I don’t have to ask you if you have a website. Of course you do – many companies set up their website before getting an office or PO Box. As your primary hi-tech marketing tool, it’s a cost-effective way of putting your goods and services into the local and global market. It could be your only marketing tool.
But when did you last look beyond the home page of your website? Honestly. While the emphasis on launching a website is enormous, the emphasis on maintaining it is minimal. Having a website is only the first step in an ongoing process. A website ages more rapidly and more visibly than any other marketing tool – and the rest of the world often notices before you do.
Unfortunately a website doesn’t update itself. Keeping a site fresh and relevant requires dedication. I’ve lost count of the number of sites I’ve seen where the most recent article within a “news” section is more than two years old. Updating staff changes and contact details is another big issue. Also, how many times do you click on a link within a site only to find the page is no longer available? Lack of updates on your site implies lack of progress within your company.
Many of the sites we’ve analysed are outdated not just in terms of content, but also in look and feel. To position yourself as a go-ahead company you need to present an up-to-date image. Site design and layout protocols are constantly evolving along with the technology that supports your site. You don’t have to be a slave to online fashion, but you should get professional advice when you upgrade your site to future proof it as much as possible.
Three key issues
First someone needs to ‘own’ your website, taking responsibility for checking the content, links and look on a regular (ideally monthly) basis and ensuring required updates are in place. You can give the job to someone internally or outsource this.
If you want to keep this in-house you should consider a site based on a content management system (CMS). This allows content to be updated – generally through a web browser. A CMS that allows content to be updated by non-technical users is an advantage.
However, you need to control what you allow to be updated. Some sites look as though they are designed by a committee because every other person in the company has access to (or a say in) what goes up on the home page. You still need to have someone that takes responsibility for making sure the site fits with your overall brand and image and I would recommend limiting the update access to those pages that require constant change, ie news, events, pricing.
Second, if you have a news section, then make sure there is something ‘new’ on it. This doesn’t have to be of global significance, but does have to be relevant to you and your customers. It could be related to product releases, staff movements, milestone events or publishing (or linking to) an article of interest (so long as you have gained permission to do so).
Third, schedule an annual health check for your website. This is where you consider how well your website is supporting your overall marketing effort. Are you providing the information your potential customers might be looking for? Does it still reflect your business strategy and mission in life? You will be surprised at how far you can shift your thinking in a year. Is your website supporting the way you do business as well as it could do?
If you haven’t already done so, then visit your website today. Take a critical look at the information you’ve got up there and click through on every link within the site. See it through the eyes of your customers; if it is still doing a great job for you – well done. If not, then you are in good company. Put it at the top of your to-do list and find someone who can help you get it back on track.
Bob Pinchin is the director of Sway.tech, a specialist communications house for technology companies. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org