In this episode, Michael and Chris talk about how to decide if you really need a new website for your painting business. How do you make an informed choice? What are some good reasons to redesign your website (and some poor reasons you shouldn’t fall for)?
In this episode, we cover:
When you need a new website
Why you may need to improve your existing website
Why updating your website may help your business
How you know what to change (and what to keep)
How to change a website without hurting SEO
Michael Epps Utley: There’s really at this point, there’s no time where the website is checked off the list. It’s actually something where the more it’s being updated, the more frequently it’s being updated, the more it represents the current offers and strengths and value proposition that you have to offer, versus your competitors, the better.
Welcome to Grow Your Painting Business, a podcast for commercial, residential, and industrial painters to grow their businesses in their local of regional markets. We’re experts in digital marketing for painters and other trades, and this is a show to share our experience with you. Grow Your Painting Business is a free podcast from SearchPrimer.com, the experts in digital marketing for the trades.
Chris Raines: All right. Welcome to episode nine of Grow Your Painting Business podcast. My name is Chris Raines with Bullhorn Media. I’m here with Michael Epps Utley of GoEpps.com, who’s also a highly trained MMA fighter.
Michael Epps Utley: Not true.
Chris Raines: Why don’t you just accept the accolades I give to you? No, no MMA training, but highly trained in SEO, especially for painters. Michael, how you doing, man?
Michael Epps Utley: Good. It’s a rainy day, but glad to be with you again.
Chris Raines: It’s a rainy day. We’ve had some trouble getting started today, but it’s a great day. ‘Cause we’re talking about web design for painting contractors and contractors in the trades business, and we’re going to talk today about how to tell if you actually need a new website, or if you’re just being sold a new website by a web designer, or a web development agency that wants to make a few thousand dollars for the next month.
Michael, I feel like this is just a pertinent topic, because there’s a lot of good ethical companies, but there’s a lot of companies that just want to sell you something, and we really need to know, a website isn’t just an end into itself. It’s a tool to reach an end goal, right? You want to get leads and sales for your business.
Michael, just start us off here, how do you tell if you really need a new website for your painting business?
Michael Epps Utley: Yeah, a lot of times when we’re talking to someone, early in a relationship they’ll tell us a story about, “Well, we talked to this company, talked to this company, and they said that they needed us to build a whole new website to get started.” We’ve always taken a different approach and focus on qualified traffic to the website before we start thinking about rebuilding everything.
I think that happens a lot, because a lot of times companies don’t have a system or something that works on platforms that are different than the one they’re used to. I think also a lot of times there’s a lot of money and a lot of opportunity in a short period of time with recreating a website.
Also, and this is the reason that actually I think makes the most sense, and we’ll talk about this more later, but it’s when there’s a lot of junk and leftover remnants from whatever the previous approach was. That can actually keep us from starting an SEO program sometimes, so that’s probably one that’s in the other column, but I think a lot of people throw a lot of existing websites into that category when they don’t need to be, prematurely.
Yeah, another thing that can happen is someone’s really not an SEO shop. They’re maybe a website design shop that has SEO services on their service menu. They’re really using that as a hook to sell websites, because that’s really their actual core business. I think that’s another shift, is when the SEO is typically an afterthought for their clients so that they have some recurring revenue after they’ve built a new website.
Yeah, I think it can get really complicated but yeah, we’ll talk more about some other things, but I think a lot of times, when someone’s been told, “You need a new website,” might not be the case.
Chris Raines: Yeah, that’s good. You mentioned something there, if you’re hearing from your web design company, “Yes, I need a new website because of SEO,” sometimes that’s true, and sometimes it’s not true. Sometimes it’s if you’re a hammer shop, everything looks like a nail.
Michael Epps Utley: Yeah, that’s right.
Chris Raines: You’re going to say, “Hey, you need a hammer” but sometimes you don’t need a hammer. What are some ways to come at the decision in a smart way? Try to separate for us here, what are some good reasons to redesign your website and undergo that expense, and what are some poor reasons to do that?
