10 Lessons From OPIS's Successful Website Redesign

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"We're incorporating a lot of video on the site now because people are visual," said Rick Wilkes, director of marketing for Oil Price Information Service (OPIS), in his session at SIPA Annual 2018 titled Transforming Your Website into a New Prospect Magnet.

"People like video and as long as you don't make them watch too long they'll probably go with that option. For each of our buyer personas we're creating a video series. So you go to the buyer persona page, and you say, 'I'm a refiner. What have you got for me?' And there's a video that shows me in two minutes what it is."

In yesterday's column, I wrote about some of the problems Wilkes described of the old OPIS website and the fixes they've applied. Let's continue that today with website-redesign lessons from Wilkes and his co-presenter, Ashlee Bovello, SEO and website marketing manager for OPIS.

1. Take full advantage of your website. "Your website is a huge, powerful marketing machine," said Bovello. "There's so much data that you can get from such a big group of users that you're not going to get from another channel. If you allow users to tell you how they're using your site and you follow your data, they will essentially tell you how to market to them." In addition, Wilkes said that by turning their website into a prospect hub, it really eased the pressure of always worrying about getting new emails.

2. Complement your traditional search. "The biggest thing we did in terms of fixing the search besides the buyer personas was a product finder function, which is a sticky nav on the bottom of the site..." said Wilkes. "It allows you to find what you're looking for using several categories and keywords. We call it the 'product finder.' You don't have to hunt and peck around the site to see what you need.

"I just read a marketing blog post how conversion is helped by having more than just traditional search on the site." Wilkes added that Google is not helping with that the way they used to so you have to create your own. "It pays to have that extra layer of search on your site because it increases conversions. Why? Because people are finding what they want right away."

3. Optimize your site for both users and search engines. "Make sure you're using long phrases and longtail keywords to really get to the audience you want to get to," said Bovello. "If you have a product development team launching a magazine or newsletter... work with them to add in keywords to the product names. You'll be pre-optimized and a step ahead."

4. Make everything mobile-first, so it will be totally optimized for mobile and desktop. You need it perfect on both ends though, Bovello said. She warned that studies say sites have to load in 5 seconds or people will leave. "That's lightning fast," she said.

5. Clean and audit your site. "Your site may have tracking codes for data—maybe you did a free trial a couple years ago; clean that up," said Bovello. "As much as you add to the site, get rid of old documents that might be slowing it down." (They went from about 300 pages to 112.) She added that there are free SEO audit tools plus a site called Website Grader to help with this. "And look for duplicate content—we had a terrible time with that on our old site."

6. Remember your SEO basics. Keywords in first order. CTAs in meta descriptions. Have alt text for all your images. Put titles on everything that isn't a page, PDF files, product samples. And keep up with changes from Google.

7. Make sure your videos are on YouTube. It's the #2 search engine.

8. Get other entities to link back to you. "Google has come right out and said that links are very important," Bovello said. "Back links from other domains are huge ranking factors. If you have a link that comes back to your site from another site that has a good reputation and shows up #1 in search, it's almost like a referral."

9. Integrate social media. "Social media is becoming [a big] part of Google rankings," Bovello said. "Be sure to link back to your site [in your social postings]. Put social media icons in your footer not header. If it's in the header, it's easy for them to go off into social media land and forget why they're on your website to begin with."

10. Push people to your site on weekends. "We started doing a weekly update version on Fridays much like The New York Times does," Wilkes said. "'Here's what you missed all week.' And we're seeing a lot of people on the site on weekends."

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Ronn Levine began his career as a reporter for The Washington Post and has won numerous writing and publications awards since. Most recently, he spent 12 years at the Newspaper Association of America covering a variety of topics before joining SIPA in 2009 and SIIA in 2013 as editorial director…