OK, You Have a New Site. Now What?
Congratulations! You launched a shiny new website promoting your organization and are still enjoying the sweet aroma of that “new car smell.” If only that could last forever. Like any vehicle, in order for your site to last far past its first oil change, it is important that you perform routine maintenance to keep it in top condition.
Keep it Safe
Websites built using a content management system (CMS) like Drupal or Wordpress gives users the ability to update the content on the site themselves; without having to rely on someone with coding experience. However, depending on where they are hosted, open-source systems can become vulnerable if security updates are not applied. Make sure you are able to stay on top of security updates as they are released, or maintain a relationship with your vendor to ensure these patches are applied proactively. We have clients whose support hours only support security updates, which is an affordable way to have an open-source site but keep it safe and secure.
With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility
A website that looked great a year ago can quickly become outdated if not maintained properly. If your site is designed according to best practices, your developer should have built in design patterns that are automatically applied to content as you add it. But a wysiwyg (what-you-see-is-what-you-get) editor still lets you directly edit the source HTML. You can, in theory, style content however you like if you know HTML.
While WYSIWYG editors provides some degree of latitude, it can be dangerous. Make sure that you follow the design patterns, such as link colors, heading colors, typography, and other aspects of the design that you can apply directly in the editor. Maintaining consistency in how you tag page elements and in your site’s look and feel is important for usability, aesthetics, and SEO. If you are tempted to color outside of the lines, remember that your creativity may actually work against your best interests.
Similarly, if your site is built with a great degree of flexibility, as we do at Message Agency, be sure to exercise constraint. Just because you can add 10 bands on the homepage doesn’t mean it’s a great idea. Try to check in with your site’s business goals and content strategy to ensure you don’t overwhelm users and send them clear signals to find pathways to completing their task.
Keep Your Content Fresh
It’s important that you keep your website up-to-date with new information. You should spend a couple of hours weekly adding new blog posts, images, videos, and resources to keep users informed and engaged. Doing this regularly will let users know that the information posted can be trusted and will hopefully keep them coming back for more updates in the future. In addition, adding new content is also great for a website’s SEO ranking.
To help keep you on task, try setting up an editorial calendar and distributing the content creation task to your colleagues throughout the organization. It helps you plan out content in ways that align with other things happening within your organization and ensures that multiple voices and perspectives are captured in your content.
Just Because You Build It, They Won’t Necessarily Come...
We can’t stress enough how important it is for organizations to invest resources on continually improving user engagement. Without consistent traffic, you won’t be able to leverage your website to help meet your organizational goals.
To this end, every organization should look to create a solid content marketing plan, which will help to answer the question: How can our website continue to provide value to our target audiences?
As fellow Message Agency Project Manager Joe Buckshon writes in Tips on Digital Engagement, use data gained from user research to “target audience and medium-specific enhancements to get your key messages across consistently.” As we mentioned above, one of the most important things you can do is to develop an engagement and content marketing plan that defines across all of your channels how you will reach your target audiences.
Use Data to Optimize for SEO
Using third-party software like Google Analytics will allow website owners the ability to look at website traffic and view invaluable real-time data on how users are interacting with your website. The results that you gather will be useful in deciding what things need to be updated on your website long-term in order to reach your conversion goals. You should always consider your site a work in progress and use data to refine your strategies over time.
The best rule of thumb not to “set it and forget it.” Websites need continual care and pruning after launch and beyond. It takes a great deal of effort to get a new site off the ground, and it’s sometimes tough to continue the momentum. Take a quick break to catch your breath, but don’t wait too long. Your users will be giving you valuable data in terms of how they are (or are not) using your site, so get tracking as soon as you can.