Keep Your Website Up to Date
7 Ways to Update Your Site Without Coding
Below is an overview of a website assessment I sent to Ross at Canning Bridge Cycles in Applecross. Ross has become both a friend and business advice bureau over the years, but even he admits there’s a lot more he can do with the virtualside of his business. He doesn’t know how to write html, css or php but there are many things he can do to update site without resorting to expensive SEO fixes.
The following tips are re-printed here with his permission.
Make your website work harder than you. That’s what it’s for.
Dear Ross, You recently asked for a website review. Here is a list of simple changes you could do to improve your existing site and search-engine ranking without too much effort (and without touching any code).
1. The pen is your sword.
People don’t like to write, but search engines (and loyal customers) will devour content on your site.
The Canning Bridge Cycles web site has about three blog posts written over a 4 year span. I don’t need to tell Ross that this suggests major inactivity but more importantly, it will give some people a sense that the site is “old” or the business a bit “outdated” – or worse – that it’s no longer a going concern. You won’t hear from these people as they will never visit your shop.
One page on the site invites (more experienced) riders to join a weekly Peloton around the river.
. . . Keep up the blog, Ross. Old posts make your site seem old and irrelevant. Why not spend 20 minutes writing once a week right after your morning ride? 300 words is probably enough. More words means more “conversation” and a higher search engine ranking, more custom etc. etc. Search Engines read. It’s mostly what they do. It’s all thy can do. If you are constantly feeding their roboscouts with relevant and up to date “chat” about cycling, it’s only going to help . . .
A few years ago I built a site for the Bicycle Transport Authority. I’m pleased to say they now have a thriving and very active community of cyclists with up to 5,000 unique vistors every month (thanks to Google’s 2012 Panda update – which basically rewarded bloggers). They are also pretty much number 1 to 3 in Google on most searches for a bicycle organisation. They do have a lot of two-way (customer / client) interaction. This will make any site most definitely a going concern.
2. Don’t be Harvey Norman.
Business has become a two way conversation with your buyer
Western Australian businessman Harvey Norman got into a bit of hot water early in 2011 when he (and a consortium of like-minded retailers) placed a full page ad in the West Australian asking the government to charge GST to overseas competitors. This is a near impossible administrative task (even in 2014).
Announcing his position in such a public and expensive way back-fired horribly. To most people it looked like Harvey was experiencing sour grapes because sales were low. Gerry needed to engage customers and potential customers in a conversation, rather than using his might in the form of a shouty expensive newspaper ad. Shouting is not “conversation”. It’s just rude. Most of us can’t afford a $100,000 full page ad and none of us like being shouted at.
. . . You’re using WordPress which allows people to respond to your posts. Why don’t you switch on the comments function? I see it’s been switched off. Presently people can’t leave comments on your posts (even the very few you have up there). When clients (or potential clients) comment, try to respond to feedback in a meaningful way (and within about 48hrs).
Gone are the days of one-way advertising. People responded to Gerry’s ad in an embarrassingly public way using Twitter, Facebook and online customer satisfaction forums such as Iinet’s Whirlpool.
There’s a moral to the Harvey Norman story. Business needs to listen to customers and not talk so much (ie. “sell”). The latest (slightly annoying and American) term for doing business is “conversation marketing” but starting that conversation is really more about customer loyalty than it is about old ideas of “marketing” . . .
. . . Allowing people to comment on your website gives them a bit of power. Plus, it’s kind of like seeing your name in print. Who doesn’t like that? In short, clients and potential clients are more likely to talk directly to you (instead of talking behind your back). If you don’t give people a platform to talk about your product or service, they’ll talk about it anyway – usually on Twitter and Facebook. Try to control the conversation about your business by allowing and responding to customer feedback.
3. Main Navigation
Be very clear. Never link to another site from your main navigation.
Some buttons on the main Canning Bridge Cycles navigation sidebar take users to a completely different site. As a general rule, main navigation should always link to on-site pages.
. . . Presently your main nav takes us anywhere on the web. Why not include a “Useful Links” page for out-bound links with brand decals linking off to company sites. Linking to authority sites (leaders in the field) rubs off on you and Google will rank you higher in search. Not linking to other sites (because you don’t want customers to leave) is a lost opportunity. It also helps to link your pages to each other.
It’s a good idea to not open links in a new browser tab or window. That’s a bit like saying good-bye to a shop customer while holding onto their handbag. So it was great NOT to see this common practice on Ross’ site.
. . . Rather than having a Brands button – call that page Links or Useful Links. Visitors assume that all links on your site will take them to on-site pages unless you tell them otherwise. When I clicked Brands I was expecting reviews, pics or a bit of research into the bike parts that you supply. Linking to a company web page is fine if you politely let your visitor know that you’re waving goobye. Linking to other sites is healthy, but be clear about it. If you need to link to other sites from within main page text, perhaps try to indicate this by drawing a small image with upward pointing arrow just to the right of the link . . .
