A New Year should come with new goals for your business.
As you work through your end-of-year to do list – reevaluating your finances, hiring new employees, and deciding which tactics to embrace or toss aside in the year to come – it’s important that you make plans to maintain your website along with your larger business.
Your website is the main way a lot of people interact with your brand, after all.
“One of the most often overlooked components—yet one of the most critical—to any successful website strategy is ongoing maintenance. While the initial website project is critical to creating the right foundation, the ongoing maintenance and upkeep is where you’ll really see your website shine,” writes Don Cranford, principal and director of technology at Katalyst Solutions.
If you’ve tended to let general maintenance of your website slide over the years, make it one of your goals moving into the New Year to correct that. Here are a few action items to add to your to-do list now to get your website in shape for 2019.
1. Evaluate your analytics.
Analytics are the ultimate tool for examining the health of your website traffic. It’s vital for your team to understand how your visitors and qualified leads find your business. Knowing whether people come to your website from organic search, paid search, or Facebook tells you a lot about how your online marketing efforts are working.
And keeping an eye on your analytics as part of regular website maintenance can save you trouble down the line. Jenn Soloway, senior art director of Strategic Insights Brand Marketing, gives her perspective: “Website analytics and website maintenance updates go hand in hand when it comes to truly owning your website. With this combination, pain points that can add up over time and lead to an expensive—and time-intensive—relaunch can be addressed as part of an ongoing maintenance plan.”
Avoid letting analytics drop low on your priority list. Compare your traffic from month to month and year to year. Assess your current campaigns and develop a plan to target sources that bring the most return. You may find you need to re-work your online marketing strategy or make some changes to your website design. That extra work is worth it if it means your website will do a better job of bringing prospects your way and converting them to sales.
2. Do a content audit.
If content marketing is part of your business strategy, then you’ve probably created a lot of content for your website over time. Many content programs focus on getting content up to begin with, without ever thinking to go back and revisit it once it’s already published. But you can get a lot out of looking back on what you’ve already done and performing an analysis of what you can learn from it.
A content audit can help you see trends in what’s working best in your content, and what isn’t getting the kind of results you’d hoped for. That knowledge allows you to shape a stronger content strategy in the year to come.
In addition, a content audit helps you find opportunities in your content to update old posts to make them better, as well as re-purpose content you have into new formats. Either way, you’ll reach new audiences and get more out of the work you’ve already done. Plus, you’ll clean up your site by getting rid of old content that doesn’t match with your current goals.
3. Do user testing.
You probably think about your website every day. You feel like you know it in and out and have a pretty good idea about what people see when they come to it. But it’s precisely because you know it so well that you can’t really imagine what the typical user experiences when they land on it. You need fresh eyes to figure that out.
User testing helps businesses better understand what happens when someone lands on your website. Where do their eyes go? What are the pages and options they find it easy to see, and which ones do they have a hard time noticing without someone pointing it out? You may realize that people have trouble finding that “Contact” button you thought was so obvious, or that they have a hard time navigating to specific product pages.
If people can’t find what they’re looking for on your website, you’re losing customers. User testing reveals any problems you currently have so you know what needs fixing.
And at this point it should go without saying, but in case it doesn’t, make sure you do user testing on mobile devices as well as desktop. Over half of all web use happens on mobile now. You want your mobile visitors to be as happy with your website experience as your desktop users.
4. Revive old (but useful) content.
Your marketing team has spent countless hours creating content to educate and entertain your customers, and you’ll likely spend many hours more. But you can reduce your work a little (or at least make it go further) by looking for opportunities to improve or re-use the content you already have.
Your content audit should help you identify the best content to use in this step – anything that performed well the first time around could be fodder for new content that resonates with your audience. You can add the latest trends to an old blog post or insert new data into an infographic containing outdated statistics.
Or you can transform one content form into another. Kim Garst, founder and CEO of Boom! Social, offers the following suggestion, “Compile a bunch of blog posts on a particular topic, and promote them as a multi-day e-course. Each day, send one email (blog post) to your new subscribers to help them accomplish whatever goal you have promised to help them achieve.”
Don’t be afraid to revisit your content archives and promote your old content anew. Your audience that’s been with you for a while may appreciate the refresher, and your new audience will get to see some of your old hits for the first time.
5. Revamp your homepage.
Your website’s homepage will be the first impression you make on many visitors – you’d better make it a good one.
