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How often should you review and update your website?

As a web design agency the majority of our work is project based. We have a potential client come to us with a set of requirements for either a brand new website or a redesign to an existing one. Unless it’s for a new company or perhaps a new project within an organisation it’s very common for us to hear that an existing website is so out of date that they are embarrassed to show it to their customers or that perhaps its broken or they can’t do particular things they have heard they should be doing.

Leaving a website for such a length of time will invariably mean it will need a redesign to restructure content, refocus on the business services, generate new copy and photography, update the branding and implement the latest technologies. But why leave it so long? We recommend that rather than this cycle of redesign you schedule periodic reviews and incremental updates to keep the website working harder and longer for you.

In this article we look into why you should be spending more time reviewing and updating your existing website and avoiding a more expensive redesign.

Reasons to keep your website updated

  1. Business focus – Your service offerings to customers will change over time and so too might the customers you are hoping to attract. Having editorial control over your website will enable you to keep the website messaging and content relevant. The priority of content might also need to change and assets like photography and downloadable documents refreshed.
  2. Customer Perceptions – Your potential customers will be shopping around and comparing your website to your competitors. Often the website is the first point of contact and that first impression and perception that they get of your company from your website will affect their decision to contact you or not. If your website looks particularly out of date or there is no new content posted in the last couple of years it will not look good. Customers want to see activity.
  3. Search Engines – Search engines like to see new content. They have their automated ‘bots’ out crawling the internet looking for new content to include in their results. The less activity on your website the less they will visit. The more activity on your competitors websites the more they will be promoted in the search results.
  4. The internet does not stand still – Technology is always changing, browsers are continually being updated and major versions might mean some parts of your website need to be updated to continue to work. Technologies, like Flash come and go. Visitors use all different kinds of devices to access your website. User expectations change. Design trends change. Unfortunately, your poor old website can’t always cope with these changes.
  5. Keeping secure – Finally keeping your website secure from potential hackers is important. You might think of a hacker as someone personally targeting your website to deface it but in-fact this is rare. The primary goal of hackers is to use your website to either send spam emails or place hidden links to other websites for search ranking benefit. For them the best way to achieve this is to not be noticed. If your website has a content management system in place then chances are your website will be being probed by automated ‘bots’ looking for out of date software with known vulnerabilities or brute force attempts on the user login. The more popular the system the more they will be targeted.

What process do we recommend?

So now we’ve discussed why you should keep your website updated this is the process that we would recommend you implement. Obviously this can vary based on the type of website:

  1. Periodic review cycle – Like with the rest of your business, schedule some time every quarter to review the website. Ask yourself whether the services promoted are still relevant? Has anything changed within the business that needs to be reflected on the website? Are there new bits of work or awards that you want to shout about? Get feedback from all departments in your organisation and look for common things that customers might have asked for. It might help to reduce the number of calls or free up some time from your staff.
  2. Check your website analytics – I admit there is an overwhelming amount of data in these tools but you could set some key performance indicators (KPI’s) to monitor, such as: number of contact form submissions or document downloads, mosts popular content, amount traffic from a particular source (perhaps social media or newsletters) or something as simple as the number of visitors.
  3. Run a website MOT – There are a couple of standard tasks that you should perform to make sure the website is in working order: Upgrade any software or third-party plugins used. Run a link checker to look for broken links. Make sure your contact forms and calls to action are working and coming through to the correct people. Make sure you have backups in place that they are running.
  4. New website content – Make sure your current marketing activity is being promoted on your website. Any events, press releases, conferences, awards, white papers should be proudly displayed.
  5. New website features – Are there any new features to add to the website? This could be both features for the customer like an update to the design, downloadable documents, data capture forms, newsletter signups or a blog or it could be system things like tracking to monitor KPI’s, improving the website page loading times or fixing something for the latest browser.
  6. Implement – Finally implement the changes above!

By following a process like this on a periodic basis your initial investment in your website will last longer, your customers will be more likely to contact you leading to more sales and you’ll be happier knowing that your website is working hard for your company.