Marketing Blabs – Podcast

Blab #5: Website Fundamentals

Date of Blab

5 May 2023

Blab Host

Categories

Listen Time

00:52:53

Welcome to "Website Fundamentals," the blab where we cover the essential building blocks of creating a successful website.

In this episode, we'll dive into the key principles and strategies that can help you design, develop, and maintain a website that engages your audience and meets your business goals.

Whether you're a seasoned pro or just starting out, tune in to "Website Fundamentals" to learn how to create a website that stands out in today's digital landscape.

We hope these tips will help you create a fantastic website that not only looks great but also functions seamlessly.

On this Blab: Tom Haslam (host), Matt Janaway, Josh Stapleton and Mel Healy.

Blab Transcript
Tom Haslam - (Host):

Hello, welcome to Marketing Blabs. This podcast is brought to you by Marketing Labs, an expert digital marketing agency based in Nottinghamshire. If you're a business owner or a marketing professional looking for straightforward non-salesy tips and advice to help grow your business online, then this is the podcast for you. Strap in because we're about to reveal the things that other agencies would rather you didn't know.

We're back. Looking rather dashing today, Josh.

Josh Stapleton - (Web Developer):

Thanks Tom.

Tom Haslam - (Host):

Very good.

Josh Stapleton - (Web Developer):

Appreciate that.

Tom Haslam - (Host):

It's not like I'm reading a prompt on my screen.

Josh Stapleton - (Web Developer):

That's totally unprompted, that's what you're saying. Yeah.

Matt Janaway - (CEO):

What did prompt that?

Tom Haslam - (Host):

Josh basically wrote, "Compliment Josh's good lucks," on my little note. So welcome back everybody to another episode of Marketing Blabs. We hope you enjoyed the last Blab, where we talked about useful tips that will help boost your eCommerce performance. If you didn't catch the recent Blab, be sure to head over to Spotify to take a listen. For those of you that don't know me, I'm Tom, the Creative Director at Marketing Labs, and the host for this podcast. In today's Blab, we're going to have a good old chat about the key ingredients for your website. We'll dive into the art of design, development basics, and the significance of robust online security. Today with me, I've got Matt our CEO. How you doing Matt? You're all right?

Matt Janaway - (CEO):

Hi Tom. Yeah, good.

Tom Haslam - (Host):

Excited to be here again?

Matt Janaway - (CEO):

Always, every time.

Tom Haslam - (Host):

Good, every time. How many of you been on now?

Matt Janaway - (CEO):

This will be my fourth year.

Tom Haslam - (Host):

Good effort. We've got our web development wizard, Josh.

Josh Stapleton - (Web Developer):

How you doing?

Tom Haslam - (Host):

How you doing? All good?

Josh Stapleton - (Web Developer):

Yeah. Yeah, good.

Tom Haslam - (Host):

Busy day?

Josh Stapleton - (Web Developer):

Pretty busy, meetings.

Tom Haslam - (Host):

Happy days. Thanks for being on. And we've got Mel, our Head of Content. You okay Mel?

Mel Healy - (Head of Content):

Afternoon Tom.

Tom Haslam - (Host):

Afternoon Mel. That sounded really formal. Afternoon, Tom. You all right?

Mel Healy - (Head of Content):

I'm good. Thank you.

Tom Haslam - (Host):

Good. Between the four of us, I dare to say we've worked on hundreds of, maybe even thousands of websites between us. So listeners, you are in the best place to learn when it comes to websites. I guess the first sort of talking point I want to touch on is having a decent goal for your website. A lot of people maybe discount that a little bit. Does anyone want to add to that?

Josh Stapleton - (Web Developer):

Yeah, so website goals pretty important. I guess if you've not got a website already, if you're thinking about building one for your business, there's a few things that you've got to consider really like is it eCommerce? That's probably one of the main ones. Are you actually going to be driving sales through this website? If it's just like a brochure site or something just to get your brand seen, give people information. You're going to be putting your site together in different ways and focusing on different areas of the site based on that.

Tom Haslam - (Host):

I think it's good to understand what you're actually trying to do with the website as well. You're trying to obviously add resource for people to read in terms of content. Or is it handy for every website to have that? I don't know.

Josh Stapleton - (Web Developer):

It's handy for every website. Realistically speaking, content's one of the backbones for SEO. So yeah, having content there, I think regardless of the reason for the website is pretty important.

Matt Janaway - (CEO):

I think the thing is as well, if you don't understand what the purpose of your website is, you don't know how to direct users correctly to where they need to be to serve that purpose. So for example, if you're a service led business, your service pages, the CTAs you have on those service pages, it's quite important that they serve the purpose properly. Whereas if your goal for having that website is more of a case study website or to show off the kind of work you do, it's going to change the structure of the website. But not only the structure, it changes the journey for the visitor. So if you don't know what the purpose is and what your goal is, you can't really get to the ideal output. So your website will never really serve the purpose it's designed to do.

Mel Healy - (Head of Content):

I think Matt made a good point there. If you don't know what you're trying to achieve, you won't ever be able to measure the output. You won't know if you've been successful because you don't know what you went into it for. And there needs to be a goal so you can measure that success or not. Because you're paying for it after all, so you want to see a return on that investment.

Tom Haslam - (Host):

Would you say that if someone's starting a website from scratch, a lot of people just want to get a little one-page homepage up there or one page website should we call it? Is that going to be backwards negative for them? Is it worth investing in a larger output initially than just doing the one pager?

Matt Janaway - (CEO):

It depends on where they're going to be driving people to the website. So it's all about intent. If people going to that website, if the purpose of that is, for example, let's just say you do a lot of networking and you just need somewhere for people to land and find out about who you are, that's fine. If you are planning on ever driving traffic through any other channel or any other form of marketing, it's going to be difficult. So a one page website for SEO is not quite pointless, but it's not far off. You're fishing with a line instead of a net. Social, again, people visiting it's not going to have the intent that they would want to see when they land on that page. So it depends on the purpose. I think if somebody's just starting out and they don't have the budget and they do a lot of networking or they have people already relationships where they can send people there, then that could work. It might be okay.

