In a world driven by social media, your website still remains one of the most effective tools to communicate the value of your brand and the benefits you offer to the market. But businesses change and evolve to remain competitive and relevant to those they depend on for success. Is your website keeping pace with your business?
At The Quell Group, when we advise clients on whether it’s time for a website refresh or a complete overhaul, we look at three areas:
- Content, based on business objectives
- Accessibility of information
- Metrics, for continuous improvement
Content: Be relevant
The first question we ask is, Has the content kept up with the pace of your business and the needs of your customers? This includes the website design as well as factual information about your business.
First impressions matter. From the corporate logo and tagline to the color scheme, your website often is the first tool to create an impression about your business.
If the website features outdated marketing messages or focuses on a product or service that was the centerpiece of your offerings five years ago, you are not going to get new leads or return customers. The most up-to-date information about your company must be prominently featured.
Every day that content remains outdated gives your competitors an advantage. You will lose credibility with customers and send prospects on a hunt for more relevant information elsewhere. Your products, personnel, offers and other details must be current and relevant.
Don’t put yourself in a position to be embarrassed by irrelevant content, like the U.S. Congress was last summer. A reporter looking for information discovered that websites for two committees listed several members who were no longer serving, including two who were dead and one who recently spent time in prison, according to the Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call.
Accessibility: Be easy to find and use
The second question we ask is, Can visitors easily find the information they seek on your website, and is it mobile-friendly (for a smartphone or tablet)? If your website isn’t mobile-ready, visitors will only see an incomplete picture.
An old website is most likely written with “old” code. Flash-enabled sites are not always mobile-friendly, and old code made with tables may not display the way you think on all browsers. Bad code could result in broken links, missing images and poor loading times. And that will lead to few visits — and even fewer return visits.
Many businesses that built websites years ago haven’t updated technology since then. Browsers such as Firefox and Internet Explorer are always evolving and updating how they display web information. Your old site on a new browser could be obsolete and never found.
Moreover, at the basic level, updated coding is a key contributor to search engine optimization (SEO), which helps you attract visitors.
Once a potential customer finds your site, navigating it must be intuitive and engaging. You don’t want visitors to be frustrated by the experience, or they’ll leave the site before finding what they’re looking for, robbing you of potential customer relationships. The layout must be pleasing to the eye and easily guide visitors where they want to go.
Your site is only as good as the number of people who see it and engage with it.
Metrics: Tools to shape your site and your business
The third question we ask is, Do you know how your visitors are using your website? Information that indicates where visitors come from, how much time they spend on your site and what pages are viewed the most and for how long are just a few of the metrics routinely monitored to help ensure the most productive visitor experience and alignment with your business objectives.
If your website is dated, it’s probably not utilizing available tools to pull useful analytics that are critical to understanding traffic to your website and the effectiveness of your marketing activities. As an indicator of website activity and visitor patterns, ongoing analysis will become a useful planning tool.
So take a look at your website. Does it consistently provide something of value and relevance to your customers? Is your site easy to find and easy to use? Is it being optimized based on visitor traffic patterns?
A well-designed site, with a regular cadence of fresh content that is easy to find, will make for return visits and increased visibility — and ultimately will help your brand and your bottom line.
* But what about social media? Just how relevant is your website in the Facebook era? How much should you spend on your site compared to social networking – more, less or the same amount? We’ll discuss this, and how best to integrate your web and social media strategies, in our next article.
The following are clues that your website may be overdue for a refresh:
- The copyright still is from 2007.
- The site is “Best viewed with Internet Explorer 6.0” yet looks funky in newer web browsers.
- Links are broken, pages are expired, or the site is generally slow to load.
- It says “Welcome to ...” on the homepage, or uses “Click here” as a call to action.
- Page addresses end with .asp, .cfml or .html.
- A Flash intro prompts “Skip intro” (or worse, the entire site is Flash and probably hidden from search engines).
- Your competitors’ websites “just look better” to you.
- Written copy is less than compelling and lacks creativity.
- Little or no social media integration, yet your brand appears on Twitter and Facebook.
- “Site analytics? Traffic reports? Engagement metrics? What are those?”
- Updates are done manually, usually by the intern.
- Layout is lousy on smartphones, tablets or other mobile devices.
Dino Baskovic, vice president of digital strategy at The Quell Group, has counseled Fortune 500 companies, nonprofit agencies and small businesses for 15 years on effective online marketing trends and techniques. His experience spans the automotive, technology, consumer packaged goods and direct selling industries.