As the Internet changes and evolves into ever more important part of your daily business and the methods of connecting to the Internet continues to evolve it should come as no surprise that at a minimum of every three years your website should be updated. If your website has not been updated and maintained you are probably in need of some improvements. With an outdated website your customers can feel as if you are not in touch with the times and don't care. To be found by the search engines, considered an authority in your field, and being there for your customers having an updated website is crucial.
Does your website look professionally done or does it appear thrown together, piecemeal and an afterthought of your business?
There are plenty of "free" website builders out there that can get anyone online in a short period of time. These sites won't help you setup and configure an optimal user experience. You will start with a stock template that will get you online, looking like everyone else that uses that template, and be fairly static in design without a lot of work on your part. Personally we feel every business is truly unique and that your website should show your culture. Even if you are part of a national chain you can differentiate yourself from those that are similar to you.
Going along with the previous question above we feel your business is unique and using a stock template that is available to everyone else doesn't help differentiate your business as unique. We can see a "cookie cutter" company using a cookie cutter template but even then we would have to argue that the company is unique and not like their competitors. The key is to make your site clean, consistent, is easy to navigate, and presents your business in a professional manner.
If you're primary domain is www.BusinessYETI.com and you are marketing it as www.mydomain.com, domain.com, etc. you could be missing a branding opportunity. Be consistent in what you market about your company between all flyers and online advertising. Consistency is key in getting your brand known. It can, and will, take time to become known but staying consistent is critical. With this consistency you will also help your search engine results as well.
Many people miss the mark and do both for the same website. This cuts your results on the search engine result pages in half. A website can be accessed by www.BusinessYETI.com or BusinessYETI.com. Everything you can do to improve your search engine optimization (SEO) efforts will pay off by helping you get the site seen in a more organic way.
If you intend for your customers to find your website you need to be thinking about SEO as a forethought process. A site that is properly found through organic SEO methods will allow people to type in the search engines the information you would like to be found under.
To be found "organically" means that the content on your website is what is driving your search results rather than paying each individual search engine money to rank high. When you rank based on your content rather than by paying you are showing your clients value.
If you feel a need for a page that says under construction you are truly missing the point of the internet entirely. Would you purchase a billboard and put "Under Construction" or "Coming Soon" to let people that someday, hopefully soon you will be adding content. Your website should always be under construction and goes with always putting in updated and quality information for your customers. You don't need to advertise that something may one day be here. Leave the page off and then when you have the content add it in. If you are not updating your website you are missing a huge opportunity.
One of the core items we always say is that you should treat your website as an employee. Your website is an employee that works for you 24x7 and is the first one to greet new and existing customers online. Would you hire an employee, send out a press release of their hire and then "hope" they bring in sales and help your customers? If not, then why would you do the same to your website? You spend many hours building a site that helps with sales, support, informing and much more. Once you build your website you have to cultivate and help it mature into the best sales person for your company. This takes effort and time to achieve the best consistent results.
Does your website have pages that no longer exist, are no longer relevant, contain inaccurate information or overall incomplete?
When you created your website all of the pages linked to each other and worked perfectly. Now that your website has been up and running do all of the pages still link correctly? What about from the search engines and other websites as well? If the link no longer exists on your website it's easy to correct. The links from other sites could be much harder to correct. You may be asking "how would I know a page link doesn't exist?" The answer is through data analytics (see the next question for this).
Data analytics can show you a lot of great information about your website. You can see who is coming to your website, what pages they are visiting, keywords phrases that they are using, what the page order of their visit is, what browser they are using, whether it is through a desktop, tablet or mobile device. Additionally, you can see what parts of the world they are coming from as well as pages that are not seeing users or pages people are going to that don't exist. If your analytics is really good you can compare against your competitors, see what keywords are being used on your website, check your web pages for errors, and receive additional recommendations for improving your overall site experience.