Otherwise you've really got to start thinking about the intent of the visitor. So what does somebody want to see when they land on that page? If you are driving that traffic from search, for example, the page has to be quite specific for what people have searched for in Google. If you are going to be driving traffic there from social, what is the purpose of the content you've created on social and what would somebody expect to see when they land on that page? It's always going to be difficult with a one page website. You need quite specific pages that serve quite specific purposes.

Tom Haslam - (Host):

Yeah, it comes back to the good old-fashioned argument we always have is understanding your audience first as well. Making sure that it's aligned with the audience and content.

Mel Healy - (Head of Content):

I think the industry and sector has a lot to do with it as well. So there are some industries that require more content because market education is still important for them. So for the work that we're doing, for example on solar energy, there's a lot that people don't know and want to know, and for that you'd need much more than a one-page website to deliver the answers that people want. And there's a huge opportunity there because people want to know, they are searching for it.

Matt Janaway - (CEO):

This is where content hubs are just so useful. Forget the SEO benefits of having content hubs and the topical authority that search engines can understand about you as an author and a website. Even just from a user side, having content hubs really shows a lot of trust and shows you as an expert in your field. And I know it's a lot of work, it is hard work, but I think most people who run businesses, they have a certain expertise and it should be easier for them to talk and write about these kind of topics and they're really valuable, really valuable. I think in this day and age, websites that don't have any form of content hub actually are missing out massively.

Tom Haslam - (Host):

Yeah. Some people like to call it either training or resource hub as well, don't they? Or a resource area.

Mel Healy - (Head of Content):

Yeah. I've noticed a lot of people have changed. They've moved away from the word blog towards knowledge centre, which does work actually in some cases.

Matt Janaway - (CEO):

And that's what a blog is really. Initially a blog is obviously writing about your, it's like a diary, but actually it's evolved, hasn't it? And it has become a knowledge centre-

Mel Healy - (Head of Content):

Absolutely, yeah.

Matt Janaway - (CEO):

And I like knowledge centre, I like resources as well is quite nice. And hub is a nice word as well because it is a hub. You can wrap it up however you like really, and it might work better in different industries to call it different things. But ultimately if you've got expertise and you are not portraying that expertise, you are missing out.

Mel Healy - (Head of Content):

However you wrap it up, whatever you call it, it's an important part of the website. But it's critical to remember that isn't an area a section for selling. That's a different part of your website. That doesn't belong there. It has its place but it's not there. It's not in the blog.

Matt Janaway - (CEO):

That is such a good point. The amount of times that you see a misunderstanding about the purpose of things like this is actually quite scary. The purpose of this kind of content is absolutely not an opportunity to sell. Doesn't mean that you can't drop information about your product in there, but at the same point, that's not its purpose. Somebody reading this content and these pages, they're looking for your expertise, they're looking for your understanding of the industry you're in and how they can value and trust your input. They're not looking to be sold to. And actually selling to them diminishes the point of creating this content. So that's really important For anybody listening, I don't think I can emphasise that enough. The amount of blogs that you see or whatever you want to call them, hubs, knowledge bases, whatever, however you want to describe that, it's just too common to see these things where it's just filled with product information.

Product information should be on your product pages. This is about information about you as an expert, about expertise and about trust. And to coin what Google have already decided, EAT, expertise, authority, trust. That's where you can really portray your understanding of your product or industry.

Tom Haslam - (Host):

Yeah, it's a good point as well. And I think having that knowledge centre there for people to read about is the key aspect. I want to touch on navigation, and obviously I always come back to the point of everything being quite simple, but let's take an eCommerce website for example. I've found recently that a lot of them speaking to specifically Josh's implemented quite a lot of what we like to call mega menus. So allowing the user to interact with the menu and navigate to wherever they want in one click without having to navigate through different menus on different pages and so on. And that's global as well. Do you see there've been a big benefit with them?

Josh Stapleton - (Web Developer):

Yeah, definitely a benefit. First off, when you look at a lot of simpler menus, let's say, yeah, you can have dropdowns in them and you can go through six or seven different dropdowns to get to a really low level category. But with something like a mega menu, if it's taken up the full page, you've got a lot more space to work with there. You can see a lot more links at once and also you can fit a lot more links in, so you might not want to go very deep with categories on a regular menu. On a mega menu though you can have more categories on there and that's great for SEO.

Tom Haslam - (Host):

Yeah, I guess it's a...

Josh Stapleton - (Web Developer):

The additional links.

Tom Haslam - (Host):

... good linking opportunity as well.

Matt Janaway - (CEO):

It's a good linking opportunity. And do you know what as well? Not only is it great for user experience, but you can improve that as well by using things like icons to help visualise. I personally don't like mega menus with images in. I'm not a big fan of that. I think it draws the eye and makes it a little bit confusing. If you've got icons next to each header, I think that works much better than images.

Josh Stapleton - (Web Developer):

It's a lot less intimidating than just a wall full of text. You don't necessarily want to look through every single one, but a quick glance might give you an idea.

Matt Janaway - (CEO):

Yeah.

Tom Haslam - (Host):

Would you say that, let's say you've got three category levels, would you say that you'd have the icons on just the top level?

Matt Janaway - (CEO):

I think it depends. Sorry, sit sitting on the fence there. It depends. And it is the same with how you would break up what those navigation links are. Because if you had a huge eCommerce store, you've got to find that balance between category pages not being too deep and too many clicks away. But at the same point, that menu not just being overwhelming and huge. So it is a balance and it's a difficult one to answer just with a blanket answer.

Josh Stapleton - (Web Developer):

That's one I see quite a lot actually is stuffing way too much into your top level. You have home, about, shop, sorry, contact us, et cetera. But also trying to fit in a lot of top level shop categories into that, you end up with a very overwhelming top level menu. And I don't know, it can be a bit of a pain to actually navigate something like that.

Matt Janaway - (CEO):

Very difficult for users to figure that out.

Josh Stapleton - (Web Developer):

Hard to figure out. It's also a bit of a pain to let's say implement but also fit on the page. When you've got that much text just strung along, it doesn't look great.

