TL;DR: If your website is causing problems, fix it as soon as possible. If not, start publishing now and use the insights you unearth to make your website overhaul meaningful.
Fundamentally, brands must update their websites on a regular basis. The most successful brands make this process count, and perhaps the most powerful tool to inform a website revamp is regular brand publishing. This is because publishing attracts people who engage with your site, giving you data on how best to update it.
So, unless your site needs to change urgently, our advice to you is counter-intuitive: in order to make your new site as good as it can be, you should generate traffic for the site you want to replace.
Data and the Need for Change
Let’s begin with a few assumptions to focus the discussion. If you’re asking the question, “Which should I do first: fix my website or write on my blog?” You almost certainly:
- Don’t have a regular publishing strategy in effect and don’t write on your blog often
- Need to change up your site
Meanwhile, it’s likely that a few factors are complicating your decision:
- Undertaking a full website rewrite or redesign is expensive, and requires buy-in from multiple decision-makers
- Even though it is usually easier to get buy-in for blog writing, this activity will channel traffic to outdated site content
From experience, the most common reason for a brand to pursue a website redesign is that their site is outdated. Usually, the copy doesn’t reflect the business’ current brand values and the site design is not slick or contemporary.
However, in order to effectively rewrite their site copy and re-engineer the way their site is structured, brands need to know how their users find and engage with their site in the first place. If they’re not publishing articles on a regular basis, they almost certainly do not have the data necessary to revamp their site in a meaningful way.
Diagnosing Issues at Hand: Website A vs. Website B
Think of it this way: a website is not a pamphlet — it’s a conversation. The best conversationalists talk often and to a variety of people.
Website A doesn’t have a blog and features only the main information pages (for our purposes, let’s say less than 30 pages total). Excluding the ‘About Us,’ ‘Contact Us,’ and ‘Our Team’ pages, only the remaining pages (such as the brand’s ‘Services’ and ‘Clients’ pages) are optimized for relevant search queries.
Website B features a regularly updated blog, publishing three times per week, plus the same sort of information pages as Website A. Having used this publishing strategy for two years, Website B features a portfolio of more than 300 articles, every one of which is optimized for a specific, nuanced search query and addresses a specific topic.
Because of this, the brand that operates Website B can examine the performance of its content in order to find out:
- How people find their brand (i.e. for which keywords their articles rank)
- The types of content that rank for these keywords
- The approaches, narrative styles, and topics that most effectively encourage readers to learn more or get in touch
Let’s say that Websites A and B operate within the same industry — Information Services — and both offer a cloud analytics solution. However, only brand B discovered that the keyword big cloud analytics is a valuable source of traffic and leads because it published an article using the phrase and tracked the conversion data associated with it. Additionally, brand B found that long-form, explanatory writing is most effective in encouraging readers to reach out — a valuable insight that can only be discovered via experimentation.
So, if you need to fix your site and you don’t have a publishing strategy in place, establishing a regular publishing cadence can help you get the data necessary to revamp your site more effectively. As mentioned earlier, site overhauls are expensive and require often hard-to-come-by institutional sign-off — brands need to make all this worthwhile.
But My Site Looks Bad and Doesn’t Represent My Brand!
Sometimes it is absolutely necessary to fix some aspects of your site before you start publishing. You should update your site before publishing if:
- The information is out of date to the extent that it will cause problems, e.g. the site advertises service offerings that don’t exist anymore
- The brand values expressed go against the company’s current approach
- The web design is so outdated that it actually discourages visitors from connecting or reflects poorly on the brand
Usually, a website’s design or copy aren’t so outdated that they’re actively causing issues. More often, the site could do with a change — but undertaking a brand publishing program for a few months won’t harm anything, and will make the redesign process much more effective.
If your brand’s current site offends in one of these respects in a minor way — if, say, a service offering needs to be rephrased or removed — it makes sense to update this information as part of a brand publishing strategy. A quick look at your analytics can be a powerful tool in this situation: traffic data will tell you which outdated copy is most read by readers. With this information in hand, you can determine which material to update first in order to have the greatest effect on your audience. Meanwhile, you might find that hardly anyone actually looks at that web page that really annoyed you.
After triaging the situation, you will find that your brand’s website falls into one of the following three categories:
- The entire site, the majority of its design, or the site copy is damaging or significantly off-brand.
- The site requires immediate updates in particular areas, but the majority is acceptable.
- The design or copy of the site should be updated, but it is not an urgent need.
For sites that fall into the first category, we recommend a digital transformation approach. During this process, we launch a 3-4 month sprint, during which we revamp the entire site. When the overhaul is complete, we then launch a brand publishing strategy.
For sites that fall into the second and third categories, we recommend a brand publishing strategy, with site redesign and copy revamping to follow. Thus, we can incorporate what we learn from our publishing efforts into the overhaul process.
It can be very difficult to get buy-in from your colleagues to revamp your site. The same is true for getting buy-in to hold off on revamping in order to make the update most effective. The two crucial factors here are time and data: if you can afford the time, gather the user data and it will be worth it in the long run.