A few years ago to achieve your company branding "look and feel" you needed to save your menus as graphic files rather than text. Today with the advancement of HTML5 and CSS3 with the latest version of web browsers you can achieve much of the same functionality using text rather than graphics. This will not only make your site faster but also will help you on the SEO front.
Like your menu being all graphical the heading of your website should not be an entire graphical image. Your logo will be graphical by nature unless your business name is your logo which then it will be text. The rest of your header information can typically be, and should be text. Items routinely in the header, as well as the footer, are your address, hours, phone numbers, etc. By having this as text you are continuing to think of the search engines and facilitating increasing your website customers by making your website more organically found on the search engines.
To combat spam years ago people tried all kinds of techniques to prevent spammers from gathering their email addresses. This is one reason you will not see a list of email addresses as much as you did three years ago. You will be seeing more websites listing a single email address for those that need them but having a contact form to fill out which will then direct the correspondence to the proper people. If you are using images still spammers are now much more sophisticated and can pull email addresses directly out of images which also hurts in getting better indexed on the search engines.
Corporate desktop users will have a program like Microsoft Outlook for sending and receiving emails. Home users will routinely use a web (browser) based email system. Before the rapid growth of browser based email having only email addresses listed made perfect since as when the email address was clicked on the user could immediately send you an email through their desktop email client. Many users now will use Gmail, Yahoo and Outlook.com for their email. An email address being clicked on is not conducive for these browser based emailing options. As such, having an online form is the perfect way to go. Additionally, having an online form you can have the email routed to the appropriate people as well as storing and saving the information to further improve your site.
We have never understood the concept and the fad of splash pages since they came out. If someone is coming to your website and wanting information making them have extra mouse clicks, or finger taps, to get to the information they want to see you are only providing a poor user experience. When we see this we are immediately put off and will typically hit the back button on our browser and go no further. Don't stop your customers from seeing who you are and making them click to get into your website. Give your site visitors a reason to use your site and not a reason to be turned away.
Years ago the only way to optimize your website was paying someone hundreds of dollars to do simple updates. Today you should have the ability to do this yourself through a content management system (CMS). If you are busy running your business, and we hope that you truly are, a web designer is always a great way to go and no longer costs hundreds of dollars. A web designer assisting you is the perfect person compared to an employee. They should not only be on top of all the latest design trends and browser compatibility issues but should be more efficient and cost effective. Of course, if you have the time to do it then you should definitely have the capability to do so.
Does audio or video automatically start on your site making you the decision maker and not your customer?
One of the most annoying things we come across on any website is when the website owner makes the assumption that you want to hear their video marketing or relaxing music as soon as you come to their website. This is presumptuous and provides a very poor user experience that cannot only annoy but make someone want to go elsewhere. When we come to these sites the first thing we do is look to where we can turn this off. Why would you want the very first thing that comes to a current or potential customer the thought of how do I turn this thing off?
When you scroll down to the bottom of your webpage, check the copyright. If a customer scrolls down and sees that the copyright is not current, they are going to think that you have not updated the website in over a year (or more) even if that isn't the case. You can easily change this through your content management system (CMS) and it will make a big difference in conversions and traffic. It is possible that some CMS systems will automatically update this for you so that you don't have to think about this.
Although website redesigns are recommended to happen at least every three years a websites content should be updated much more often. A website should be constantly updated and improved upon. Just as you work with your employees keeping them informed of company polices and information you should be keeping your website updated and your customers informed with accurate information.
We are finding more and more users access the internet using tablet and mobile devices. If your website is not responsive using viewports then you could be missing a great selling opportunity to your customers. A responsive site is one that adapts automatically (or automagically) to the visitors screen size. This adaption will provide a consistent and easy to follow format between different screen sizes.
Having outdated information on your website is the first indication to people that the internet and communicating accurate information with them is an afterthought and is not important to you. As with adding fresh and relevant content on your website is important removing the information that is no longer relevant is equally important.
