Why we ditched our old website and started from scratch…
By Professional Academy Sales & Marketing Manager, Michael O'Flynn
You may or may not have noticed that the Professional Academy website has had a bit of a refresh recently. This was not for pure aesthetic vanity (though we have to say we are rather happy with how it looks now), nor was it because the website didn’t work. In fact the website worked fine, some would say better than fine. The site generated strong traffic levels, good SEO and was chocked full of information. So why, with that all being said did we decide to scrap the site which was rebuilt just over 2 years ago and start again?
Let’s start from the very beginning.
Giving a more balanced view of what we do…
At Professional Academy we do many things. We are a one-stop-shop for Marketing, Management, Sales and Digital Marketing qualifications for individuals but we also have a corporate in-company training element to the business which was brought into the Professional Academy umbrella from our sister company Cambridge Knowledge and Development in 2014, but it never really found a place on our old website.
Over the past 2 years we have also expanded our content development arm of the business. We have created a large swathe of blogs and advice documents either in house or with our content partners, and guest bloggers - something that has been a real win for the company in regards to inbound marketing but also helping people with their own personal development. Something we are all very passionate about at Professional Academy
The new site was designed to create a better balance between the four elements of the company: Who we are and why we do what we do (found in the About Us section), a wide range of Accredited Qualifications for individuals (found in the Personal Development section), our bespoke corporate training options (found in the In-Company Training section); and finally Advice and Blogs which will become the home of not only the content we are already creating but also new interactive content being developed by our talented eLearning team.
We feel this new balance will give people a better idea of what Professional Academy are all about and how we can help companies and individuals develop to reach their full potential.
It was a user-driven decision…
With the redesign we put the user at the centre of the experience, not only looking at how people were using the site and making it easier for them to reach their end goal, but also looking at the questions our team are asked the most and making those the first thing people see when then reach the Qualifications or Training section. These pages ask and answer those questions that are central to people making the decision about training. Whether it be personally or for a team everyone has questions so we wanted to make the answers as easy to find as possible.
We feel now the site flows better. Our team are easier to contact and people’s questions are being answered earlier. The site has a more visual feel which is easier to navigate whether on a standard desktop, smart phone or tablet.
Making sure we are on top of our SEO game…
Now our website previously was no failure when it came to SEO with search impressions of around 750,000 search impressions last month (all organic) generating 25,000 of our 40,000 site visits (which are not bad by any means) but we felt it could be better and more relevant.
As such there has been a complete content rewrite of the site (with the exception of blog content and course information) with the focus on being clearer and more concise about the different elements of the business. Gone are the days of “black/grey hat” SEO, not something we actively participated in anyway, but we have taken the full “white hat” high road (here is a handy blog defining the SEO hats).
We have also gone down the responsive mobile root on the new site. No more long scrolls through text-filled screens, zooming in and out to find what you need. All the content will be there in a user-friendly mobile format for browsing when you’re in the queue for coffee or on the sofa at home with 5 minutes to yourself to think about personal development.
The importance of this is not just for usability but as of April 21st Google will be applying an update to their search algorithms so those searching on mobile devices will only find mobile friendly sites. This can be a big deal if, like us, you receive 20% to 25% mobile/tablet traffic to your site. If you receive traffic numbers like that from mobile devices, it’s probably best to start thinking about mobile optimisation as a rule anyway – I’d recommend checking your google analytics stats for the past few months today.
The good news for those who haven’t yet updated their sites is that the update applies to pages not whole sites so you can optimise your blog first, if this is where the bulk of your mobile traffic comes from. I would also recommend, as well as checking your analytics, you dip in to your webmaster tools and read your mobile error report to see which pages need optimizing.
It’s about being a little more future proof…
As I said earlier, we re-designed our site less than 3 years ago and wanted to make sure we are not looking to do the same in another 3 years’ time. We have built in a few hidden elements to the site to aid future expansion (widgets, content and interactivity elements) as well as working behind the scenes on our new LMS system, eLearning, Short Courses and eCommerce. The idea of Professional Academy 2.0 is that there will be several updates and upgrades throughout this year and for years to come so look out for 2.1, 2.2, 2.3, etc over the coming months.
We are very proud of the site but know it will be a constantly evolving work in progress. It was designed that way, to be as flexible as possible without us owning a crystal ball to see what the future holds.
We would love to hear your feedback on the new site so please contact our marketing team with your comments, criticisms and ideas for what you would like to see in the future. You can do this via our Contact Us page or on twitter. We look forward to hearing from you and hope you like the new site as much as we do.