Regular Maintenance You Probably Aren’t Doing
Years ago, my husband bought his “dream truck.” It wasn’t his dream because it was fancy or expensive. In fact, he said it was the perfect truck because he could fix anything that went wrong with it. It is a 1970 Chevrolet C-10. Recently, he replaced the engine. It took three times longer to do than he expected it to, and months later, there are still kinks that need to be worked out. He has to tinker with it just about every time he drives it. It makes him crazy. He wanted to do a bunch of work all at once, then just be able to drive for a while without worrying.
Your blog, business web site, Facebook Page, and any other web presence you maintain is probably the same: you need to fiddle around with it pretty much all the time, and you probably hate it as much as my husband hates having to adjust valves and hoses and whatnot on his truck. And by “fiddle with it” I don’t mean updates, new posts, or new content. Those things are like washing your car. What I’m talking about is under-the-hood stuff:
1. Updating your key words. I try to keep a list of key words that I want to include regularly on each blog I write. For instance, on this site I often talk about writing, business, habits, customers, service, newsletters, learning, marketing. There are lots of other words I want to appear here frequently, but you get the general idea. You will want to revisit your list once in a while to make sure it reflects your current direction. When I started smilingtreewriting.com, I wrote very personal posts, and most of them didn’t really relate to business except tangentially. Later, my posts became colder (and less popular) and more business-oriented as I tried a more professional approach. Realizing cold and professional are not my strong points, I then returned to writing from a more personal perspective.
With each of those permutations and iterations, my list of key words needed adjusting. It wasn’t like an engine overhaul, but more like minor tinkering. The majority of the words stayed the same, but some had to go and others were added. If you use WordPress, the “Tags” section is perfect for maintaining your list of key words. It’s even in view as you write as a constant reminder. You don’t have to make a huge production of creating a spreadsheet or anything.
2. Adding images. It may be because I am a writer, but images are one of those things that I put off dealing with for a ridiculous amount of time, but having current, interesting, and relevant images on your web site and Facebook Page is important. The modern version of the old saying “don’t judge a book by its cover” might be “don’t judge a blog by its images” but that is exactly what people do. I don’t follow people on Twitter who don’t take the time to upload a photo, and if there are only stock images that I’ve seen a million times before appear on a blog, I assume it is not written by a real person.
The easiest way to handle the images on your site – if you have a blog – is to make sure each post has one. It took me a long time to acknowledge the necessity, and even longer to realize the best thing is to use my own photos. I spent an awful lot of time looking through “the commons” on flickr before deciding I have quite enough photos to choose from. Also, I do own a camera, and there is a memory card slot on my computer, making it dead simple to take whatever photo I need an upload it.
Other images that need review more often, though. If you have a profile picture of yourself, your staff, the outside of your building, your company car, or whatever, you should be updating it no less than once a year, and probably as often as once a quarter. I am guilty of NOT doing this. I’ve had the same image of me on this blog since I started it several years ago. That will be correct today.
3. Correcting typos, errors, and awkward sentences. Regardless of how many times I proofread a piece of writing, or rearrange the words in an uncomfortable sentence, I can just about always find something wrong with it three months later. If you find reading your own writing as painful as I find listening to recordings of my own voice, this maintenance suggestion will be tough for you. It’s a good idea to go through your old posts once in a while and make corrections. Add images to posts that don’t have any while you’re at it!
4. Updating pages that don’t change often. Your About page could probably use some work. There is a great post on writing an outstanding About page on Copyblogger, so I’m linking to it instead of attempting to re-invent the wheel. I have a Samples page that I need to add recent work to. If you have a Testimonials section on your site, what’s the date of the last recommendation? If it’s two years old, you might want to add some new ones! What about your Contact page? If your email, phone number, or any other contact method has changed, you should certainly update it.
Side note: Lately, I’ve looked at a silly number of business web sites that don’t have their hours of operation listed. If you are in a physical retail location, go check – right now! – and make sure your hours are listed. Please, for the love of your customers.
5. Making sure they really are Frequently Asked Questions. It is annoying when the FAQ section of a site is a blatant marketing pitch. I know that it really is all marketing, but it works better if it is sincere. Questions like “How can I order the most expensive widget you sell?” do not belong on your FAQ page. I am seriously considering removing the FAQ section of this site, because I’m not convinced it adds any value. Hopefully the really important questions are answered in an obvious manner in other places.
6. Look at your analytics and adjust accordingly. Before I decide whether or not to take down my FAQ page, I’ll look at the statistics, and if no one is looking at that page, it’ll come down. If your traffic is all coming from Facebook, maybe you should post there more often, or maybe you should dedicate extra time to Twitter in the hopes of getting more traffic from there – it all depends on your goals and your audience. Analytics are powerful, and can help you shape your strategy. Not using them would be like ignoring the fact there is a rearview mirror in your car. You don’t need to take a class or anything – I doubt many people use the information available to the fullest extent – but you should be checking your traffic statistics on a very regular basis. And if you are using some platform that doesn’t offer statistics, start looking for a new one today.
No doubt, I’ve left some important maintenance projects off of this list. Feel free to mention them in the comments!