.
- Clean architecture. Our old website was also built on WordPress, but what a mess! There was so much custom-code, not even a web developer was able to figure it out. There was a consensus that would be easier to start from scratch with a nice clean architecture, that it would be faster, easier, cleaner and most important better for SEO.
- Mobile usability and fast loading time.This one is for our web developer. Let’s just call him Chris (because that’s his name). Chris built every page with mobility and page loading speed in mind!
- Link Backs. We have many customers and partners and we have made sure that we are able to create links to their sites and ask them to do the same. An example would be our Technology Partner page.
Here are a couple of websites on SEO that I found useful:
- Generate more leads! Forms, landing pages, and social media.
My primary objective as the Marketing Director at VuWall is to generate more leads for my sales team…. isn’t that every marketer’s primary objective? If it’s not, it should be. One way is at trade shows and events, but that’s not enough. The website must be the primary lead generating machine. We are not an eCommerce site so people cannot buy our products or services online. We don’t sell boxes or cables, we sell solutions. This requires understanding customer requirements, helping them design the right solution, it requires human intervention. Therefore, we want people to reach out to us for help with their video wall projects. Here’s how they can:
- a photo of a real person on our technical support team, Diego (who’s fluent in English, French and Spanish by the way) at the bottom of every single page of the website with a pop-up contact form;
- a Support button in the secondary top menu;
- a Contact button in the header that leads to a Contact page with a form;
- “Get a Quote” and “Get a Demo” buttons on every product page that pops up a form;
- a pop-up form for every single event on the Events page so that people can book a meeting with us;
- contact page links in the footer on every page of the site.
For campaigns and specific events, I use Unbounce for landing pages. I love Unbounce! I can create beautiful pages really fast and get reports and notifications. The tool is really easy to use and costs about $74/month. It takes me less than 15-20 minutes to build these pages.
Check out some examples:
I’ve been a marketer for over 15 years and never have I seen so much lead generation from social media posts before! I have literally had messages from old customers from previous jobs (not competitors) reach out to me about VuWall solutions because of a project deployment story that I posted on LinkedIn. On the website, make sure to have:
- All your social links at the bottom of each page
- Social share buttons on press releases and blogs
- Post all your news, case studies, and blogs on your social outlets! A great tool to post them all at once is Hootsuite. It’s free for up to 3 outlets, so just post once or even schedule a post, and bam — it can hit FaceBook, LinkedIn and Twitter all at once!
- Multilingualwebsites. What a challenge!
Our old site was fully translated in 3 languages (French, German and Spanish). It would be so great if this could be done and maintained properly moving forward. Unfortunately, not all companies have this luxury. To me, it’s a toss up between SEO and a fully translated site. I’d rather spend time writing blogs and case studies to create new content than managing the translation and content in 4 languages. With new product releases every few weeks, managing content with new datasheets and features in 4 languages is a huge commitment, especially if translation services are required every time… that can become a huge expense. Diego is busy helping customers, he can’t spend time helping me with translations! Still, with so many customers whose native languages are German, French or Spanish, cannot be disregarded.
According to Google Analytics, the average person was spending 2.5 minutes on our website. In 2.5 minutes, people will either contact us or they won’t. What was the compromise? Notwithstanding some internal battles with our German, Spanish and French sales reps — we have 1 extensive landing page for each language while the headers and footers remain in English. There’s more than 2.5 minutes worth of content to read in each of those languages.
This compromise is much more manageable. I have come across many multilingual sites of huge companies where the foreign language pages have a weird mix with English in random places. Few companies can do this well. In fact, I still haven’t seen it done perfectly. I’d rather have less content, as long as it’s good and clean. We will see how this works out, but I’m optimistic!
- SECURITY – Don’t forget about security and hackers! A secure website is critical to avoid getting hacked. WordPress is particularly known for hackers and does offer plugins that should be implemented to protect your site.
- BACKUPS – Set up your website to do a back up of your entire site including your database regularly… every day or every week, depending on how often you change your content.
- LOADING SPEED – With tons of media and plugins, you risk having a slow website. There are plenty of testing site to test your loading speeds in different parts of the world. Aim for about 1-2 seconds. Consider optimization methods if you can’t reach your target such as compressing your images, minimizing plugins or paying a bit more for the better ones, choosing the right hosting option. Check out some great websites with some great tips:
Thanks for getting to end of this very long blog post! I hope you found it useful. If you have any questions at all, feel free to reach out to me anytime!