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The Importance of a Website Annual Review

By: Brian Cole at Cole WebMarketing

Submitted on Tue, Nov 6th, 2007 12:00 am

Your website should be a process, not a one-time project. It's important to "audit" your website at least once a year. Neglect this, and you risk losing money. If your website needs fixing or fixing-up, take action to make sure your website is a business asset rather than a business liability. Just as you try to make your company easy to do business with, make your website the same and turn more visitors into customers.

Here's a few key areas to focus on when you (and your team?) go through your website, page by page.

1. Home Page Clear & Concise: your home page should be a snapshot overview of your company, products and services. Like a store window in a mall, carefully select whats most important to showcase. Often, the first time visitor coming from a search engine is hovering over their back button, looking for an excuse to move onto the next listing (your competitor). Research shows that youve only got between 5-7 seconds to snag their attention and encourage them to click into your site to learn more.

2. No Dead Links: make sure everything that's "clickable" works. If your website has problems, maybe your company does too? Related to dead links, make sure all images and files are uploaded correctly to avoid the visitor seeing a "red X" where there should be some important image.

3. OK - Im Sold, Now What?: once a visitor is ready to move forward and make contact, dont just list your phone number or Email Us links on a Contact Information page. Make sure your phone number is on EVERY page, and add Email Us or links to a request information or quote form as well. Also, avoid having a Contact Us link open up Outlook. Its frustrating to people simply looking for your contact information.

4. Relevant Photographs: just as clip art makes Power Points look cheap and generic, the overuse of stock photos, unrelated to the text on website pages, is becoming all too commonplace on the internet. Select photos that add to the story on the page. Providing the ability to see an enlarged view is also helpful.

5. Logical Navigation: nothing worse than knowing youre at a website that looks like it has what you need, but youre having trouble getting around in order to find it. Provide multiple paths of navigation to information so that visitors can get to areas a few different ways. Using "breadcrumbs", which show your path inside a website is a popular feature and make sure your logo is in the upper left of all pages and links back home when clicked.

6. Engaged or Distracted?: when using movement, such as animated GIFs or Flash, think of these components as a strong spice when cooking. A little can be good, too much and its ruined. Youre trying to grab their attentionnot distract and annoy visitors.

7. Silence Is Golden: worse than a distraction, adding background music (see #9) to a website is generally a good thing to avoid, unless youre a rock band or have a site where most people would expect to hear music.

8. Build It For Them, Not You: many websites are designed from the inside for the inside. Everybody at the company loves a website because it provides them with what THEY think is important. But is this what prospective and current customers want and need? Ask some customers to review your site and ask for suggestions for improvement. Better yet, watch over the shoulder of a prospective prospect the first time they visit your site and see what they do, where they go. Take notes and then take action.

9. Landing Pages: many sites still have a special landing page, often created all in Flash with cheesy music, that blocks the way to the real home page. Most visitors are looking to be educated, not entertained, so skip the show and let em land on a page with content and calls to action such as - learn more, buy now, request information, call, email, etc.

10. Keep It Fresh!: we all see sites that have stale, old content filling the pages. Have new products or services since the current version of your website has been built? Are you listing trade show appearances or other events from last year? Has your business or industry changed and your website stayed the same? Are you starting to bore the search engine robots with the same old same old? Are you showcasing some products or services that take 80% of your time and generate 20% of your profit?

So...take some time each year (December is often a good month due to the Holidays and winding down of the year) and carefully review your website. Make note of the areas in need of improvement and then update your website promptly. Better yet, you might also consider contacting a professional website design & development firm and ask them if they offer "Website Audits" and Website Update/Maintenance (or Complete ReDesign/Overhaul) Services in order to make sure your website is working as hard as it can (and should be) for you so that it can best serve the needs of your past, present and future customers.

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