Linking brand decals to their respective sites is similar to linking your main logo back to the home page. Nobody really questions the copyright issues these days. Because people are paying Google Adwords for in-bound links, linking to someone for free is doing them a favour. So they’re not likely to send you a cease and desist legal letter if you are using their images or logo.
In the web design industry, it’s generally considered bad netiquette to open a new window. The W3C (World Wide Web Consortium) stopped included that ability with the strict xHTML 1.0 mark-up specification back in 2010. But because of tabs, it’s back again with HTML5. Ugh. :) In other words, soon you won’t be able to open new windows from linked text. Having said that – the W3C do change their minds a lot and pop-up windows are making an annoying comeback.
4. Going somewhere?
Link unto others as you would have them link unto you.
If you’re taking users off-site, create a special button for it. Don’t simply add the link to your main nav bar like Ross did.
It’s not unusual to link to another (separate) site where credit card payments can be made securely. In fact, setting up a secure server with real-time bank transactions is just as expensive as buying a website. And – y’know what? It’s probably not worth it. Google and PayPal have really simple to use payment systems, some of which can be built into your site.
. . . Let’s face it. Your Bikes link is really a link to your shop. Some sites have a button called “Shop” – which will takes us to some kind of shopping cart with payment gateway. It’s a good idea to provide a separate link, and as with point 3, let people know they are going off-site. Your shop is on a different server – which is common practice – but you should really have a shop button that is not on your main site navigation.
What I mean by a shop “button” – is a graphic, in a prominent place somewhere in the margin or on the main page of your web site that links to the off-site shop. Clearly linking to an online shop re-enforces trust. Arriving at an undisclosed destination after clicking a main navigation button is too unexpected and will interrupt the “trust” your site has gained.
5. Onsite Community.
Your website will work best if you approach it as if it were a micro-community
If you’ve managed to create an onsite (or offsite) community, then you’re winning on the web. The web is all about community. It was originally designed for people to communicate. Because we monkeys love to trade and we’ve all stuck our businesses up there now – the web seems to be about commerce. But that’s an illusion. It’s really about connecting people with people.
People trade with people they trust. Mostly people on the web will chat, date, share, relate and connect. Trading is but a small part of what we do.
. . . Well. Your “Rides” page is great. It could use a few more images, but it’s a great idea to have such a page. Good also to tell your customers how fast and how far they will be expected to go on their bicycles. I know I’m not too happy going more than 30kmh on my treadley, so I can see that these rides aren’t for me. I wanted to see guys and gals having coffee and fun at the Cottesloe Cafe you told me about. Shots of long macs with bike helmets, rows of bikes, clippy shoes etc. Gimme the fantasy and maybe I’ll pick-up my pace.
The web is and always has worked best as a connector, a community creator. I remember stumbling across a community of used teabag collectors (they still exist). Once upon a time, used teabag collectors were spread out all over the world. In any one city there probably weren’t enough collectors to fill a small scout hall, but across the world, there’s a virtual scout hall filled with used teabag collectors dancing in full swing. A community was borne, solely due to the web and how it brings people with common interests together.
6. Have an FAQ
Try to answer people’s queries before they ask.
One very valid way to use a website is to “field” phone calls. Many companies use a Frequently Asked Questions page as a repository for all those annoying repeat questions secretaries answer on a daily basis. An FAQ is the sign on the door which says, “Must read before entry”.
. . . Ross. It’s good that you have Frequently Asked Questions. Well done there. People need to know this stuff. Go crazy and tell them more. Collect questions while you’re running the shop and then upload them to your website during that one hour per week when you update your blog!
People like playing with stuff, so throw them a toy.
Pics, Vids, Audio. I’m sorry if this sounds offensive, but we are all really a bunch of perverts. What other animal has devised a system where it can watch (repeatedly) the days of lives of other people on a big screen? If you take just the evening news into consideration, you’ll get a sense of just how obsessed with negative stories we really are.
People love images, especially if they are moving. We are more likely to look at images than read. So give them images. Just make sure to tag them correctly for search engines. I gave a talk in the Swan Valley earlier this year about Multimedia and the web.
. . . I mentioned pics before, but you really should have really good, big images (as wide as your content area at least) throughout your site. PLUS a gallery! For example, I recently created a bunch of visual pages to break up the text for an Air-conditioning company.
Pics, images, video, bikes, music. Anything that you feel could help bring your virtual presence out of the screen and into the viewer’s world is a good idea. Some industries are pretty physical, so there’s a bit of trickery turning the physical into “virtual”.
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That’s pretty much a summary of the message I sent Ross and it’s certainly gave us something to talk about the next time we met.
Hopefully you also got something out of reading this. I’d love to hear from you if you have. Ping me an email or leave a comment at the bottom of this post.
Author: Edwin James Lynch
Edwin wrote his first (Harrier Jump-jet) computer program in 1982. Today he builds websites and guides companies through best practice, future-proof web development. He lectured 15yrs+ at Curtin University where (in 2007) he was voted 5th best tutor out of 2,500+ Open University Australia tutor / lecturers.