First Things First: Your Website Matters. A Lot.
Your website is a critical part of the business. It can validate your company to the online user, attract leads, and educate potential clients on your company and its services. Modern studies have shown that people form an opinion of your company/brand within 1/10 of a second of arriving on your website. In other words, before they visit your storefront, call your sales team, or even interact with your site, they already have an opinion about who you are and how you do what you do.
If your website doesn’t feel like your brand to you then it certainly won’t represent your brand to your clients. While your site may not be the crowning glory of your marketing plan, it certainly shouldn’t be a detriment either. If your site is significantly outdated, isn’t optimized for today’s mobile users, and has security concerns, you may want to consider a full site redesign with an agency or freelance partner. That being said — a good redesign takes time and a budget you may not have. So, how can you make the most of your current site until you’re ready to redesign it?
If you’re unsure where to start, consider the following ways you can update your website without investing in another full web design project.
Before You Update: Get Feedback
☐ Internal Conversations
Ask the folks who answer most of the phone calls in your office what questions they are most frequently asked. Are they basic things like office hours, mailing address, simple product questions, or how to find a certain document they need? Are the answers to those questions on your website?
If so, maybe they’re not easy to find. If not, the frequency with which they are requested gives you a big indication that they should be added to the site during your next website update.
Ask what they think of your site, how they use it day-to-day, and what they think would be helpful for the client. Their insight will help you prioritize what changes should take place first.
Pro-tip: Check in with your team at least once a quarter to find out what your website is missing or what needs to be rearranged.
How are people landing on your site? Optimizing your pages for relevant keywords will help you acquire new traffic. What pages are people going to on your site? Take a look at your website’s analytics and see where people spend their time, where they exit your site, and what percentage make it to the pages you really want them to see.
Google Analytics gives you several tools for looking into all this, but a great option for seeing people’s path through your site is called Users Flow. If people aren’t getting to the information you want them to access, or if they aren’t taking the actions you want them to take, then it’s time to consider making changes to the website. Make it so it guides your users along the path you want them to take by providing more obvious calls to action (CTA).
You can have analytics reports sent to you on any schedule you set up, but I recommend you set aside at least half an hour a month to really go through them and see what’s happening on your site. Analytics will keep you from guessing at what your visitors are looking for and will instead show you where your problem areas are.
Start with Security and Work Outward
☐ Plugin and Theme Updates
We frequently personify the internet as being a “living, breathing thing,” which of course is an absurd statement. But the point is this — from amazing technical and design advancements to hackers trying to prove their ability to take down any software known to man, changes happen faster on the internet than anyone can really keep up with.
That’s why it is VITAL to keep all the moving parts of your website, such as plugins and themes, up-to-date to ensure your site stays secure and functional. If you haven’t updated your website backend in a while you should do that FIRST. Updating your site will improve performance and minimize your risk of a security breach.
Moving forward: these website updates needs to happen at least once a month, if not more frequently.
Pro-tip: Be sure to run a backup of your site before doing the updates, especially if they haven’t been done in a while.
☐ Consider Changing the Host Environment
Your website is hosted somewhere, but is it the right hosting environment for you? Each hosting service offers different benefits. Some are faster, others are better for WordPress sites, and still others are geared towards small businesses. A new hosting platform might remove security risks, automatically backup your site, and help with updates. Research what might be the best option for you.
☐ Broken Links
If you link to other sites, it pays to go through and double-check those links every once in a while to make sure they still take users to the right places and not an ERROR page.
This helps your users avoid frustration and also makes the search engine “bots” happier. You can use free tools such as:
This should happen once a quarter.
Hopefully, you already have a website with a responsive design optimized for mobile viewing, because mobile usage has been higher than desktop for several years now. If your site isn’t optimized for mobile, make it your next marketing priority and add it to the top of your website update list.
But don’t stop there. Your website needs to do more than just look okay on a smartphone — it needs to be just as effective for users across all devices. Go through the site on your phone and ask yourself if the most important information is easy to find on a small screen. Is the journey through the site just as obvious no matter what device the user is on? If not, it’s time to revamp.
Content Updates You Can Implement
Did you know that poor-quality website content like incorrect hours or an old address can have a big impact on how people view your business? It makes sense. Potential customers look at your website to gather information about your business. If all or some of the information on your website is outdated, you automatically lose credibility with your audience.
