Another Wix bites the dust
New website for Sussex Garden Rooms
This week I set live the new Sussex Garden Rooms website which I’ve been working on for the last few weeks. They’re a brilliant local company with big ambitions and I wanted to explain to you how we came to work together and the approach I took to this project.
‘Can you help me get more leads from my current website?’ is a common question I’m asked in my day job as a freelancer. And whenever I’m asked this question, I almost always know that the site will have been created by Wix.
Whilst this wasn’t strictly the question I was asked by the team at Sussex Garden Rooms, this article walks through the journey that many small business owners take, before they inevitably end up asking a similar question to a freelancer like myself, or an agency perhaps, about how they can elevate their business beyond Wix’s capabilities.
The need for a website
The Sussex Garden Rooms business was established 2 years ago, with the aim of supplying premium, stylish garden rooms throughout Sussex which are highly practical, totally customisable and very pleasing on the eye. To get the brand out there quickly and cost effectively, they created their original website using the all-in-one, easy to use website builder, Wix.
I know that a lot of web designers and developers love to hate Wix, and I want to make it clear that I’m not a complete cynic. There certainly are benefits to using a platform like this – it’s easy to create a nice looking portfolio site, which showcases beautiful imagery and text all about your business. For Sussex Garden Rooms it certainly served a purpose and, with a little media spend from the off-set, the site soon started attracting visitors and generating enquiries. What’s not to be happy about?
The inevitable frustration
Your first twenty minutes using Wix will be exciting. You’ll feel like a technical, creative whiz. A little text on top of a great image and boom, you have a stunning homepage! However, as time goes on, you’ll inevitably start to run into some of these frustrations:
Limited SEO control (and bad advice)
Wix has always been a little disdained in the professional SEO community. They’ve admittedly gotten somewhat better with their technical set up in recent months, but businesses with organic visibility as their main objective can still expect to fall short.
There’s no preview tool to see how your users will see your metadata. There’s no ability to serve Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) to users for a faster, better mobile experience. There are (still) lots of reported issues with random characters appearing within the URL’s. You have no control over the robots.txt file. These limitations, to name just a few, make the already tricky job of ranking higher in search engines, even more tricky.
Something I’ve noticed over the years is that Wix regularly post totally accurate SEO advice on their blog too, such as meta descriptions having a direct impact on Google rankings, or encouraging users to pick an exact match domain. How these get passed a marketing manager at a big company, I have no idea.
But more importantly than anything I’ve mentioned above, is the fact that SEO is not something you can just expect to nail, using a CMS like Wix, with no prior understanding or experience. That’s why there are, quite literally, millions of articles online about keyword research, redirects and link building. There are dedicated SEO conferences all around the world. There are SEO executives & managers working hard in every organisation who take their online visibility seriously. It’s a new-age trade in it’s own right and if you’re serious about doing well on Google, you should be prepared to invest in an expert who knows how it all works, and in a platform which enables you to do it properly.
Limited UX & design options
The drag and drop builder seems great initially but after exhausting all options quickly, it can really stifle creativity and prevent you from getting the design and message to your audience in the right way. Not to mention the fact that many business owners who use Wix are not web designers and have no experience in this area. It can be so tricky choosing colours that look great together, picking fonts that don’t look amateurish and making text legible on top of images. Making lots of these little decisions in an ill-informed way can result in sub-standard website, which showcases your brand on the internet 24 hours a day.
Limited functionality & control
As Sussex Garden Rooms found out, changing even the tiniest of things, such as the subject line of your email enquiries from your contact form, becomes an impossible task. Many will end up stumbling into an equally frustrated community of Wix users who’ve posted about their similar frustrations on a redundant forum somewhere.
Many people wrongly assume that Wix is super cheap. Of course, you don’t have the initial outlay to a website designer or developer, but you are faced with a steep (and very clever on Wix’s part) monthly pricing structure. They do have a free package arguably, but it really isn’t suitable for most businesses because it’s on a Wix subdomain and your site will be covered in Wix ads – clever! The package most small businesses need usually end up costing a fair bit more than the really good hosting companies that power sites on a much more powerful CMS. For example Wix’s Pro plan is $24 per month and Blue Hosts Standard VPS hosting (which will be far faster) is just £14.96 per month.
The need for something better
Sussex Garden Rooms had run into some of these frustrations themselves, which recently got them thinking about just how much further they could be pushing their brand.
As with every website I build, I started out by looking at the existing first-party data they had available within Google Analytics and Search Console, to understand what was working currently and where obvious improvements needed to be made.
The site was, as expected, generating the bulk of its leads via PPC, but very few organically. The time on site wasn’t particularly long and most of the users were visiting the homepage and then leaving.
Digging around in this data quickly helped me establish what the overarching objectives really needed to be for this project – to increase SEO visibility and on-site conversion rate. And to do this? A better website, on a new CMS, showcasing richer information, utilising targeted keywords and serving these to users on more relevant landing pages.
Building on good foundations
The existing website was already full of rich information, which was a strong starting point. That information just needed to be separated into more specific landing pages which would offer an all round better experience for users and richer, more relevant information for Google to crawl.
This keyword research and content analysis then informed the new information architecture and site navigation. There are lots of different types of FAQ’s, but many around planning permission, for example, are specific to permanent annexes as opposed to smaller garden rooms. A lot of this information had previously been combined, which would have been a little confusing to both users and Google bots, trying to establish what the given page was all about.
The existing Sussex Garden Rooms site also had so many great photos, which is a web developers dream! I had plenty to choose from, all different sizes, angles and each showcasing a different set up, and another happy customer. A great business, with great testimonials and photos and a website with obvious opportunities for improvement, is just the kind of brief I love.
The next chapter
Sussex Garden Rooms’ new website has, of course, benefited most noticeably from a design overhaul which better showcases the fantastic work James and the team are responsible for. The improvements to the layout and design will hopefully make navigation for users far easier and the ease at which they can find the information they’re looking for will subsequently lead to an increase in conversion rate.
But what will really make the biggest difference to the level and quality of enquiries generated is two-fold.
Firstly, a carefully planned out website, build on a strong CMS away from Wix. And secondly, the knowledge that comes from working with a digital marketing consultant with lots of experience. No blog post on a freelancer’s website would be complete without a shameless plug and an impressive stat pulled from Google Analytics, would it?
Well… Sussex Garden Rooms received their highest ever amount of enquiries the weekend immediately after their new website went live. Whilst admittedly this couldn’t have been down to improved organic rankings so soon, this was certainly due to an overall improved user experience. On top of the enquiries, comparing that weekend with the weekend before, Google Analytics showed a 113% increase in pages per session and a whopping 1,530% increase in time on site.
This is only the very start for Sussex Garden Rooms and I’m excited to be a part of the journey this wonderful business have asked me to join them on!