Matt Janaway - (CEO):

No. And you've then got the next problem as well of how people can find what they're looking for. Because obviously your naming convention is important here. But I was browsing a website yesterday, actually quite a big website and I was looking for something quite specific and I couldn't find it in their search. Their search was dreadful. But their sort of main menu, it wasn't a mega menu. Fairly big but not huge, but it wasn't in alphabetical order, and that I get why in certain situations it wouldn't be in alphabetical order. It could be in terms of priority, or I understand the different ways of having to deal with that. But when it's quite large and it's not alphabetical, it actually makes it quite hard to find things.

Josh Stapleton - (Web Developer):

I think that could vary depending on the website, you'd kind of mentioned that. I think for lists, if it's expected to be alphabetized, yeah. There's a lot of cases where priority, like you say, is probably-

Matt Janaway - (CEO):

I think when it gets to a certain size, and I don't know what that size is, but when it gets to a certain size it needs to have some form of order for the user to figure out.

Tom Haslam - (Host):

Like you said, it's getting that balance between what's going to be beneficial for the user experience, but also trying to optimise your opportunities for links. And not modelling all that up and making it look overwhelming. So there's quite a lot to consider.

Matt Janaway - (CEO):

Yeah. And that's another thing I wanted to mention actually with navigation menus, the amount of opportunity there is in navigation menus for SEO is actually pretty huge. You see it quite often where people will link in a navigation menu to a page, but they're not using the keyword in the anchor text, and that is a massive missed opportunity. Search engines use the anchor text as a hint to what the page is about. So if the anchor text doesn't mention the keyword word, it really is a struggle. I don't think necessarily that it has to every time. In fact it shouldn't every time. But at the same point, if it's completely unrelated, it makes it pretty difficult for search engines to figure out the page. So that's a quick opportunity there for most websites. If they look through their navigation menu in those links, the anchor text doesn't match what the page is about, there's an opportunity to optimise that. Just for people listening, anchor text is the text on the link. So if you had a link that said read more, the anchor text in that case would be read more.

Tom Haslam - (Host):

We actually published a short about internal links as well. There's a lot that we've touched on there with regards to having a goal and the navigation. I want to talk a little bit about what's becoming more prominent now throughout websites designs, a modular style throughout. I certainly when designing them like to use a modular style. And I'm looking at Mel now because our conversations always come back to a good old global section.

Mel Healy - (Head of Content):

Tom loves a global section.

Tom Haslam - (Host):

I do love it. For those who are listening, a global section essentially is a section of your website that is designed in a way that is global. So if it's dashed on three pages, the design is the same. If you change it, it will automatically update the design throughout the whole website.

Matt Janaway - (CEO):

So one example might be, let's just say above your footer, you've got a call to action. It'll say, I don't know, "Sign up to our newsletter," with a field where you can enter your email address and then a button. You could change that once and it would change on every page on the website.

Josh Stapleton - (Web Developer):

It's just reusable content is the best way I can define it. I suppose there's two ways as well. You could have banked content, so a block, whatever it may be like your newsletter thing that you can just grab and dump on a page. But you could also have the global one, which is what you're talking about first off, which is if you have it on multiple pages, they're linked, and if changing one changes the other. Another thing to call it a potentially be like a template.

Tom Haslam - (Host):

Yeah. I think the side of things I try and steer away from templated designs as far as off the shelf stuff go. We always design stuff bespoke, but-

Josh Stapleton - (Web Developer):

Custom template.

Tom Haslam - (Host):

Custom template, yeah. I think it's about making it right for the client, which is the most important thing, making it look right and making sure that the call to actions are relevant as well.

Matt Janaway - (CEO):

Just for things to consider as well when doing this, I try to avoid situations where you've got big blocks of text in those and they're repeated on every page. That's not great for search engines to figure out what the page purpose is. But at the same point, they are extraordinarily useful for things that you might repeat.

Tom Haslam - (Host):

So I think another thing that's quite important is obviously for those global sections is the content within them and making sure the CTAs are clear. How do you normally approach that Mel, when we've got those sort of modular design?

Mel Healy - (Head of Content):

There are two ways of looking at the content that you use in these global sections, and one is another opportunity for users to find you. So if it's well optimised and Google understands the content that you've used and it's keyword rich, which then it will help improve the websites overall visibility. But specific to that section and really important is to make it as clickable as possible. You need to think about what you want somebody to do when they've finished reading that section. Where do you want them to go next? What is the objective? And drive them towards clicking that CTA button. And that's the main purpose of what you're doing in there in that section.

Tom Haslam - (Host):

Yeah. You want them to take action after they've read the content within it. Otherwise it's pretty pointless, isn't it really?

Matt Janaway - (CEO):

It's very easy-

Tom Haslam - (Host):

It's not pointless, but it's-

Matt Janaway - (CEO):

Yeah, and it's easy to underestimate the importance of what that action is. So we talk about this a huge amount and I think maybe sometimes we probably sound a bit obsessive, but you know what, if you don't know what that action is, people have no idea how to deal with it. And people are lazy on a website. It sounds ridiculous, but you literally have to give them directions for what you want them to do next. If you don't give them that direction, they don't really know what they're there for. So that's your opportunity to direct them where you want them to go.

Mel Healy - (Head of Content):

Matt, I read something in one of your blogs the other day on your site about metrics and bounce rate. I think people leaving a page, and sometimes it's because they don't have anywhere else to go. I can't remember the technical term that you used, but it was literally a dead end.

Matt Janaway - (CEO):

Yeah. But also there's two things there that are quite important. The first one is where you actually are expecting them to go. The second one is intent. So if the page answers what the person is looking for when they land on that page, the bounce rate, it will be high because you've answered their question. Which is why bounce rate is a terrible metric to use to try to understand user experience in most situations because it entirely depends on the page. Your checkout page, for example, on an eCommerce website, the thank you page, that'll be the biggest exit page on a website. Rightly so, because people have come to the end of their journey. If you were to sort all your pages by exit rate, that'd probably be the highest. But there's no point panicking. It's pretty obvious that at that point it's because people are leaving. So you planning that journey and helping people understand actually what you want them to do next and making it clear when they're at the end of that journey is really important.