Michael Epps Utley: Yeah, so I’ve got a list here in front of me. I’m going to go through these. Number one reason for doing a new website project is if you don’t have one. There are companies that have either developed a new product line and it’s actually really functionally more of a separate company. GoEpps, the parent company of Search Primer, we also work a lot in the healthcare industry.
For whatever reason, over the last few months we’ve met a couple of companies that are actually new ventures where there are divisions of companies that are breaking off and becoming new entities. In those cases, a new website was absolutely critical for establishing a separate identity.
Now, in the trades, we’re doing something similar like that, similar to that for a company that is expanding from painting into concrete repair and concrete floors. They’re actually going to build a separate brand and have an entirely separate business unit so they’re going to build a separate website.
A good reason for building a new website is when you don’t have one for the business. Another big reason is if you’re on a CMS, a content management system, that’s no longer serving your purposes. There are a lot of do-it-yourself platforms, or homemade systems out there for managing the content on a website. A lot of times those platforms or systems, especially if they’re customized for just one website, they’re not able to keep up with changes in the search marketplace quickly enough.
If you’re in that situation, I think it’s a good time to start thinking about a new website, not just for the way it’s going to look, and what’s going to show to individuals who are looking for you, but for the backend and workflow management, and doing all of the things that you once did, also speak to search engines.
If you’re on a bad content management system, that might be a good reason to move to a new website. Another one is if you don’t really have control over everything you need to have, so similar to being on a bad CMS is being on something that’s just not, it’s not necessarily bad, but it’s not really meeting your needs.
We’re really not crazy about a lot of the platforms like Square or … Excuse me, not Square, but what is it?
Chris Raines: Squarespace.
Michael Epps Utley: Squarespace, yeah. Squarespace, Wix. Yeah, those DIY website builders. They’re great for getting a good looking website, and here’s the thing. They say they do SEO, but we’re not able to do all of the SEO best practices that we want to on those platforms and get the results. We tend to see issues with those, so for us, that’s a good reason to move over. Not necessarily before doing any SEO work, but maybe within a year.
Then, another reason to do a new website is if you haven’t had a new one in a while. Typically these days, two to three years is about the max for the look and feel for an installation. That doesn’t mean you need to move to a different platform. If you’re on something like WordPress, you could build a new template, you could develop a new theme, but every two to three years, everything’s starting to look kind of dated. Sometimes it’s good to take a fresh approach in that situation.
Chris Raines: Yeah, talk a little bit more about that. I think that’s something that we feel, but it’s hard to express, to say like, “Oh, this website looks a little old.” Maybe you have some examples that you can pull up or think about, like when is it time to look at your website and go like, “Oh gosh, this looks so old that it might be turning away customers that would have reached out to us?”
Michael Epps Utley: We see this even more in the healthcare industry, but the early days of website development, we really thought of it as an online brochure. Now we’ve got our logo, we’ve got our brochure, this is the one that we hand out, this is what’s happening. We tend to think of it in a very static way. Actually, your website should never be done. There’s really at this point, there’s no time where the website is checked off the list.
It’s actually something where the more it’s being updated, the more frequently it’s being updated, the more it represents the current offers and strengths and value proposition that you have to offer, versus your competitors, the better. You want that to be really fresh and timely and to feel that way.
If you have design elements on your website that feel, if you kind of get that 80 sweater feeling, when you’re looking at your website, well you need to do something about it.
Chris Raines: Can I give you an example?
Michael Epps Utley: Let’s hear it.
Chris Raines: I was thinking for specific examples of this stuff, but I don’t know, five to seven years ago, maybe more, maybe a little more, it was popular to have these web walk-ons for video. You would film on a green screen, so it would show your website in the background, and you would have somebody walk on, you hear the click, click, click of the heels if it was of your female presenter, and she would spin around to the audience and say, “Hey, welcome to our” … And it was super slick, I guess, in 2008 or whatever.
Michael Epps Utley: That’s right.
