You... have a website.
That thing that kind of sits around, hanging out on the web... being pretty much invisible to you unless someone mentions they took a look at it, or you actually go to it yourself. But who goes to their OWN website?
YOU should... that's who!
INVESTMENT, Not Cost...
It's probably pretty easy to get frustrated every month or year when you receive that hosting bill. "Why am I paying it?" "What am I getting for my money"? For most companies, the answer to that question varies. Those costs go to A) cover the hardware cost of the server your website is sitting on. B) Cover the back-end maintenance of your server (Nobody buys and maintains servers for free). and C) covers the cost of any related web services offered to you by your web-host.
Your website should be a budgeted expense, just like any of your other marketing expenses. Do you buy newspaper, radio, television, print or other forms of marketing materials? I bet they're a lot more expensive than your website obligations. If you look at the individual costs of your other marketing avenues... you might find that your web costs are the lowest marketing expenses you have, AND arguably the most valuable.
Your website is online 24/7, answering questions to curious web browsers, and representing you EVEN while you sleep! It is the single most powerful form of marketing you have. BUT is it telling the right story? Is your website current? Or are you STILL posting the latest prices from your 2014 catalog. If your website is old... stagnant... out of date. What is that telling people about YOUR business?
SIMPLE Tips to keep your website working for you.
Maintaining your website is not that hard, ESPECIALLY if you have a web professional (the person who designed your website?) at your beck and call waiting to help you. If you have a service plan with your website developer, some of that monthly or yearly hosting fee may actually include some of the cost of content entry and/or web strategy counseling. It's important to know WHAT you're paying for, and actually take advantage of the services offered.
Here are some relatively simple things to keep in mind to keep your website in tip-top shape AND working FOR you (note... if your website is extremely old, there may be some costs involved in getting it up to a minimum working standard.)
1. Ensure your website is mobile friendly.
In this day and age, not having a mobile friendly website is a search-engine ranking KILLER. Not to mention the fact that more and more people are surfing the web on cell phones. Is your website showing your company in the best light? Get mobile. Mobile sites have been pretty much standard for the past 3 years now, so if your site ISN'T mobile friendly, it's probably old. Consider budgeting for a re-design, and get on the band-wagon. A general rule of thumb is... a website is ready for an upgrade roughly every 3 - 5 years.
2. Enable Traffic Metrics
If you don't have (or know anything about) traffic metrics enabled on your site (Checking how many people are coming to your website, what pages they are looking at, how long they're sticking around), you might as well not have a website at all (at least not one that you're paying for). Taking a look at who's visiting your site, and what pages they're visiting (and for how long) will give you a good indication of what pages people are interested in. If they are hanging around a specific page more than another one, add some content to that page! Put your relevant information IN FRONT of your viewers... and let them contact you about it. NO website is perfect out of the box. With time and traffic analysis, you can slowly mold that lump of clay into a beautiful statue! (NOTE: If your website was built by Gaslamp Village prior to April 2015, there's a good chance you don't have a decent traffic metrics system installed. Call us, and we'll set up up for free!)
3. Check your site at least once a month
There is almost nothing worse than a website with outdated information on it. Are you keeping your clientele informed? Are you posting things to Facebook, or putting information in other means of conventional advertising? If so, chances are people WILL go to your website for more details. ALWAYS know what's on your site, and if it's old, outdated information... GET RID of it.
"But I'm too busy to check my website!" Being busy is a good thing, but really... how long does it take to look at your website? 20 minutes before bed is long enough to give your site a good crawl and see if there are any pages that shouldn't be there. Make sure there's no outdated content. If there is, don't panic... Just mark the page down, and deal with it tomorrow.
This is also a good time to check your metrics and see how many people are coming to your site. I bet you'd be surprised how many people are visiting. Are they customers yet??
4. Keep your site content fresh and engaging. Use high quality photos!
People like and respect you... They buy your products, and engage your business. They are coming to your website because you have something they need or want. But are you telling them the RIGHT story? Are you speaking their language and telling them what they need to hear to become your customer? A BLOG is a great way of keeping in touch with people, and keeping your customers informed as to what you're doing. A BLOG also keeps your site content fresh, increases the pages on your site (Google loves that) and generates keyworded content that will rank on search engines. Just make sure the BLOG content is relevant and focused (One topic, one blog).
The web is a visual medium, and people LOVE pictures. While a picture is NOT worth a thousand words in the web world, it's the best way of attracting people to your content, and although everyone has a cell phone with cameras on them these days, the pictures on your website should be professional. Cell phone pictures or cheap disposable-camera snapshots don't often have the resolution or subject framing that compels people to continue through and read your content. It's worth having a professional come in and take pictures for and of your business operations.
5. Have website goals!
Think about what you want people to DO on your site. If you don't know what people should be getting out of your site, no one will get anything out of it. Is the point of your website to buy something? To contact you? To book a reservation? You should have a clear cut goal for what you want people to DO on your site (And what kind of people your site should APPEAL to), which will also allow you to track whether people are doing that. Having a website with no purpose, is pointless.
6. Use the services your paying for!
At Gaslamp Village Media, one of the biggest questions I get when it comes to website hosting is: What am I paying for? Most of the time, people's websites are an afterthought. Once it's built, they just forget about it and let it do it's work. But this is rarely a good thing. Websites NEED maintenance. Content updating, software updating, traffic monitoring and analysis. Gaslamp Village offers a premium hosting package that includes our "15 Minute Guarantee" which allows clients to utilize our services up to an hour a month (in 15 minute increments) to make updates to their site, modify content, and just general tasks as required by the client. Unfortunately, we don't have the resources to keep an eye on everyone's websites automatically, but with some due diligence on your part, knowledge of your GOALS (as in number 5 above), and a quick call (or email) to our friendly staff, we can have that price list changed, content edited, or photos replaced in no time! (NOTE: larger requests, requiring more than just basic maintenance, could come with a shop-fee). A $32.50 hosting fee gets you our $25.00 hosting service, and up to 1 hour of web editing ($80.00 value) (not to mention unlimited phone support)... that's a $115 worth of services for $32.50 per month.