What’s the front page of your website look like?
If it’s a flash-based page that asks you to “Click to Enter” and has any kind of MIDI song playing then it goes without saying you’re due for a refresh.
But it’s not always that easy to tell if you need a new website.
Maybe you updated it four or five years ago with a local web design company and you’re just starting to get that five-year-itch to make a change.
The design isn’t screaming “I’m out of date” at you, but it also no longer has that new website smell. (What is that smell? Well, depending on your site it could be lavender, mahogany, or even freshly-baked crescent rolls. You know it when you see it.)
Instead of playing it by feel, here are a few objective guidelines you can follow to help you know when it’s time to update your site.
Client Feedback is So-So
Perhaps the best identifier of a bad website is the enthusiasm (or lack thereof) you hear expressed about it from clients.
When a website’s message resonates with people, they tend to talk about it. The conversation may be a simple “Hey, I liked your website” type of comment, but that’s ok. Any mention at all is worth paying attention to here.
If all’s quiet on the website front, you may want to take another look at what you’re communicating.
Online Leads are Nonexistent
It’s a good time to note that leads are a reflection of how you construct your website.
If your website doesn’t have easy Call to Actions placed throughout, doesn’t communicate a clear message about what you do and who you do it for, or hides your contact information, then it’s clear you aren’t approaching your site with the intent of getting leads from it—and so, you shouldn’t expect to get leads. Your site functions more like an online brochure than an invitation to a conversation.
The other thing to consider is how much traffic you’re getting. If you don’t get many visits, then leads may be hard to come by.
But if you do offer an easy way to get in touch and you’re also averaging a few thousand (or even a few hundred) visits a month and never see a lead or contact form conversion, then it’s probably time to analyze the message you’re trying to communicate, because it may not be resonating with your site visitors.
Your Visual Brand Has Changed
It should be a no-brainer to keep your brand consistent and up-to-date across all your firm’s visual mediums.
If you’ve updated colors, changed a logo, or swapped some fonts, you’ll want to apply those changes to your website and other any collateral your firm has produced—but starting with your website as your firm’s digital anchor is the best way to begin.
Your Team, Services, or Focus Has Changed
Another easy one. If you have old employees on your team page, have added or dropped services referenced, or you’ve entirely changed your focus for what type of client you serve, you need to update your website.
Keep in mind that a website refresh doesn’t necessarily need to be a ground-up rebuild. If you’re happy with the look of your website or haven’t changed your visual brand in any meaningful way, you may only need to update the copy.
And while I believe best practice always calls for design to follow copy, fitting copy into an existing website framework can still be done.
So with your newfound knowledge in hand about how to know if you’re due for a site update, there are also a few things you should think about before you dive into your new website project.
Solidify Your Communications and Messaging
Sorry for non-sports fans, but I’m going with a football analogy here.
A football team can’t go into a game without a game plan.
If we’re talking about offense, the game plan sets the agenda and identity that the coach wants the players to understand. For example, the focus may be on running inside the tackles, or outside the tackles. It’s what the coach wants to establish as the team’s focus as it tries to find what calls will give it the best chance at success.
Going into a website refresh without a clear firm-wide communications guide is like going into a football game with no game plan.
Your communication strategy should define your brand’s voice, ideal client personas, and give you a foundation for how to write about your firm’s story and services. It’s a well you can tap into again and again whenever you need a refresher on how to communicate what you do and why you do it.
Additionally, your communication guide should establish your strategy—not just what mediums you use to publish content, but which ones you prioritize, what type of content you publish to each, and what your goal is in using each medium to communicate.
Once you have those foundations set, creating web copy is as simple as stacking one Lego brick on top of another. It all clicks together.
Get Familiar with SEO Basics
If you’re writing your web copy yourself, you don’t need to be an SEO master before you start. The most important element of writing your firm’s story is that you clearly understand your firm’s value and what makes your people different.
Your people are the part of the story that matter to your clients.
But, it’s still a good idea to get an understanding of SEO basics so you don’t write a site that’s a total train wreck in Google’s eyes.
So if you don’t know anything else about search engine optimization, at minimum keep this in mind.
Before writing copy for a page, identity the main focus or idea you want to convey. E.g. for your client page, you’re a financial planner in Denver who works with Lockheed Martin employees. Then, write to that idea. Stay focused on a singular topic to improve clarity.
Take that core idea and make sure it’s present in all the metadata for your page. Most website content management systems will let you set a headline, meta description, and custom URL for each page. Use the same keyword or key phrase (“financial planning for Denver Lockheed Martin employees”) throughout the meta text to improve your searchability. When possible, you should also add your keyphrase in the alt text for an image on your page.
Review Your Visual Brand
The last thing you want is to build a brand-new website, get to the almost-finished stage and then have someone say “Hey, what if we updated our logo?”
A website is the clearest place where your firm’s visual brand will live. And there is a lot that goes into visual brand—it’s much more than just a logo. But! A logo change is a big deal, and when done right it should influence a lot of other factors in how you portray your firm visually as well as verbally.
So please, for the sanity of the web designer you’ve selected (and the sanity of whoever is managing your project’s budget), make any visual updates to your brand before all the work is done.
When you want to update your website you can try the DIY approach, or you can hire a professional to give you an assist.
If you need someone to give you direction on setting your overall marketing strategy or writing website content, I’m here to help—click here to say hi and let’s get to know each other.
Featured Image: Photo by Hal Gatewood on Unsplash