Keeping your website updated is a key part of making it work for you.
Last month I decided to review mine.
And I instantly thought:
“What the in the *insert four-letter word of your choice here* have I done?”
There was waffle. There were poorly sited Calls to Action. There were far too many words in far too many places.
I mean, there was also some really good stuff.
But there were oh-so-many things which it took me five seconds to spot and frown at. I'd never write that for a client, so why had I done it on my own site?
The problem is, when you're writing your website for the first time:
You want everything to be perfect
You don't always have enough time to make it that way
All I needed to do was take a step back and stop staring at it every day.
So, how about it? Is it time to get your website updated?
Here's how to make it a manageable process:
1) Make a plan for updating your website
As with many things in life, if you don't break this job up into lots of smaller ones, you're going to start getting overwhelmed. There can be a lot of individual tasks involved in polishing your site up to the standard you want from it.
Start off by analysing what you already have – and what you want to have. After I did this for the first time, I had the start of a list of tasks which looked something like:
Get professional photographs taken
Insert photos and check image alt text
Check current keyword volumes
Review content on home page
Review content on service pages
Some of these ended up being broken down into even more manageable tasks. “Review content on service pages” is quite a job in itself. Making all of those changes might take a while...
In fact, I still haven't finished. But then, updating website content regularly is something we should all really be doing.
It's fine. It's totally fine.
2) Check if your brand or style have changed
If it's been a little while since you first created your website, you might have either:
Learned a whole lot more about SEO and writing in general
Completely changed your company's branding or the style you use
Either way, not being on-brand any more is one of the top reasons to redesign your website.
It's worth trying to take that all-important step back and put yourself in your customers' many individual pairs of shoes.
Try and consider questions like:
Are the look and language you use on your website cohesive with those you use in all of your current advertising?
Is your logo still the same?
How about your colour scheme?
Is the way you say you deliver your services still consistent?
Is the number of services you offer accurate?
If not, they're going to stick out like a sore thumb to your potential clients when they get in touch with you.
3) Test to make sure everything still works
When was the last time you checked to make sure your site was properly up-to-date with information and functionality?
If you're smugly sitting there saying, “err, last week actually”, then kudos to you. You may skip this step and go eat a well-deserved biscuit instead.
If not, it's time to analyse your site again. This time you're looking for:
Missing or outdated content (perhaps technology has moved on since you first wrote that blog post about Ceefax – if you need to follow this link to find out what this is, please stop – you're making feel old)
Missing images (or images which, these days, look poor quality)
As you go, add it to your list of things you're going to come back and fix.
4) Update your content
If you hate writing, odds are that you didn't use that many words when you first made your website.
On the other hand, if you don't mind it but you haven't had much practice at it (*cough* or even if it's your day job and you got carried away *cough*) it's very easy (and-totally-understandable-shut-up) to end up with reams of content that's not much use to you, your clients or to Google.
Too little content: is going to make it harder to be successful with your SEO. On a basic level, the fewer words you have on your site, the fewer keywords you can fit in without it looking stuffed. You also risk falling afoul of Google's Thin Content system. This generally assumes that if you're not saying much on your page, you haven't got much to say.
Too much content: waffling away on the general theme of your services isn't likely to win over your audience. People on the internet these days are way more savvy than they used to be. They know it's possible for a website to be smart and easy to get what they want from. They're less patient with websites which don't make it easy.
Now that you're updating though, it's the perfect time to knock your website content into shape! Whoop whoop!
You've already got your lists of style, branding, functional and factual errors to guide you.
You can try to do everything at once. Or you can write out a more manageable (there's that word again) website content update process.
Make a list, check it twice. You know the drill.
Sidenote on the horror of seeing your website content laid out
A content review is an important part of updating your website.
But when your website is written out in a Word file, it might end up looking like The Neverending Story Part 3.
As part of my copywriting process as a freelance content writer, I often send draft versions along to clients. Word documents seem like a sensible delivery format as pretty much everyone knows how to use them.
Surprisingly often, the first line of the reply email is something along the lines of, “Gosh! Long isn't it!”
Several times my response has been, “yep – I haven't changed anything yet. That's just how many words your website has on it when you lay the pages out end to end.”
Remember – all of these words are going to be broken up by your intelligent design or the theme you've chosen, your cleverly placed calls to action, the professional photos you've taken...
It's not going to look biblical when it's on your site.
5) Make sure your website is mobile friendly
Google went mobile-first last year. From the numbers, it's understandable:
Go take a look at your Google Analytics. Check those percentages. Somewhere around 60% or more of all web traffic happens through mobile devices these days.
If your website isn't set up for mobile, your search rankings are going to suffer.
Any web design or copywriting agency will tell you that making your site mobile-friendly should get automatically catapulted to the front of your to-do list if you haven't done so already.
6) Don't neglect to keep updating your content regularly
While you're going through this whole rigmarole, don't forget that you still need to keep updating your site.
If you're at the part of the process where you're actually making changes, great.
If not, you need to keep your website lively. Some high-quality content should do that nicely! The best ways to do that are to:
Start a blog or keep your existing one going
Add photo or video content
Create some infographics
Update your website but keep it manageable
If you wanted to sum up the message of this article in three words, they would be “keep it manageable”.
As long as you organise yourself properly and don't try to tackle it all at once, updating your website can be a fairly straightforward process.
Of course, trying to run your own business at the same time makes it a serious challenge. It's a major part of the reason why professional website update services exist in the first place.
With this in mind, I'd probably try and sum it up in six words instead:
“Keep it manageable – and don't panic.”
Are you just starting your website content update process? Do you have a question about it?
Feel free to leave a comment below or to get in touch with me directly.