You can't do that without goals. So this comes back to the first point we raised in this podcast. You can't do that without goals. If you don't know what your goals are, how can you direct people into the right journey?

Tom Haslam - (Host):

Absolutely. I want to talk about thank you pages actually, because it's probably something maybe a lot of starter websites forget. It could be a sub-page or a child of the contact page itself, but having that page helps with tracking, like you say, for once they've submitted a contact form perhaps. If it's a inquiry based website or if you want to generate inquiries, if you've got that thank you page there and you are tracking from that, you can see how many people have, obviously you're getting the contact forms, but it's useful for conversions and ads and things like that.

Matt Janaway - (CEO):

Yeah, for sure. And you don't actually see that too often, do you?

Tom Haslam - (Host):

No.

Matt Janaway - (CEO):

How often do you fill a form out on a website where you just get a little notice saying thank you?

Tom Haslam - (Host):

Yeah, exactly. Yeah.

Matt Janaway - (CEO):

Doesn't mean they're not tracking it, but chances are they're not if they don't have a thank you page. If you have a thank you page, in your analytics account, you can not only understand how they've behaved before they've completed the action. But you can also understand how they found you, what kind of journey they had up to that point of a soft conversion, if the contact form is a soft conversion really. And without tracking that you actually have no idea. So you don't know which form of your marketing activity is working. Or even if you're not marketing, but what's working for you and what's not working so well.

Tom Haslam - (Host):

Exactly. We've talked quite a lot about content and rightly so. The design of it is obviously important. But I want to talk briefly about landing pages because first of all, do we have to consider a slightly different route with the content when it comes to a landing page? Maybe the structure needs to be slightly different. I would say from a design perspective, yes. If it's specifically, let's say for Google Ads, traditionally what you'd probably see is a header, a bit of a written piece of content at the top with a contact form so that you can get in touch straight away. But we always come back to this point of how it's important to build trust on those landing pages. So get your reviews in there, images, social proof, et cetera. What would you say is the most important element of a landing page?

Matt Janaway - (CEO):

I think first and foremost, you have to explain very clearly what the page is and what the purpose is of the page. I'm Sure Mel will expand on this, but the amount of times you see landing pages where they sort of get it wrong, they're doing the right things, but they're not explaining their service or their product in a way that solves the problem. They're almost shouting about themselves instead of shouting about the solution that their product or service gives. And I think that is probably the most important thing right at the top of that page.

Tom Haslam - (Host):

Yeah. Do you take a slightly different approach for landing pages Mel? Or is it a same sort of theme as what you're doing in terms of the tone of voice, but changing the messaging slightly to suit?

Mel Healy - (Head of Content):

I think with landing pages, you've got to think about intent because they've come from a very specific place, and you've engineered that in all likelihood for them to have reached that page because they can't find it any other way. So you should know a little bit about who they are, how they got there, and what they might want from that page. So it's important that you're delivering what they want. And as Matt said, it's about looking at what benefits there are to the reader and putting them in prime position rather than the company. You see so many sort of ego-based driven pieces of content that all start with I and we and our, and it really needs to be about the customer, the prospective customer and the solution that you are providing to a problem that they've got.

Matt Janaway - (CEO):

Yeah. If you use Marketing Labs as an example, so you know straight away what the answer to this will be, but if we had a landing page, let's just say we were running an ad campaign for SEO agencies in the Midlands, something like that. If we had a landing page that said the best SEO agency at the start, but then we compared that and we did an A to B test with a landing page that at the start said something along the lines of, "Our SEO can drive X amount of pounds growth." You know that one's more powerful because the reason they will want SEO is because they want performance, they want revenue, they want growth. So you are directly addressing what the purpose of what their visit is for, instead of shouting about yourself. And you're making that more powerful obviously by inserting figures, numbers, whatever it might be, percentages, pounds. But you are telling them what they're there for instead of telling them that you are the best.

Obviously you need to usually as a subconscious thing, you need to show them ways where you are competent obviously, but not straight away.

Josh Stapleton - (Web Developer):

Where do you guys think things differ between landing pages for eCommerce versus service?

Matt Janaway - (CEO):

Yeah, what a good question because actually there's a huge grey area between them, isn't there? Often the grey area is probably actually bigger than the landing page versus non landing page. I think it depends for me on the purpose of the page and whether you can target it via other means. There's no point having a landing page, if you've got a natural page that can also target the same audience and the same visitor and the same product or service or whatever it might be. I think the time comes for me when it's to serve quite a specific purpose or the audience changes or the product changes or the key word changes potentially. If you're running an ads campaign for example, and you want to target a specific keyword, you might need a page for that. But there is always overlap, always. And for me as well, this is where A to B testing comes in.

So we've not really spoken too much about A to B testing, and this is relevant as well for the global sections we were talking about earlier. If you are making global sections and you want to make adjustments to those sections, that's going to impact every page on your website. Really, they should be A to B tested. So you'd filter 50% of traffic to each version and you see what kind of impact it has. Exactly the same with landing pages. If you've got a landing page that you think is really close to a natural page on your website, really you should be A to B testing them to make sure that your landing page is performing better. Now, in theory, it should because you've created it because either there's a new audience or because there's a new channel or because whatever it might be. So in theory it should work better, but you don't know until you actually A to B test it.

Quite often in the past we've made assumptions that everybody does this, you use your experience to almost guess the impact of things like these. And change it to a website, you might change the button colour and assume that it's going to work better. And most of the time it does, but not always. So until you actually gather that data, you can never be too sure.

Tom Haslam - (Host):

Yeah, there's some interesting stuff there around content. I want to talk a little bit more about CMSs and platforms. Specifically a lot of people would jump straight to Shopify if they're thinking of setting up an eCommerce website, I'd think, but there's lots of other CMSs out there. We traditionally or predominantly would use WordPress. Does anyone want to talk about the benefits of WordPress versus Shopify? I know this is probably its own topic in itself, but-

Josh Stapleton - (Web Developer):

Yeah, so there's quite a lot to it, to be honest with you. Realistically speaking, I think WordPress is a lot more flexible for most jobs, let's say. It's kind of like a Swiss army knife. It can do most things, but it can't particularly excel in any of them. But you look at Shopify, it is primarily sales. They're good for that. In terms of like SEO flexibility for example, it's a little bit trickier to get things going on there.

