The New Royal Website: what's good, what's bad and what's ugly

As a commemoration to the Queen’s 90th birthday, it seems more than necessary to discuss the recent revolution to her's, and her Royal family’s, online presence.  

Earlier this month, the official website of The British Royal Family underwent a complete transformation. Having replaced an outdated and text-heavy site that we were all (not) too familiar with, the new launch has unavoidably caused quite the stir.

This is the first time in eight years that the Royal Family had thought and endeavoured to upgrade their site. With ambitions to make it more user-friendly, particularly on mobile, it’s easy to say that their digital team have certainly accomplished these goals. But is the content and SEO really up to scratch?

The Content

‘The Home of the Royal Family’ is the newly renamed hub for all things royal; whether it’s highlights of the Queen’s 90th birthday or a profile on Princess Charlotte, they’ve got it covered.  

Expect an abundance of trips, visits, unveilings and celebrations, for this is an online location for the maverick fanatic who actually wants to read endless pages on the topic of the Royal Family.

Pessimism aside, it is quite noteworthy and important to raise awareness of what is actually going on inside – and outside – the Royal Quarters. Because, believe it or not, no one stands alone when they uneasily ask themselves: “what do the Royal Family actually do?”

Social media, video and image-heavy content have been heavily utilised. This complies with their expectations to engage the public with the roles and work of The Queen and the Royal Family. Plus, there is now a simpler platform to update with this content that comes from numerous sources, including charities and members of the public, who benefit from the work of the family. As it seems, their days are better spent serving the interest of the public – which answers a few questions of many.

Mobile Experience

There is it again – the fashionably annoying infinite scrolling technique. On one hand, this information-engulfing interaction behaviour on the Royal Family site means that it’s an efficient way to browse a tonne of data, without having to wait for a page to load. However, this also makes the user feel lost and slightly confused as to where they are in this continuous cycle of news, profiles, ‘important’ quotes and happenings about the Royals.

With so much data, the possibilities may seem endless with infinite scrolling. Do users really want a never-ending stream of data? And is there even enough valuable content on the Royal website, that really justifies this technique?

Ideally, sites should embrace hybridity and utilise a delightful medley of infinite scrolling and pagination. This way, users will feel in control whilst also avoiding exhaustion from an overload of information. 

SEO Perspective

Although the new site is in good SEO shape, generally speaking, it’s still struggling to rank for the large number of keywords targeted by the old site (royal.gov.uk) before migration.

This is partly due to the fact that the site is very much in a transitional phase, with search terms like “Buckingham Palace” showing listings to the old site which are then being redirected to the homepage of the new site.

Whilst this isn’t ideal in terms of user experience, these old links are 302 redirecting to the new Royal.uk site. Temporary redirects tell search engine spiders that the new URL will not be permanent, and this isn’t the case; a 301 permanent redirect would be more appropriate, here, as the site has permanently migrated to the new domain. This mixed message will be having a negative impact on the rankings of the new page.

Looking beyond migration, there are also a number of issues that will hold back the organic rankings and preventing traffic from going forward:

  • A number of pages are returning 404 errors. Crawling these non-existent pages will take up needless amounts of budget and might reduce the visibility of more important content on the site as a result. Plus, 404 pages are also irritating for the user. A custom 404 page that provides additional options would help to resolve this.
  • The majority of pages are being blocked from crawlers. This means valuable content within these pages will never appear in the search results.
  • Under optimised meta tags: a number of pages have titles and/or meta descriptions that are being truncated or auto populated because they haven’t been optimised. Page titles are an important ranking factor - as are meta descriptions - that have a large impact on the Click Through Rate of organic listings.

Social Media

2.5 million likes on the official Facebook page; 2.12 million followers on the British Monarchy Twitter account; more than 15,000 followers on Flickr; 150,000 subscribers on their YouTube channel and one million followers on the ‘kensingtonroyal’ Instagram account; the monarchy has, without a doubt, taken social media by storm.

It’s great to see that the digital team are tailoring each piece of content to a specific site. Content is posted regularly on the official Facebook page that abides by all-things Kensington and Her Majesty, plus Instagram streams the visual Kensington Royal diary without fault. Perfectly fitting for the mass hysteria that has followed the love affair of Kate and Will since University, some would say. There also seems to be a constant influx of updates on The Queen, especially on Twitter – so if you’re looking for facts about all-things-Queen, then this is your place for it.

What’s more is that all of the platforms seem to be offering a blow-by-blow account of The Queen and her family. Is this to keep the patriots up-to-date on the goings-on of the Royal Family? Or is it putting out such a level of information that the press will back off and leave them to their Royal Business? Either way, following them on social media is the easiest way to keep up with The Kensingtons.

The Royal Reality Show

Overall, their website has without-a-doubt been improved and they can now appeal to the digital masses in a language that they are all familiar with. On the flip side, these regular updates mean that there is now a lot of information surrounding the Royal subjects, and this information comes across as slightly soft and, in some senses, a little narcissistic.

Fair enough that there’s a huge public interest surrounding the work of the Royals, and their involvement with charities and rich history absolutely grounds them on a level that makes them greatly worshipped in the realm of the media. But is this not just another case of celebrity culture, or as some would put it, ‘just another Kardashian-style celebrity clan’?

Why so cynical? This is the online story of the real, modern Royal Family that are working hard to preserve British tradition and culture, after all. Perhaps it’s time to accept this as not another celebrity circus, but a great surety to democracy. Perhaps it’s time to join in and embrace their presence online.

 

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