Business information like your hours, location, and team overview has become standard and are small details that make a huge difference. As soon as you move offices, change your business hours, or gain a new staff member, be sure to update your website to reflect these changes.
There’s no better way to build trust with your audience than by providing them with accurate, up-to-date information. Not to mention that if these kinds of website updates are overlooked, a simple 5-minute change can quickly morph into a large hourly project with a year’s worth of updates to make.
☐ Calls to Action (CTAs)
Let’s say you’ve rolled out a brand new service offering, but people just don’t seem to be as interested in it as you thought they’d be. What’s your next step? Probably to create a new page on your website dedicated to this particular service. This is a great start, but consider this: how are people going to find that new page in the first place?
A good website should offer a clear path for users. The homepage, for instance, should feature Calls To Action (CTAs) that encourage users to explore the site further. CTAs are instructions to users designed to provoke immediate responses. Buttons and headlines that say “CALL NOW,” “VIEW OUR SERVICES,” or “COME VISIT US” are CTAs. Ultimately these CTAs exist to help you reach your marketing goals, whatever those may be.
When your website was built, chances are that you incorporated CTAs based on your marketing priorities at the time. It makes sense that as your business goals change, your website’s CTAs should also change.
When you build a new service-specific page, consider restructuring your homepage and adding a service-specific CTA. Your audience won’t be able to find your new page without being told that it exists. By making these website updates, you’ll be one step closer to reaching your marketing goals.
At some time or another, you were probably told you need a blog on your website. To be clear, the term “blog” is a catch-all. A blog can house press releases, announcements, relevant news articles, and other information that’s important for your business.
Blogs can be helpful for Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and for helping answer some of your potential customers’ questions. But we want to be clear: not everyone needs a blog. In fact, if you have a blog but haven’t updated it in a year, it’s probably better not to have one.
The whole point of a blog is to produce fresh content. If the last post you made is from 2016, users can be easily deterred, calling into question the accuracy of the entire website.
By the same token, users can be really engaged if you’re posting regularly. The key to a successful blog is consistency. If you’re looking for a way to spruce up your website, an active blog presence is a great way to do that—the keyword here being active.
Need help figuring out where to start on your blog? Check out our post “Why You Need to Blog More Than You Floss.”
☐ Contact Forms
Perhaps one of the most overlooked website updates of all is contact forms. Whether they’re going to a specific member of your team or to a general office-wide email address, contact form submissions from your website have to go somewhere.
There’s nothing worse than realizing you haven’t been getting any form submissions from your website because they’ve been going to an invalid address or to someone who hasn’t worked there for three years. Yikes!
Here’s a tip: test your contact forms regularly to ensure they’re going to the right place. You don’t want to miss out on valuable leads because of a simple mistake!
☐ Update Imagery
Maybe you started with stock photos, so now it’s time for custom photography.
Maybe your last staff headshots were in the era of polyester and big perms. Maybe you have re-branded and all your products have a different logo on them.
Images can be just as important as words, so make sure the imagery on your site reflects where your company is today. Evaluate your photography and make a plan for replacing photographs that are outdated. A little bit of your budget dedicated to custom photography that showcases your people and your operations can go a long way in building trust and showing your “authentic” face online.
Finally: Start Planning for a Redesign
There are lots of ways you can update your website without unearthing a big project and these suggestions are an easy place to start. Most website platforms, like WordPress, make it easy for users to perform website updates on their own and many digital agencies, like Engenius, can manage your website for you.
But updates, for all that they are helpful, only go so far and your site might be in need of a total redesign. Perhaps your site is difficult to update because it’s built on an old platform, or it isn’t optimized for mobile because mobile users weren’t as prevalent when the site was built. Regardless of your reason, the first step towards a beautiful, functional site that fits your needs is strategic planning. As you make strategic updates now, consider your future level of investment and your future site requirements. This preparation and forethought will guide any agency or freelancer in the right direction when you’re finally ready for a rebuild.
Wondering how your website can be improved? Need guidance on what updates are most important for your business? Please don’t hesitate to reach out to us if you have any lingering questions. We’re happy to help.