6 Tips To Keep Your Company’s Website From Looking Outdated in 2012
I know how proud you are of your website from 2005, but just like marriage proposals on reality TV shows, some things are not meant to last. Websites today are what business cards were 30 years ago. You can either hand your customers a bland, bent-up mess that looks like it has been sitting in your wallet for the past 8 years, or provide a fresh, eye-catching representation of your business.
While visual appeal is an obvious reason for updating your website, the benefits are more widespread. For example, Google has recently announced a “freshness update” to its omnipotent search engine algorithm that rewards websites for fresher content with higher search engine rankings. Also, integrating your website with certain social media tools can vastly increase your website traffic and brand awareness.
Dates and Links
Update or remove old references on your homepage. In particular watch out for old dates, outdated events, and broken links that no longer point to their original source. Another commonly overlooked example is the copyright date usually displayed at the bottom of websites. Using the same copyright date from 2008 will make website visitors question the “freshness” of all other website content. Here is an example of a professional format for the copyright date on websites:
Copyright © 1998-2012 Example Corporation. All rights reserved.
If you have not taken the time to do this for 2012, now is as good a time as any.
Old School Visitor Counters/Website Analytics
Whenever I find a rectangular box on a website informing me I’m the 11,658th visitor, I look outside my window to make sure I didn’t accidentally step through a crack in time on my way to the office and get transported back to 1999. What’s worse than the tacky, completely inaccurate counter is knowing that behind the scenes of this website there is a hamster wheel powering the analytics where there should be a modern day V8. Good website analytics have become so crucial to the modern business I can’t imagine trying to use a website without them. In fact, most of the major business decisions we make are based on data collected from our website analytics. Even free tools such as Google Analytics can provide comprehensive insights such as how and where people are finding your company online, what marketing methods results in actual sales, and the list goes on. While I admit there is a small learning curve to using these tools, many of them are free to use and the investment in time/money to learn how is always worth it.
Overly Flashy/Unrecognizable Content
As much as I appreciate a good episode of “Wheel of Fortune”, flash and mystery have little place on a modern website. Today’s consumers want information clearly laid out and easily accessible online. If customers have to scroll down and/or click through multiple pages to find what they are looking for, they will drop like flies. My pet peeve for industries breaking this rule is restaurants. As much as I appreciate the decadent slideshows of featured cuisines and pages regarding unique philosophies for seeking out only the best ingredients, I do not want to feel like I’m looking at a Where’s Waldo book while simply trying to find the menu. As a business owner, you need to identify what your customers want most from your website, and give it to them in as simple a format as possible while retaining a professional appearance.
Website SEO (Search Engine Optimization)
Many recent studies have found that while pay-per-click advertising can still be effective at driving website traffic, SEO is the leading vehicle of choice for growing online traffic as consumers become more adept at discerning ads from natural search engine results. Many older website designs lack SEO rich features that search engines like Google look for today. The first step of SEO is to include local and specific keyword phrases into you web pages. If your website is heavily designed with images instead of text, search engines are likely skipping over important content. A good way to determine what is being read by search engines is to click and drag your mouse to highlight all the text on a web page. If the text is part of an image (bad), the entire image will be highlighted or you won’t be able to highlight the text at all. If you have additional questions regarding SEO for your website, we are happy to provide a free consultation and quote.
Social Media Buttons
Simply put, they are free to use and allow your satisfied customers to instantly connect with your social media sites which can create social buzz about your company and promote branding. Rather than get into a lengthy How-To here, I’ll direct you to a host of other sources dedicated to this topic:
If you want more ideas, just google “how to add social media buttons to website” and you will find several detailed guides.
Online Reviews Tools
In typical format, I have saved the best for last. One of the fasting growing trends in social media regards how customers interact with businesses via online reviews on social websites. Gone are the days when customers patronize a company because of a glossy brochure or fast talking salesman. Customers today have especially grown a distrust of testimonial web pages (for good reason) in favor of social review sites like Yelp, Insiderpages, Google Places, and so forth. This has led to an explosion in online review website usage which is not always advantageous to business owners. As consumers turn to outside sources to evaluate businesses, owners can be crippled by negative reviews (true or not), constantly needing to monitor the plethora of review websites, and long drawn-out processes for addressing harmful content. Rather than accept this as fact, there is another option. Several companies now offer very inexpensive online review tools that allow business owners complete control over 3rd-party, verified reviews.
For example, our tool, SurveyLocal, lets businesses automatically invite customers to review them, while directing positive reviews to social websites and negative reviews to be addressed offline (over the phone or in person). Once collected, the entire report can be made available for the owner to post on their website (optional of course) in place of an outdated and mistrusted testimonials page. While your complete report may include a few minor blemishes among all the positives from your real customers, if you choose to display it on your website you will gain significant trust from potential customers while reducing the need for people to turn to outside review websites that you have little control over. Also, most companies that offer this kind of tool give you the option to have positive reviews shared on your Facebook page which is a great way to populate your page’s feed.
In case you are still thinking: “Well that sounds great and all, but I still prefer our website from 2005,” let me conclude with one last statement. The tips from above are not merely suggestions for future experimentation, they are all tried and tested methods that have produced real results for our clients. I purposely singled out the simplest and most cost effective ideas in hopes that 2012 will be an improved year for your company as we all endure the tighter economic climate together.