Your website is not a daffodil.
Last updated on
It may seem a bit non sequitur but today while walking around outside and admiring the bright yellow daffodils that started blooming last week it made me think about how incredibly easy and maintenance free those particular flowers are. Since I design websites my next thought was how so many people kind of treat their business website like a daffodil.
Plant it and forget it.
I like daffodils because I don’t really have a green thumb. As long as you get them in the ground at the right time and pointing in the right direction, they’re pretty much golden and will come up year after year for you to enjoy. I don’t even water mine (I let mother nature handle that) or give them any special fertilizer, but there they are every spring looking amazing. In fact, they look as good this year as they did last year. So for a one time activity (actually planting the bulb) I get to reap the benefits for years to come.
I see a lot of people who view creating and putting up their business website as a one time activity. They may even pay to have it professionally created. Then it’s launched and they believe that they’re going to reap the benefits for years to come while they completely ignore it and wait for it to “do its thing”, just like a daffodil.
If websites were flowers …
They would be the type that needs fairly consistent attention and care. You leave it go and it could just wilt and die out there on the web. To keep your website “growing” and giving you benefits (like looking awesome for anyone who happens upon it and bringing you new potential business and customers) it has to be maintained. Unlike a bulb that comes up every year and looks just as beautiful as it did the year before, your website will often start to show its age and look more out of date and neglected every year that goes by that you’ve simply left it there on the web and forgotten about it. I’m pretty sure most businesses evolve, grow, and change within a few months, let alone, 12 or 24. Even daffodils wither but then they go back into the ground and work on some behind the scenes flower stuff so that they can look good for the next season.
Your website, as an integral part of your marketing and your business “face” on the internet, needs updates and to have some behind the scenes actions taking place. For example, sites built just 2 years ago are often not mobile friendly. It’s now a fact that no one can ignore: tons more people are surfing the web using devices other than a desktop or laptop computer. A rapidly increasing amount of ecommerce is happing on tablets and phones. If your site hasn’t been maintained, then it’s pretty much wilting and dying as you read this.
High-maintenance flowers always require fertilizer and so it goes with your website. You can’t just put some dirt and water on it and hope for the best (you don’t want your website to be covered in mud, right?). Just like a good garden maintenance list is broken down into months or seasons, here’s one for website maintenance that’s broken down into stages that you can use as a guide on how to keep your site looking great, growing, and reaping you some benefits.
Launch to 3 Months
Let’s say for the sake of this article you’ve paid a professional design/marketing company to create your website based on your exact needs, goals, and your target audience. Everything looks great and your new (or redesigned) site is now live on the open web. Don’t sit back and relax! Just like in gardening when the initial planting is a critical stage where the roots need to take hold, launching your website is a critical stage when you need to pay close attention to it and how it’s working for the next few months.
Keep an eye on your analytics and website traffic. This can give you valuable information on who is visiting your site, what pages they’re viewing, where they’re coming from, etc. Analyzing this information is crucial to gauging the success of not just the site, but any marketing or campaigns that could be driving visitors to the site. It can sometimes uncover issues before they become big problems. For instance, you spent a lot of time having graphics made and copy written for one section of the site and barely anyone is visiting it. Now is the time to get to the bottom of that. You may need to experiment and make changes to both design and copy. This is part of the process and it doesn’t mean that the site was done “wrong”. Marketing is as variable as the weather sometimes and making small changes can often lead to big returns in traffic or sales. You could wait for another couple months to start making any changes, but honestly 90 days should be enough time to start seeing some trends and taking action.
Don’t wait to start maintaining any content of your site. Have a blog? Start creating and planning quality posts. Have a shopping cart? Start planning promotions, sales, featured products, and modifying calls to action (after looking at analytics/trends). If you have a simple informational site, consider making text or call to action changes after looking at your analytics. If anything changes with your business during this time, make sure the information on your site still reflects everything accurately and is up to date.
So to wrap up what you should be doing during the first critical 90 day period:
1. Submit your site Google, Bing, etc.
2. Check website analytics weekly.
3. Note any trends, how successful any initial marketing campaigns are, etc.
4. See how well your site is getting indexed by search engines.
5. Consider content changes/additions.
6. Pay attention to any initial user/visitor feedback you may get.
7. Continue to engage in external marketing efforts.
8. Perform any technical maintenance/updates to website code, content management system (CMS), shopping cart, etc.
3 Months to 6 Months
You should continue to follow analytics and trends for your site. Continue to coordinate your site with any external marketing you might be doing. For instance, if you’re having a sale, consider changing the content on your home page to drive potential buyers to take action.
Once again, if your business has changed in any way, by all means make sure your website is up to date with changes. If your hours are 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. and your informational website still has them as 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., that’s a problem.
If your site has a CMS such as WordPress, it’s also critical that you keep the WordPress version and plugins up to date. This should be done on an on-going basis, as needed. Additionally, with WordPress and ecommerce sites you need to ensure that you keep up with website security, SSL certificates, and PCI compliance. Additional maintenance for ecommerce sites can include: price or product changes (including images), adding or deleting products, and creating coupon codes/sales.
If you’re not getting the kind of traffic or search engine presence that you initially thought you would, consider hiring a marketing professional that specializes in SEO or SEM (NOTE: this applies only if you didn’t engage an SEO/SEM professional before your site launched).
To wrap up:
1. Make sure any changes in your business are reflected accurately on your website.
2. Add/edit and otherwise maintain content on your website every month/as needed.
3. Maintain and update CMS systems and plugins/add ons.
4. Maintain website security for CMS systems and ecommerce sites.
5. Consider changes based on solid, actual user feedback.
6. Check back into your original goals for the site and see how well the site is meeting those goals.
7. Consider more intense SEO/SEM marketing if traffic is not where it needs to be.
6 Months to 12 Months
Hopefully by now the need to maintain accurate and up-to-date information on your website is second nature and you’ll know that it’s an on-going process. Also, from months 3-6 you should know that technical maintenance of your site is also something that needs to be constantly kept up. Once you’ve determined if the website is meeting your initial goals, and with the site up and running for months now, you may find that the goals need to be modified. I would recommend checking on goals quarterly. If your goal was to increase sales by 2% and it hasn’t happened yet, you need to start doing some research and detective work to find out why things have withered.
6 months in you should have some pretty good analytics to review as well as feedback from users/customers/clients that visit and interact with the site. You may find you want to make changes to improve usability.
You also need to continue your external marketing efforts.
To wrap up:
1. Continue to do the things you’ve been doing for months now: maintenance, update content, review analytics/feedback.
2. Review/reevaluate goals quarterly and take action to meet them.
3. Continue external marketing efforts.
12 Months and Beyond
All of the effort, researching, reviewing, maintaining still needs to continue beyond the 12 month mark. While the maintenance will be vastly different between a 5 page informational site and an ecommerce site with 100 products, the basics are the same: don’t ignore your website because it will not keep reaping benefits for you if it becomes out-dated and “wilts” out on the internet.
Once you start getting close to the 2 year mark, seriously consider major changes to your site. Technology, programming, mobile devices … these things are all expanding and evolving and it’s very hard to predict what will be happening two years from now. The key thing to remember is that your website is not a “plant it and forget it” thing like a daffodil. It needs to be fluid and agile enough to make changes as they happen. An out-dated site won’t reflect on your business well.
Need help or guidance with maintaining your business website? Has it been 2 or more years and you’re ready for a refresh/redesign? Contact us for a free estimate.
Learn More About: