One of the challenges of running a marketing company is the intense competition. We regularly compete with inexperienced hobbyists for the attention of customers who don’t know any better than to shop solely on price.
When it comes to websites, one of the things I always try to impress upon potential customers is that what happens after the website is built is far more important for the marketing of the business than the process of building the site.
For example, many businesses are led to believe that search optimization is an event that happens once and then their website is optimized for search forever. Part of my responsibility is to impress upon the potential customer that search optimization is an ongoing process that adapts as search technology evolves.
For this reason companies like mine often offer proposals in two parts, the development of the website and the cost of ongoing marketing maintenance.
Here is a short sample of tasks or services that we include as part of ongoing maintenance in order to ensure the website is a vital part of an organization’s marketing mix. If you manage your website internally, these tasks should be incorporated into your process.
Review Google Analytics
In some ways, you can’t plan where you are going unless you know where you’ve been. GA provides insight into your site’s traffic and so much more.
Understanding this tool and how it can measure strengths and weaknesses is essential for future planning. It might be overkill to check GA daily, but regularly checking is important.
Google Webmaster Tools
GWT is in many ways a companion tool to GA. To put it at its simplest, GWT provides insight into the behind-the-scenes aspect of your website in the same way that GA provides insight into the public traffic of your website.
GWT is the first place to go if you suspect technical problems that may be hindering search. Is your site not indexed? Is it underperforming in search? This is a good place to start.
Bing Webmaster Tools
Google isn’t the only search engine in the world. No, seriously. Bing offers a counterpart tool that provides much the same information in a different form factor. While Google is the dominant search engine, Bing is an important player.
Form Testing And Improvements
A few days ago, Wufoo (a company that provides form integration for web sites) made a change to their system that rendered a captcha on one of our client’s forms unusable. This broke every form that had a captcha. Our customer would never have known had we not been actively testing their forms on a regular basis.
I wish I had a dollar for every time a prospect approached us because they weren’t getting leads from their forms only for us to find out that their forms weren’t working in the first place. Don’t assume that because your forms worked on Day 1 that they continue to work at Day 100.
We also monitor the number of transactions generated by every form. If any forms are underperforming, perhaps they are asking the wrong questions and need to be changed.
Has your phone number changed? Does your company have a new Google Plus page? You should always make sure your website provides as many pathways to your business as possible.
The other day, I split a molar and made an emergency trip to visit my dentist based on the hours listed on his website, only to arrive to find out that the office was closed because the website hadn’t been updated. The last thing any business wants is to give a customer a dead end.
With the constant evolution of social, your site should be current with whatever social tools or widgets make sense for your business. Conversely, those social sites should provide links back to your site.
There’s also an argument to be made that new content should be distributed across your site as well as social channels. Never assume that the only way your customers interact with you is via your website.
No content is perfect forever. If you have pages that regularly underperform, change them or get rid of them. You should seek to continuously make every page of your site the best it can be and adapt to the needs of your customers.
Updating your website with quality content regularly is also a strong signal for search engines. Search engines make a correlation between fresh, quality content and the ranking of that content.
If you have a shopping cart or any other programmed features, these should be tested regularly to ensure they are still functional.
Updates to the operating system or the CMS platform your site is built on should always be followed with some level of testing. So often perfectly working sites stop working after what is perceived as a minor update. Never assume that when a change has taken place on your framework that everything that worked before works now.
Backup And Recovery
Are your backups running? Are you sure? A backup process is only as good as the ability to recover. A small sampling of files should be recovered periodically as a test of the disaster recovery plan in place. The last thing any business wants is to have the perception of having a good disaster recovery plan only to have it fail as a result of the plan not having been tested.
Legal Or Compliance Review
If you are in an industry where there are legal or compliance requirements, you should test any changes against your requirements to make sure you haven’t inadvertently slipped out of compliance. This is an often-ignored process because of the need to interact with third parties such as lawyers, but it’s a worthwhile endeavor especially if your business opens itself to fines.
If your site exists in a CMS such as WordPress, there are frequently updated that are made available to plugins or themes. Many times businesses don’t know that there are updates available because they don’t check until something goes wrong.
Be ahead of the curve by knowing what updates are available by signing up for newsletters or notifications and regularly checking your platform. Before you update any plugins and themes make sure they are compatible with your environment and that you have a backup available to roll back to in case something goes wrong.
Customer Satisfaction/Lead Generation
Your website may be a marvel of technical perfection, but if your customers can’t use it, then you gain nothing. Regularly evaluate your content, your images, and your rich media to ensure that you are creating a good experience for your customers. We regularly make content and photographic recommendations to customers based on pages that underperform or have room for improvement.
This list can go on and on and can change depending on your circumstances. The key is recognize that when you think you’re done with your website, the work is only beginning.
Do you have any items to add to the list? Let me know in the comments and please follow me on Twitter and let me know what you thought of my post.
Join the discussion 7 Comments
It’s funny how we kind of forget to check to see how our website is doing once it is up and running. I had some links that weren’t working a while back, so this post is a good reminder for me to check and see if everything else is running as it should be. Thanks for sharing!
Auditing is an important part of the process. The worst thing is finding out something doesn’t work and never has.
I didn’t use to love looking at my stats or trying to figure out where my traffic comes from or who my visitors are, etc., but now it’s kind of a way of life because you’re right, how can you know where you’re going if you don’t know where you’ve been.
There are so many things we can do to improve our sites, SEOwise and socially so it’s important to see what’s working and what’s not.
Plus as you mentioned there can be a few ‘gotchas’ if you’re not monitoring things continuously.
Reviewing our stats has become a bit of a fetish for me. I’ve even created custom Google Analytics reports which I’m going to make available to WSS subscribers for free in the next few weeks.
I have to say I was a lot like Elizabeth, hated everything back office, but it’s so very important.
For example this week my hosting gave me a headache telling me that I was way above my limit in CPU usage. First this sounded like Greek to me and then I started to understand better what it all meant.
I had a tech friend review everything for me, and now my back office is perfect as opposed to the mess that it was without me even knowing how much.
Whether we like it or not those things are important.
They say the devil is in the details…
Great article. Just shows that it’s not just a case of building the website and hosting it. I think you have a pretty comprehensive list here although you could also talk about ongoing marketing using link building, social marketing, search engine marketing and more.
I run a small web agency and we’re looking at what we offer in terms of managed hosting, website management and maintenance. What do you tend to include for your clients? We tend to include management of Google Analytics and Google Webmaster Tools and backups. Actually reviewing the anakytics and adding content would come under maintenance. Thanks again!