Dec 14, 2010

When's The Last Time You ''Crawled'' Your Website? Learn the VALUE of an Annual Website Review:

Think about your car. Your car gets inspected every year, doesn't it? You also know the importance of regular monitoring and maintenance...checking tire pressure, fluid levels, changing oil & filter every 3000 miles, etc. but do you watch and take care of one of your most important sales & customer service tools (your website), with the same care and concern?

Anytime Cole WebMarketing designs and develops a website for one of our clients, we always check what's suggested below (and much more!) during construction and during our final "pre-flight inspection" prior to "new site launch". However, we know that businesses change over time, and your website should be updated to reflect those changes. In addition, Internet Browsers change over time too, so pages/features that worked perfectly several years ago might not several years later. If we didn't build your site, what you read below are some things we suggest you pay close attention to during an Annual Website Review.

ANNUAL REVIEW:I suggest you "crawl" your site....just like the search engine spider robots do! I'm talking about going through your site page by page, link by link. Depending on the size of your website, this process can take 15 minutes or a few hours, but no matter the size, there are several key areas you need to pay special attention to. These include: FUNCTION, CONTENT, FORMAT and FEATURES.

FUNCTION:Think about mandatory pre-flight airplane inspections? Even if they weren't required, ask any pilot if they would still take time to personally conduct one each and every time before they fly! Any business owner should put the same value on their Annual Website Review. The first thing you want to confirm is that everything is working as it should. Start with your links. Most sites have a "main navigation menu" - links (at page top or on one side) to other pages. These often appear on all pages, and are considered primary or "global navigation" links. You want to make sure that ALL your primary links take visitors to where you want them to go. Next, check any "secondary" links - these are links on pages, often in the "body area" of the page, that lead visitors to additional pages, PDF's, etc. where they can get more details.
You'll also want to make sure all images appear as they should - no little "red x's" where an image is supposed to be - and no "display issues" - photos should not appear squeezed or stretched. If you have video clips on your site, do they play properly. It's also best to "cross browser" test and make sure everything displays and functions OK no matter if your visitors are using Internet Explorer, FireFox, Chrome, Safari or another browser.

CONTENT:Is all the content up-to-date? Old content and other text that is not correct, is worse than no text at all. Nothing screams to first time visitors more that "you don't care" than clicking on your "Upcoming Events" and seeing things that happened 5 years ago. Ask yourself, looking at the page through the eyes of your prospect or current customers, is there sufficient detail? Are there sections where adding expanded information would help your site visitor (and help your conversion ratio of turning "visitors into customers"). Keep in mind that increasing keyword rich content is a primary SEO (Search Engine Optimization) tactic that results in increased listings and improved "rank" on the SERPs (search engine results pages) of Google, Live, Yahoo!, ASK and other major search engines.

FORMAT:Are your pages too long? According to website design/development "best practices", any page over "3 screen scrolls" is too long. Huge pages are a bad idea for a many reasons. Long pages overwhelm a site visitor. A common reaction is "I don't have time to read all THAT" & they click the back button & say goodbye). Also, long pages "confuse" GoogleBot and the other search engines robot by making it difficult to accurately ascertain the "theme" of the page. It makes it difficult to "index your page" based on it's main subject. Splitting up a long ''multiple themed'' page into separate short ''single themed'' pages is a great way to improve your website. How is the navigation on your site? Could it be revised to make it easier/quicker for visitors to find the information they need? How about the "layout" of your site. Is is small (width wise), developed for the small (800 pixel wide screen resolution) and common monitors of the old days (pre-2005)? If it also justified left, leaving a huge block of empty space on the right side of today's popular large monitor screens?

FEATURES:How does your site today compare to others in your industry? If your site already "stands out" as the best or better than most, don't assume those other sites aren't looking to eat your lunch! A few ways that you can keep ahead of the competition (or catch them and pass them up if you're running behind), is by making your site more useful to your prospects and customers. Take a good look at the photos on your website. Would adding new/better photos present your products and services more effectively and/or give your site a more polished and professional "look & feel"? How about video? Does your site have any? Are there pages where a short video clip would help better tell your story? Modern websites are becoming increasingly more "interactive" and those that seem like ''Word Docs on the Web'', those that consist of just text & photos are quickly becoming "old school". If you're an industrial manufacturer, do you see the value in adding downloadable 3D CAD drawings to your website? Would a "smart search" function enabling visitors to easily and quickly find specific product information based on particular attributes help improve your website ROI? In the past few years,
Social Media Marketing has become the big "buzz word" in the world of websites. Creating (and integrating into your website) free Social Media tools like a Blog, Facebook Page, a company YouTube Channel, Linkedin ("Facebook for Professionals") and tapping into Twitter (especially for B2C companies) is the latest bandwagon that we see many businesses jumping on.

NEW YEAR = BETTER WEBSITE:DECEMBER is a great time each year to conduct an "Annual Website Review". Make notes of any corrections or improvements that need to be made. Then, in JANUARY get that work completed, or at least started. For an outside look in, Cole WebMarketing also offers a very thorough "Professional Website Audit" that we can conduct on your website. To discuss how we can ''help you turn more searches into sales'', please visit and then call Cole WebMarketing at 704-503-7069.

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