Whether it’s a new year or a website update, paying attention to your website frequently can pay off with more online visibility and audience reach. There are some basic tasks that can be reviewed by small business website owners that will help maintain a current and healthy website. Let’s just jump into the basic checklist I do with every client’s website in January.
- Update Content: Check your website content and make sure everything is current. This includes the copyright notice at the footer of your website. If you haven’t written or updated blog posts lately, remove the date visibility from your website. You don’t have to delete the post itself; you can turn off or hide the date. Check any other content that may no longer be accurate, like business hours, phone numbers, contact information, service packages, staff names, event listings, and links. Check your site for broken links if you list any external URLs as references for your website visitors. And make sure you have contact information on every page or in the footer of your website.
- Update Tech Side of Website: Make sure that if you use a CMS (content management system) like WordPress, all of your 3rd party extensions and WP core files are up to date. Also, check your website’s PHP version to confirm it’s the most recent version. Checking on these can reduce your site “breaking” or getting annoyed by malware injections and hacks. Run a performance check with GTMetrix or Google’s Page Speed Insights to see how fast your website is loading for your visitors. Page speed is critically important to Google in their search engine rankings these days. So run tests and continually improve the page speed. It’s very difficult to strike a balance between page speed and an interactive home page, but it can be done.
- Get Connected: Make sure your site is connected to the Google Search Console and Google Analytics. If you are already connected, take a peek at the dashboard and see if there are any red flags or errors that you can manage to understand. While it may be technical in nature, the errors Google lists are sometimes self-explanatory and can help you correct the issues. Staying connected with Google is important because it helps you see your site from Google’s point of view before long-term issues can cause real ranking issues.
- Check Mobile: Not every website is used heavily on mobile devices. It really depends on your content, business, and audience. You would know what devices your visitors use the most if you were connected to Google Search Console and Analytics. Take a look at both an Android mobile device and an iOS Apple mobile device. Your site may look as expected on one platform, but not on the other. Whether mobile or desktop, you should always know how your website looks on different-sized device displays and on different operating systems.
- Freshen Up: While reviewing your site and running through this checklist, you might get some new ideas for content or design. If you don’t have time to do everything you want to in updating your site, try to break it down to the most important for the bang! Sometimes we can get overzealous and want to change everything, when really the main hero image and font style may just need to be touched. Create a priority list and start with something simple, and on the front page, touch up the site. It’s a good idea to create this list so you can get a solid cost estimate from a website person. You can narrow down an overhaul in costs by focusing on the key issues instead of a rebuild. Some sites that sit for years may indeed require a full overhaul for many reasons, but many only need targeted updates.
- SEO – Search Engine Optimization: Think of it as a tune-up for the search engine. Make sure that your website content includes words that your customers would use to find you or your business. Many website owners miss this point, so let me explain. The first incarnation of websites that I have worked with over the past 25 years usually includes all the jargon fit for a dictionary but not the terms or words that a customer would even know about, especially since they don’t know you exist! You have to think, “How is someone going to search for me if they don’t know I exist?” Pretend to be a user and test out searches on Google and check out Google Analytics search terms (you only need a free account). Use a combination of terms that cover new clients and existing clients who may be more familiar with your industry or product.
- Think Ahead: Now is a great time to consider adding any new elements or functions to your website for your visitors or for your business purposes. Do you have an email capture system on your website? Mailchimp is free for the first 500 contacts and is a great way to start building an email list. Inbox marketing is still alive and well and, if used properly, can help you maintain your existing clients and convert or reach potentially new clients. Email sign-up will work in the background, and if you remind people to sign up in the footer of your email, on your website, and on your documents, you can grow a nice audience to keep in touch with. Inbox marketing doesn’t have to be heavy sales; it’s for reminders, customer benefits, news and updates within industries, and so much more.
A website requires maintenance these days. Gone are the days that we let websites sit for months on end, collecting a little bit of dust. Due to constant technical code changes for security reasons alone, checking on your site regularly is critical, or you may find that your customer will email you to let you know that your site is down. It happens a lot these days. So a new check should be a monthly check. I update my clients websites regularly and offer maintenance packages that can include malware scans, performance checks, SSL certificates, and backups.A website is not something you build and that automatically brings you clients; it’s an online document that needs to be paid attention to, updated, and informative, or it will become out of date and drop in the rankings. The more attention you pay to your website, the more life you breathe into it, and that contributes to being found by search engines and your clients. If you can’t do it, maybe I can help.