Well, get ready – now is the time. Here’s our trusty guide of questions you should keep in mind as you take on this daunting task.

What has been working? Now is the time to take a good look at your analytics and really understand what people are clicking on, where they go next and how long they stick around. Make a list of the content you have and rank each piece in order of importance based on where your visitors are looking.

Are the most important things the most accessible? If not, how can you make them more prominent? You might want to reconsider the structure of your menu in order to guide your visitors exactly where they’re probably trying to go. And when they do arrive at a page, are they there for a good amount of time, or do they leave quickly? If they’re leaving after just a few seconds, brainstorm some content ideas that might encourage them to stick around.

More importantly, what hasn’t been working? If you’re lucky, this one will be fairly obvious. Odds are, the page with the five-paragraph essay explaining your business isn’t doing so well. Or maybe your contact form has turned people away because you ask for too much information. Start assessing how to adjust these pieces to
improve your users’ overall experience. When you go to make a new plan for your website redesign, push your team to seek ways to simplify everything.

When people are viewing things online, they’re usually in somewhat of a rush. They aren’t sitting down with a newspaper and a cup of coffee, ready to read everything you’ve written and assess every photo you’ve included. Try to find the right balance between overall simplicity and being true to your brand.

Is this really who we are? Before you overhaul your website, you’ll have to start by revisiting your messaging strategy and making sure that it’s the best way to position your business. Maybe you started off with a particular focus or theme to your organization, but it’s no longer relevant. Was it based on a trend that has since faded? Did it just end up evolving into something else? You don’t have to totally reinvent your structure, but make sure you’ve kept it fresh, interesting and (most importantly) true to who you are.

Make a list of your core values and cross-reference them with your website. Are you communicating those values clearly in your “About Us” page? How about your services? Do they reflect what you stand for? Maybe everything is still in line. But depending on how long it’s been, you’ll definitely want to give it a once-over.

How have our goals shifted? When people come to your site, what do you want them to do? Is the goal to fill out a contact form? Download a brochure? Give you a call? Maybe your goals are different than they were a few months or years ago because the structure of how you conduct business has altered. Sure, in 2008 you may have really wanted to gather as many email addresses as possible, but maybe now that it’s 2013, your new focus is acquiring Twitter followers.

Once you’ve defined the ideal process for one of your website visitors, check back with your content and make sure that you’re making it easy and obvious for them to reach these conclusions. Should something be moved to the home page so they see it right away? Do you have a form to collect the information you’d like to get from them? Make it as simple as you can to reach these goals.

Are we still talking to the same people? Has your audience shifted over the years? Maybe you set out targeting a certain group, but they never actually ended up being your core customer base. Take a look at who has expressed interest in your business. What else do you know about them? Make a list of their values, attitudes and lifestyle habits. Then reassess your content and make sure that you’re speaking directly to them based on what matters most in their lives.

Consider this also in line with whatever you concluded from No. 3 (Is this really who we are?). If you’ve changed who you are, have the people you are targeting changed as well? It would probably help to check out some relevant websites that give you some insight as to what your audience is interacting with aside from your business. Research like that should directly influence your new voice.

Where are people coming from? When you review your website analytics, pay special attention to the traffic sources so you have a solid understanding of how people are arriving at your site. Are they simply searching relevant terms and then coming to your page? If so, make sure your content is in line with those search terms. Maybe they’re arriving mostly from social media sites. That would tell you to take a second look at your social strategy and keep the content on those platforms consistent with the website. If they’re coming to your site simply by typing in the URL (direct visits), you must be doing a great job with your marketing. So in that case, keep it up.

How often are we going to do this? Is this website overhaul the first of many? The task can be fairly cumbersome, so it would be best to put yourself on a schedule. For example, make this the absolute only time (besides minor additions and changes, of course) that you’ll drastically alter the site for a set amount of time. Pick themes, concepts and words that will endure for six months to a year. Then make it part of your overall marketing goal to drive home the concepts you’ve chosen to highlight in that set time period. Updating your website is usually a good thing, but if you’re doing it too often, you might not be effectively focusing on your objectives.

If you follow these seven steps, your next website overhaul will go much more smoothly.

As Senior Copywriter at Maiden Media Group, Michelle McGowan is responsible for written communication, idea generation and branding strategies for the agency and both its regional and global brands. Contact McGowan at mmcgowan@maidenmediagroup.com.