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  • New Year–Time for your Website Annual Review

    Posted on January 6th, 2011 rufo 1 comment

    Annual Website Review Checklist 

    Many websites grow almost as large as a house.  Throughout the year it seems to get new pages, links, images and user generated content.  That’s why I recommend performing an annual review of your website. To help get you started and get your site in shape for the New Year, here is an Annual Website Review Checklist.

    1. Review Your Domain Name Record

    Don’t let outdated information cause you to miss renewals and other important notices. Verify that the contact names and addresses on your domain record are correct once a year. Use these resources to review your domain record now:

    • InterNIC[http://www.internic.net/whois.html]
    • VeriSign[http://www.networksolutions.com/en_US/whois/]

    2. Check Website Email Addresses

    Added new staff?  Replaced some others?  You could have invalid email addresses on your site. Make a list of all the email addresses on your site and confirm that they’re still active.

    3. Update Your Confirmation and Automated Messages

    If the automated messages from your registration, request, order and other forms have not been updated in the last year, it’s time to review them. These messages can be powerful customer relations tools, but only if they’re meeting your customers’ needs. Make sure your automated messages are serving your customers—not spamming them.

    4. Test Your Forms

    In conjunction with updating your automated messages, you should test your forms to make sure that they’re still functioning correctly—and to review how easy they are to use. Simply submit each as if you were a visitor on your site. Be sure to review your error messages as part of this process. You should test your forms often and immediately look into any sudden drops in the number of submissions.

    5. Validate Your Links

    Do your part to stop link rot, while improving your site, by making time to check your internal and external site links—especially if you’ve neglected this task due to more pressing demands. Here are a couple of basic tools that can help:

    6. Check Your Site’s Search Feature

    Like most of the items on this list, checking your site’s search feature should be done more than once a year. But we know it’s not always possible to review all aspects of your site on an ongoing basis. That’s why it’s important to make sure your search is functioning effectively and that outdated content isn’t showing up as part of your annual review.

    If you don’t have a search feature on your site, now’s a good time to see if adding one would enhance your site’s usability.

    7. Check Your File Sizes and Download Times

    If a lot of updates and additions have been made to your site, it might be time to check your site’s performance. It’s not unusual for page and image files to slowly creep up in size with each successive update. Re-optimizing your files so your pages load faster will make for a better user experience.

    8. Review Your Stylesheets, Standards, Accessibility and Compatibility

    If you want to save some serious time for your visitors—and for yourself during site maintenance—the annual review is the perfect time to revisit or set site standards covering CSS, Web Standards, Accessibility and Browser Compatibility.

    To help you wrestle with the issues surrounding evolving your site to new standards, we offer these articles and resources:

    Web Standards

    Cascading Stylesheets (CSS):

    • CSS Work from meryerweb.com[http://www.meyerweb.com/eric/css/]

    Browser Stats:

    9. Update Your Time References and Copyright

    About Us and other background information on your site may contain specific time references such as “for five years”. Your site may also include a historical timeline or list of accomplishments that should be updated at the start of the year.

    In addition, your copyright should be updated when your content is updated. During your annual review, check to make sure this task hasn’t been overlooked. Although you can simply use the date that the content was first created, it’s a good idea for your copyright to reflect when content was created and when it was modified. This is not only to protect your work, but also to avoid having visitors think that your content is out of date. Below are some examples of the syntax:

    Examples:

    • Content created in 2009:
      Copyright (c) 2009 nxtConcepts, Ltd.
    • Content created in 2007 and updated in 2011:
      Copyright (c) 2007, 2011 nxtConcepts, Ltd.
    • Content created in 2007 and updated in 2009 and 2011:
      Copyright (c) 2007-2011 nxtConcepts, Ltd.

    Learn More About Copyrights:

    10. Check Your Search Engine Visibility

    Search engines are one of the most important and cost-effective sources for attracting targeted traffic and increasing brand awareness for many sites. At the same time, many changes have taken place in how search engines return results and display paid (sponsored) listings. As a result, I check your site’s visibility on the top search engines by searching for your company name, products and other appropriate keyword phrases.

    If your site isn’t coming up near the top of the results for these terms, you should look into the benefits of marketing your site through search engine optimization and paid placement:

  • Considering a website re-design? Read this 1st.

    Posted on August 3rd, 2009 rufo 6 comments

    Redesigning your website look is something that every marketer has to consider at one point or another. Very few websites out there have the same design they did 5 years ago.

    Your website is a reflection of who you are as an organization – and the design of your site will influence the perceptions, sales and response rates of your visitors. If your website is not taking an active role in your marketing, it may be time to consider a redesign.