Matt Janaway - (CEO):

There's a few things that frustrate me about Shopify. It's a good platform, don't get me wrong. I'm okay with it in terms of what it does as a platform. But it's a little bit like Hoover became the default for vacuum cleaners. People call vacuum cleaners, Hoover. Shopify's sort of trying, is carving that out a little bit with eCommerce. And it is quite frustrating because in the UK specifically, less so in the US and Canada, in the UK specifically, there are some quite fundamental SEO issues with Shopify. So if you're in the UK and you're running a Shopify store, it's hosted in the US or Canada, that's quite a strong signal to search engines about where your audience is. So not always, but quite often you'll see Shopify websites in the UK ranking for more keywords in the US and they are the UK. So it can limit performance.

And also this can be fixed, but the vast majority of templates on Shopify, they have quite a broken internal link architecture. So the links, internal links go to pages that aren't canonical pages, which basically means they're a duplicated page. And in theory, if you keep putting them in multiple collections, you could have 10, 15, 20, a hundred of these pages that are identical, which isn't a problem when the canonical tags set up correctly. But it is a problem when the canonical tags set up correctly, but all of the internal links go to different pages. Those internal links really should go to the canonical page because it's quite confusing for search engines. So that's those two issues there with Shopify, there are more. You can't really do a great deal with the robust text file. And there's other things, you can't control the server. So a few other things that are issues, but those two alone are enough to actually cause performance issues for most small businesses.

Tom Haslam - (Host):

Not ideal because most people would think to use Shopify for an eCommerce website.

Matt Janaway - (CEO):

It's almost become the default. And it sounds like I'm bashing it there. I'm not. I really like Shopify. It's worked wonders in terms of user experience. It's made quite a complicated thing running an eCommerce business into something that anybody can do quite easily. If you set up a Shopify store, you can do most things you would need to do to run an eCommerce business in the backend easily as well, without getting confused. The user experience in the backend is nice. It's just very frustrating for an SEO.

Tom Haslam - (Host):

Yeah, I can imagine. Because I know WordPress as a standalone is not a eCommerce platform, is there any integrations for WordPress for eCommerce?

Josh Stapleton - (Web Developer):

Yeah, so I guess the main one for WordPress is WooCommerce. Yeah, WooCommerce absolutely brilliant. Allows you to do, I'd say pretty much everything you can do on Shopify, for example. I suppose with the exception that categories or collections, I guess if you're talking about Shopify work a little bit differently. Collections on Shopify, you kind of filter them in a sense. So you select parameters for categories or collections. Whereas you have to actually categorise things within WordPress. It's a bit more traditional-

Tom Haslam - (Host):

It's a bit more specific and I guess better for SEO doing it that way.

Matt Janaway - (CEO):

Yeah, it can be. WordPress has a huge amount more control for SEO than Shopify does. A huge amount more. It's much more powerful. Like Josh said, it is like a Swiss army knife. It is more powerful in most senses. But at the same point that can often sort of convolute people's views on it and confuse the admin, and that's often where people will make their opinion. And there's also some downsides, some of which we'll probably come on to later when it comes to security. Some benefits, downsides of both ways actually. Because it's more powerful when it comes to security, you can do more. But out the box, it can be challenging. I'd also like to throw in the mix Wix actually.

Tom Haslam - (Host):

No, I don't want talk about Wix.

Matt Janaway - (CEO):

Yeah, exactly. See, this is interesting. Wix has had a terrible reputation for a long time, and by the way, rightfully so. Genuinely, it was a really, really simple platform that got, it was pretty bad, it was quite poor. It's improved a lot. So it's quite a well-respected SEO that's gone in there and taken over the technical foundations of Wix, and it's actually pretty good now, very fast. So Core Web Vitals are generally really strong. It has quite a lot of controllable SEO features. It's still most likely for people who just won't have the budget for a proper website still. And I mean that in the nicest way when I say proper website. But at the same point, it now does a much better job than it used to.

Tom Haslam - (Host):

What about mobile optimization? Because didn't I hear you say the other day, something along the lines of Google crawl on mobile first now or?

Matt Janaway - (CEO):

Yep. Yeah, they started the rollout years ago, but they've basically finished the rollout now. So when Google bots crawl a website, they crawl it on the mobile version. So one big mistake we used to see all the time, less so now, but you do still see it, is when someone will say, "Well this information is going to ruin the user experience on mobile." So they might remove sections for mobile, whether that be descriptions, long descriptions, videos sometimes, things like that. If you are removing that, then Google, chances are actually aren't even seeing it. And I've seen this so many times. Probably about 18 months ago, we had somebody get in touch with us to say that they'd lost 80% of their traffic and about 55% of their revenue. And it was because they pushed out a mobile design where they removed the long descriptions on all the product pages.

Tom Haslam - (Host):

Oh really?

Matt Janaway - (CEO):

So search engines just couldn't as easily figure out what the pages were about. And that can be quite devastating.

Josh Stapleton - (Web Developer):

Probably a good time to mention why mobile first development's such a big thing.

Matt Janaway - (CEO):

Yeah.

Josh Stapleton - (Web Developer):

So mobile first development is developing for mobile first. So ideally focusing on all the stuff that you can see on the mobile device and formatting and making the mobile work seamlessly first off, and then moving towards the desktop stuff. Because realistically speaking, most people are using mobiles for the majority of stuff nowadays.

Matt Janaway - (CEO):

Comes back to audience again though. So what I mean by that is if it's a brand new website, you don't have any data, you are not sure how, you can make educated guesses on who the audience is, but you're not quite sure about how they behave. If it's a replacement website, you can quite easily get access to their analytical data and you can look at how people are browsing the website. In some industries, mobile obviously dominates, but in others, desktop actually still does do better. We've got a client who do a lot with the NHS and councils and things like that. The vast majority of their traffic comes from desktops and actually older Windows computers. So you know straight away how best to optimise their website. But yeah, as Josh says, that generally bit by bit is getting closer and closer towards mobile.

