Over our decades of making small business websites, we’ve come across many different things that small business owners weren’t aware of or educated about when it comes to their website. Not that we expect that they should automatically know this information. We’ve put the onerous on the web companies for not educating their clients on this information when really that should be part of our job.
So one of the things we work to do is provide up-front “in your face” information to our clients about what to expect, what they should know, and how we can help them achieve the best possible result through their website.
Understand the purpose of your website
Why do you have a website? Answer me that question first, because it’s honestly interesting to see what people feel they need a website for.
Do any of these match?
- It’s my online business card
- It helps local people find me when searching for a local company
- It helps show what my brand is about
- It lets me engage with my clients
- I’m just supposed to have one
- It’s a tool for my clients to contact me
- It’s a tool for me to educate people about what I do
- I use it to advertise online through Google
If your answer matched any of the above, you’re close, but unless it matches all of the above you are missing out. Really all of these items should be the purpose of your website, as it’s a multi-faceted tool.
Your website is the one crucial multi-tool of your business. You can use it to educate society on what you do, what your business is about. You can utilize an online blog to interact with your customers. You can integrate certain data into your website to rank better on search engines through search engine optimization. You can establish your website as a way for clients to contact you, make orders, and develop repeat relationships with leads.
A website should never just be a website.
Know how to access your web hosting server
Most people know you need to have a web server or hosting account for your website, but most don’t really know what that is.
Essentially, a web host is providing a place for all your website files and emails to be stored and utilized online. All of your images, emails, text are stored on these servers and broadcast to the internet for others to interact with. You can’t have a website or e-mail without a web server of some sort.
As a business owner, you should always have access to the login for your web hosting account. Usually this is called a “CPANEL” or “Control Panel” login. This should provide you with all the access you need to create email accounts, access your website files, see error logs, etc.
Know whether your domain name (or url) is under your ownership
A lot of web companies, ourselves included, are capable or have bought domain names, essentially the web address that is typed into your web browser, for their clients. There’s nothing really wrong with this, but it can create a problem for the company the domain is representing down the road.
If you don’t have administrative access to your domain name, basically your “domain registrar”, then someone else does, which means someone else owns that web address that you may have on your fliers or business cards or signs.
What happens if that company disappears? Where will your website go then?
Ideally instead your domain name will be registered to your name under your “domain registrar” account with whomever you prefer to have purchased your domain (example: Godaddy). You can then give your web company their own access to this account without giving up your account access.
Know whether anything on your website needs to be upgraded
Keeping on top of your website software is crucial for its security. Out-of-date software is often broadcast as out of date which means hackers are also being made aware of these vulnerabilities. They can then target your website and take advantage of this loophole to install malware or hack into your website.
It’s always important to keep your software as updated as possible to prevent this. There are ways to incorporate plugins for a WordPress install, such as the Wordfence Plugin, that will let you know anytime something on your hosting account for your WordPress website is not up to date.
Know how to make sure your software is always the latest version, or have a web company stay on top of this
While knowing whether your software is up-to-date is important, knowing how to do this correctly is even more important. Most people assume that their web host takes care of this for them automatically. The majority, if not all of web hosts do not, and this is a common misconception for people.
Your web hosting company is only responsible for reliable uptime (meaning your website isn’t down due to a server issue) and unlimited access to their servers. Some will provide regular backups of the server, but again this varies from host to host and a lot of them don’t do this. Instead, the responsibility falls on you as the web hosting account owner to make your own backups. Do you know how to make a full backup of your website files and database files? How about your emails?
Alternatively, for those not technologically inclined, there are web companies out there that you can pay to do this type of work for you (we’re one of them). Our website hosting service does do automatic backups of our hosting accounts, but we don’t upgrade software installed for our hosting accounts automatically. Instead for $20/month we can take care of this for our clients if they choose to have us handle this for them.
