“Set it and forget it,” is definitely not the way to think about your business’s online presence.
A successful Web site, like a finely tuned engine, requires regular and routine maintenance to ensure continued peak performance. A well-maintained online presence is simply too important to be ignored these days. That’s because, among other things, Web sites are often the first impression your company makes — where someone actually discovers your business. And Web sites are a primary way to reach out and touch customers within local communities and around the world.
Whether your online storefront provides the means to process sales orders or simply serves up electronic brochures, the goal is ultimately about turning visitors into customers. A lousy Web site can surely turn them off.
Poorly maintained and obviously ignored sites rarely get more than one passing glance. A second visit rarely results from a poor first impression. Sites with rich content and which are interactive, multifunctional, current and continually changing create a lasting impact.
The latter point is particularly important. A Web site can’t rest on its laurels and must be made continually appealing to visitors. Refresh is critical.
But what sort of routine maintenance is required? And where to begin?
The first step forward is a step back, says Steve Grushcow, the CEO of edit.com, a Web site maintenance services company, based in Brooklyn, N.Y.
“Ask, ‘What do I want the Web site to do for my business?’ A lot of people don’t even know,” Grushcow says. “We say that you need to hone in on another step. Should the site just give background information or should it generate leads for me? And how do I get leads from my site?”
You need to strike a chord with your specific type of customer, he says, adding that the main challenge is to translate your storefront business into something that likewise serves customers on the Internet.
It’s a process where, among other things, every month you brainstorm new ideas that add to and improve your site, according to Grushcow. So consider whether the site looks fresh or whether updates are required. Is there new content to be added and does the site function the way it should?
A checklist of regular Web site maintenance includes tasks like verifying the function of outbound links from your site. Did these change and do these continue to work? Is the site fast? Do images used still look good or do they seem dated and old?
Check the content. Are there date-specific items that haven’t been updated or replaced? Does a successful advertised event lend itself to a Web treatment, like posting photographs that might have been taken?
Consider how to improve your customer service, Grushcow suggests creating hidden pages that only certain customers can access. These special value-add pages, set up just for them, might include items like photographs. Sometimes you can serve current customers better by creating member-only or custom pages.
Have you considered better ways of capturing leads? Leads and sales generated through the site can be improved by enhancing the way a site captures information. Look at Web site statistics to discover who visits your site and where your visitors are coming from and which search engines are directing traffic to you.
Web site maintenance means regular analysis, updating and improvement of the site to keep it in synch with your “offline” business, stay relevant to the search engines that potentially will direct traffic to your site, and continue to be effective in both keeping and attracting customers, Grushcow says.
“Some sites really don’t require much maintenance,” he says. “(But) they should look at it once a month, just to rethink it. It’s not that there’s always something to improve, but you should take a look at it, routinely.
“If a business doesn’t know that (statement) to be true, then they’re probably not doing a good job in their business.”
–McLean is editor-in-chief of IT World Canada and can be reached at [email protected]