Seven Groups of Tools for Designing and Optimizing Websites
Your B2B website and blog are the core of your content marketing efforts. A beautiful and effective website design is vital to attracting visitors, making a powerful first impression, engaging your audience, and compelling them to take a conversion action like subscribing to your blog or submitting a lead generation form.
Even when you publish content elsewhereâ€”updates on Facebook, videos on YouTube or Vimeo, presentations on SlideShareâ€”the goal is usually to drive visitors back to your website, to consume content and take action.
The home page of your site needs to communicate three pieces of information in under 10 seconds:
- what you do;
- who you do it for; and
- why you the best at it.
Once that’s accomplished, the page should include some additional helpful information about your business, products or services, and customers, and help visitors determine where to go next.
The information architecture of your site is the flowchart or map of all your site’s pages and how they connect to or flow from one another. Most B2B websites have a few common types of pages in the main menu: information about products or services, information about the company, a contact page, and a link to the company’s blog.
Beyond that, your information architecture should be determined by the needs of your various online audiences: sales prospects (usually most importantly) as well as existing customers, the media, partners, potential employees, industry analysts, and possibly investors.
The content on your website includes not only the text and images on your web pages, but also downloadable assets like guides, ebooks, and white papers. You may use content planning and development tools to help create those.
Redesigning a website is a significant undertaking; even a fairly small, simple business site can easily run into the low five-digit range once planning, project management, development, content, image sourcing, and optimization are all factored in.
Most sources advise doing a redesign about every three years, five at the most. Site redesigns are more often driven by changing requirements, however, rather than the calendar. For example, website redesign projects are often a response to:
- Business changes: Acquisitions, growth, new product lines, or rebranding efforts can all drive website re-launches.
- Market changes: New product categories, such as customer experience optimization or customer engagement platforms, need to be supported with educational content. But for mature product categories, like email service providers, the emphasis is more on competitive differentiation. As markets mature, websites need to evolve.
- Technology changes: Even five years ago, not having a mobile-friendly website wasn’t that big of a problem for most B2B vendors. Mobile traffic typically accounted for 10% of so of all visits, with visits from small-screen devices (smartphones) an even smaller share. Today, having a responsive, mobile-friendly design is essential.
Whether you’re ready to embark on a website redesign project, or just need to make some tweaks to improve the design and search optimization for an existing site, these seven categories of tools can be very helpful.
Web Design Tools
There’s a plethora of tools available to help with the basic elements of website design, including:
- Colors: Use tools like COLOURlovers, Paletton, or Adobe Color CC to find complementary colors, color palettes, and even articles about the use and psychology of color.
- Fonts: When you’re ready to venture beyond Arial, Verdana, and Georgia, tools such as Google Fonts, Font Squirrel, and WhatTheFont expand your horizons with hundreds of original font choices.
- Icons: Find icon sets and vector images to make your site stand out, through sources like IcoMoon, Icon Finder, and The Noun Project.
There are also many special-purpose tools for unique tasks like determining what theme and plugins are used on a WordPress site (WPThemeDetector); designing banner images (Power Banner); and installing countdown timers (Countdown Monkey).
WordPress isn’t the only platform for building websites, of courseâ€”but it is by far the most popular. WordPress powers 30% of all Internet sites. And of sites created using a content management system (CMS), WordPress accounts for 60%; nearly 10 times as many as Joomla, and 14 times the number developed on Drupal.
One of the key reasons for the popularity of WordPress is the incredible array of plugins available, which automate tasks or add functionality. Most are free, or at least have a free version, and are easy to evaluate based on their ratings and number of downloads.
The WordPress plugins directory lists more than 55,000 plugins, which add a huge array of features to the platform. Among the most popular types and specific examples are:
- List builders: These plugins make it easy to add forms, popups, sliders, and other elements to your WordPress site to help build your list of subscribers and generate sales leads. Many of the most popular provide other functionality as well. Sumo also provides an attractive, flexible social sharing buttons bar. Thrive Leads features A/B testing. And Jetpack is a veritable Swiss Army knife of WordPress plugins, with analytics, social sharing, data backup, security, and other capabilities.