So if your audience is browsing your website mostly on mobile, you've got a double incentive to build mobile first because you've got the search incentive, but then you've got your audience incentive. So you'd literally build the website out from mobile and then lead it into a desktop version.

Tom Haslam - (Host):

Yeah, interesting. Some interesting points there. There's a couple of third party plugins that are quite useful for integration into WordPress to name a few. You've got Smush, which is good for obviously image optimization. Preferably if you upload your images first, hopefully lower than say 200 kilobytes, it's always better. But Smush definitely helps, if you haven't got anything to do, any image optimization before the upload. Is there any that you like to use Josh, in terms of third party stuff?

Josh Stapleton - (Web Developer):

Yeah, there's all sorts to be honest with you. And it varies a little bit depending on the function of your website, of course. I think generally speaking though, we've got quite a few that we use on most sites. At the very least, you want some kind of security plugin. There's plenty of free ones out there. There's also plenty of paid ones out there. A lot of the paid ones tend to offer you a lot better features. But yeah, depends whether you want to break the bank or not. Again though, you kind of get what you pay for with a lot of this stuff. If you are using eCommerce for example, there's plenty of integrations for eCommerce that you might want to look at. MailChimp for example, by default you get something like that. But you can have check boxes on your checkout, which will allow your customers to subscribe to mailing lists. That could be quite useful, especially for remarketing later on.

Matt Janaway - (CEO):

I think I'd like to throw in a recommendation for a plugin called Rank Math, which I think is better than Yoast. So Yoast is a classic SEO plugin that a lot of people use and it's good. Yoast is very good, and I like Yoast, but Rank Math is superb, really, really, really good. And also, do you know the thing about Yoast that even though I think Yoast is brilliant, accidentally it's created a bit of a problem in the SEO world. Because people will have a website and for those of you that haven't used Yoast, if you go onto any page on your website in the admin can give you a traffic light system, a scoring system, and you can enter a keyword and it'll tell you how well optimised the pages. Now when I say well optimised, I'm saying that in inverted commerce because it's sort of meaningless. It's just a pointless tick box scoring system.

You could write a blog post. In fact, let's use the landing page example from earlier in this post about an SEO agency in the Midlands. You could enter any key word into Yoast, obviously. So I could enter microphone and as long as I mentioned microphone in the title and then in the body and then in an alt text I'd get a green tick. But the content is absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with microphones. The problem this has caused is people will enter very broad keywords. So they might enter marketing, for example, on a page like the one I was just talking about, or they might enter SEO, but in a million years that page is never going to rank for SEO. So it's not well optimised. But actually that traffic light system sort of leads people into thinking that it's actually useful and it's really not. There's so much more to it than that. It was designed just as a brief guide, but it's sort of created this beast, if you like, of people thinking that my page is SEOed or my site is SEO'd, and that as a term is actually quite meaningless.

Tom Haslam - (Host):

Doesn't Rank Math a different scoring system? Isn't it a scoring system?

Matt Janaway - (CEO):

It still has a scoring system, but it's different. It is better in my opinion, but it still doesn't solve the problem. You don't just SEO a page. That's not how SEO works. Of course you optimise it and of course you can improve it, but it's not a tick box exercise. There's not, say five or 10 things that you do and then your page is optimised. So it's the whole purpose behind that kind of approach that sort of frustrates SEOs. Just as well on that point, there are quite a lot of plugins. There's some extremely useful plugins that get used a lot. There's some other plugins that don't get used often that are still really useful. What I'd like to mention about plugins is how you genuinely have to put time and effort into maintaining them. So I think this is a misconception that people have with a website is that it's like a product. That once a website is built, you hand it over to somebody, you give them the keys and it is what it is.

But that couldn't be further from the truth, because actually that product that you're handing over needs maintaining. And arguably it needs maintaining more than say a car would even. With a car, you need to fill it with brake fluid, wiper fluid, you need wiper blades, petrol, tyres, brakes, you need to service it, you need to MOT it, you need to tax it. That's nothing compared to a website needing maintenance. So WordPress, we talk about the pros and cons of WordPress. As useful as WordPress is, and the community for WordPress is absolutely huge. If you want to do something on WordPress, chances are that there's hundreds of other people, if not thousands or tens of thousands that have wanted to do exactly the same thing and somebody's created a solution for it. So it's so powerful. The problem with that comes mass market. And the moment you have a mass market in anything, you are open to vulnerabilities.

So if you imagine installing a plugin now and there's a vulnerability in that plugin, which almost every plugins have by the way, but they get patched regularly. If you don't patch that plugin and you leave it, then over time it becomes more vulnerable, and it's open to your website being accessed and abused and attacked. And people can instal all sorts of malware and things like that. So the more plugins you have in theory, the more vulnerable your website becomes, but also the more it needs to be maintained. Now the next problem comes, and Josh will elaborate on this in a second I'm sure, but the next problem that comes is if you have multiple plugins and they potentially all share various functions or various lines of code or quite similar in their functionality, you can end up with lots of conflicts.

This is why maintenance for a WordPress website is so important because when you are updating those plugins, they can conflict quite easily. So you might update two plugins and actually your website breaks. So it isn't just a simple case of enabling auto updates or even once a week going into your plugins and clicking updates because chances are may well break something.

Josh Stapleton - (Web Developer):

Yeah, another thing that I've seen quite a lot is like when you have plugins, or let's say you have an update for a plugin, but I don't know, let's say PHP is a little bit outdated or your theme's outdated or something like that. Something like that, that's pretty much guaranteed to trip your site up. You also find a lot of plugins that are reliant on one another. So if you're running WooCommerce, for example, eCommerce stuff, you might have, I don't know, five, 10 different plugins that are bolt-ons to WooCommerce. And updating them might work out okay, but then WooCommerce comes out with a really big update and it turns out like, I don't know, four out of those five developers are really far behind with updates. WooCommerce updates, and then all four of those quite vital systems if we're talking eCommerce, can trip up and probably cause you some problems.

