The Art of Website Maintenance
by Erin Ferree
Now that you've designed and launched your website, you have a powerful marketing tool for your business. But, your website is only as useful as the content is current. The process of keeping the content on your site current is called website maintenance, and it's important to keep both visitors and search engines supplied with new information. Just like regular maintenance on your car, you have to make changes on your website every few months to make sure that things run smoothly.
If you update the content on your website on a regular basis, potential clients will be drawn back to your site to find out "what's new". The search engines pay visits to websites in their queue regularly. The catch is that you'll stay in the queue only if you update your site regularly. If the search engines visit your site several times in a row, and don't find anything new, they may decide not to come back-which can be a blow to your search engine rankings.
So, when is it appropriate to update your website? You don't want to waste time and money nitpicking at your site if you don't have updates of real value to add. You should update your site if you've:
- Grown your skills. Have you gotten a new accreditation? New licensing? Improved your skills? Any change in your skill set is a great reason to update your website-and your potential clients-with your new capabilities.
- Expanded your products or services. Do you have a new offering? Add it to your website and start making new sales in that area.
- Completed a successful project. If you've just finished a project, include it on your website. Create an online portfolio, add a case study-build a section on your website to use as a place to show the world your success.
- Gotten more testimonials, or added to your client list. Including more feedback on your offering helps to build your credibility. Be sure to get a testimonial from each of your successful client projects. Updating your testimonials regularly will also show clients who have visited your site a few times that your offerings are "up to snuff".
- Written an article. Writing articles is a great way to keep your website up-to-date and to put more content on your site. Search engines love content-rich sites, and visitors will love to see the new information. So, if you write articles to educate your clients and promote your business, be sure to place them on your website as well. They're likely to be full of keywords related to your area of specialty, which will help your ranking in the search engines.
- Press releases. You should post all press releases and other information you publish about your company to your website. You never know who may be visiting, and you may get written up for your accomplishments.
- Changes in your business. Have you hired someone? Changed your business structure, and you're now required to notify the public of that? If so, you should probably review your website and evaluate how you can add that information.
- Yearly check-ups. You should do a basic check on your site at least once a year, to make sure that the content is current. Some things to check on include:
- Your copyright statements should be updated yearly
- Test and validate your links, to ensure that they still work
- Your time references should be changed. If your "About" page says how many years you've been in business, this is the time to change that!
- Your pricing and offerings-do you have new products or services? Have your prices increased over the past year?
Spotlight any major updates on your home page as well, so that people will learn of those updates as soon as they enter your site. The search engines will also discover the new update as soon as they enter your home page if you leave a bit of information, with a link to the full story, on the home page. That will act as a breadcrumb for the engine to follow-the engines will follow your link to learn more about it.
Any of these reasons, and dozens of others, are great reasons to make changes to your site. If you make keeping your website current a priority, it will pay off with better search engine rankings and increased sales and leads through your website.
Once you've decided to make your changes, the next choice is how to go about doing that. There are two steps involved in maintaining your site:
- First, decide whether you prefer to edit your content on paper or online. This can be done in a couple of ways. You can start by printing the pages that have outdated information and then updating that information on paper first. Or, you can copy and paste the outdated content from your website into a word processing program such as Microsoft Word and then edit that file on your computer.
- After you have updated your text content you can choose either to make the changes yourself or to hire a web designer to make the changes. There are several tools that you can use to make changes to your site yourself. We recommend an easy-to-use tool called Macromedia Contribute. It's fairly inexpensive, its simple to set up and learn, and it allows you to back up to older versions of your site if you make mistakes.
We suggest that you use this tool to make only simple text changes. More complicated changes-for example, to the overall design or navigation-are more difficult to make, and having a professional make those changes will save you energy and frustration.
If you are comfortable with a more complicated software program, then we recommend a professional-grade tool such as Dreamweaver. With a better software package, you'll be able to make some of the more complicated changes yourself.
By building more-and more current-information into your website, you will also begin to build trust with your potential clients, since they will have a snapshot of what's currently happening in your business and available to them. Your website can go a long way towards making sure that your online prospects know, like, and trust you-which can lead to more sales from your website.
About the Author
Erin Ferree is a brand identity designer who creates big visibility for small businesses. Her workbook, "Design a Website That Works", will walk you through all of the questions that you need to answer in order to create the best possible website. Elf-Design.com Elf-Design Web Workbook