We have two types of customers: The first wants to be able to change a business website on a regular basis, and the second wants to leave it as is for as long as possible.
“We love our new website, and it’s really easy to update,” one of our clients recently told us. But, as a small business owner, he was wearing a lot of hats – and the website content creator role was taking a back seat to all the other things he needed to get done to simply make his business run every day. So, nothing was getting done.
Unfortunately, the build-it-and-leave-it-alone approach doesn’t usually help with the marketing goals for most small businesses. First, despite your best intentions, it’s hard to make a site that doesn’t look stale in some way if it’s never changed. And second – perhaps more important – Google doesn’t rank sites that never change as high as ones that do.
So, you do need to change your website. The questions we are frequently asked: How often do I need to do it? And how do I prioritize it?
The answer depends on your customers and your business goals, but we do have some general rules for website updates that might help your planning.
Visual People’s Golden Rules for Website Updating (in order of importance)
1. Note any time you use a date or make a time reference on your website.
If you advertise a special for the month of April, it better not still be up in June.
And, less easy to spot, are phrases scattered throughout your site like, “now offering,” “new product” or “new for 2010.”
Avoid using language that could date the text, especially when it’s on an inside page like your “about us” section. And, if you have to, set a calendar reminder so you make sure to change any specific date references once they expire.
2. Plan to add one thing to the home page of your site every month.
Google likes to see new content. Your customers like to see new content. So why not add new content?
- We can make this easier by having your most recent blog post or news release show up on your home page. Add a new post at least every month and the home page will change accordingly.
- If you’re already offering a special, advertise it on your home page so customers see it as soon as they arrive.
- Plan to feature one product or service on your home page. Change to a different featured item on the first of each month.
- Photos are important, too. Do your home page photos show outdated products? Feature an employee who left last year? Show snow on the ground outside when it’s the middle of summer? Swap them out!
3. Have an easy way to add new pages.
Think of it this way: The more pages you have on your site that talk about your business, products and services, the more chances there are that Google will match up someone looking for a business like yours with your website.
When we’re planning content for our small business clients, we like to have an area where they can add information. This can take the form of a blog or a resources section on the website with new, relevant articles. A blog needs to be updated more regularly because often the posts are dated, but an articles page can feature new material whenever the business owner has a chance to sit down and write.
Try to add some additional content, beyond your monthly blog post, at least once a quarter.
4. Go through your website every six months.
Check for outdated references, links that don’t work and things that are missing, like new products that aren’t referenced anywhere. Plan to spend two hours going through the site and checking every page. With most content management systems, you should be able to go through a list of each page, section by section, and review the text and images on each.
5. Get in the mindset of connecting what customers request with your site.
Maybe you are suddenly being asked about a new type of product, or whether your new service measures up. Think about how to communicate this information through your website. Create or update your frequently asked questions page, or write new articles to address these concerns.
On your smartphone, or on a pad of paper, start taking notes about ideas for blog posts and articles, and when the time comes to write, you’ll have a lot of material you can work with.
Once you have an idea of what you need to do every month, every quarter and every six months, website updating seems less daunting.
Schedule time to get these tasks done, just like you schedule time to pay taxes, order products or train your employees. For some people, website updates are fun. For the rest of you, making time to stay on top of your website needs keeps your digital face fresh and helps you win new customers.