Matt Janaway - (CEO):

It's one of the reasons why maintenance of a WordPress website is so useful, but you don't actually see it too often. So 98% just genuine statistic, 98% of all websites that get hacked are WordPress websites. That is quite scary if you've got a WordPress website. However, that also assumes that the vast majority of websites on the internet are WordPress. But also the vast majority of websites aren't really set up in a way that's that secure. Obviously if you've had your website built by a company, a real design agency or something like that, chances are it's going to be more secure anyway. But we have some very specific things we do when we build a website that makes them very difficult to hack. But then when you combine that with maintenance in your website, you could never say you're never going to get vulnerabilities. It's impossible to say that. But when you maintain them quite regularly, it limits those vulnerabilities massively. So yeah, I think people maybe don't quite fully get that with WordPress sometimes.

Tom Haslam - (Host):

I think these topics are really not my bag. I'm sat here thinking, I just want to draw a picture.

Matt Janaway - (CEO):

What are you thinking Mel?

Mel Healy - (Head of Content):

Write some words.

Tom Haslam - (Host):

Me and Mel are just looking at each other thinking, "Right, I want to talk about passwords."

Josh Stapleton - (Web Developer):

No, I'll leave. Okay.

Tom Haslam - (Host):

So we're joking about this because we're quite heavy on password protect, well Josh let's say is very heavy on password protection in the office. So-

Josh Stapleton - (Web Developer):

Out of the office. Everywhere.

Tom Haslam - (Host):

Everywhere. Mel, isn't your password something like...

Matt Janaway - (CEO):

Password.

Tom Haslam - (Host):

... Password...

Matt Janaway - (CEO):

With a one at the end?

Tom Haslam - (Host):

... with a capital P?

Mel Healy - (Head of Content):

I don't think we should be revealing that-

Josh Stapleton - (Web Developer):

You've now got to change that because of Tom.

Mel Healy - (Head of Content):

Now I've got to change the password to everything.

Matt Janaway - (CEO):

Your bank, your social accounts-

Mel Healy - (Head of Content):

I think-

Tom Haslam - (Host):

No, but you had a milestone the other day, didn't you?

Mel Healy - (Head of Content):

Yesterday...

Tom Haslam - (Host):

Oh, yesterday.

Mel Healy - (Head of Content):

... I did use a password security system to generate a secure password for me and then save it, and that was the first time I've ever done it.

Tom Haslam - (Host):

Did you feel proud?

Mel Healy - (Head of Content):

I felt I didn't recognise myself.

Tom Haslam - (Host):

Are you proud Josh?

Josh Stapleton - (Web Developer):

I would've been proud if it had been going on for longer. The fact that it was yesterday-

Mel Healy - (Head of Content):

It's taken me this long.

Matt Janaway - (CEO):

Please, please, please, listeners, please get a password-

Josh Stapleton - (Web Developer):

Don't hack Mel.

Matt Janaway - (CEO):

Don't hack Mel. But also get a password manager. Seriously, instal 1Password, or not last pass, instal 1Password or something like that. And it's best never knowing your passwords.

Tom Haslam - (Host):

Preferably email me first and I'll send you a referral link.

Josh Stapleton - (Web Developer):

Yeah, as odd as it may sound though, I do agree with you there, Matt. You shouldn't know your passwords.

Matt Janaway - (CEO):

You shouldn't. Every password needs to be unique. It needs to be randomly generated. If you know your password, it's vulnerable.

Josh Stapleton - (Web Developer):

16 characters at least.

Matt Janaway - (CEO):

Yep. Special characters, numbers-

Josh Stapleton - (Web Developer):

Caps.

Matt Janaway - (CEO):

Capital letters, lowercase-

Tom Haslam - (Host):

We've lost them Mel.

Matt Janaway - (CEO):

Randomised it.

Tom Haslam - (Host):

We've lost them. They're just talking about passwords.

Mel Healy - (Head of Content):

If there is anybody else out there like me who is completely non-technical, Josh has written a great piece on websites and how to improve your security and that's on the Marketing Labs blog. So check that out because it's very well written and you'll come away with it some things to action.

Tom Haslam - (Host):

Here's a big one, when we're talking about security, 2FA.

Josh Stapleton - (Web Developer):

2FA. If 2FA is available on whatever account you are using, use it.

Tom Haslam - (Host):

Do you want to explain what 2FA is to-

Josh Stapleton - (Web Developer):

2FA stands for two-factor authentication. You've probably seen it on one of your one or two of your accounts already. When you get a six digit pin on your phone for example, and you have to input that on a website, that's 2FA ,or that's a form of 2FA. The one that I prefer is TOTP, time-based authentication. That's basically you have an app on your phone and that app has rolling six digit codes. I think the probably last a minute or two. When that code's gone, it's gone, can't be used again. But you basically get a similar input field when you log into your site, six digit code goes to the app and you put that in. Only you have that app or that version of the app on your phone, so only you can access your stuff.

Matt Janaway - (CEO):

So basically, even if someone has your password, you try to log into a website, they've got your username, they've got your password. If they don't have your two-factor authentication code, they're not getting in. And only you have that because it's on your phone or whatever it might be.

Tom Haslam - (Host):

It's quite basic stuff this really, isn't it?

Josh Stapleton - (Web Developer):

You would think so, but I don't know.

Matt Janaway - (CEO):

Honestly, there's a reason banks use two-factor authentication for everything. It's because it has to be secure. I very rarely now sign up to things if they don't have two-factor authentication, if it's something that is useful or something where my bank details are stored or a credit card or anything like that. If it hasn't got two-factor authentication, I often won't sign up.

Josh Stapleton - (Web Developer):

Can I butt in with something as well? On your email accounts, if you are not going to set 2FA up or if you're not going to set secure passwords anywhere and just ignore us. That's fair play. Please do it to your email accounts. If someone gets access to your email account, they can click forgotten password on any website, and yeah, they're in there straightaway.

Tom Haslam - (Host):

Do you want to look into the camera and just scrap it? Because I can sense the anger.

Josh Stapleton - (Web Developer):

Change your passwords.

