You've invested in your business - the property, the equipment, all of the advertising and marketing. Today a website is an essential part of that structure and it takes far more than a few DIY clicks to make it successful.
Setting up your website, crafting your text for readability by both humans and search engines, organizing your images to capture and hold attention, and making sure everything works is only the first step. I was interviewed recently about what makes a website successful over time. It all comes down to paying attention to details.
Here are some tips for keeping your website fresh, now that the holiday season is in sight.
1) Read your website regularly. If this sounds obvious, it's not. When you get caught up in the work of your business, you're going to start forgetting the details of what your site actually says. It can happen to anyone! Larger companies with various committees or departments should include those chairs in the review process as well. They can provide various perspectives from their own expertise.
2) Keep a list of your website, business email, and social media logins. It doesn't have to be a digital document, it can be written down on notebook paper or company letterhead. Make sure it's somewhere secure but accessible to you when you need it. Everyone forgets a password from time to time, computers crash, or new employees come on board and take over these responsibilities.
3) While on the subject of logins, change your passwords annually, at least. Make sure those passwords have at least a combination of a capital letter, a lowercase letter, a numeral and one punctuation mark. That combination will keep your security complex enough to foil most hackers-for-hire. If you're keeping a list of your passwords, then it won't be hard to remember the changes.
4) Ask for feedback from your customers. Good business owners ask for feedback on their goods and services from their customers. Ask for feedback on your website too. You can do this in person in your store, via email newsletter, or you can host a poll online; surveymonkey.com is an easy-to-use and popular choice if you're doing it yourself with some options that are free. You never know where you'll get the next big idea to make your site profitable for your business.
5) If you are maintaining your own website, dedicate the time to maintenance. Lots of small business owners are excited at the idea of having "total control" of their website. Then when it's time to update: nothing. If you set appointments to meet with customers or suppliers, make an appointment with your website too. Maybe you just ran across a new picture that will make a better impression. Or you're offering a new special deal that hasn't been mentioned. Or you added a page marked only "Coming Soon" and never got around to filling it in. (Hint: never do this!) If you're going to maintain the information on your site, set aside the time for it or you'll make a poor impression without trying.
6) Scheduling time for your social media outreach is doubly important. Social media is intended to be the latest, up-to-the-second information or perspective on your business or field. If you're not posting and communicating to your customers or "fans", you won't be at the front of their minds when they make a purchase decision. Social media has to be especially "real" and sincere; so it takes a lot of thought to get the most out of those media.
7) Make sure your website is usable on mobile devices. That Adobe Flash intro page that was so hot in 1999 and made your company look like the most cutting-edge in the business is officially yesterday's news. Have a website that functions on tablets and smartphones is no longer a luxury or optional. The number of smartphone and tablet users has tripled in only two years and continues to rise. Your website has to be easy to use on a screen of any size: from an iPhone to a 60-inch TV screen and everything in between.
8) Go Google Yourself! No, that's not an insult, that means search for your website on Google (or any other search engine) and see where your site ranks. If it's not ranking on the first page or two of results, you may want to have a talk with an SEO specialist to find out why and how to get it ranked higher. Don't forget to look for feedback on review sites like Kudzu or Yelp. Both positive and negative feedback can give you the direction you need to keep your customers happy online.
9) Make sure your website and social media are included in other advertising. If you have brochures, pamphlets, signage, postcards, or vehicles, you can direct viewers to your website on the spot. Include the URL (the address) and indicate which social media your customers can find you on. Best of all, include a QR code so that customers can connect with you at the speed of thought while they're thinking about it with their tablet or phone. QR (for "quick response") codes are two-dimensional bar codes that carry enough information to direct a visitor to your website or perform other tasks.
10) "But I really don't have the time to manage my website myself. How do I get the most out of it?" If you're growing your business and you don't have time to invest in your website, then invest in a webmaster. Dedicate an employee to the job, or hire a consultant to work with your team. SDOC Publishing offers full webmaster services to several clients that have requested it (RikEmmett.com is an example). Decide with your webmaster what their duties will entail: Social media maintenance? Content updates? Software upgrades? These services can also be combined with Hosting agreements for even greater convenience.
Treat your website like any other investment: provide for its maintenance and upkeep and it will serve your business for years to come.