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Redesigning my Ripple Marketing Website

I have been a web designer and a graphic designer for a while now. Despite coming from a completely different background – chef, Disney, Cruise Ship Officer, Hotel Manager, Actor – this is what I feel comfortable doing and confident that I cam good at it. Whats more, I enjoy it. I also love to present and teach and regularly combine both aspects of this to run workshops or presentations.

The most requested subject I am asked to talk about is SEO for small business. “Getting you found on Google”. First of all lets make it clear that Ripple Marketing is not an SEO agency, more we understand SEO and help our small business clients realise how they need to be looking after their website and regularly doing things to get it ranking higher. We spend a lot of time “encouraging” (translated as “kicking the backsides”) of our clients to get more content on their sites, create videos, work on incoming links etc…

I recently redesigned our Ripple Marketing website. I have always been happy with it and it has always been a good source of leads, but I wanted to make a concerted effort to improve its ranking. So I set up the basics of the new site. Setup using the system, hosting, security etc that we would start with for 85% of our client sites. All of these aspects of the initial setup are the result of our experience and I am happy are industry leading basic building blocks.

I then started designing the site. Now we have lots of material, after all, we are simply redesigning the site to help the ranking rather than starting from scratch. This is where things start getting a bit complicated!

Ranking well vs converting well

One of the things that is always a discussion point during my workshops is SEO Effectiveness vs Branding and User Attractiveness. That is, I could easily create a very high ranking website, or I could easily create a really good looking and easy to use website. The challenge is trying to do both, and at several points in the design process, a web builder will need to lean in one direction or another and potentially compromise on one to get the best possible end result. I am sure that there are people who will disagree and I am sure I will be called out for it – but its my article! So there!

This concept has always been part of the accepted process for me (ever since I built my first site on Dreamweaver years ago) and one of the reasons why I will not touch certain web systems. But going through the process with my own site I became more and more intrigued with it and probably a bit obsessed. So I started looking at the top worldwide sites to try to identify where they had compromised. Alexa publishes a top global 500 websites based on pure numbers. I thought this would be a good baseline. It quickly became obvious that this top 500 list was not what I needed to be looking at. Almost without fail, these elite sites are platforms that draw on so many external sources, with very little (if any) on site content. Think eBay or alibaba.com where all content is entered via users, or various global drop shipping sites, directories, search engines, consolidated news feeds etc.

Instead I used Alexa to take a look at other sites in the service industries.

An Example

As tempting as it is to name some sites to prove my point, I won’t. Instead let’s imagine two sites side by side – these are real sites and the descriptions are real – the names have been changed to protect the innocent! Site one “ABC Consulting” has a picture of Mr ABC at the top of the page. The page then scrolls in two columns seemingly indefinitely. There are 2000 words on the page over several sections. Within these paragraphs, almost every second word links to another equally text heavy page. Halfway down the page there is a video embedded from YouTube. It is loosely relevant to the service offered. Reading through the text, there are quite a lot of paragraphs that repeat themselves, not in the actual words but certainly in their meaning and message and it reads almost like a children’s book, with shorter sentences, very plain English and lots of repeating of the company name, location and core services.

Next is “123 Consulting”. This company offer an almost identical service to “ABC Consulting”. The home page begins with a hero shot of the potential customer, overlaid with a contact form. The next section down describes the services offered, the location covered and gives an example problem that a customer could be facing and promises a solution if “123 Consulting” are contacted. There is a video with Mr 123 giving a greeting and introducing the services. As you move down the page there is a downloadable ebook that you receive for free if you leave your email. Further down shows the top three articles written as well as an instagram feed.

On analysis using Ryte, Nibbler and Alexa “ABC Consulting” scores a 9.1 ranking. “123 Consulting” scores a 7.4 ranking.

Looking at this “ABC Consulting” should appear higher on on any search engine organic search (assuming that the same key phrases have been targeted). While “123 Consulting” will appear much further down. However, as a potential client I would be converted by the less ranking site.

Ongoing

Back to the Ripple Marketing site and hopefully you see the argument I am going through with myself. I want a high ranking site but a high converting site. Using the same analysis I know my site scores an 8.4 ranking and each day I go through and act on changes to SEO.

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