Keep Your Site Current
A few years ago, Stanford University in California, USA conducted a massive survey of over 4,000 Internet users in North America and Europe. Their objective was to answer this question: "What makes a Web site credible in the eyes of Internet users?"
You probably won't be surprised to find that the answers included things like customer testimonials and easy-to-find contact information.
But one of the least-expected responses was that people find a Web site credible if it's current and up-to-date. Or, putting it the other way around: Your Web site's credibility decreases if it's out-of-date and hasn't been changed in a long time.
When you think about it, that makes sense. After all, if you were shopping in "the real world", and you came to a shop with broken windows, a run-down look, rubbish on the sidewalk, and a musty smell as you opened the door, you'd probably turn around and walk away, right?
Well, Internet users do the same thing when they visit Web sites.
Another response from the survey was that Web site credibility decreases if there are any mistakes or errors on the site - regardless of how small they are.
Again, this makes sense: After all, you'd expect a good Web site to be professional and checked carefully for errors.
Many Web site owners fall into the trap of thinking that creating their Web site is the end of the journey. It's not - it's only the beginning. So they build their Web site and then leave it there, hoping it will turn into a money-making machine. Not likely! If you don't do anything about it, it's more likely to turn into a virtual millstone around your neck.
You MUST be able to change your site yourself
It's vital that you, the Web site owner, can change your site regularly to reflect changes in your business.
If you don't have the ability to do this, or it's too expensive, then you might as well take down your Web site and forget about marketing your services on the Internet. Internet users can tell very quickly when a Web site is out of date, and we know from the research that they will be suspicious of that site.
So you're probably losing most of your potential customers simply by not keeping your site up-to-date.
How to make it happen
In some ways, running a Web site successfully is like running a car. You make a reasonably large investment initially, and then there are small "running costs" such as gas, oil and water to keep it operating smoothly. From time to time, you need a major service, and occasionally you might perform a complete overhaul or even trade it in for a newer model.
The key difference between a car and a Web site comes in those "small" running costs. These are the updates you make to your Web site to keep it fresh, current and aligned with your business. A Web site without them is like a car without gas - it may look very pretty sitting in your driveway, but it's not going to do much for you!
So how do you take care of the running costs of your Web site?
Let's look at three options ...
First, there's the Full Driveway Service, where you pay somebody else to do it. This is like paying somebody else to fill up your car when it runs out of gas. The problem with this approach, of course, is that you pay every time you need to change your site.
If you do decide that this is the best option for you, we recommend that you make some sort of arrangement with your Web designer to pay a retainer to cover small changes to your site on a regular basis. This will probably be cheaper than paying for each and every change individually.
The second option is to become a qualified mechanic. This is the other end of the scale, where you learn all the skills to create Web pages yourself. You become the "auto mechanic" so that you never have to pay anybody else for looking after your car.
Some organisations take this option, and may even have a full-time staff person assigned to this task. But for others, it's not the best option, especially if it distracts you from your core business.
The third option, and the one we find is best suited for most of our clients, is to get the right tool set so that you can update certain pats of the site yourself. In other words, you get not just a car, but a small service station as well.
With the right tool set, you can change the text and pictures on each page, and you can add new pages. You don't change the overall look of the site (color scheme, menu buttons, header and footer of each page, and so on). But you generally wouldn't change this anyway, unless you're an experienced graphic designer.
Why is this so important? Because it means that you can change your Web site at any time, from any Web browser, at no cost.
Would you like to advertise a new event that's happening next week? No problem - you can add it to the front page of your Web site. The same goes for new customer testimonials, new products, media releases, new staff profiles, and anything else on the site.
It doesn't cost you anything, and it doesn't require a degree in Computer Science.
The key is that you have simple tools to update your Web site. The set of tools that we provide includes a password-protected administration area on your site, and an editor that allows you to make changes in a similar way to Microsoft Word. For example, you can highlight text, create bullet lists, insert links, insert pictures, change fonts, and so on.
You don't need to download any special software, and you don't need to learn FTP, HTML, CGI, HTTP or any other fancy acronyms.
Permission to Reprint: Yes, you may reprint this article in any of your publications - paid or free, electronic or physical, commercial or non-commercial - provided you do not edit it in any way (except for formatting changes to suit your publication style), and include this resource box with the article:
Gihan Perera is an Internet coach for speakers, trainers, consultants and other business professionals. He's the author of "Fast, Flat and Free: How the Internet Has Changed Your Business". Visit http://GihanPerera.com and get free e-books, webinars and more.
I would also appreciate receiving a copy of the issue in which it appears, if that is convenient.