As the old saying goes, you never get a second chance to make a first impression, and your website is no exception. To ensure that your site creates a positive impression, you need to keep it well maintained.
Considering that a website is one of the most important marketing tools, marketers should be mindful that even small site issues can quickly add up and adversely affect brand perception. For instance, a poorly organized product website can frustrate users and negatively impact sales. Similarly, an informational website with stale content can drive users to get their information elsewhere. In short, a poorly maintained website spells risk for your brand.
Though I wish they were a rarity, poorly maintained websites are anything but. In fact, you’ve probably been a victim of one yourself—I know I have. For example, I recently went online to buy a pair of boots. Because I knew exactly what I wanted, I went directly to the manufacturer’s website.
Fortunately, I found the boots in my size, and immediately added them to my shopping cart. But when I tried to check out, I received an error message that my cart was empty (even though it clearly wasn’t). So I tried again. And again. And again. (I really wanted those boots!) But after many attempts to bypass the error, I became frustrated, so I left.
More than a little disappointed in the brand because of the poor experience, I searched for similar boots online. I easily found a comparable replacement on another website, and purchased them without a hitch. In the future, I doubt I will ever go back to the first site.
Maintenance tips to boost your brand
To keep your website well maintained and your brand image up to par, consider the 5 tips below:
Keep your keyword list up to date. Keywords are the building blocks for all optimization efforts on your site. It is important to revisit this list at least once a year to cut irrelevant terms and add in new terms that you should be focusing new content on within your website. There are several free public tools such as Wordtracker and Google AdWords tools that you can use in order to expand your current keyword set, and obtain information on relevance and search volume. Once you have identified high traffic terms, incorporate those keywords into the top level pages of your website for maximum exposure.
Continually freshen web copy. Stale and outdated content can be unattractive for both users and search engines. In fact, search engines “reward” sites for having content that is fresh and frequently updated. When writing new content, have enough body copy on each top level page to support proper keyword phrase density: strive to include the primary keyword phrase approximately 5 times. And don’t forget that including the phrase in your URL and meta data are great ways to strengthen your pages relevancy for search. This task should be tackled at least once a year after you update your keyword list.
Do your own site crawl. Depending on the size of your website and how frequently the content changes, removing old pages and adding new ones to your sitemap file can be a tedious task. To make sure old pages are removed and new pages get proper visibility, perform a site crawl monthly and add important or top-level pages on your website to your sitemap. The crawl can be performed by pulling pages off your server, or for smaller websites, simply clicking through the site to get to the lowest level pages possible. In addition to updating the sitemap file on your site, create an XML sitemap file and submit it to the search engines monthly.
Fix broken links. Broken links not only have usability implications, but they can also negatively affect your brand by causing a poor user experience, especially when they reference old articles that were taken down, or products that no longer exist. Given that, it is important to have proper redirects in place to functional pages, and old pages removed from the site completely. In order to stay on top of this important task, schedule regular website maintenance at least once a month to fix any broken links on an ongoing basis, and ensure that you have a strong 404 page in place that provides a user with an easy way back into the website when they encounter a broken link.
Do regular traffic analysis. You probably look at your analytics on a monthly basis to understand where your external traffic is coming from. But when is the last time you examined other metrics such as top entry pages, time spent on the site, or bounce rate? At the start of each month, look for patterns or anomalies in your analytics data. For instance, if you notice that important high-level or product pages aren’t performing as you would like, try altering different variables on the page, such as content and call to action.
As this year comes to a close, take the time to go through this checklist and make the necessary changes to ensure that your website is delivering a positive first impression. Remember, your brand depends on it.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.