Chris Raines: But it just looks super cheesy now. Can you think of anything else like that, that’s like [crosstalk 00:10:29]-
Michael Epps Utley: Yeah, I’ll give you some big ones here. I think that having any kind of audio that automatically plays when you hit a page-
Chris Raines: Ah, yeah that ties into the web walk-on.
Michael Epps Utley: … that’s really a deadly feeling that cuts against today’s-
Chris Raines: It feels like Myspace.
Michael Epps Utley: … sensibilities. Yeah, really goes against the sensibilities today of giving people control over the media that’s going to play. There’s still some auto play video that I see occasionally on websites, and that’s not really highly regarded. I’ll give you one that’s more current. Having a big slider in your hero area above the fold on your homepage, and forcing everybody to cycle through these background images or whatever when it really doesn’t add to the story.
The shift to page speed for mobile devices has really made those persona non grata, even here just in the last few months. We’re not really doing those in designs now. We still get requests for them and yeah, there are little things like that that can not even feel that dated, but they’re really different.
Sometimes a new design could be a fresh take. You can always also just make specific changes to an existing website.
Chris Raines: Yeah. I guess a good thing to do is go out and Google your city or other cities, so Google painting companies Boston, painting companies San Francisco, painting companies small town Kansas, whatever, and get a feel for what people are doing. If your website is doing something that 90% of those other websites aren’t doing, there’s a good chance that you’re not on the cutting edge, but rather you’re lagging back.
Michael Epps Utley: Yeah. I would say also look at other industries. Look at industries that tend to be more pragmatic and more forward thinking. Sometimes we’ll go in, we’ve had a number of cases over the last few months where we would make a set of recommendations and a client would say, “Well, but our competitors are doing this, our competitor’s doing this” and we would have to say, “Well, they’re all wrong. We’re recommending this because of this and you’re going to be the only one and it’s the right thing to do and this is what we’re going to do.”
Yeah, sometimes you need to look at other industries to try to … I don’t really know what other industries. It really depends. Sometimes a lot of creative industries like the arts, they do things that are much more memory hog heavy and harder to deliver. Other times, industries are focused on functionality that they think is really exciting, but it actually turns out not to be what people are trying to accomplish on a webpage.
Over inserting social media hooks into things, lately we’re stripping away a lot of, “Share this on Facebook, share this.” We’re stripping away a lot of social media hooks that would have been standard for many, many years, just because people know how to copy a URL and post it on Facebook.
Chris Raines: People evolve, yeah.
Michael Epps Utley: As the audience changes, you have to roll with those changes.
Chris Raines: Another thing I can think of, this is again something that if you’ve looked at your website for a long time, it can become second nature to you, but even just something like, if you have a button that’s super three dimensional and has a lot of shading on it, and early web design buttons, they wanted them to look like actual physical buttons that raised up from their surface and things like that, that kind of stuff actually looks dated now. Because there’s more of a flat aesthetic now to web design.
Michael Epps Utley: I would put in there a gradient is typically something that would be used to give something a richer feel, and now it’s really more in style to use solid colors and guess what? Those solid colors serve a heck of a lot faster in HTML than some kind of big graphic. Now of course, you can do gradients with CSS. There are faster ways to do that. But I mean, big, horsey graphics that have a lot of information, all of that has to be pushed through a cellphone connection typically, and Google search engine is punishing people for that extra memory now.
Websites that serve faster do it better, so that leads to a lot of things that looked like they were designed for a smartphone, and they are. Some of it can almost become overkill on the part of what the search engines want, but it is good to have a very moderate approach and make sure that you’re designing for mobile and desktop at the same time.
Chris Raines: Yeah, and you alluded to page load speed and that kind of thing. We actually did a full episode on that a couple of episodes ago, so you can go to the website, SearchPrimer.com, and search for that and find that. One other thing I thought about, some of this stuff we’re talking about is purely aesthetic, like buttons and gradients and stuff, but some of it’s actually factually like, “You need to change this” and one of those is responsiveness. If you don’t have a responsive website in 2019, oh my goodness.
Michael Epps Utley: Yeah, so this is probably the last one on our list of reasons to go ahead and do a new website. If you have a website that is either not responsive, meaning it’s not using … Excuse me. One set of code to push out to all different size screens, or it just has so many different elements that need to be rethought, that’s a good reason to take a fresh approach to the website.