First impressions are key to showing your business is in the modern times. If your domain name is BusinessYETI.com then all of your email addresses should be in a format of ____@BusinessYETI.com. This not only provides consistency for your marketing efforts but as you experience turnover you have control over the email address so that you can forward the persons email to someone else to continue to provide a superior customer experience. Let's say your best sales person, or any, leave your company. They were using myname@Gmail.com rather than firstname.lastname@example.org. When they leave they not only have all of their emails they previously sent as an employee of your company but now have them at their new position to potentially take with them to their new employer.
If the information on your website cannot be easily found do you think your customers are going to know it's there? The end user experience (UX) and user interface (UI) of your website is critical to the success of the information being found on your website.
When we start many web site projects there has been little to no planning beyond what they feel the customers would want. With all of our projects we will start asking specific questions to determine who the customer is. If the site has been running for some time we work on getting access to the log files so that we can see what pages are being accessed, and in what order, to help determine the proper information to display. Proper planning can go a very long way to providing an experience your customers not only need; but want.
Do you put xyz@yourDomain.com on all of your marketing materials? If you do and no one checks it does it matter that it's there? Make certain that what you put on your marketing materials is not only monitored but that you address the information that comes to it. Once you use an email address on any marketing materials make certain it never goes away and is forwarded to the right employees within your company. You never know when a flyer from years ago could produce a new lead and sale.
Social integration is a very wide topic for any business. You can have news feeds of your social pages, icons with links to your pages, or even tighter integration. If your website doesn't have at least one social icon with a link to your social platform of choice then you may be missing some key communications with your customers and missing the mark of collaborating with your customers.
We recommend that you don't jump on every social media site to just be there. Choose wisely and choose the one(s) that will best meet your needs. We always recommend Facebook based on its wide audience of consumers. Beyond that it truly depends on your business, available resources, etc.
Although a social site is not your website it too should be treated as an extension of your primary website marketing plan. Not updating your social site will bring less people to know about your business. Social sites are great for getting to the masses. You don't have any control over the look and feel but getting a hold of the masses and pointing them toward your website should be crucial to your digital marketing plan.
In the old days you will get with a graphic designer or marketing firm to establish your print, radio and video marketing efforts. Today you need to extend that to the online world. A graphic designer and marketing firm can help establish the proper fonts, sizes, colors and more for your online experience. With this information a professional web designer can make your website truly shine in the digital world. You should, at a minimum, standardize on your fonts, sizes, colors, search engine optimization, social media strategies, and email marketing to start with.
If your website does not show up properly across updated browsers, it needs to be updated immediately. Focusing on a single web browser is something no one should ever do. New browser versions come out monthly (and sometimes more often). If you are not updating your website for these changes, you are probably not going to make conversions and can lose customers.
Your website is the first line toward gaining customers and keeping existing ones. If you find that your website is outdated, you need custom website design for your business. A custom professional website will help your business stand out from the competition and give you the sophisticated look needed to survive in the online market. A website built by a professional will work on a wide variety of devices that also is targeted using your branding and content relevant to your customers.
The current list of browsers that you should be validating your site against are Microsoft Internet Explorer, Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Apple Safari, and Opera. You should also be checking not only against the desktop versions of these browsers. Tablet and mobile versions of these browsers can act differently from their desktop counterparts.
One of the biggest signs that your website is outdated is when the copy on your website reflects a business goal that you are not long pursuing. For instance, if your website used to sell a certain product exclusively and you have now moved on, the website is outdated. Keep up with your business goals and have your site reflect this.
If your website is not updated, non-existent and you treat your website as a second class employee you should only expect poor results from it. If you feel that building a site and paying the search engines to rank high you should also expect poor results. It takes a lot of work to make your online digital marketing strategy a success. You can choose to take the time out of your day to promote your website or you can hire a web design firm that specializes in taking care of your online needs using the direction that you provide.