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Staying on top: Easy wins for SEO and User Experience with routine maintenance (Pt. 1)

7th March 2018 - Last modified 20th March 2018 - 0 comments

Staying on top: Easy wins for SEO and User Experience with routine maintenance (Pt. 1)

Written by Lauren Heno.

Getting to grips with the technical, legal and security requirements

So you’ve just spent several weeks planning, creating and building your new website, time to sit back and relax, right? Wrong! Creating a website is just the start. It will now require continuous investment in order to fulfil its purpose and generate consistent traffic.

The internet is a constantly growing and evolving media platform that generates and replaces information on a daily basis, and to stay relevant, your website should do the same. According to Internet Live Stats there are over 1.3bn (and counting) websites online right now and that number is increasing by the second. While the initial set up of a website is crucial to finding your place in this vast network and ensuring potential customers can easily navigate to (and through) your site, continuous maintenance and updating can take your site to the next level, boosting SEO and maximizing user experience.

An unattended website can have a huge impact on traffic and ultimately sales. An easy comparison is to imagine your website is a garden. You spend days planting this years’ flowers for a beautiful display but without constant maintenance, watering and pruning, your garden will soon deteriorate.

But don’t despair. This three-part blog series will provide practical tips to help you stay on top, focusing on easy wins in key areas. Part one will focus on some often undervalued aspects including software updates, security changes and legal requirements.

Create a site that can be updated easily

First of all, if you are still dependent on the site developer to make any changes or updates to your website, where possible we highly recommend finding alternative options. If necessary, switching to a new platform with a user-friendly content management system (we use WordPress, but Drupal and Joomla are also very popular) as, particularly for smaller websites, this gives you the ability to make most changes yourself, hopefully increasing flexibility and reducing costs.

While this may seem daunting to some, open-source platforms like WordPress have thousands of guides to help you along the way and simple changes can usually be made quite easily. Even if your site’s too big and you don’t have capacity to ‘do it yourself’, using a flexible open-source platform still means you’re not beholden to your developer for changes, increasing the options (and reducing the costs) for outsourcing. Even if you can’t switch, it may be worth the investment to train someone other than your developer to access and make basic updates to your site, again increasing your options, improving flexibility and responsiveness, and potentially reducing costs in the long term.

Stay on top of security changes

The importance of website security is regularly overlooked when in fact, it is one of, if not the, most important maintenance consideration for your website. It is essential to keep abreast of updates because as things change, from the operating system through to changes in end-user devices, security exploits can arise in all areas.

Staying ahead of the game can feel like a never ending task, but it’s worth it. An un-patched security vulnerability could lead to your website being hacked which, aside from the obvious potential for disruption to users and damaged reputation, can result in personal data being stolen and serious legal repercussions, as we’ve seen in several recent high profile cases. No site can claim to be 100% impenetrable but if you just make sure that all security plugins and updates are in place, and of course make regular back-ups, you shouldn’t go too far wrong.

Get to know the legal jargon

It’s easy to let things slip but one thing you absolutely need to stay on top of, is the ever changing Internet Law. Accessibility, selling online, data protection, PCI (Payment Card Industry) compliance and tax rule changes are just some of the legal requirements that could apply to your business. It is important that you update all relevant information like your FAQ’s and Privacy Policy to avoid confusion and support issues raised by visitors. The Cookie Law for example states that all websites in the EU must request explicit permission from the user to store cookies on their computers. This is nothing new (the law was introduced in 2011) but with the upcoming implementation of GDPR in May, cookies can now be deemed as ‘personal data’ meaning implied consent is no longer sufficient. Websites must provide the option to accept or reject cookies as well as provide an opt-out option for users should they change their mind. If you don’t comply, you risk enforcement action from regulators and in some cases, a fine which can be damaging to both your reputation and readership.

Use your ‘reader’s eye’

One of the easiest ways to check the ‘user experience’ of your website is to visit, read and interact with your site as though you were an outsider. Is anything outdated? Is anything not functioning correctly? Is there any copy on the site that doesn’t make sense, or company information missing? Do all links and content forms work? Once you’ve done a complete search of the website in all its forms (desktop, mobile, tablet) it’s time to address any of the issues that you found. If you thought something didn’t look right, or didn’t make sense, chances are your visitors have thought the same thing.

It’s easy for parts of your site to disappear or lose functionality so it’s worth doing a monthly audit to ensure all plugins, forms and links are working correctly and are up-to-date. Customers tend to shop around and will visit competitor sites so it is important that your website outshines the rest in terms of content, design and functionality. If you don’t have time to conduct the search yourself, there are websites and users which will conduct the search for you (User Testing is a great example).

These are just a few first steps. Look out for part two of our ‘Staying on top’ blog series where we consider the key features of a well-designed website – including layout, navigation and imagery – and examine how keeping up to date with design best-practice can help with SEO and User Experience (UX).

We understand that even simple updates can take some time and certain technical knowledge to implement. So if your site needs bringing up to speed but you don’t have the capacity, why not get in touch today to see how we can help.

Written by Lauren Heno – Digital Marketing Communications

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