When your full-time job isn’t website maintenance, it’s easy to let your website get stale. Maybe you figure what you have is good enough for now, or maybe you’re hoping an upcoming redesign will revive interest in your site and business. It’s hard to dedicate time and energy to something that seems so immaterial when your time is already concentrated on the rest of your job.
I totally understand that.
When fellow feminist web designer Angelique Weger offered to host my website last year, I was ecstatic. Despite having worked in this industry for years, I’d been so busy working on everyone else’s projects that I’d never gotten to pulling together a website for myself. And yet, though a chunk of my career focuses on web design, content strategy, and site maintenance, even I was overwhelmed by the sheer amount of work it took to pull my site together.
Unfortunately for us all, no website comes ready-made, full of beautiful design and content and images ready to be consumed by the public. Your website takes work, whether you’re creating a new website like I was or updating one you already have. While you’re likely to be hiring a designer and developer for the creation of your site, here are some things you need to know and be prepared to work on — or delegate to someone who can dedicate their time to your online presence.
This article is targeted at businesses, but most of these points apply to my blog friends and their sites as well.
Make sure you have someone who can write and update your content.
Your content is the core of your site. While design and user experience help inform visitors about who you are, your content is what tells them who you are and what you can do for them. Therefore, your website can only be as strong as your content.
More than that, even, your search engine rankings are affected by how fresh your content is*, which in turn affects how people find your site and if they stay to learn more about you. Whether you hire a copywriter (like this one with whom I always love collaborating) or designate someone on your staff to keeping your content up to date, strong and frequently updated content is absolutely vital to the health of your business.
This is where keeping a blog or news section is important. You can write short updates about your business offerings, highlight media coverage you may receive, publish case studies about your business, create lists of best practices for your industry — the possibilities are endless. The important thing is to publicly establish yourself as an expert in your industry through detailed, compelling content.
Social media engagement is important. Well, sometimes.
When venturing into social media for your business, there’s a few things you need to think about and be willing to tackle:
- Don’t start something you can’t finish. Honestly, some industries don’t necessarily need to be very involved in social media. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that if you can’t be regularly active on social media, it’s better to not even have a profile. Abandoned accounts reflect worse on your company than nonexistent ones. If you do choose to create social media accounts, it can be a good idea to hire a marketing consultant (like my friend and colleague, Matt!) to help you get things started and develop a marketing plan. If you decide to engage with social media on your own…
- Learn how to use different platforms. You know what’s almost as bad as an abandoned account? An account run by someone who clearly doesn’t understand the technology they’re using. A quick Google search is your friend and can help lead you to some great walk-throughs and tutorials for whatever social platform you’d like to utilize. One of my favorites is from designer and letterer Jessica Hische, who created “Mom This is How Twitter Works.” It’s easy to read and incredibly informative.
- Create a regular posting schedule. With platforms like Twitter or Facebook, you typically have the option to schedule posts in advance. This allows you to set up multiple posts for upcoming days, weeks, or months all in the course of a few hours or days. A content strategy is quite useful here, as well. Determine what kind of content you’ll post on what days, what kind of tone you want to set, how you want to interact with others online. Be consistent, even if your posting schedule is once a week. Don’t forget that you can tie your blog to most social media platforms, as well!
- Keep your branding consistent. Ask your designer to help you create profile photos and other graphics for your company to keep all of your online profiles consistent with your established brand. You want people to immediately recognize you and tie your business to your visual language. If you have a brand manager, copywriter, or marketing team, ask them to sit down with you and look at your online presence to make sure you’re sending a positive and consistent message through what you’re sharing along with your writing.
- Be engaging. Don’t use social media as a megaphone. Social media is for social interaction, which always ought to be a two-way street. Follow people in your industry, leaders and local business alike. Spend time getting to know people, interjecting where appropriate. Take note of who interacts with people the most and how they go about it for good examples of how people in your industry are expected to talk to people on social media platforms. When potential customers or clients or even just followers comment or interact with you, don’t ignore them — talk to them. You want to be seen as professional and approachable, a solid part of your community online and off.
Monitor your search engine optimization.
What content management system are you using? Chances are, there’s an option that will allow you to control and monitor your search engine rankings. Many of them will even analyze your pages for you and give you tips on how to better optimize your content to help people and search engines find your site more easily. Be sure to pay attention to your grammar, as well — search engines are becoming more selective* in how grammar affects your rankings. In general, make sure that you understand why people are searching for your site and what terms they’re probably using, then incorporate those terms into your content as naturally as you can. No one likes to feel like they’re being sold something. Be sure that you’re writing with your customers or clients in mind, not just your company.
Images are your friends. Unless they come from Google.
People are visual creatures. So much so, in fact, that online articles with photos receive 94% more attention than those without*. A well-chosen, relative photo or infographic can clearly work wonders for your websites.
Images are copyrighted. Yes, even and especially online images. Just because you can find an image online doesn’t mean it’s free to use without breaking the law. How can you tell what you are allowed to use? Thankfully, Curtis Newbold has put together a fantastic infographic detailing when it’s okay to use an image online. The basic things you need to keep in mind are:
- If you don’t know where an image originated, don’t use it. If you don’t know where the copyright lies, it doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. With companies like Getty being ever-vigilant in finding and fining illegal uses of their image*, it’s just better to be safe than sorry if you’re unsure who owns the rights of the image. If you do know where the image came from…
- Credit the original owner of the image whenever possible. This is where things like Creative Commons images comes into play. Many people offer their images for free use so long as they are credited for the work. For example, all of the images used in this post come from the good people at Death to the Stock Photo. Speaking of which: if you’ve purchased an image from a stock photo site, you don’t need to worry about crediting the origin as you’ve purchased the right to use the image commercially.
- Ask permission before using. Not only is this simply polite, it allows you to obtain written proof that you have permission to use the image and it opens the door for another professional connection.
Make the time to care.
This may sound a bit obvious, but I’ve seen otherwise beautiful well-organized websites crumble into ruin or flat-out fail. Why? Because the website owners weren’t willing to pay a third party to upkeep their site, nor were they willing to learn how update it themselves.
Your website takes work — and depending on how large the site is and what all you’re doing with it, it can be a full time job. You need to be prepared to handle that work with the team you currently have, or else be able to hire someone who can dedicate the bulk of their energy to your online content and marketing.
Looking for help with your online presence? I’d be more than happy to chat with you and discuss your needs. Drop me a line!