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How To Start And Run An Online Business

Article: 16. Plan to Maintain Your Web Site for the Long Haul


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Once a web site is up and running it is important for you to understand the significance of maintaining it on a regular basis. Experts recommend that the information and style of your web site should be updated often so as to keep your visitors interested. It is also important that your web site is always accessible even when it is being updated. Instead of deleting web pages, link or re-direct them to new ones.

Why does a web site need to be maintained?

  • Internet users access the internet primarily for information in one form or the other. If the information on your web site is outdated it is probable that customers would like to opt to visit another site that is maintained regularly. Current and updated information establish credibility with your traffic and prompt them to visit your web site repeatedly.
  • A well maintained web site is less likely to have pages that don't open and errors are quickly detected and resolved. It is important that your web site is easy to download and navigate through. Nothing is more irritating for your visitors than being faced with an error page.
  • Regular maintenance also gives you a good idea of everything that your site offers and lacks. 
  • Search engine spiders prefer web sites that are regularly updated and feature fresh content. They tend to visit such sites more frequently than others and this increases the chances of a good page ranking.
  • Regular maintenance will help you make improvements to the design and navigation of the web site. This is also a good opportunity to rectify errors on the site.
  • Updated products and services information helps build the visitors' trust in your online business.
  • In order to keep track of queries and suggestions posted to your web site and make appropriate responses you would need to regularly go through your web site.
  • Scheduled maintenance also brings to light the web sites that link to your web site and this can be used effectively.

For several reasons it is a good idea to maintain your web site by yourself. Firstly, the cost of hiring a web programmer and designer every time you wish to make changes is steep. Secondly, doing it yourself makes the process quicker, and you don't have to bother checking if someone else has done their job. Thirdly, this is your online business web site, so the more you know about what is happening on it, the better. Making your own changes will empower you as a business as well as web site owner and also provide you deep insight into how the web site can be developed and given new direction.

If you think the task sounds complicated, then use simple and easy options and programs. Enroll into basic classes for web page design and HTML. Learn how your web site works and how it can be changed. Try reading the Dummies Book series for web site creation and design where you can get a basic idea of what needs to be done. Once you have a grasp for basic HTML you should also familiarize yourself with style sheets so that you can make the task of making changes to web pages as simple and uncomplicated as possible. A maintenance schedule will help you keep ahead of the game.

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Do ensure that you have a system that informs you when your web site is inaccessible on the internet. This will ensure that prospective customers to your web site aren't met with an error page. Preferably opt for a web host that gives you control over your web site and the changes you can make on it. If your web host doesn't provide CGI scripts you can still use them for chat rooms, message boards and guest books. There are Javascript and CGI scripts that are available for free.

How to maintain your web site

Maintenance of your web site would require a close look at every aspect; this includes content, design, programming, navigation, SEO and web hosting. The idea is to offer your visitors a web site that is complete in every respect. It is a good idea to follow a scheduled routine to maintain your web site. Experts recommend that content should be updated frequently, as often as daily or at least every week.

Updating Content

  • Your homepage is probably the most visited webpage on your web site and updating content on it will give it a fresh feel. Do ensure that you mention promotional offers, new products and the latest company news.
  • Add a news section that features latest updates on the products available on the web site, business updates, announcement of awards won by the site or certifications received. Help your customers get to know your business well and trust it.
  • You could also add business portfolios on your web site and keep your clients interested.
  • Add a blog that can be updated often, daily or at least every few days. Either write the blog yourself or get an employee with good writing skills to maintain it. You can discuss industry news, product description and experience or anything that should be of interest to your customers.
  • Add a FAQ section to provide answers to the most asked questions.
  • A section of 'How to' articles related to the product or service you sell is sure to be a hit with your visitors and have them coming back for more.
  • Pay attention to the title, meta tags and description provided for each new page.
  • Offer a newsletter that visitors can subscribe to, but do ensure that you can keep up with your promise of regular editions of the newsletter.
  • Add a section where customers can write about their experiences with your business. If there are some suggestions or complaints, use this feedback to refine your web site and do mention on your site the steps you have taken to rectify the situation.
  • Update existing web pages with more recent information and statistics.
  • Do ensure that your content is SEO and offers keywords and phrases that are relevant.
  • Check the entire web site for spelling and grammatical errors.
  • Offer RSS feeds that are updated regularly. You could also use an article base that allows its articles to be republished. Alternatively you could archive relevant news articles. However, original content is always preferred.
  • Create a community or message boards for visitors to the site and promote discussions on your web site. This is a good way to encourage people to come back to your web site over and again.
  • Use a CMS so that you can easily update the content on your web site rather than having to wait for the programmer to make changes. It is a good idea to spend some time getting to understand the tools offered by a CMS so that you can use it effectively and efficiently.

Search Engine Ranking

  • Fresh and well written content that uses keywords and phrases always help a web site gain good search engine rankings. Visit the top ranking sites and you will find that they all offer great content.
  • Keep the content simple and use short sentences and paragraphs. Avoid using tables that spiders find difficult to crawl.
  • Update content to include articles that are optimized for search engines.
  • Submit updated pages to major search engines.
  • Link to relevant web sites, instead of having a large number of irrelevant links on every page. Offer free re-print content to increase the links to your web site.
  • Regular maintenance is needed to check that the navigation of your web site is smooth and easy. This is appreciated by both the search engines as well as visitors.
  • Keep coding clean and simple.

Design and Navigation

A fresh look always generates interest. If your online business was a regular store you would have surely made regular changes in its layout and decoration, follow the same for your online business. Stick to simple changes that are both easy to make and pleasing to the eye. To ascertain that all your web pages and links open correctly and make it easy for visitors to find the information they are looking for.

Spiders and Fresh Content

The more often spiders crawl your site the better are the chances of a good search engine ranking. Search engine spiders love fresh content. If you update your content on a daily basis or every few days, then spiders tend to re-visit your web site more often. This is one of the reasons they love blogs. Try to link your site to web sites that are relevant to your business and that update their content frequently. You can also log onto relevant forums and every time you post a message add a link to your web site. Spiders like happy internet users, who in turn are happy with new and fresh content that is relevant and interesting.

Your online business web site needs as much care and consideration you would give an actual store and this means regular maintenance. With proper maintenance your web site is sure to be a hit and have visitors returning to it.

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