Doing website makeovers is cool. You get to take one, outdated, unoptimized, low-tech website, and in a few days, the client gets a polished, fully SEO-ed, secured and snappy-looking website. The reward is seeing the owner’s face, hearing their comments, receiving tons of thanks. Priceless.
A few weeks ago I had the privilege of working on the website of Mice Pearse, a professor of mine during my university days. It’s great to keep in touch with cool professors, and it’s even cooler to be in a position to give back. This was one of those moments.
How to tell if your personal website is outdated
After reviewing the website, I discovered many issues, both in terms of looks and background elements that only search engines and geeks see:
- The website was very ’90es in design
- Pages were lengthy and very plain looking
- The Blog section was a continuous list of articles, all under the same URL
- There was no Footer to visually wrap up the site in a cohesive look and feel
- There were no common functionality like Search, social sharing, commenting, etc.
- The HTML coding was outdated (version 4.0)
- There was no CSS, all design was done in-line, using HTML only
- There was no SEO whatsoever: no Title tag, no ALT on images, no Meta-elements, no OpenGraph integration, no Schema
- Users had no way of getting in touch with the owner: no phone, no social links, no contact form
- In the Admin panel the site owner had no way of setting up custom tweaks like Google Analytics, Social sharing, custom CSS etc.
All these issues added up to a website that simply couldn’t answer to modern web users:
Another issue was the infrastructure setup. This site used a proprietary web platform that also did the hosting and domain registration. This is a classic example of keeping all your eggs in the same basket. A completely undesirable situation. The first rule of the Web is that you never have the web hosting and domain registration handed over to the same company. You want to keep the domain registration with a company that specializes in domain registration, and get hosting from a company that specializes in providing reliable web hosting. And for a personal website like this one, you don’t want the extra complication of a custom platform because you have very little control or choice of how your website looks and works. Basically, you have no control over your website whatsoever. It’s all in the hands of the company.
The Makeover: How a personal website should look like
Before I made the switch, I had to make sure that the URLs worked properly. As the existing URL structure was not SEO friendly at all, I first created a SEO-friendly site structure, linked up the old URLs to the new, SEO-ed URLs, and then started the migration of the content. As there were about a dozen pages, this was a fairly straightforward procedure. Each of the pages were optimized with SEO-friendly URL, H-tags, Title, appropriate image metatags and so on.
Thanks to WordPress’ openness, it was a simple job of installing and configuring all the needed plugins to get the modern functionality every website should have:
- Fully integrated SEO, including Google Analytics and Google Webmaster Tools
- Sleek Social Media Sharing buttons under each web text
- Easy to use Contact form
- Search functionality in the Navigation bar and Sidebar
- Thick Footer with Recent Posts, Recent Comments, Archives links to keep web visitors on the site
- Responsive design so people can have a great User eXperience on a PC, ipad and smartphones
- The site is equipped with Notification Engine to inform search engines any time there is a new blog post published
- The site also has RSS feed for those who prefer that kind of notifications in their email
- Schema/OpenGraph content snippets integration for fancy listing in Google search results
All in all, there are over 200 individual steps/tweaks that make this website very cool, both for people and for search engines:
After the makeover, the owner was very enthusiastic and pleased with the look and feel of his new website. It’s not every day that you get to see your ugly duckling evolve into a beautiful swan.
Want a site makeover? Contact me.