On the long to-do list that all business owners have, it’s tempting to overlook “update company website.” You probably took a fair amount of time a few years ago to construct your website, and your business hasn’t changed much. So why should you make changes to the site?
There are plenty of reasons. Your website is, in effect, your front-line employee, because often someone’s first impression of your company comes from your website. It is certainly true that these days, everyone from a potential customer or employee to a vendor looks at a firm’s website to validate the business. Chances are, your website isn’t working as hard for you as it should.
If you haven’t changed the basic look of your site lately, the problem may be the design itself. An older design may cause visual fatigue — a visitor may no longer “see” the information on your site, including recent changes or additions, because it appears all too familiar from past visits. The dynamic quality of the Web invites newness and freshness, and your visitors expect it.
If you view your website as your firm’s online ambassador, you’ll want it to be current with all that is happening at your firm, helping you to get the word out. It’s important to tout new clients, projects or personnel, even if it’s just to add an updatable section or scroll bar on the homepage for hot news items. This is the kind of change you should be making to your website on a regular basis. Fresh information gives visitors an impression that the company is on top of things and current.
Plus, there’s another reason to keep a website consistently refreshed: The more a site is updated, the more likely it is to stay high in the page ranks on search engines.
But periodically you need to do more of an overhaul on your website. While there are no hard-and-fast rules on how often to redesign, it helps to understand how you’re using your site. A “brochureware” site is like an online brochure that describes a company and its services and capabilities in a straightforward way. The site doesn’t use a lot of technology, like e-commerce or blogs. It’s a credibility piece for the company. These sites are usually small and should be updated every three years at a minimum, and more frequently if the company changes.
A content-managed site has a system that enables you or your employees to update the content regularly, adding things like the news items mentioned above. E-commerce sites, of course, should be updated in an up-to-the-minute fashion, to reflect inventory changes, product line changes or seasonality. Even though content-managed sites and e-commerce sites are frequently updated, they, too, can benefit from a more major overhaul periodically.
How often? All websites should be given a fresh look at least every four years. Certainly, you should redesign if your business or strategic plans have changed significantly. A total redesign should be handled by a Web developer or designer, who can help you reconsider (and reconfigure) the information architecture, the design and the functionality. But there are other website upgrades you can handle yourself, even if you’re not a technical whiz.
For example, in the past few years, there have been technological innovations introduced that you might want to incorporate into your site. Your company may have made changes in its business that the website should reflect. Or perhaps you may want to make changes in order to do some search engine optimization. Here are some ideas that you can use on your website.
Start by taking a good look at whether or not your website confers enough credibility on your business; certainly you want viewers to know and trust your company and your brand. To increase trust, you can post testimonials, list clients (recognizable brands really help), professional affiliations, awards and seals of approval like BBBonline. Posting case studies that demonstrate how your products or services have solved problems for customers is a compelling way to enhance credibility. It also helps to post your physical address; in the heady early days of the Internet, companies wanted to appear larger and global, and considered the Internet to be the great equalizer. Nowadays, prospects want to know that your business really exists.
Maybe there’s too little information, or the information that is presented is unclear. Your site should answer all the questions that routinely come up about your products and services offline. Keep in mind that the information customers desire may already be on your site, but it may not be in an easy-to-find place. The information should be organized so that it is customer-focused, not product-focused. At a basic level, for example, your products or services shouldn’t be listed on your website under the department in your company that oversees that product, but organized by how the product is going to be used by a customer.
If you don’t already have one, think about instituting — or beefing up — a “Press Room” section on your site. Every business has newsworthy events. A new product release, an award or a new hire should all be trumpeted in a release in your press section. In putting together the section, consider listing the headline and a few words about the content, then linking to the full text of the press release on a separate Web page.
Jane Tabachnick is a digital marketer and content strategist. She works with companies to create lead generation programs. Jane can be reached via her website, www.Web1Ranking.com.