11 Tips For Refreshing Your Website
Ever gone to a website and the items under "Recent News" are several years old? Users get the message that if you don´t care enough about your business to keep your website current, you won´t care much about them, either. Review your site and note the exact location (URL) of any outdated content. Then have the person responsible for your site content remove it.
Review every page on your site. Check every link. Leave no stone unturned. If you have a system for gathering site metrics, review those. Are there pages with low or no traffic? Consider changing the page name to make it easier to find, the page content to make it more relevant, or eliminating it altogether.
Is your site filled with complex investment models or concepts? Consider reducing those to basic overviews and adding a message encouraging visitors to call you to discuss it further. Most prospective clients will need your explanation anyway - why risk turning them off with content they might find intimidating.
Intuitive navigation is essential to a good website. When a user visits your site, they will give you about five seconds to make an impression and help them find what they want. Tap a friend who isn´t familiar with your site to be your secret shopper - give them a list of things to find (your contact information, your service description) and provide you feedback on how easy it was to find them.
You don´t want web content management to become a full-time job for you or your staff, but you do want to give clients and prospects a reason to come back. Consider having one location on your home page where you commit to posting fresh content regularly - at least monthly but preferably every week or two weeks. It doesn´t need to be long, complicated or technical. It can be your personal observations about the economy, the markets or life in general. It can be content you get from a wholesaler, a paid subscription such as FPA Perspectives or your broker/dealer. Just make sure you have it approved by your compliance department before you post it.
Consider adding an audio or video greeting that people can click to play when they first visit your site. If you are using an audio, simply place a small "player bar" underneath your headshot with a short caption to entice them to listen to the audio clip. If you are adding a video, use a good quality camcorder and make sure your lighting and diction is good. Place the video clip in a prominent spot on your site. You could even create a library of videos and audios, which would give you more reasons to reach out and suggest people visit your site to see, hear or read new content from you. Using multimedia clips helps people get a quick glimpse into who you really are. You want them to start to like you and get a sense that they can trust you, before they ever make that first important call or send an initial email query.
A better word might be "undecorate." Today´s top websites have a clean, simple, almost architectural feel. Patterned backgrounds, lots of different fonts, crazy clip art and funky color schemes can be distracting and hurt your credibility. If design services aren´t available from your site provider and you can´t afford to engage a graphic designer, consider tapping a graphic design student from a local college. These kids were raised on the web and know intuitively when a site looks old.
The "About" page of a site is the most accessed. Make sure your About page really tells clients what your business is about. If your About page is a list of products you sell, you need to revise it to focus more on problem solving. Chances are, visitors looking for a financial advisor won´t know the difference between an annuity and a mutual fund, so a list will be meaningless to them. Also, your competitors are selling the same products, so listing them provides no differentiation from your competition.
Create a schedule for reviewing and updating your site. Share it with your staff and your client advisory council, if you have one. Put it on your Outlook calendar and stick to it. You´ll find regular minor updates much easier than annual overhauls.
When you´ve refreshed your site, email your clients and prospects to let them know, being sure to include a link to your site. Do the same when you´ve added new content. You might include in the email the suggestion that clients and prospects bookmark your site because you will be adding new content regularly - and keep that promise.
After a major refresh, consider asking your visitors to give their feedback, and provide a link that creates an automatic email to you or a staff member. Post this prominently on your homepage to encourage responses. You can also use an electronic survey system like Zoomerang. Put a reminder on your Outlook to take the feedback option down after a month.
Think of your website as your virtual storefront a reflection of how you do business. Take the time now to do some maintenance and refresh your website. Think of it as a spring-cleaning ritual.
These tips come from Kirk Hulett, senior vice president of Strategy & Practice Management for Securities America (www.securitiesamerica.com). He is the author of two books on human resources issues for financial planners and investment professionals, Hiring to Grow: A Practical Workbook and Managing for Performance: The Cycle of Success.