Many business owners realize that they need a website to expose their products and services to a wide range of potential customers, and some have taken the initiative to get a website. However, that isn’t the end of the process. There are still things that the business owner must do to maintain a website that will continue to benefit the company. In this article, I will present the things that businesses should do (or have done) to keep the company website fresh and constantly working for the company.
Keep in mind that in most cases that you, the business owner, may not do everything that is presented herein. In many cases, you may have your webmaster perform some of the tasks listed below. However, as the owner, you should be confident that these things are being done since the website represents the company worldwide and should not be taken for granted.
Visit and Navigate Your Own Website
Frequently take a trip to your own website and go through it. See where the links take you and how things look. Just stay familiar with your own website to not only ensure that things are accurate, but also so that you remain familiar with what’s on it. The more you go through your own website, the more you will be able to talk about it and provide recommendations to others on the resources that exist on it.
If your website is large then you will probably need to assign designated people to go through certain parts of the site. For example, one person may be assigned to the educational section, another to the publication section, etc. The point is that someone is reviewing the website on a regular basis, which will help to quickly find link errors, content errors, old content, etc.
Visit your site on a desktop computer, tablet, and smartphone if possible. These days, websites should be mobile-friendly, and some would say that they should have a mobile-first design. This is because more people are using their mobile devices to access websites instead of merely a desktop computer. Therefore, your website should look good and function properly on the desktop computer, tablet, and smartphone. Be regularly reviewing the site, you can catch design issues before it becomes critical.
Keep Content Up to Date
It is very important that the content on a website is current or relevant. It is easy to spend a lot of time and effort to build a website and then forget about it. There is nothing magical about a website. It is like any other marketing or advertisement component of your business. Therefore, review the website monthly to ensure that the content is still relevant. If your website has articles, then create new ones periodically to keep the content on the site fresh.
Content should also be reviewed as a result of website analytics. There may be content updates that should be made to optimize the site more for specific search terms, i.e., what people type when they are searching the web). For example, keyword research and analysis can be done to see what keywords or search terms people are using to search for the same products and services that you offer. You could then update the content of the site to be consistent with those search terms (keywords).
Test All Forms on the Website
One of the most frustrating experiences that I have had when interacting with websites is to complete a contact or question form and never hear back from the organization. That typically means that no one is monitoring the forms on the website, such as the contact form. Ensure that you know to whom the information submitted by the forms on your website is delivered. Not responding to a submitted form will most likely result in lost business from that individual or organization.
By completing the forms on the site regularly, you constantly confirm that they are working properly and will not be the cause of missed sales or interaction. After all, if a person takes the time to complete the, let’s say, contact form, then they are probably ready to interact with you. A prompt response to a form submission is a great way to engage potential customers or members.
Ensure Website Components Are Current
Many websites use components such as plugins or modules depending on the platform used, e.g., WordPress, Drupal, etc. Just like your operating system (e.g., Windows 10), the components of a website will have updates too. For example, WordPress plugins should be updated regularly, in addition to WordPress itself. Ensure those updates are applied to help protect the website from the exploitation of vulnerabilities.
If you are managing your website personally, then ensure that updates are applied at least monthly. If you are using a webmaster, such as Reggie’s PC Resources’ webmaster services, then confirm that the updates are being made.
Always have an up-to-date backup of your site (including any databases) in case you need to roll back after updating components. Sometimes a component that has had no available updates for a long time, may not work properly as other components and the underlying technology (e.g., WordPress, .NET, PHP, MySQL) is updated.
Check Website Hosting Account and CMS Access
If you have the credentials to access your website’s hosting account control panel and CMS (Content Management System) portal (if one exists), then ensure that the credentials work. You should always have access to your company’s website hosting account and backend administration. This doesn’t mean that you will actually use those credentials for managing and maintaining your website, but rather that you at least have control of the access. Your webmaster will be the one that will use the credentials for the hosting account and backend CMS manager. Every now and then, just log in to both. If you don’t know how to do that, then contact your webmaster to get the credentials.
Let me give you an illustration of this. Suppose you have a WordPress website. That means that you will have a hosting account (the home for your website), and a WordPress installation. You should be able to log in to your hosting account’s control panel and the WordPress content manager. This will ensure that if something goes awry with your webmaster, that you will be able to take control do what is necessary for your site. I have had several clients over the years whose websites were held hostage by a disgruntled webmaster who had all of the necessary credentials and would not release them.
Not only this, but you also want to make sure that you have access to your domain name registration portal with the registrar (e.g., Godaddy). This will also ensure that you have access and control of your domain name, its contacts, and the nameserver (the nameserver basically points to the host of your website).
Use Analytics to Make The Site Better
The analytics for your website should be regularly evaluated to help determine how the site is performing and what might be done to make it perform better, i.e., get more traffic. The analytics used might come from Google analytics or the website statistics provided by the hosting provider. I do recommend that Google analytics be used for your website because it is typically easier to access than the hosting provider’s site statistics.
Analyzing site analytics is typically done by the webmaster with an SEO/SEM maintenance package or by an SEO company. The important thing is to use the analytics to make adjustments to the website that will make it perform better, e.g., attract more visitors, increase conversions, etc.
