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I am currently managing the search engine optimization efforts for a large ecommerce site, and I gotta say – it’s a mess. My employer paid a large sum of money to a web development firm in Michigan to develop a complicated ecommerce site that is full of bugs and absolutely lousy in terms of web marketing. The pages are overly complex mounds of tables within tables. The main page content is pushed way, way down the file. The site is managed using a proprietary content management system created by the developer, but I’ve basically decided to build pages outside the CMS because, again, those pages are lousy for ranking in search engines.

A large web site development firm that specializes in ecommerce and has developed sites for some of the largest retailers in the country should know SOMETHING about optimization. This one didn’t. And it’s probably not the only firm making deals with retailers to build complex ecommerce sites that won’t draw any traffic. So…if you are currently in negotiations with a firm to build a web site for you, or if you are about to build one on your own, there are some critical considerations you need to keep in mind:

  • How will the pages be constructed? Get someone with experience designing web sites (this needs to be a web site designer, not a programmer) to look at some sample pages. If they consist of tables within tables, run. This is the year 2006 – web sites should not be designed that way, even ecommerce catalogs. Div tags (layers) are the way to go. Layers allow you to position content anywhere on the page, and the actual code for a layer can reside anywhere in the html file. In other words, the layer with the main page content, which you want to be as near the top as possible, can be placed near the top of the file, above all the junk that doesn’t help your rankings.
  • Does the site design sell? You need to think of your site as a direct marketing vehicle, because that’s what it is. Is the site easy to navigate? Is it easy to know what to do? Do content pages allow for keyword-rich text?
  • Is the site graphics-heavy? I think excessive use of graphics hurts you in several ways: it slows page load time, graphics do not help with search engine ranking nearly as much as text, and graphics can’t sell to prospects like benefit-packed words can.
  • How will you measure and track conversion? If you sell stuff on your site, then a conversion will be a sale. If you are a service business, then a conversion might be to fill out a form or download a file. Decide in advance what activity is going to count as a conversion and how you are going to track that conversion. Modern web analytics generally involves the use of tracking codes that report back to a server that aggregates the data so that you can view it in report form.
  • Does the site use splash pages and other junk that take away from your core message? Again, you need to think in terms of selling.

This is just a quick list of things to consider BEFORE beginning development of your site. The best thing you can do is hire a professional Internet marketer to be a part of the design process. If my present employer had done that, we would already be driving a lot more traffic to our site and generating a lot more business. But the design process started before I got here, and nobody thought to examine the design from a marketing perspective.

If you are in the process of designing a web site for your business, call Work Media to make sure your site will sell!