Matt Janaway - (CEO):

Scrap the camera?

Mel Healy - (Head of Content):

I'm going away now to add that to my email.

Tom Haslam - (Host):

Yeah. Oh Mel.

Josh Stapleton - (Web Developer):

You've read-

Matt Janaway - (CEO):

She's getting there Josh.

Josh Stapleton - (Web Developer):

You even proofed my blog. You read my blog, proofed it.

Mel Healy - (Head of Content):

That was about why your website is going to get hacked. I didn't read the one on the personal security.

Tom Haslam - (Host):

Here we go.

Josh Stapleton - (Web Developer):

You see what I'm up against?

Tom Haslam - (Host):

I think another thing just to finally touch on when it comes to security, because we've talked about quite a lot here when it comes to website fundamentals, but finally admin URL masking. I have no idea what that means.

Josh Stapleton - (Web Developer):

So this is quite an important one really. So by default, and this doesn't just apply to WordPress, but I'm going to use WordPress as the example. The admin URL is wp-admin. So yourwebsite/wp-admin. That's the same for every WordPress site out the box. So it doesn't take much to put a bot together that will crawl websites, just go around the web, go into domain after domain and go to /wp-admin and hit a login portal. From there, there's password dictionaries all over the internet, which someone could use to try and brute force your account.

Matt Janaway - (CEO):

So brute force is, they'll just keep trying password after password.

Josh Stapleton - (Web Developer):

Yeah, yeah.

Matt Janaway - (CEO):

So the obvious one, and on almost every hack that's a brute force hack, it'll be username, admin, password, password, but they'll have a list of all the different passwords for admin and then they'll try admin one. And a big one as well for WordPress, sorry if you probably just about to say this Josh, but if you go to any WordPress website, you can see in the URL what the author username is. So you can take the username from there and then you can try lots of different normal password strings.

Josh Stapleton - (Web Developer):

So people worried about that, by the way, I believe there's also an option inside users where you can change the username and the display name. So that's really important. Make sure your username and display name aren't the same and that's going to help secure against them.

Tom Haslam - (Host):

You love setting really unique special usernames, don't you?

Josh Stapleton - (Web Developer):

I do, yeah. They're always quite quirky.

Matt Janaway - (CEO):

And admin URLs.

Mel Healy - (Head of Content):

You also...

Josh Stapleton - (Web Developer):

And admin URLs.

Mel Healy - (Head of Content):

... changing the admin URLs, but they're not telling anybody else. So that...

Josh Stapleton - (Web Developer):

I tell you all.

Mel Healy - (Head of Content):

... cannot get into the site.

Josh Stapleton - (Web Developer):

Everyone hears at least once.

Matt Janaway - (CEO):

The thing is as well with masking the admin URL. So as Josh says, you could go into any WordPress website, chances are it still has a standard admin URL. That makes it awful lot easier to hack. And this is one of the things we were saying earlier. So as standard, when we build a website, we always change that admin URL. That doesn't entirely negate the opportunity for brute force, but it almost removes it entirely. That then alongside a firewall where you can block certain IPs or whitelist certain IPs, that alone plus maintenance moves your website from potentially being vulnerable to almost being like Fort Knox. Going to be very difficult to get into at that point. Not impossible-

Josh Stapleton - (Web Developer):

Providing you're also on top of plugins. I see a lot of people getting very, let's say, strange looking plugins and installing them on sites. If you're installing something that's not got many users or bad reviews or really outdated, chances are it's pretty vulnerable.

Matt Janaway - (CEO):

Yeah. Check that update history and plugins because it'll say when it was last updated. If it was anywhere outside of let's say three, six months, probably doesn't get updated too often. Which doesn't mean it's not safe, it really doesn't mean that. It just means if there are vulnerabilities, it's less likely to be patched.

Tom Haslam - (Host):

Yeah. Some interesting stuff there. Thank you all for being on this episode. Have you all enjoyed it?

Josh Stapleton - (Web Developer):

I've enjoyed talking about passwords. It's one of my favourite pastimes.

Tom Haslam - (Host):

Yeah, you love talking about passwords.

Matt Janaway - (CEO):

Mel's enjoyed you talking about passwords.

Mel Healy - (Head of Content):

Oh, yeah. You're so passionate about it, Josh.

Josh Stapleton - (Web Developer):

Yeah. You can read more on my second blog post.

Tom Haslam - (Host):

When's that going live?

Matt Janaway - (CEO):

We'll be live before this airs.

Tom Haslam - (Host):

No pressure, Mel. Thank you, Matt.

Matt Janaway - (CEO):

Yeah, I've enjoyed it.

Tom Haslam - (Host):

Thank you, Mel.

Mel Healy - (Head of Content):

Thank you Tom.

Tom Haslam - (Host):

And there have it, folks. In today's Blab we've discussed the crucial elements for designing an effective website. As we wrap up, let's quickly summarise the key points we've covered. So remember to start defining your website's goal as it's the foundation for the success. Keep your navigation simple and user-friendly, and consider using mega menus for better organisation and user experience. Embrace the trend of modular design, which allows for flexibility and adaptability for your website. Implement global sections to ensure a consistent user experience across your website. And don't forget to include clear call to action buttons to drive engagement. For beginners, consider using entry level content management systems like WordPress to make the process easy for you. Remember, optimise your images with plugins like Smush to improve site performance. And finally, remember to prioritise your security by implementing password protection, two-factor authentication and admin URL masking.

So that's it for today's Blab. We hope these tips will help you create a fantastic website that not only looks great, but also functions seamlessly. If you've enjoyed our discussion today, make sure to subscribe to our podcast, which is available on Spotify for more valuable insights and strategies, and also keep your ears open for our shorts. You can join us next time to learn the ins and outs of Google Ads to generate ROI and positive impact for your business from the experts themselves with over 60 years combined experience. Until next time, happy website'ing.

We’re all about doing our bit for the environment, which is why we are proud to be partnered with Ecologi. By planting trees and supporting climate projects around the world, we are helping to fund solutions to the climate crisis. 

We also aim to become a fully accredited carbon-neutral agency by the end of 2023.