Regular Website Maintenance Is Necessary to Maintain a Strong Brand
Countless companies have devoted considerable time and effort toward the initial design, functionality and testing of their websites. However, some internal stakeholders often misunderstand a website's launch as the end of a process. It is actually just the beginning. In fact, a company has a responsibility to ensure that its online presence always works well for users, always furthers the company's objectives and always has adequate security against hackers.
To neglect website maintenance is to let a prominent asset deteriorate, taking brand reputation and value along with it. Because the digital arena is a great equalizer for midmarket firms trying to compete against larger companies, letting your website age is simply unacceptable.
Given that midsized companies generally do not have large information technology (IT) departments, a common solution is to entrust the task of website maintenance to a third-party supplier. Some of these vendors require as little as four hours of work per month from their clients, making it a cost-effective option. But even when you use a third party, each internal department — sales, marketing, fulfillment, customer service, legal, etc. — should proactively examine its units' Web pages on a regular basis. While an outside provider looks for particular flaws such as legacy code, browser incompatibilities, broken links and unsupported plug-ins, all of which frustrate users and present Web security vulnerabilities, the vendor also needs specific client input on whether the website's content, and the content management system itself, needs to be updated to remain relevant and useful.
Keep Content Clean
From the employee perspective, the content-related elements of a website require vigilance to avoid becoming useless, outdated or otherwise problematic. For instance, descriptions of company services and individual products can change, along with company standards, procedures and legal terms and conditions that protect your firm from various liabilities. Then there are the dynamic aspects of website content, such as blogs, question-and-answer sections and chat forums, some of which allow user-generated content. Eventually, Web-crawling bots locate these areas and post spam or other content that's irrelevant or tries to exploit security vulnerabilities. Furthermore, live users occasionally post their own promotional content or write derogatory things about your company. These must be neutralized as quickly as possible. Finally, if a firm's site has a mobile version, it is necessary to check whether old and newly posted content is displaying and performing correctly.
Monitor SEO and Web Analytics
Other areas that require employee maintenance are search engine optimization (SEO) and Web analytics. SEO makes a site more likely to gain higher rankings within search engines by optimizing keyword phrases and internal links, crafting better title tags, using meta descriptions and creating effective page titles. To determine how well the site is doing in search engines and among users, your marketing team should use Web analytics tools. From this, the team can evaluate and decide on changes, which could be as simple as making the website's call-to-action elements more clear and direct. Even this small change can noticeably enhance the user experience.
In the end, a midsize firm can approach website maintenance similar to how the owner of a skyscraper approaches the window-washing: A few people spend part of each day examining and troubleshooting the website section by section until, after several days, the entire site has been covered. Once that's completed, they simply start the process over again. If the firm's website is sufficiently complex and central to interaction with clients and prospects, this might be the preferred tactic. The employees doing the task will become better at it over time, minimizing the time commitment while maintaining website quality.
On the other hand, websites that have predominantly static information or relatively few pages might need attention for just a few hours per month. Employee vigilance is still important here, however, so that any website deficiencies that arise between scheduled maintenance sessions don't go unnoticed for weeks. These issues can sully the firm's brand image or present Web security vulnerabilities. To fulfill this task, it's essential for employees in a midsized company to clearly communicate and share their responsibilities.
Has your company instituted a framework for employee maintenance on all or part of your website? What were some hurdles you had to address? How have employees' efforts made a difference in the quality of your website? Let us know by commenting below.
Rob Carey is an NCMM contributor and a features writer who has focused on the business-to-business niche since 1992. He spent his first 15 years at Nielsen Business Media, rising from editorial intern to editorial director. Since then, he has been the principal of New York-based Meetings & Hospitality Insight, working with large hospitality brands in addition to various media outlets. Circle him on Google+.