You remember it well: that day back in the late 1990s, when your company’s website first went live. It looked hi-tech at the time, and you were so proud to have graduated to the Internet. Here’s a fair question: How many times since then have you refreshed the graphics or content on your website? Some businesses, it turns out, are still hosting first-generation sites that went live at the turn of the millennium.
Internet-savvy businesses will refresh the content on their websites regularly. Why? For one reason, customer experience.
Likewise, the majority of these sites are passé by today’s standards – sometimes embarrassingly so. Internet-savvy businesses will refresh the content on their websites regularly. Why? For one reason, customer experience. It takes only a byte or two of dated information for visitors to conclude they’ve hit a dead end or landed on an orphaned site and, with the competition only a click away, you might as well advertise that value-added service is not a strong part of your company’s culture. Plus, when a potential customer clicks on your “News & Events” section, only to find that the latest event was back in 2005… your potential customer is most likely gone.
So consider this a wakeup call. Business sites vary widely but, for the purposes of site facelifts, differences boil down to how frequently you must make changes. Small businesses may only need to make minor updates quarterly and major updates annually. Medium and large corporations may require monthly updates and e-commerce driven sites may require weekly or even daily updates, especially if they have entered into the social networking revolution.
Here are six ideas for the small business website that can help modernize your site swiftly without costing you a bundle.
- Update your high traffic pages frequently: Your site’s homepage is generally the first thing a visitor will see. You don’t want it to quickly be the last thing they see, so set aside a small budget for making minor changes to your homepage and other high trafficked pages every three months. Make sure the site architecture is current with today’s best practices. Site usability is very important and can make the difference between a good user experience and a bad one. Navigation is by far the most important usability factor. Develop navigation that is simple and logical. Create content on the homepage that can be updated or changed monthly, such as latest press releases or product offerings. This will give repeat visitors the sense that your site is up-to-date and well maintained.
- Insure visibility with the search engines: There’s no point in pursuing an eBusiness venture unless you’re prepared to take the necessary steps to drive relevant traffic to your website. By increasing awareness and pertinent traffic to your web pages through the search engines, you enhance your potential return on investment—the more relevant the traffic, the greater the chance for client conversions. Deploying Search Engine Optimization (SEO) best practices offers the greatest potential return on investment. With a strong SEO service, your site is tuned for relevant content, listed organically, and maintained on a regular basis for maximum exposure over the long term. The traffic driven to your site is made up of ‘true customers’ seeking your products and services.
- Invest in a web content management solution: Content Management Systems (CMS) empower non-technical content authors to contribute, edit, manage, and publish their mission-critical text and images, without the help of professional web developers. This ensures timely updates by putting the power to publish dynamic Web content into the hands of the people that create it, such as your marketing, human resources or sales staff. Web content management solutions save your organization time and money while adding value to your existing Web investments.
- Make the site a marketing tool: If you’re not capturing data basics, such as which sites and search engines visitors are clicking from, or which pages are most trafficked, get cracking. Use prepackaged software or a web services provider to help capture detailed information about site visitors. The first question to ask is: When visitors come to your site, what do you want them to do? Once you have answers, you can define the tracking metrics and develop the content, navigation and structure that will quickly meet the needs of your targeted visitors.
- Set up an e-mail list program: Create an incentive for visitors to register for information or give you their e-mail addresses. Provide something that the target audience would perceive as value for their exchange of personal information, like a white paper. Once you have opt-in addresses, send out useful newsletters, special deal notifications, and new product bulletins or direct them to your company blog.
- Start a Company Blog and Web 2.0 Strategy: By far, the most cost-effective way to interact with your customers online is to create a web 2.0 strategy. This could be as simple as implementing a company blog. You can get a blog started in less time than it takes you to read this paragraph using e-tools such as WordPress or Blogger and best of all its free. Also, I recommend signing on to some of the more popular social networking sites (LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, etc.) and start building your company brand. Again, it’s all free; you just need to dedicate a certain amount of time each day (30-40 minutes) towards maintaining your company brand.
Any of these ideas will help update your online presence. However, the real advice is simply not to forget your website in your sales and marketing budget planning. Pay attention to your website whenever you shift direction, add a new product, offer a new service or significantly grow the business. Times, indeed, have changed. All marketing and messaging must be seamless, consistent, uniform and multi-channel.