Is your website ready for business?

As a smaller business or even a larger business for that matter, it’s easy to temporarily neglect your website.  Staff shortages,  busyness or, as in the current crisis, uncertainty.  Many businesses (but not all) have stated where they stand with regard to Covid-19, which is useful; as without it, a customer may become concerned that a business is struggling or worse, at the brink of closing down.

What a potential visitor sees in your website shop window is important, but it is equally important to ensure the back end housekeeping is at a basic maintenance level at the very least.  If you’re paying for website maintenance, then you’ll be covered but if you’re not, there are a few things you can do yourself if you cannot budget for maintenance and, you have a CMS type website (Customer Management System) enabling you to login in and edit the content yourself.

Basic website maintenance

1. Updates

The plugins that give your site functionality always need an update.  If you have several, then 2 or 3 a week will need you to click their update button.  If you don’t, then older versions of the plugin may clash with another plugin or the WP or theme software and cause you a headache. The same goes for the WP update – the big ones are twice a year.  It’s a good idea to have a back up of the site when you do this but otherwise, it is as simple as clicking a button which says ‘update’.

2. Basic SEO

Most websites have an SEO plugin, enabling website owners to do their own basic SEO. A common one is Yoast and the free version is perfectly adequate.  If installed, you will notice as you scroll down each page in edit mode, a whole new section called Yoast.  Here you define the topic of the page in one or two words and then follow the traffic light system which takes you through the elementary rules of SEO – is it in the header (never force this to the detriment of headline appeal), have you written a meta description (summarise the topic in a line or two),  is it in the alt text of an image, do you have internal or external links to relevant pages etc.

When to invest more in SEO

An SEO’s job is potentially endless; Google changes the rules – a lot – and all websites suffer small breakages.  Just think logically about it for a moment.  You may be in a niche business where, with an honest content plan, you will naturally do very well in organic search.  If, on the other hand, your business is highly competitive and not particularly well-differentiated, you may well need to be investing more in SEO.  If you enjoy maintaining your own website and know a little about it, then Yoast Advanced (paid for) is a good investment if you didn’t want to employ a specialist SEO or agency.  It’s always good to have a contact in mind though, should you need.

3. Keyphrases

Take a moment to research your keyphrases (Google Console and Google Trends are useful) and consider if they’re well represented across your website i.e known important ones having their own dedicated page and page title.  Beware becoming obsessed with getting first-page ranking with trophy phrases – ones you think you want to be found for but which may not result in conversions.

Other website management considerations

Text vs images

It is often cited that pictures over words win every time.  I’d argue it is business dependent. A tech company will have tech data to share, it may need to explain concepts, reassure with case studies and authoritative articles etc.  A lifestyle business, on the other hand, can tell their story through pictures, as this more easily conveys mood and feel.  From an SEO point of view, text is still important to thoroughly explain your business and what it does.  This gives a website authority. Personally I write a lot and some say I use too much text.  But I feel that my subject needs explaining – pictures just don’t cut it and while infographics are great – you do need time to create these.

Review your home page

If you do nothing else on your website, review your home page. Most visitors will land here. Be clear in what you do and ensure your most important links (in addition to your menu header) are there and working.  Don’t give too many options, otherwise, you may send a customer down a rabbit hole instead of somewhere important.  Prioritise where you want a customer to go and guide them.

Know where to check for SEO success

Be informed, don’t get taken for a ride.  There are many website scoring sites and many agencies use these when a client is using a paid-for SEO service.  A website scoring site will provide a horrifying amount of ‘print off’, seemingly endless tasks to be done.  A good agency will pick out only the essential (depending on your budget/objectives).   If you’re doing more in-house, then use the free tool Google Console.  It splits advisories into important and not so important, so you can address just the critical issues.  Console is useful to check your mobile functionality particularly after having made some changes; it’s all too easy to have a heading that may not wrap around so well or to have links too close together for a prodding finger.  Console is also good for keyphrase research.  Like many Google products, it’s not the most attractive but it at least comes from the horse’s mouth.

Know how to get website traffic insights

You should understand your website stats and action any insights.  Google Analytics remains the most popular amongst smaller businesses. A metrics and measurement plan need only be simple but if it sets out what you’re looking for out of the data and shows the metrics in alignment with business objectives, then it is time really well spent.

Claiming Google My Business & Bing Business accounts

Last but not least, claim your free listings in Google My Business and Bing Business. And then fill them out comprehensively.  These prime estate positions send a lot of traffic to websites.  And most businesses do not bother to post updates in these very visible slots.  While Google + has long since gone, many don’t realise that the post functionality is still there.