Being entrepreneurial doesn’t always mean that you’re a best at prioritizing and organizing. These are skills that take time and training to develop.
A site is for life, not just for launch… This is the internet – things change, and fast; your site is up, the content is good, you know what it’s there to do and you know who it is there to talk to. But it’s worth remembering that your website needs a bit of care and attention if it’s going to reach its potential and maintain its place as a useful part of your strategy. Let’s deal with a few of the key tips and tricks to get a website in to a place where it’s happy, healthy and performing how you want it to.
I want to be a good site owner, but how do I know what it needs ?
In general you shouldn’t ever consider the site finished; you review, refine, redeploy, update and then you do it again. In short, the way you work out what needs doing for your site is by keeping a close eye on what is happening with it. It is true with websites as with warfare that no plan fully survives first contact with the enemy; of course you probably don’t consider your site visitors to be the enemy, but it still stands. No matter how good your research, strategy and plans – your site will be used in ways you hadn’t expected and will offer you opportunities that you hadn’t considered… as long as you are looking for them. It is good practice to have testing groups of users who can provide honest feedback on the interaction on your website.
OK, I get it, how do I keep a close eye on the site ?
One word: analytics. What kind is highly variable – there are lots of ways to manage your site. No matter what you use, as long as you can accurately monitor some basics – it’s a useful tool. If you are looking to do business online have you set some performance benchmarks for the site? Do you know how many visitors you expect to get a day/week/month/year – what qualifies as a positive result from a visit? What is it that you actually want visitors to the site to do? These things are the key performance indicators for your site (KPIs). If your only KPI is, make me a lot of money, you may need to break it down a little.
Against each of the KPIs you should have a way of measuring. Some of these are easy… number of unique visits can be established with the help of Google Analytics, some require more thought, how do you track those that visited the site and then did something in the ‘real’ world. You may need some help setting up the things that collate the data for you, but what you look for in your data is what will help you understand what challenges you have. Whether you simply aren’t getting enough visitors (a marketing problem), if the visitors you are getting don’t want what you are offering (a content problem), or if the visitors are trying desperately to talk to you and failing (a MASSIVE problem). Collect the data, interpret the data, understand the problems and the opportunities, then you can define the solutions…
I have heard there are bad people out there who might try and hurt my site… Called Hackers
There certainly are and they’re called hackers; some of these hackers are just out to prove how clever they are, some break stuff for fun, some break stuff for profit and some, frankly, just want to do as much damage as they can. For the most part keeping yourself safe from hackers is about doing the mundane stuff – keep your site software up to date, make sure you don’t use silly passwords for any admin areas
There are some other issues, if you really think you are at risk you probably don’t want to share your hosting with anyone, there’s nothing like someone else failing to maintain their fences to really ruin your day when your yard gets overrun. It’s more expensive to go dedicated but much safer, if you want to spend less and still be safe then make sure that everyone else you’re sharing with stays up to date. This will mean your hosting provider taking responsibility for patching their clients, not everyone does this.
Why does the internet suddenly break ?
The technologies used to build websites these days are all interlinked and like the software you have on your computer this software gets updated. This may affect the way your website interacts with this software and will require periodic updates to the code in your site. Hackers, being the nice people they are, often take advantage of websites that haven’t been updated.
I want my site to get a lot of hits, how do I up the visitor numbers ?
There are a number of routes, the main ones are addressed here. MNS SEO: Are you actively promoting your website, should you be? Do you know what your audience are looking for when they search? There are a number of things to look at with MNS SEO and a range of tools that will help you identify where your audience is and what they are looking for. Don’t fall into the trap of bidding a lot of money for search terms that are highly generic, you should find something as specific to you as possible and go for that; it will be cheaper, you’ll get a better response rate and more visitors. SEO: Search engine optimisation is a process not a one off. There are some very simple things that can dramatically improve your search engine performance. As an ongoing process this will need time, attention and possibly the assistance of 3rd party experts.
Offline promotion: Of course we know that there is a world that isn’t online, but if the key driver of your offline messaging is to get visitors to the website – how are you tracking its success? It’s worth asking visitors where they heard about you, even if it is a relatively time limited poll. Direct feedback from your visitors will help you understand where you are being most effective and how the site can adapt to meet the specific needs of the most interested audience.
Word of mouth: Relying on word of mouth is a fairly high risk strategy, even if your site is the best site on the internet (and let’s face it that’s a big if) there are lots of sites out there to keep people’s attention. For lots of reasons the sites that people tend to promote to their peers tend to be, well, unusual, full of kittens for a start. Because of this we’d recommend that you carefully consider AdWords and SEO, but also that you think about ongoing marketing and whether it provides something interesting enough for people to want to share.
So some people turned up, how do I make them come back again ?
We’re not sure you can guarantee this without crossing a few ethical boundaries. However, it is, as they say, cheaper to keep a customer than find a new one. If your site will benefit from people visiting more than once then you need to think about how people interact with the site. If people turn up, look at pages and leave for good, you are missing an important opportunity.