Redesign a website and multiply its traffic by 5
The following article is a report on work done for Avenir Climatique.
At the end of 2020 I got my first work placement for my marketing studies. After several days of research, I decided to apply for a job with an association for which I had already made a few donations. Suzy, who was in charge of communications as a volunteer at the time, offered me a chance to prove my worth. After a few discussions, we quickly agreed that the site needed a little polish.
The first step was to define the objectives.
Table of Contents
- My Objectives
- The Redesign
- Graphic Redesign
- Making the Site Lighter
- The Redesign
- Natural Referencing
- State of Play
- Start Work
Firstly, a complete overhaul of the site. As the site was a few years old, the graphics were a bit out of date. What's more, it's slowed down on both sides by plugins, resources (images and videos), the theme, and so on. I decided to put the user experience at the heart of the redesign.
Secondly, I wanted to improve SEO. The older a site is, the more Google trusts it. However, the site doesn't rank: it can be found by searching directly for the association's site, but not by searching for resources on the climate, a subject in which AC has been a key player for many years.
I was given carte blanche on the work to be done, which I particularly appreciated. I'm getting down to work as quickly as possible.
Progress is only as good as its measurements, so they say. Over the years I've acquired the reflex of measuring the speed of the sites I visit. This gives me an idea, by comparison, of what is a good site and what is not. The association's was not. I carry out tests on the main pages ia PageSpeed to get data.
Once the information has been gathered, it's time for action.
As the site was on Wordpress, I had a multitude of themes to choose from. After several searches, "Generate Press" seemed to me to be the most appropriate theme. It's simple, elegant and also meets the weight constraint.
I set it up in its pro version, which offers a few more interesting options. The theme adapts well with a few adjustments. To keep the site easily usable by other members of the association, I decided to install Elementor: one of the best-known WP plugins, which makes it easy to create pages using drag & drop.
This plugin is very practical but doesn't work very well with the themes from a graphic point of view and you have to spend a lot of time making changes (typography, colours, etc).
Despite this, the site still has a good graphic consistency that I try to maintain over time.
Making the site lighter
Another important project for me was to lighten the site, and consequently its carbon footprint.
Yes, a site consumes energy and the heavier it is (with lots of functions, files, animations, etc.) the more it will consume.
The WebsiteCarbon site is a very useful way of seeing this. All you have to do is type in the URL of a site and you have its estimated CO2 production. Once you have a clear idea of your site's consumption, all you have to do is take action.
GeneratePress, the theme chosen earlier, has the particularity of being rather light. That was one of the main reasons I chose it. By installing it you save a few dozen grams of CO2 per page loaded. That may not sound like much, but the site now receives several hundred visitors a day. It doesn't take long to do the math!
I was able to do the same by deleting ten or so unnecessary plugins. This is one of the pitfalls of Wordpress.
Look at your installed plugins and ask yourself if you really need each one.
But where I had the biggest impact was when I decided to remove a large proportion of the images from the site. Be careful with this if you don't want a gas machine, images (and videos even more so) are a huge source of energy consumption.
By deleting most of them and transforming the remaining ones into a suitable format (webp) you'll save a lot of energy.
This approach may seem insignificant because it's invisible, but it's a win-win-win:
- The site loads faster, your visitors slow down less
- Your carbon footprint is reduced, and you'll (perhaps) be leaving a slightly more liveable world to your children
- Google also appreciates speed, and some believe that this has an impact on your search engine ranking.
Everyone wins. The redesign itself is already beneficial to your site's SEO. But my ambition was to go further, to have a faster and stronger impact on SEO.
Before starting this course I only had the basics of SEO. A little knowledge of HTML tags, the fundamentals and that was it. But I love learning and experimenting, which is what I started to do during my placement.
State of play
Now that the redesign is complete, I immediately install an analysis tool that allows me to retrieve data: number of visitors, most viewed pages, source of acquisition, etc. This step is essential to get a better idea of the website's performance.
This step is essential to get a better understanding of your website.
The first thing to do when you have a Wordpress site is to install YoastSEO, one of the best SEO plugins, the 'benchmark' if you will.
Many Search Engine Optimisation experts still use it, even as a senior. The plugin makes it easy to optimise your articles/pages for Google.
It will show you the improvements you need to make to get your text optimised, step by step.
Once you've done that, follow the instructions and think intentions:
- What are people looking for when they come across your site?
- What questions do they have?
- How do you want to help them?
I've put a lot of work into this, particularly for the [Calculate My Carbon Footprint] page (https://avenirclimatique.org/calculer-empreinte-carbone/), which is now the main gateway to the site.
In less than a year, this page has gone from being just another page to the first entry on the site. If you type in keywords such as "calculate my carbon footprint", Avenir Climatique will be in the first natural position on Google (in France), above sites such as the wwf or the government site.
An improvement like this will take your website into another dimension. For Avenir Climatique, we've gone from an average of 100 visitors a day to around 500. There are even peaks of 1,800 on certain days (when the IPCC report is released, for example).
Here are the corrected sentences with the typos fixed:
Note: When your traffic increases, the average engagement time per active user decreases. That is not a big problem. This is because before, when the website was not easily findable, people came with a defined and specific reason. Now, most people discover the site and are just here to take a look.
Other pages, such as Calculer l'Empreinte Carbone d'un Trajet, are also at the top, or even at 'zero position'. The position at which Google highlights you.
I'm proud to have achieved this. I'm happy to give advice on SEO to anyone who asks.
Results like this require a lot of patience. You didn't notice any changes in the first few months. It was only at the end of the year that the site saw its traffic explode. So if you're getting into SEO, don't be in a hurry!
Redesigning a site takes time but it can be extremely beneficial for your online presence, the experience your users get from it and your turnover (if your site generates income). In the case of the association, I came to the conclusion that this was the best thing to do, but it's a case-by-case decision.
The average traffic increased by 400%, so I think that was a good decision.
After several years, I think I can say that this was one of the most rewarding experiences I've had. It allowed me to experiment and develop skills that are still useful to me today, while helping a not-for-profit organisation to grow.