If you have, for example, you mentioned, we talked about gradients and 3D buttons. If you have a lot of things, or drop shadows, and it’s feeling a little bit cluttered, also I’ll say if you’re trying to push information out to more than two columns, if you’ve got a website with a header and secondary nav in the header, and then a sidebar, and then columns within the main body, unless you’re some sort of major news magazine website where people insist on having a lot of compacted information and they’re used to it, and it’s the vibe, then it would be good to take a fresh approach and get some fresh eyes and think about a single column website.
Essentially, a full width website that has all the information on one spine down the middle of the page, serves well to desktop and mobile equally. Yeah, if you have anything that’s not responsive or just has a lot of vestigial remnants of previous types of technology and things that used to be important, then yeah, those would be good reasons to move ahead.
We started off talking about when do I not need a new website? One thing I think people overlook, we had an interesting case one time, someone was pretty new with us and was a client we’ve been working with, I think we’re in our third year with him, and he had a website, it was a WordPress website, and it was performing okay, but it was really just a basic WordPress template. There wasn’t much to it.
He asked, “Do we need a new website?” We actually said no. What we said was, “Let’s spend a year on the SEO and get more business coming in and then the money for the new website won’t matter.” What we did is we invested in new content, new pages, new offsite SEO factors, and ran that for an entire year. Then, to avoid losing any of the value when we did do a new website for the company, we planned 301 redirects for the website.
We made a table of all the existing pages on the old site, and so every URL that had an offsite link pointed to it, or anything that had any sort of SEO value, it wasn’t lost. It was just redirected to the new website, and that kept us from having any sort of big drop off in rankings with the new website.
A new website should never mean starting over in terms of your presence in search engines. If you’re thinking about that with a developer, or an SEO company, talk to them about 301 redirects and making sure that every old URL is properly coded on the new website to not disappear, but to catch them and get them to the right page.
Yeah, those are some of the things that we think about, and we’re just really quick to get people into something that’s going to drive more business, rather than spend three to six months setting the stage in a way that’s going to have very indirect value way down the road.
Chris Raines: That’s great. Thanks Michael. That’s about all the time we have for today. If you want to learn any more about website optimization, building a new website for your painting business, Michael, tell ’em where they should go to find more … We have tons of these podcasts and other additional resources. Where can people go to find out more about marketing for their painting business?
Michael Epps Utley: This program, what we do for commercial, industrial painters, all the way down to residential painters and other trades, is all found at SearchPrimer.com. If you’re hearing this on iTunes, you can always connect with us there. We’ve probably got the toll free number and the email address there, but it’s probably email@example.com, and I’m sure our toll free number’s there on the side in a couple of places.
If you connect with us there we’ll send you a link to get on my calendar and always happy to talk and hear about businesses, and even just to get a fresh take on maybe what somebody else is recommending, and Chris is [weird 00:20:00], but a lot of people do what we do. What Search Primer does is not really unique. I would say we’re special in that we have industry knowledge, but in terms of SEO shops, there are probably about 1000 of them.
Chris Raines: Oh gosh. More.
Michael Epps Utley: Yeah, lots of good people out there doing good work, so if you ever just want to get a fresh take on something or say, “Hey, I’m looking at this company. What do you think of them?” Always happy to talk with people running commercial and residential painting businesses.
Chris Raines: Yeah. I’ll just plug here, if you want somebody to just do SEO work, you can go to Upwork.com and find anybody to do that. If you want somebody that knows SEO and knows the painting business, reach out to SearchPrimer.com. That’s my little plug. That’s all the time we have.
Michael Epps Utley: I’ll take that, yep.
Chris Raines: All right. We’ll catch you on the next one.
Michael Epps Utley: Thank you.
Michael Epps Utley: The Grow Your Painting Business podcast is a free service of SearchPrimer.com. Visit us today for more information on how you can grow your business using the latest tools in digital marketing. SearchPrimer.com.