Chances are you already have a Website – and probably have for a number of years. If you don’t, shame on you. It is a well-known fact that more and more customers are using the Internet and Web sites to determine how and where they shop. If you do have a Web site (kudos), what have you done with it lately? Do you update it regularly? Or does it sit in cyberspace gathering virtual dust?
Whether you’ve had your Web site for two years or ten, it might be time for a change.
“If your Web site looks dated, that’s going to position you negatively”, says William Rice, president of the Web Marketing Association, an organization established to set high standards for Internet marketing and Web development. “If you look at the tools that Web designers use today, they’ve made great leaps and bounds. If you don’t have those tools, visitors to your site are going to think, “These people aren’t keeping up with the times”.
But how often should you update your site? What tools should you be adding? And how much should you expect to spend? The answer to all of these questions is — it depends.
The Question of When to Redesign Your Website
How Often-and to what degree-you update your Web site depends on your goals, according to Scott Margenau, CEO of Imageworks Studio, a marketing and branding firm based in Northern Virginia.
“We tell our clients that they should identify five marketing goals-one is not enough.” Says Margenau. “For example, goals for a self storage company’s Web site might be for visitors to request unit availability, download a PDF or take a three-dimensional tour of the facility. Once those goals have been identified, companies can measure the effectiveness of their Web site. If these goals aren’t being met, it’s time to update your site.”
Next you must decide whether you need a total redesign or just a few tweaks.
“The first thing a company should do is look at their design and ask themselves if it looks dated,” says Rice. If it does, then a total redesign might be what the doctor ordered. To gauge how contemporary your site is, Rice recommends you take a look at your competition and other Web sites in your community. “How does yours compare? Everyone may say, ‘Don’t judge a book by its cover’, but we all do. Companies need to make sure their site looks professional and up-to-date”.
The Web site’s message should also be crystal clear. “A home page should get across in a nanosecond what the company does and what benefits it provides to the consumer,” says Margenau. “There should be a clear and direct headline and a call to action,” such as requesting a price quote or scheduling a tour of the facility.
Even if your site accomplishes its goals, looks modern and conveys a clear message, it’s important to do small-scale, regular updates to keep the content fresh. Not only will it look more interesting to visitors – particularly repeat visitors – but search engines give more weight to Websites that are changed regularly than to those that are created and then never touched. United Stor-All, a national self storage company head-quartered in suburban Philadelphia, recently completed a major of its Web site, but still updates the site monthly.
“It’s important to create a Web site that allows you to change things constantly,” said Joel Keaton, vice president of Operations for United Stor-All. “Whether it’s a changing banner at the top, or a promotion for a special offer, you need to be able to alter it and make it appear new.”
Bells and Whistles
Once you’ve decided that it’s time to update your site, the next question is: what do you add? The features available are seemingly innumerable. But more features typically mean more money. So what do you include?
Keaton asserts that all storage facilities should, at a minimum, have online reservations and real-time pricing. “You get very little activity if you don’t have real-time pricing,” he notes. The ability to accept online payments from existing customers is another important feature. “You have to keep up with what your major competitors are doing,” says Keaton. “We look at what new technologies are being added to Web sites and make sure that we have them, too.”
In addition, video tours are an inexpensive option that can differentiate a site from its competition, says Rice. Using a hand-held video camera, owners/operators can record parts of the facility (such as security features or the size of units), upload the video to YouTube and then link the video to their site.
Another budget-friendly trick that Rice recommends is to create multiple URLs. This goes beyond creating other versions of your name that people might search (such as “YouStoreIt” for a company called “UstoreIt”), but creating URLs that contain key words you want identified with your site. For example, a storage facility based in Oakland, California, might purchase domain names that contain some combination of the words “self storage,” “Oakland,” “San Francisco Bay Area” and temporary storage.” This would increase the likelihood that a Google or Yahoo! Search of those words would lead to your site.
But perhaps the most cost-effective addition to your Web site, according to both Rice and Margenau, is a blog. “A blog is basically free advertising,” says Margenau. “It can be picked up and tagged, and it’s a place where you can really pump up your company.”
The benefit of blogs is that search engines find them very topical, and are more likely to link to them.
If the thought of writing a monthly or weekly blog intimidates you, it shouldn’t . You don’t have to be a professional writer to have a successful blog. For example, because storage facilities are closely tied to the communities they serve, Rice recommends creating a blog that posts community news, events and services. Because posts are indexed by search engines, your site will be listed higher when results are returned on a search for self storage companies in your area.
Also consider making sure that your website offers a consistent experience across all platforms and devices — from desktop to mobile to tablet. Create a mobile version of your website, or at least use a responsive website design.
The Bottom Line
According to a recently released marketing survey by the research firm MarektingSherpa, online and Web marketing have the highest return on investment, with email marketing, search engine optimization and paid search marketing topping the list-beating out public relations, direct mail and print advertising.
But how much do you spend? Both SCORE and the U.S. Small Business Alliance say that companies should expect to spend anywhere from 2 to 10 percent of their revenue on marketing. How much of this percentage goes to updating a Web site can vary widely depending on the extent of the redesign. Simply updating your site and adding a few features is relatively inexpensive. “You can get a very credible site by spending $5,000 to $20,000,” says Rice, adding that e-commerce capabilities will drive up the cost. While brand development, which typically includes Web site design, a logo, collateral materials and brochure, can cost about $30,000 to $50,000, and higher.
Regardless of your budget, everyone agrees that investing in a Web site is money well spent. “The use of the Yellow Pages is shrinking,” said Keaton. “The use of the internet is going up. The mistake a lot of people are making is not taking at least a portion of the money that they spend on Yellow Pages ads and putting it into Internet marketing.”
Rice concurs. “The way people get information today is through the Internet,” he says. “Even people who aren’t very technically savvy tend to use it before anything else.”
Without a well-designed, easy-to-use site, potential customers might think you’re stuck in the Dark Ages – or at least in 1993
Recommended Books on the Right Way to Redesign Your Website
- Web ReDesign 2.0: Workflow that Works (2nd Edition)
- Million Dollar Websites: Build a Better Website Using Best Practices of the Web Elite in E-Business, Design, SEO, Usability, Social, Mobile and Conversion
- Website Redesign Strategy
- Website Redesign Success: 8 Steps to Transform Your Website Into an Inbound Marketing Machine (Results Oriented Web)
- 42 Rules for a Web Presence That Wins (2nd Edition): Essential Business Strategy for Website and Social Media Success