- Search engine optimization (SEO): Plugins like Yoast SEO and All In One SEO Pack extend the fundamental “search engine friendliness” of WordPress by making it easy to customize meta tags, analyze on-page SEO, and automatically update your XML sitemaps.
- Social sharing: There are lots of options for adding social media sharing buttons to your posts or pages, encouraging and making it very easy for site visitors to share your content with their networks. Among the most popular are Monarch, Social Warfare, and Simple Share Buttons Adder. You can automatically share all of your new posts to your own favorite social networks using Publicize.
- Tweeting: A specialized subspecies of social sharing plugins, tools like TweetDis and Better Click to Tweet make it easy for your readers to tweet out key ideas, quotes, and statistics from your posts.
- Editorial calendars: For sites with high posting frequency, and especially those with multiple authors, plugins like WordPress Editorial Calendar and Edit Flow simplify the process of scheduling posts and collaborating among team members.
- Headline writing: Use a plugin like Title Experiments or KingSumo Headlines to test and evaluate alternative posts titles to identify which is most effective.
There are also a vast array of popular plugins for very specific tasks, such as Akismet for filtering out comment spam; Redirection for easily redirecting visitor from old or obsolete pages to new ones (preventing those dreaded “404 – Page Not Found” errors); and W3 Total Cache to speed up page loading time.
Keyword Research Tools for SEO and SEM
Companies, particularly B2B technology vendors, often develop their own internal vernacular: jargon and acronyms related to their industry segment and products widely understood within the organization, but not always outside of it. Particularly by prospective customers.
Keyword research tools help you understand the specific words and phrases your potential future customers are using when they are seeking to solve the kinds of problems your product or service addresses, or for information about specific types and features of products relevant to your offerings.
These tools also typically supply data or guidance about the level of competition and organic ranking difficulty of keywords, helping you better plan your content and choose the most effective phrases for search advertising.
Among the most popular general keyword research tools are Wordtracker, HitTail, and KWFinder. Want to know what keywords your competitors rank for and are bidding on in paid search? Tools like SEMrush, SpyFu, and Authority Metrics add competitive keyword intelligence features to standard keyword suggestion and difficulty functions.
SEO Rank Tracker Tools
You can’t know where you’re going if you don’t know where you are. These tools help not only monitor but also plan future SEO efforts by enabling you to input a list of target keyword phrases for your website, then track your site’s rank for these keywords, along with competitor websites, on an ongoing basis.
All of these tools handle basic rank tracking across Google, Bing, and Yahoo!, but some include additional features such as:
- Geo tracking (showing how your site rank varies across different cities or countries);
- Keyword grouping (ability to group similar keywords, or create groups based on other criteria such as ranking difficulty);
- Keyword suggestions (recommending additional keyword phrases to target based on your current target list and website content);
- Desktop vs. mobile rankings (how your site’s rank varies by device type);
- Rank change alerts (notification when rank for any tracked phrase changes significantly);
- Paid search competitive analysis (see how competitors’ ads are performing as well as organic search ranking);
- Team collaboration tools (create teams to share insights and manage SEO tasks); and
- YouTube video rank tracking (monitor keyword rank for your videos, too).
There are a wide range of options and price levels based on number of keywords tracked and specific features offered. Among the most popular services are SerpBook, Microsite Masters, Authority Labs, AccuRanker, and SERPWoo.
Special-Purpose SEO Tools
Like practitioners of any tradeâ€”carpentry, plumbing, French cooking, brain surgeryâ€”SEO professionals have an array of specialized tools on hand to serve unique purposes.