Your homepage should accomplish a few main goals:
- Clearly communicate your brand’s positioning (why should a customer choose you?)
- Look professional (you don’t want to scare new visitors off by looking like you’re still in the 90s)
- Answer the main questions people may have (where you’re located, contact information, etc.)
- Make it easy for people to know where to go next
Update your design by tweaking the navigation of your site. Anticipate where consumers will click and provide clear calls-to-action to help them locate what they need.
Eliminate any wording that doesn’t benefit the visitor. Too many words can distract customers from their intended reason for checking out your site.
In the example below, HostGator customer Hiatus Spa + Retreat uses their site to say more with less. The website looks clean and professional, has a clear CTA, and provides an intuitive menu for those who want to find more information. A few words and vivid imagery can go a long way.
Make the best first impression by showcasing a modern, uncluttered homepage. It’ll give clarity and accessibility to your visitors.
6. Review and improve your calls-to-action (CTAs).
Every page on your website should be designed with a clear goal in mind. You should always know what you want your visitor to do next, and it should be obvious to them how to do it.
The CTAs you include on each page have an important job to do, but you shouldn’t just assume they’re all doing that job. Check your analytics to see how often the people who visit your pages are taking the action you most want them to. Then do some experimenting. Work up different variations on your CTAs – try different visual designs, different wording, and different locations on the page. Try out different CTAs on different pages to see if some work better when paired with specific content.
Do A/B testing to confirm which of the CTAs you try work best. The more data you have, the more you can refine your website so that people are more likely to take the steps you want them to.
7. Fix any checkout process issues.
Everything else you design your website to accomplish leads back to the main end goal of sales. If you’re not driving revenue, you won’t last. To meet your sales goals, your checkout process must be frictionless.
Friction is any obstacle causing your consumers to think twice about continuing with their purchase. It can be a technical issue, like a page not loading fast enough. Or it may be a psychological trigger, like not trusting your site security.
“There are many reasons a customer will abandon your site during the checkout process. Top of the list, after technical problems, is that you ask for too much. Too many steps in the process, too much information, having to create an account to make a single purchase— you are too needy, and this relationship is over,” says conversion expert Jeremy Said.
If you discover that customers hate creating member registrations, one solution is to try a social login. This one-click alternative will help consumers move through the checkout process faster. If you’ve noticed the checkout seems to stop at the moment the customer sees the cost of shipping, think about offering flat-rate shipping or free shipping for qualifying orders.
Anything that stops the sale from happening is bad for business. Figure out what roadblocks are in your customer’s pathway and remove them.
8. Make sure your security’s up-to-date.
Every time a story about a data breach makes waves, people get a little more nervous about handing their credit card information over to businesses. You can’t help what happens in the news, but you can take steps to keep your own website secure and ensure all the private information your customers give you is protected.
Go through our web security checklist and make sure your security measures are up to date. There are some easy ways to reduce vulnerabilities in your website to make your customer data safer. You owe it to your customers to do your part in protecting them.
9. Check your domain registration.
This is a simple step to take, but one you have to remember to do every year. Contact your hosting provider to learn when your registration will expire. If it’s due soon, go ahead and pay for the renewal, and consider signing up for auto-renewals for future registrations.
And remember to update any contact information—business name, address, and phone number. It also may be time to purchase a new domain for upcoming brand changes. So, ask your provider for details about availability and prices.
Sometimes the smallest things in your business are overlooked. Make sure your domain registration continues so you can offer uninterrupted service to your customers
10. Reinvest in your brand community.
This is less something that you do to your website, and more something that you do for it. As your business grows, it’s essential to keep your brand community engaged.
Make a plan this year to give your consumers the engagement they deserve. Respond promptly to comments left on your blog posts. Take time to say thanks in response to positive reviews and ensure that no complaint goes unanswered. Interact with users on social media – plan to be quick and polite at least, but if your social media manager is up to it, try to be clever or entertaining as well.
Experiment with starting a new loyalty program or making improvements to the one you have. Brand ambassadors serve as an extension of your company. If they’re not satisfied, you may expose your business to unwanted negative publicity.
Get reacquainted with your target audience. A dedicated community opens the door to business opportunities.
A New Year, A Better Website
It’s time to roll up your sleeves. The New Year is a time to reflect and reassess your business’s needs, and that includes your website.
A better website is part of running a better business. A few tweaks now could garner you better results in the year to come and ensure your website can continue to do the important job it does for your business.
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.