10 New Year’s Resolutions for Website Owners
Whether you own a website to promote a business or to share your thoughts with the world, maintaining it takes a lot of work – especially if you want it to reach a lot of people and keep them coming back. It can be easy after a while to go on autopilot and let the site basically run itself, but when you do that there are inevitably important to-dos you’re forgetting.
With a New Year comes the reminder to do all the important tasks that need to be done that are easily forgotten in the day-to-day work of keeping the website up and running.
To make your website better as you go into 2018, consider these 10 New Year’s resolutions for website improvement.
1. Do a site audit.
When was the last time you went through the whole website page-by-page to look for errors or other issues? If it’s been a while (or if you’ve never done it at all), then schedule a site audit now. The only way to catch every little thing that needs fixing on your website is to go through and find the issues yourself.
Look for typos and spelling errors, broken images, pages that load slowly, or things that don’t look right on different devices and in different browsers. It’s slow, tedious work, but that’s why it’s a good idea to get it on the calendar now when you’re in the mode for New Year’s improvement.
Make the small fixes as you go and make note of the others to return to later, but set them down on your calendar so you don’t let them slide. At the end of this project, you’ll have a better, cleaner website that provides a more seamless experience to your visitors.
2. Do a security check.
It seems like we’re constantly hearing about new security breaches. While bigger brands and government institutions are bigger targets for hackers and cyber thieves, that doesn’t mean smaller businesses and website owners can stay complacent and just hope for the best when it comes to security.
Commit in 2018 to making your website more secure. That’s a good idea for all websites, and doubly important for any business website that accepts payment or other sensitive information from customers. You owe it to your customers and followers to keep their data protected.
Start by making sure your website is backed up. If something does happen to it, you want to know you have a relatively easy way to restore it without having to start from scratch. You can invest in automatic backups with most hosting providers (HostGator offers CodeGuard for less than $2 a month). You should also look into a security program like Sitelock, which regularly scans your website for vulnerabilities so you can proactively take care of them before a hacker gets the chance to use them against you.
If you’re ready to get a little more technical, review and complete the seven website security steps outlined here. By doing things like keeping all your software updated and fixing any vulnerabilities in your code, you can make it that much harder for any hackers to touch your website.
3. Do a thorough analysis of your analytics.
Even if you already check Google Analytics regularly (which is a good habit to have as a website owner), it’s useful at the beginning of a New Year to do a more thorough review of the data. Zoom out to look at larger time parameters than you usually do. Look for trends in the data for the entire year, and see how they compare to last year and the year before.
By looking at the big picture and taking the time to really sit with the analytics and perform a thorough analysis, you can find some important insights and takeaways that you might miss just looking at the weekly or monthly results.
Use the analytics to get an overall feel for the pages that are doing their job and those that aren’t and investigate to figure out why. Expect to walk away from your analytics overview with a list of action items you can take to improve the results on your website.
4. Change all your passwords.
General advice on this subject is that you should be changing your passwords once or twice a year. But most people don’t actually bother. If it’s been awhile since you updated the passwords for your various logins, then it’s time to go ahead and make a change. If you have employees or other colleagues that work on the website, urge them to do the same.
And while it makes your life harder, go ahead and make the passwords for your various logins unique – don’t use the same password to access your FTP that you use for the WordPress login that you use for your credit card accounts – if a hacker figures out one of them, they gain access to all of them. Clearly that would be bad news.
5. Find and update all broken links.
Have you ever clicked on a link only to land on a 404 page? Or worse, an error page with no information at all? Broken links cause frustration and are often one of the culprits behind high bounce rates. And inevitably, any website that’s been around for a while is going to have some.
You can use a free tool online that will automatically check your whole website for broken links so you know where to go in and fix or remove them.
While you’re at it, revisit your 404 page. Is it helpful? Is it boring? It doesn’t have to be. You can make the experience of landing on a wrong page on your website useful and even fun by creating a great 404 page. Ideally, not many people will end up there, but if they do, they’ll be less likely to leave your site altogether.
6. Do UX Testing.
The way people use the internet is changing all the time. Even if your website offered an intuitive experience when you first designed it, that could have changed by now based on changing user habits. The only way to ensure your website provides the kind of experience people find easy to use and that it’s helping drive them toward the actions you most want them to take is to do user testing.
Bring in some customers or friends to provide outside eyes. Have them spend some time navigating the website. Make observations on how they use the website and whether or not they seem to have a hard time finding anything they’re looking for. If you have an e-commerce business, have them test out making a couple of purchases to see if they find anything difficult about that process. And make sure you include mobile testing as part of the process – many of your visitors will be coming to your website from mobile devices, so it’s crucial that you provide a good experience there as well.
7. Decide if it’s time for a website redesign.
Every so often, your website will need a full-on website redesign. If it’s a been awhile and you feel like you’re due for a refresher, then really think about what you want to get out of your website. Clearly define your goals and think about things like the visual style, layout, and color schemes you like on other sites and might want to emulate. Then start looking into web design services.
A new website for a New Year can be an exciting way to refresh and improve upon what came before.
8. Make your website more mobile friendly.
Mobile internet use has overtaken desktop browsing. Having a mobile-friendly website is no longer optional.
If you haven’t already taken steps to make your website intuitive and user friendly for visitors on a mobile device, then that should be a top priority in 2018. Make one of your resolutions not to put it off any longer.
9. Start a blog (if you don’t have one yet).
Blogging gets a lot of attention in marketing circles for good reason. Fresh content gives you more chances to engage with your visitors and gives them more reason to keep coming back to the website. If you’re trying to build an email list, promising regular content updates gives people an incentive to sign up. And since Google likes fresh content, blogging is good for SEO.
Be warned that blogging takes a lot of time to do well (or money if you opt to hire out a lot of the work), so if you make this one of your New Year’s resolutions, you should be prepared to really commit to it. Before you start writing, create a blogging strategy. Think about the types of topics you want to cover and how often you plan to post (don’t be overly ambitious here – your blog won’t go far if you burn out soon after you start it).
If you can commit the time and/or budget to maintaining a blog, it can be a powerful tool to make your website more popular and valuable.
10. Update your marketing plan.
The web is a crowded place. If you want your website to keep getting visitors (or start getting visitors), you have to put some work into making it easy for them to find your website. The beginning of a New Year is a good time to revisit your marketing plan and make any needed updates.
To start, evaluate what’s working now. In the Acquisition section of Google Analytics, you can see how people come to your website. This gives you a snapshot of how well your SEO and social promotion efforts are working out for you. Combine those analytics with the metrics provided by any marketing software you use (e.g. a CRM or email marketing software) to get a bigger picture of how well your current efforts are paying off.
Also consider if there are any new online marketing techniques or channels you want to try this year. If there’s a social media channel you’ve avoided so far that’s blowing up in popularity, maybe 2018 is the time to develop a presence there. The online marketing world is constantly changing, so use this opportunity to explore new trends and see if they’ll work for your website.
We can’t guess at what will happen in 2018, but you can make sure you’re going into it with a stronger, better website. Use the beginning of the year to do some clean up and make some improvements. Your website and its visitors will both benefit from the changes.
Kristen Hicks is an Austin-based freelance content writer and lifelong learner with an ongoing curiosity to learn new things. She uses that curiosity, combined with her experience as a freelance business owner, to write about subjects valuable to small business owners on the HostGator blog. You can find her on Twitter at @atxcopywriter.