Among those specialized tools and functions for optimizing the search rank and traffic for your website are:
- Broken link checkers: Broken links on a website, like broken windows in a home, reduce the “curb appeal.” Search engines view broken links as a sign of neglect and a detriment to the user experience. Fortunately, tools like Google Search Console, Broken Link Checker, and Xenu Link Sleuth can help you find and fix those damaging broken links.
- Link builders: Search engines rank sites on a combination of relevance and authority, and high-quality backlinks are the primary signal of authority for a website. Tools like ScrapeBox, Monitor Backlinks, and Link Prospector help you analyze existing backlinks to any website (yours or competitors’) and identify potential new link opportunities.
- Performance testing: The faster your web pages load (particularly on mobile devices), the better the user experience. So, page load speed is one key factor search engines use in ranking. You can test your site’s page load speed and get ideas for improvement using tools like Website Grader or Google Page Speed Insights.
These and other tools also help identify harmful backlinks to your site, test the mobile-friendliness of your pages, and conduct competitive SEO research. Finally, there are special-purpose tools that do pretty much what their names suggest, such as Video SEO for WordPress, On-Page Optimization Tool, and Web Text Analyzer.
All-in-One SEO Tool Suites
Buying special-purpose tools enables you to evaluate and choose the best option for each specific website optimization task. But, over time, it can lead to tool proliferation: paying for lots of tools, learning lots of different interfaces, and struggling to reconcile disparate performance metrics.
All-in-one SEO tool suites offer an alternative. Though the strength of each function may not match specialized tools, they simplify your marketing technology (martech) environment and offer a “single source of truth” for search-related measures.
Features and pricing vary, but among the common functions of these tool suites are:
- keyword ranking / recommendations
- backlink analysis
- SEO reporting
- competitive benchmarking
- website technical auditing
- on-page SEO
- content performance
- Google Analytics integration
- crawl error correction
- social media tools
There are dozens of all-in-one SEO suite options, but popular tools include BrightLocal (for small business / local SEO), ontolo, Link-Assistant, Ahrefs, CognitiveSEO, Raven SEO Tools, and SEOmonitor.
Landing Page and Form Builders for Conversion Rate Optimization
Once you’ve built an awesome website and attracted visitors by optimizing your site for organic search (plus other tactics like social media, influencer marketing, PR, advertising, and email marketing), you want to persuade those visitors to take some kind of action.
For ecommerce or SaaS websites, that action is likely an actual purchase. For B2B complex product sites, it’s lead generation: register for a webinar, arrange a demo, download a white paper or ebook, or contact us. For either type of site, building an email list by getting visitors to subscribe to your newsletter or updates is a common goal.
There are different types of tools to help you induce visitors to take action, with overlapping functionality. These may be used alone or in tandem.
- Conversion rate optimization (CRO) tools: Picreel not only lets you create pop-ups and surveys to display to visitors, but also do on-site retargeting and A/B testing. LuckyOrange enables you to analyze visitor behavior and create instant online polls to help determine where you are losing visitors and how to increase conversions.
- Form builders: Tools like 123Contact Form and Wufoo provide visual tools for building forms and integrate with payment processors like PayPal and Stripe so you can collect online payments. JotForm does the same, and also integrates to Salesforce.com.
- Landing page builders: Instapage is one of the best options for building complex, mobile-responsive landing pages that integrate to your email or CRM system (disclosure: I’m an affiliate; but that doesn’t make it any less awesome). Popular alternatives include Unbounce and LeadPages.
Using the tools above can help you design and develop a website that not only looks good but also produces real results for your business; a richly functional site that loads fast, has great visibility in search, and compels visitors to take action. And when your business, the market, or technology changes prompt a site redesign, these tools help you do it all over.
This is the fourth post in theÂ Ultimate Guide to Content Marketing ToolsÂ series.
#1:Â The Ultimate Guide to Content Marketing Tools: Introduction
#2:Â Three Types of Tools to Use for Content Strategy and Planning
#3: (coming soon)
#4:Â Seven Groups of Tools for Designing and Optimizing Websites
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