Optimize For Search Engines (SEO/SEM)
Use the analytics that you have acquired for your site to make necessary adjustments. You may incorporate different keyword (search terms) based on keyword research indicating what search terms people are using when looking for the services or products that you offer. This will help you to optimize the headings and content of the articles (blogs) on your website.
You can also optimize your site to fix any issues that may have been discovered after evaluating the analytics. For example, you may want to know why the bounce rate for your site is high so that you can correct it and keep people on the site longer. Obtaining analytics is one thing, but taking action is another. Take action based on the information that you have acquired from the analytics for your website.
Use Social Media
Your website should link to your social media accounts. If not, then ensure that it does. If you don’t have social media accounts, then create them. Some popular social media platforms to consider are Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Snapchat, and Tumblr. You don’t need to have accounts on all platforms, but you should have accounts on those that are most relevant to your business *e.g., where your potential customers hang out).
Keep in mind that if you use social media that you will need to have them monitored. Just as the website, you don’t want to have old irrelevant content on your social media pages. For example, going to a company’s Facebook page and seeing that the last post was done two years ago doesn’t look good. So keep your social media content current just like you would your website.
Review Contact Info Annually
Be sure that the organization’s address, phone number, posted email address, and other contact information on your website is accurate. For example, if the company has moved, then make sure the address is updated on the site and social media. Having inaccurate contact information on the site could cause the loss of potential customers or members.
Check For Broken Links
Websites constantly change as content is added, modified, and deleted, which could, in turn, cause broken links. A broken link is basically an invalid link, e.g., a hyperlink to a page that doesn’t exist. A broken link can also occur when an external page that your site links to no longer exist. For example, you may link to a page on another website and that page was deleted. You will need to update the link or remove it from your site.
If the website has hundreds or thousands of pages and there are a multitude of broken links, then you may not catch all right away. Therefore, a well-constructed “404 file not found” page will remedy this. The “404 page” should contain links to the major sections of the website so that people can still find what they are looking for.
There are services available that you or your webmaster can use to monitor your site for broken links among other things.
Check E-commerce Functionality
The last thing you want is for a visitor to encounter an error when trying to make a purchase on your website. That could easily cause you to lose that sale. Therefore, check the e-commerce functions on your website by going through your store, adding items to the cart, and going through the checkout process before paying. It may be possible to put your site into a test mode to go through the entire checkout process without actually making a charge to a credit card. Just remember to put the site back in “live” mode when done testing.
This check will ensure that visitors will be able to purchase your products or services successfully, thus providing more revenue for your business. Also, evaluating the e-commerce portion of your website may reveal areas of the purchasing process that could be improved.
I cannot express enough how important backups of your website (and database) are. Make sure that your company’s website is backed up regularly. This could save you from a lot of grief if the site is compromised or something very bad happens with the hosting provider. I also recommend that you have backups that are separate from that which the hosting provider offers. Try to have a set of backups in a separate location other than the hosting provider’s server. This way you are protected regardless of what happens with the hosting provider.
The backups should be such that you could quickly recreate the site on a completely different hosting provider’s server if necessary. The frequency of the backups should be consistent with the frequency of website updates.
Check Website Security
Some sites are critical and may require security processes in place, such as a weekly or daily security scan. This is like an antivirus for your site. There are always trolls on the internet looking for vulnerable websites. A vulnerable website effectively is a website that does not have the latest CMS version (e.g., WordPress update) or component updates (e.g., Drupal module updates). There could also be custom code that introduces vulnerabilities.
A security scan could alert you on possible vulnerabilities that you or your webmaster could resolve before it becomes a real issue. Talk with your webmaster or hosting provider for the addition of a security scan for your website if you don’t already have one.
Check Domain Registration Information and Access
Be sure that you can access your domain registration portal with the registrar (e.g., Godaddy), i.e., you have the proper credentials. Check that the contact information for your domain name is accurate. There are at least four contacts identified in a domain name registration. They are the owner, administrator, billing, and technical contacts. Of course, ensure that you are listed as the owner and perhaps administrator of the domain name. Update these contacts as necessary.
You can always go to www.whois.com and click on the “WHOIS” link to view information about the domain name registration. Note that if the domain name is configured for privacy, then you will not see the real contact information, but instead will have to access the registrar’s control panel for your domain name and view them there. It is good to have privacy set on your domain name to thwart trollers who will use that information for advertising, spamming, or perhaps nefarious purposes.
Consider Redesigning the Website
As time goes by, technologies change and trends change. Therefore, the design of a website today may be obsolete several years from now. If your website was developed in the 1990s or early 2000s, then you may want to consider an upgrade of the website. Web technologies have drastically changed since the 1990s and even early 2000s. Also, web designs have drastically changed as well. If people are expecting a design that is consistent with current design trends and they land on your site that has an old design, then chances are they won’t stay long on your site. They will probably bounce, i.e., leave immediately.
Web technologies have improved to such a degree that new business owners have the tools necessary to create a good-looking website on their own. There are many web building platforms such as Wix, Squarespace, and Shopify, that enable you to create a nice-looking functional website yourself. However, as your company grows and becomes larger with more products and services, then you may want to consider upgrading to a content manager platform (e.g., WordPress, Drupal) or having a custom-made website hosted on a hosting provider’s server. I personally do not think it is a good idea to be tied down to a site-building service for your website depending on your needs. At the very least, the platform you choose should be scalable.