Know your responsibilities versus what you think your web designer or host should be responsible for
As mentioned above, this is what your website host is responsible for:
- Making sure your website is online
- Making sure your website doesn’t go offlline
That’s essentially it. Everything else you are responsible for. Things like:
- Making sure your website is backed up regularly
- Making sure your website software is upgraded to the latest secure version
- Making sure your emails are backed up so they won’t be lost
- Cleaning up any malware or hack attempts on your website
- Reuploading your website if it happens to be deleted due to a hack attempt
That’s a lot of scary technology stuff right there for most business owners. It doesn’t have to be though. Ask your web company (like us!) if they can maintain this work for you for a low monthly fee. Most will be more than happy to take this on for you so you can be worry-free.
Know what sort of traffic you are receiving and how to utilize that for leads and marketing
How many visitors did you get on your website this month?
Which page was the most visited on your website this month?
Which page did people leave your site on the most?
Where is most of your traffic coming from?
This is the tip of the iceberg on the type of data you should be receiving about your website traffic each month. This type of data can help you adjust or rethink your marketing strategy moving forward, which is really the best utilization of your website that you could possibly have.
What if 84% of your website visitors were women, but you were strategizing your marketing around men? Is that really the best use of your marketing? Is that really the best use of your website at that time?
What if you really wanted to grow the male traffic on your website? What is bringing the women to your website and how can you adjust that to start targeting the male market?
The possibility of this data is pretty endless. You need to have, at the very minimum, Google Analytics installed on your website. There is other software out there that can also help you drill down who and how people are finding your website.
Know the relationship between social media and your website
Understanding how to utilize your website on social media is important. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen people boosting posts on social media that link to some article on some other website that doesn’t have anything to do with their own. They think their audience maybe interested in it and it will build interest in their brand. I’m sure the article is interesting, but why are you paying for advertising for some other company? Who can afford to do that?
People love social media. They love it so much that they are being bombarded from all angles with it. Companies that are constantly in peoples faces, JUST so they can post SOMEthing on facebook and look active, are not doing themselves any favors. If anything you’re drowning yourself out with repetition.
Posting relevant, interesting, eye-catching things in a suitable amount of time is key. Utilizing images, video, and useful articles for your audience is what will get people interested in what you are doing. You can see the same commercial over and over and eventually you will ignore it. But if there’s something new or fresh or pretty out there, that’s what will make people pause and give you a second look.
Know how search engine optimization (SEO) works and whether you are optimized for it
Having website doesn’t mean you’re going to have high ranking results on search engines.
Let me reword that.
Having a website doesn’t mean you’re going to be found online.
Let me say that one more time
Having a website doesn’t mean you’re going to be found online.
I’ve seen people talk about how they purchased this new fancy website, but it’s not working right because they aren’t being found online. It’s a little frustrating for me because there’s a misconception being put out there somewhere that just having a website is enough to get your business ranked in your industry.
Now don’t get me wrong, having a website is the very first step to being found online. It’s what you do with that website afterwards that will increase your exposure on things like Google, however.
Search Engine Optimization is a whole separate service to get you showing to your potential customers. This service is a very detailed (and often expensive) service where certain keywords, content, and meta data are integrated into your website in the proper way to rank for those keywords. Other items for what we call “onsite optimization” need to happen to the structure of your website, and then complimenting that with other “off-site optimization” methods such as directory listings, are what makes up the whole package of SEO.
Take a look at it this way, you can have the prettiest business card in the world, but what good is it if you aren’t passing it around. The same can be said for a brick & mortar store out in the middle of nowhere with no signs.
A website is just a website without the proper tools to make it come alive. – Crystal Groves, Misfit Interactive
Know whether you can make updates to your website
Do you know how to login to your website? Were you given a login after the launch of your new website? Do you know how to change your hours, phone number, or add a new blog article to your website?
Believe it or not, I’ve seen web hosts not give this login information to the client, and the client is the one who paid for and owns the website!
Always make sure you have a way to get into your website to make necessary changes, even if it’s just data, articles, or adding pictures.