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Friday, 3rd January, 2014 | By Jeremy Girard | Category: Website Design and Development

Small Changes, Big Impact: 5 Easy Ways to Get the Most from Your Website in 2014 and Beyond

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The new year is a time for change. The tradition of establishing New Year’s resolutions in order to make positive improvements is a common practice for individuals and businesses alike. For individuals, these resolutions usually take the form of starting a diet, quitting smoking or exercising more frequently. For businesses, New Year’s resolutions often focus on the organization’s growth objectives – particularly on their website – with a commitment to do more in the coming year.

But there’s a reason New Year’s resolutions have become a bit of a cliché, as even the best of intentions and enthusiasm tend to fizzle out before January comes to an end.

Why does this happen? Too often, we set New Year’s resolutions that represent drastic changes that are difficult – if not impossible – to stick to over time. We try to do too much. Instead of making small changes that will gradually carry us towards positive results, we aim for lofty goals that are unrealistic and that practically guarantee our eventual failure.

Does this mean we should abandon the concept of New Year’s resolutions altogether? Not at all; it just means that to succeed, we must set goals that are attainable. After all, a series of small improvements consistently applied over time will yield more positive results than dramatic changes that fall by the wayside in short order.

With that approach in mind, here are five small, realistic resolutions that you can set for your website that will add up to big improvements in performance in 2014:

1. Update the home page.

A complete website overhaul often tops companies’ lists of New Year’s resolutions. But all too often, the process becomes overwhelming and fails to be seen through to completion, leaving the site outdated and untouched – a perfect example of an overly ambitious goal that is ultimately doomed to failure.

Instead of attempting to tackle a full redesign, try focusing on just the home page. By refreshing the imagery, updating the content to ensure it is current and relevant and refining your traffic funnels to ensure that visitors can find that they need quickly and easily, you can breathe new life into your site without becoming mired down in a costly and time-consuming redesign.

Later, if your site is indeed due for a full redesign, you can take the proper steps to plan and budget for that project, knowing that you have made positive changes to the site’s home page that will carry it forward in the short term while you develop a sound long-term strategy.

2. Publish new content regularly.

Ah the company blog. If ever there were a great example of a marketing strategy where good intentions are rarely realized, it’s this.

We all know that content is king, so every year, we recommit to really focus on our blogs. But then the realities of real-world demands get in the way, and our blogs begin collecting cobwebs again before winter’s chill has fully disappeared.

Yet again, this is where realistic goals and sound planning are the secrets to success. While it would be great if you could add new content to your site on a weekly basis – whether in the form of blog posts, news updates or whitepapers – the resources required to churn out quality material at this frequency are substantial, and it’s all too easy to get discouraged and give up when you find you can’t sustain this pace.

Instead, set a resolution to publish one new article per month. If you have a month where you can produce a second or even a third article, great! But always remember that maintaining consistency over time is what’s most important, so don’t go all in early in the year and burn out quickly. Rather, by setting and meeting a reasonable publishing goal each month, you will be able to add new content on a regular basis without becoming overwhelmed in the process.

Once you’ve found a comfortable rhythm with your monthly publishing schedule, then you can challenge yourself to add a second post per month. The key is to start small and give yourself room to grow over time.

3. Promote, promote, promote.

If you’re faithfully following your resolution to publish new content to your site every month, the next resolution you need to make is to drive traffic to your site in order to reap the rewards of those efforts.

The key to doing this is to maintain regular activity on your social media networks. But yet again, this is a sensible goal that can become an overwhelming burden if you are not careful.

The mistake that I often see companies make when they decide to focus on social media as a New Year’s resolution is that they try to use every possible social network or website available to them. From Facebook to Twitter to YouTube to Pinterest to LinkedIn and beyond, trying to manage all of these accounts, especially if you are starting largely from scratch as part of a New Year’s initiative, is a daunting task. Instead, you need to be strategic about the social networks your company will use.

Rather than trying to do it all, instead focusing on doing it right. Instead of attempting to incorporate dozens of social media sites into your new social media engagement plans, select just the two or three sites where your customer are most likely to be active and focus your efforts there on building engagement, cultivating conversation and promoting your new content.

Read more: Keep it Social

4. Listen to your customers.

When was the last time you asked your customers for feedback on your website?
Like most companies, you may have done some user testing when you were initially building the site but have not done so since. So what better time than the new year to check in?

Getting customer feedback doesn’t mean you that you have to go through a costly and elaborate focus group process. In fact, the more complex and involved you make this initiative, the less likely it will actually get done.

Really, all you need to do to get feedback from your users is to ask for it.
Instead of planning formal user testing sessions, consider taking the low-tech approach. Simply reach out to your customers with a personal phone call and speak with them about how you have been doing lately. While some clients may be hesitant to say anything even remotely negative since they are talking to you directly rather than as an anonymous survey participant, you would be surprised how many of your customers will freely offer their valuable insights. All it takes is a phone call, a few minutes of your time and a willingness to listen.

5. Never stop improving.

Unlike, say, a brochure or a direct mail campaign, one of the best things about websites is that they are fluid. Nothing is ever set in stone, and you can continue to refine and tweak your site based on analytics data and customer feedback to boost its performance.

But all too often, we take a “set it and forget it” approach to our sites. After all, if it isn’t broken, why fix it? In fact, there is a very good reason why, as even small improvements in your conversion rate can add up to big dollars over time.

One of the best ways to ensure that your site continues to evolve is to plan regular meetings with your web design team. These gatherings can be used to review the site’s performance, discuss future plans and strategies and ensure that everyone remains informed and on the same page.

This year, establish a regular meeting schedule – and make sure it’s one you can stick to. Instead of aiming for monthly sit-downs, meeting at intervals of three to six months will establish a good rhythm. Whatever you decide, make sure you put the dates on your calendar and stick to them. Make it known that these meetings cannot be missed, and you will undoubtedly find that their benefits will more than justify the time you put into them.

Small changes add up to big results.

You can and should aim to get more from your website this year. Just remember to start small. Don’t let overly ambitious plans stop you from making more incremental improvements that, collectively, can add up to big results for your site and your bottom line.

Jeremy Girard
Jeremy Girard has been designing for the web since 1999. He is currently employed at the Providence, Rhode Island-based firm Envision Technology Advisors and also teaches website design and front-end development at the University of Rhode Island. In addition, Jeremy contributes regularly to a number of websites and magazines focused on business and the Web, including his personal site at Pumpkin-King.com.