Over the last few months of this year we've seen a lot of new customers come to us who want their first website. The customers are always great to deal with as there is nothing more exciting that delivering a site to them and seeing their eyes light up when they see their vision become reality. However, one thing I see happen time and again with these customers is that they fail to realise that a website is something that requires constant love and attention. For this reason I'm putting together my list of top tips for people who might be in the same boat and who are looking for advice on how to keep their site relevant after 6 months of taking ownership of their new site.
This guide isn't for regular internet designers or developers but people who might never have owned a website before. These points are all common sense to people who work in the industry but for someone starting out you'd be surprised how many of these points get overlooked. A lot of these points are also just good business tips. This is also a nice follow on guide to my tips for running an online store that I posted in the middle of last year.
Don't expect to get rich overnight - This is one of the most common problems I see. People expect to be "Internet millionaires" as soon as their new website or online store launches only to find that 'Hey, this thing requires a lot of work to get off the ground'. One thing I always tell them is that if this was a get rich quick scheme I'd be loaded by now but unfortunately it's not. Like any new business, it requires a lot of hard work, late nights, and constant marketing to get a new website noticed.
Update your content regularly - You can spend thousands on marketing your website, get the most expensive designer to create a beautiful theme for your store or go to every 'How to run your website' conference going but unless you keep your site fresh by updating the content regularly then people just won't come back.
Answer emails or phone calls from users of your site - New business owners are often a little shy starting off. It's OK, it's natural. Being nervous at the start of your business career is expected but never ignore a phone call or an email from a user on your website. You never know what the user might want. They could be calling to offer you tons of money (doubtful) or just to check if you can deliver item X from your site by next Monday if they order today. No one expects you to work 24hr/7 days a week but even a quick 'Thanks, I'll follow up in the morning' mail would be ideal to let the user know that you got their mail and will be in touch when you get a chance.
Request feedback from your users - Always have a contact form on your site. I'm always amazed at the number of clients who don't want to receive any emails or calls from site users. Think of all the missed sales opportunities you would have without a phone. It's the same thing with a contact form. If you run an online store I would also strongly suggest you put up a contact number for people to call if they have any queries. It all helps add to the confidence for the end user that your website is a proper, legit organization.
Follow up on any enquires or sales queries - Never expect the customer to come back to you about a question they asked a few days ago. If a user asks you about a service you offer or a product for sale then follow up with the user after a week if you hear nothing from them. Never harass the user by sending 44 emails in 30mins. Just a simple one liner asking if they require any further assistance or if they have further questions is all you need to do here.
Do market your new site as best you can - Ok, I know. You've read this one a million times already on other blogs. You need a blog, a Facebook account and a Twitter account, blah blah blah. Unless you are someone who is going to keep site content up to date (see point 2 above) then be careful going down this route. Nothing stands out more than a dead twitter account with 5 posts from that week 12 months ago when you first set it up or from a blog on your site with only 3 posts. Dead social networking accounts are not marketing.
If you don't have loads to say then look into Google AdWords or something similar. Don't overlook tradition marketing mediums either. TV, radio and newspapers are still enjoyed by millions of people. Market your site where your customers will be. If you run a website about fishing then advertise in fishing magazines or local free ads if that's where your customer base will be. Be smart about your marketing and don't let the web designer force you into setting up expensive ad words or pointless online accounts.
Interact with your users - When you have a new website there is nothing harder than getting the name out there. Marketing can help when it's done right, as I've mentioned in the point above. Another option you can do is to offer competitions or polls for users to come to your site and give you feedback on. If you offer services then allow web users to avail of discounts if they make a booking online. If you run a store offer free post to all orders of a certain amount. It all helps make the user think they are getting a benefit for using your site.
Allow users to send links from your site to their friends - A good trick to do on a website is to allow the end user to send a link to the page they are viewing to their friend. Nothing gets your site noticed faster than word of mouth. Make it as easy as possible for end users to spread the word and you're nearly half way there.
Spend your money wisely - You've spent money getting your website or new online store made, you show it to some friends and family and then they come back to you and say 'love it but it's missing feature X'. I don't know how many times I see this with new website owners. They all fall into the same trap of thinking that they need to have this feature on their site for it to success. They're losing millions because it's not online. How could we all have overlooked such an obvious feature?! You can have as many whizz bang features as you want on your site, you can spend thousands building them but unless you have the business basics in place you're wasting your time. All the features in the world are not going to get your site noticed.
You need to focus on marketing and getting the name out there first. All the new super features can wait until version 2 of your site. Of course, no web designer or developer will tell you otherwise as we will happily take your hard earned cash if you want to spend it so keep asking yourself if you need this new feature or if you would just like to have it.
So there you have it. These points are just some little tips to help get you started on your web master journey. The key points are really just what any new business requires to make it - marketing, keep clients happy so they tell their friends and hard work keeping your site up to date with fresh content to encourage users to come back to you. Let me know in the comments if you think I've overlooked anything. If you're a new website owner why not let me know how you're getting on or if you have any tips for other new website owners out there?