9 Mistakes That Prove You’re Not Effectively Maintaining Your Business’s Website
At my previous job, I was the sole party responsible for updating the content on our website. And—this is going to sound weird—but, it kind of became my baby. I loved that website. (Truthfully, it was hard to let it go when I came to work at Nectafy!) I just put so much of myself and my efforts into it that I felt attached.
Of course, I don’t think I’m that crazy for my attachment. Because a website needs lots of love and attention—kind of like a newborn baby. It needs fed (new content) and changed (the dated stuff). Sometimes it can even seem like it needs constant care (sometimes even daily updates). But, it represents your business and brings in new customers and clients—and that makes it pretty darn important.
Maybe your website has fallen off your radar. Or maybe your company just grew faster than your website did. If so, don’t worry… there’s still hope for you. Here are nine mistakes that you can find out there in cyber space on a regular basis that are just horrible representations of the businesses they belong to. And, for good measure, along with each are lessons about how to maintain a website, so you know what to do if you’ve made any of these mistakes.
1. It looks like I could’ve built it in my 7th grade technology class.
When I was in junior high (in 1997), we had a technology class that was actually pretty fun. The entire class was based around several modules that we had to rotate through and complete by the end of the quarter. A couple of my favorites were the flight simulator (you took the whole week’s class time to learn how to land a plane correctly), and a stop motion animation station (at which you made your own little “short film”). Another of my favorites was building an HTML web page that was all about me. It ended up looking very similar to this:
Those were the days—MIDI files and GIFs in all their glory.
I assume that your website can’t possibly look like that. So we’ll just say this first mistake is for laughs. But, just in case you do have a website from 1997 (or soon after)…
Lesson #1: It’s been almost 20 years—it’s time for an update.
2. The “Copyright © 2007” in your website footer.
It’s pretty common to add copyright information to your website. Which is totally fine—I have no beef with that. But remember, when you do that, you’re time stamping your work. So, even if you have updated the information on your website since 2007, your customer will see that date and may start to be skeptical about whether the information on your site applies any more. It gives them a reason not to trust your website.
Lesson #2: Update your copyright information on January 1 every year. (Or have your developer put in a tiny piece of code that updates it automatically.)
3. Graphics and content that were obviously thrown up in a hurry.
I almost changed “thrown up” in that sentence, because it could obviously imply vomiting. But, I decided to keep it, since it actually kind of works in this context (even if you do take it the wrong way). If the graphics you put up are done poorly, and your text is riddled with errors, it’s really obvious to the customer that you didn’t put a lot of care or thought into it. And they may associate the quality of your content with the quality of your service or product. That’s why every part of your business, including and especially your website, should be in “tip-top shape.” Every part of your company represents what you do.
Lesson #3: Put love and care into the content you’re presenting to your customer or client—even if it’s just up for a few days. They’ll be able to tell.
4. Any number of broken links.
The most important part of your website is how it flows. Is it easy to navigate? Does it clearly point the customer in the right direction to take action? If so, that’s great… until they click something and they get an error message. If they can’t get where they need to go, chances are, they’ll just stop trying. Sometimes one person out of a handful may make the effort to email you and let you know about the problem, but that’ll probably be after several have already tried and moved on.
Side Note: When you delete a page, and don’t do anything about it, you get a “404 error.” That means that Google can’t find the page, and any links to that page will no longer help your site with search engine ranking. So, to prevent this, any time you need to remove a page, make sure you set up a “301 redirect” to point to another page. (Just do a Google search for “301 redirect” and you’ll find step-by-step instructions for this.)
Lesson #4: Don’t wait for someone to tell you something doesn’t work. Instead, consistently check every link on your website to make sure everything’s in working order. And—in the future—any time you mess with any page, check anything that was linked to it. It’s work that’s worth it in the end.
5. Elements that don’t show up like they’re supposed to.
Different browsers present different problems. A website that looks great on a Mac in Google Chrome could look different on a PC in Internet Explorer. (Things may just need to be tweaked a little.) Doing website maintenance in only one browser on only one computer all the time could mean you’re oblivious to certain errors.
Lesson #5: Make sure you’re checking your site’s appearance from time to time (especially when you make changes) in different browsers. An easy way to do this is through a program like Browser Stack.
6. There’s information posted about an event that happened eight months ago.
It is so, so, so important to make sure that you are consistently putting up and taking down information about your business’s happenings.
For example, let’s just say you have a featured page on your website that contains information about an open house that is dated eight months ago. (You just haven’t gotten around to taking it down.) A potential customer visits your site and notices you have posted something about a store-wide sale that’s going on “this week only.” (Which is true—you just put that information up this morning.) The potential customer gets kind of excited about the sale, but, in the process of perusing through your site, they come across that old event page. The potential customer starts to wonder, Is that sale out of date, too? That could also be from eight months ago… Now, the customer has to call you or contact you in some way to find out if the information on your website is valid. And that’s asking a lot of your customer. Contacting you and waiting for a response takes up their valuable time.
Unfortunately, this kind of lack of website maintenance makes your website untrustworthy. Not good. And you know what’s even worse? That’s not just a one-time thing—that potential customer may never trust the information you have on your site again.
Lesson #6: Always make sure that your website has the most updated information possible on every page. If you aren’t used to doing daily or weekly maintenance on your site, try this to make sure you remember: whenever you put up an event page or time sensitive information on your site, give yourself a calendar reminder to take it down the day after it has expired.
7. The deeper you are into the site, the more mistakes you can find.
Web maintenance doesn’t just mean the home page. Have you ever visited a website and known immediately what pages hadn’t been touched in a long time? Normally, it’s the pages that are deep into the navigation that can get forgotten about.
Lesson #7: Make it a repetitive habit to go through your entire website to check for anything that should be deleted or changed. (It’s like digital “spring cleaning.”) This could be semi-annually, monthly, or even weekly, depending how often company information, services, products, promotions, or events are changing.
8. There’s no proof that you have updated the website recently.
While we’ve learned that you shouldn’t have dated information anywhere on the site, it’s actually also just as important to make sure that you have updated references to recent information, events, news, (really, whatever!) on your site. A stagnant website with nothing “going on” feels “closed” or “empty” to a customer. It’s almost like physically walking up to a store front and wondering if it’s open. Is there anybody in there?
Lesson #8: Update content often—include recent company happenings, promotions, and events on your site. This helps your website feel fresh, alive, and “open for business”!
9. A “company blog” that includes only one post (from three years ago) titled, “Check out our new website!”
This just screams to your customer, “I set out to do something that I didn’t follow through with!” It’s pretty obvious that when you built your new site, you wanted to blog. But you didn’t get around to it. And there’s nothing worse to present to your customer than the fact that you didn’t do something you set out to do.
It’s actually better to not have a blog on your website, than it is to have one that obviously isn’t used at all.
But, want to know what’s a million times better than that? A business blog that’s consistently turning out fresh content.
Lesson #9: Utilize your business’s blog and start an intentional content marketing plan. It’s not only beneficial to your site’s appearance to customers—there are hundreds of other benefits. (Here’s 59, if you’re interested.)
If you identify with several of these mistakes, you may be wondering, What’s our next step? Well, the first thing you should do is find one person on your team to take responsibility for all of the routine website maintenance. (It should be someone who is knowledgable in all of the “company happenings.”)
Then, send them this post as a starting point, and task them with creating a plan for taking care of the site. You may find that someone on your team will really love doing it. And, if every one of your employees is already just too busy, think about hiring someone specifically for the position. Your website is definitely a big enough player on your team to warrant some intense attention.