    When it comes to redesigning a website, there are two approaches a marketer can take:

    1) Offer your visitors a series of small changes over time, tweaking the look and feel so that it always looks familiar, but is slowly evolving over time. Sort of like wearing a new shirt every day – your friends will recognize you, but will notice something “fresh” every day.

    2) Offer a radical makeover. Sometimes a couple tweaks won’t cut it – especially if your website is out of synch with the rest of your brand, or if you really want to make people sit up and take notice. This approach is more like getting an extreme makeover – your friends will know it’s you, but you are projecting a different image of who you are.

    Many times your budget will force you into picking one path or another.  Check back for web project management tips.  Or, leave your own.

  • Marketing Mishaps-Not Funny Then, Funny Now

    Posted on March 19th, 2009 rufo No comments

    In today’s post I am going to borrow a concept I saw recently for “Not Funny Then, Funny Now” to describe some of the marketing related incidents that come to mind over the years.  If any of these trigger your own memories, please share below.

    Not Funny Then…While working as the Marketing Director at Mad River Mountain Ski Area, a guest showed his dislike for a company no refund policy by lunging over the counter to try to attack me.  Police were called…Funny now.

    Not Funny Then…Back in 1996 fighting to get the ok for a $2,000 web budget to create a company website (in the travel industry).  The “powers-to-be” felt the web was a passing fad and the budget allowance “irresponsible spending”…Funny Now.

    Not funny then…Having to pull a brochure off a printer’s press because of one sentence that said “a skiing event for those with a lust for life”.  At the last minute, lust was considered too risque for the “powers -to-be” and had to be replaced by “love” for life.  By waiting to the last minute to change this, it costs us days of delay and thousands of dollars…Funny Now.

    Not funny then…After a takeover of the organization I worked for, we were asked to put together a document explaining what we did, projects we’ve worked on and recommendations for moving forward.  I spent 2 weeks putting together a detailed portfolio book (and copies).  When my meeting time came to meet with the new CEO, he shook my hand, said “Oh, you are the Marketing Director, the necessary evil”.  Proceeded to flip thru the carefully prepared portfolio and hand it back to me.  When I told him it was his copy, he said, “that’s ok, I really have no where to put it”.  Got up and left after about 5 minutes…Funny Now (Developed a great relationship with the CEO and worked there for years afterward).

  • Skittles the Un-Website

    Posted on March 17th, 2009 rufo No comments

    Ok, for the last month or so I have heard people talking about “what Skittles did” and the huge controversy.  I just figured it was more of the usual website hype.  Until this morning.  Now I understand what the hoopla (who says those words anymore?) is about.

    In a nutshell, if you also have not followed the Skittles talk, they replaced their regular website that had content, product information, and the usual company fluff, with a portal atmosphere that brings in many of the big social networks.  That’s right, they got rid of their website and are using YouTube, Twitter, Flickr, Facebook and other network spaces instead.  WOW.

    They have essentially said, “you our customer know how you want to interact with us, so we are handing you the keyboard” (my quote not theirs).  I personally think this is brilliant.  Skittles is going where their customers are.  They are truly “giving power to the people”.  They have however gotten quite a bit of criticism from marketers and business people.  One blog post I read called the move “crazy“.

    According to Skittles, their goal was to “consolidate access to all social media around the brand.”  I applaud them.  They are a bit ahead of their time.  What they did is what I consider a stab at web 3.0.  What’s that?  It’s where businesses and brands will be able to harness and make the current social media landscape usable and personal.  Friendster and ping.fm are just a few examples of organizations already trying to do this.

    Good or bad, there’s a few things we can learn from this:

    1. The first one there owns the game. Skittles will get the most publicity and launch excitement because they tried it first.  Others that follow will have a hard time getting the coverage that Skittles did.  Since they did it first, they also get to create the rules and build the business model.

    2. Integrated branding. Skittles is focusing their time on creating their company profiles across the social media channels online and their traditional marketing offline.  They are approaching new media with new thinking.  They are creating an entire brand experience from each part and funneling everything back to their website URL.

    3. Optimization. Talk about high ROI.  Skittles will be able to gain higher visibility and link-ability on the web faster and easier than any website before it.  How?  They are letting their customers do it for them.

    4. Mistakes happen. Is the Skittles new concept perfect?  No, of course not.  By trying to legally protect themselves with a dialog box asking your age before you can visit the site they seem to be turning off site visitors.  But, this is how they and those that follow behind them will learn.

    So, as I wrap up this post for the day,I am left thinking, who else would this concept work for?

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