A lot of business owners don’t really understand their websites. Out-of-touch owners with out-of-date websites leave money on the table every day simply by not paying attention to what’s going on with their most valuable partner. Set aside some quiet time and ask your website these nine questions.
- How old are you? This question may be impolite in some circles, but trust me, your web site won’t mind. The pace of change in the digital world is so blindingly fast that even the freshest web presence is likely to have some feature that is out of date within a short time. And any site more than a couple of years old lacks valuable functionality its newer peers have. Even if your site has been a faithful companion, you might want to consider trading up for a newer model.
- Are you responsive and mobile-friendly? A vast majority of consumers, including industrial and B2B prospects, view web sites on phones and other mobile devices. To stay competitive, websites need responsive, mobile-friendly design that works on every platform. You should also think about how custom apps are becoming a significant part of the marketing mix. If your website is not taking a proactive stance on digital options, your competition’s is.
- Have you been properly optimized? If you look under the skirt of most any web site, you’ll see keywords in the code. But that doesn’t mean the site is optimized. To stay on Google’s radar, a site has to be updated. Change your site’s undies from time to time; you’ll both be glad you did.
- Are you social? Everyone wants a partner they can take out on the town. If I like your website, I may want to tell my friends about it. Do you have widgets that let me tweet your content or post it to my Facebook page? Does your social media program drive visitors to your site and help expand your online reach? Do you blog, tweet and publish on LinkedIn? Is your site the center of a broad digital footprint?
- Do you dress for success? A web site is an aesthetic experience appealing to multiple senses. How it looks, sounds and feels makes an impression, for better or worse. When your website asks, “Does this code make my ass look big?” be honest. It’s better to invest in a digital makeover than to let your marketing partner go out in public looking like it just got out of bed.
- Do you speak the language of value? In 2010, I did a survey of the home pages of 113 Houston-based public companies and found that only 18% made a visible effort to express the value promise that differentiates them from their peers. The web is like speed dating; if your site fails to differentiate your offer with clear value language, people click away before they even hear your fascinating industry jargon.
- When was the last time you saw a doctor? Over time, a web site deteriorates, much like your own body (not saying you’re getting old, of course). There are a lot of moving parts, even on a simple web site. Each browser handles code a little differently, and over time those preferences change and sites become obsolete or need to be repaired. Plug-ins and widgets stop working. Links on your site go dead when companies go out of business. Employees come and go, but people don’t update staff profiles. Content gets added without being vetted for accuracy or compatibility. Over time, your website literally wears out, unless you have regular check-ups to keep it working properly.
- Can you read and write? It’s shocking how illiterate so many websites are, and how little attention they pay to spelling, punctuation and grammar. The most amazing company around can look like a bunch of incompetent goobers if they don’t make an effort to ensure the content is well-written.
- What can you do to extend our capabilities? You’re familiar with the “4 Ps of Marketing:” Product, Price, Place and Promotion, right? Early on, websites mostly dealt with promotion. These days, content is product and the web is a distinct marketplace. You now have the ability to link your back-end processes directly to your consumer through your Internet presence, eliminating labor costs, streamlining sales and opening new channels that didn’t exist until recently. A complete web presence not only brings prospects to your door, it closes deals and fulfills orders, even in industries that don’t look like online businesses on the surface. So if your site doesn’t integrate your business processes with your digital marketing you’re opening yourself up to be unseated by more innovative competitors.
The web is changing every day. It’s time you sat down and had a long talk with your website, to make sure it understands your expectations and is holding up its end of the relationship.
Tim Johnson is our marketing and design director. He focuses on creating value, moving markets and bringing ideas to life.