8 Webmaster New Year’s Resolutions

<!–8 New Year's Resolutions No Webmaster Can Afford to Ignore–>
8 New Year's Resolutions No Webmaster Can Afford to Ignore

Yes, it’s that time of year. Time to make resolutions, stick to them for about a month, and then promptly forget about them until next January. That may be fine for your diet and fitness plans, but that’s no way to run a website. Especially not a business website.

Look, we get it. You’re busy. You have big plans for your site, but you throw something together just to get it out there, thinking you’ll flesh it out and improve it later. Next thing you know, it’s three years later, and you still have the placeholder text you banged out the night before your launch. Hey, at least it’s not lorem ipsum, right? True, but your site could probably be a lot better than it is. And even if it’s already great, there’s always room for improvement. Make some or all of these 2014 website resolutions, and watch your traffic grow.

Update Footer Information

Let’s start with the simplest and most obvious update—the footer. Specifically, the copyright year. How many times have you visited a website, and found the copyright wasn’t updated that year? Or maybe for a few years? Doesn’t it make you question whether the entire website is up to date? You don’t want your visitors thinking your site is outdated, so take two minutes, and change that 2013 to 2014.

More than that, the footer is an ideal spot to get some local search traction. Consider adding your business address to the footer. If you don’t have a physical location, just add your city and state (or province). Include your country and postal code, if you like. Take it even further, and add schema markup to your address. Even if you don’t have an actual office, you may want to target your local community, and this is one of the easiest ways to let the search engines—and your potential customers—know where you are.

Improve Usability and Design

That’s a pretty broad suggestion, true. In fact, improving usability and design on a site could be an entire post all its own. Every site is different, from how it’s laid out to the color scheme to the words that populate it. But most sites to have a handful of common elements to take into account when looking for ways to improve usability.

Is your search box in the upper right corner of your site? Is your sidebar so crowded, it’s hard to see where one section ends and the next begins? Is your nav menu clean and easy to follow and use? Are the colors in your design scheme complementary, or are they so bright, they give your visitors headaches? Just these few tweaks can make a world of difference not really in getting people to your site, but keeping them there once they arrive.

Upgrade Your Hosting

How much traffic did your site get in 2013? Hopefully, more than it got in 2012. And if that’s the case, you’ll likely continue to see an increase in 2014. Can your hosting plan handle that amount of traffic? Check your bandwidth usage. If you’re getting dangerously close to your limit, consider upgrading now rather than waiting until you get an overage fee from your hosting provider.

Also consider adding some extras you may have been putting off. If you run an e-commerce site, a secure sockets layer (SSL) is essential to keeping your customers’ personal data safe. Seeing that https in the address bar also helps customers feel more comfortable on your site. And you know what happens when customers feel more comfortable, right? They spend more money. Give it a shot and see what happens.

Check for Broken Links

Few things are more frustrating when you’re browsing a site than to click on a link expecting to be taken somewhere, and ending up on a 404 page instead. If that happens to your customers, one of two things will happen—they’ll either hit the back button (or something in the nav menu) to stay on your site, or they’ll succumb to that frustration, and bounce out of your site altogether. Maybe they’ll come back later, but maybe they won’t.

Set aside some time to look for broken links on your site. This could be a monumental task if done manually, especially if your site contains hundreds or even thousands of pages. Luckily, you have tools available to handle tedious tasks like this. Check out Screaming Frog, for example. Finding broken links is just one of the many things it can do for you.

Upgrade and Update Software

Do you use WordPress? When was the last time you updated it? And your theme? And all your plugins? Or maybe you don’t use WordPress, or any content management system, but you still have software installed on your site. Maybe photo galleries or forums. Is that all up to date?

Sometimes, software updates are purely aesthetic, but they’re more often security patches or bug fixes. Your site could be running a lot more smoothly if all your software were up to date. Not to mention, if you’ve been slacking on updates, your site may be vulnerable to malware or hackers. Take this new year as an opportunity to clean house, so to speak, and get everything secure and in order.

Improve Content Quality

A website is nothing without content. But there’s a big difference between good, high-quality content, and stuff you threw on the page just to have something there. Now is the perfect time to expand and improve upon what’s already there, or even scrap what you have and start from scratch. If you don’t have time to create content, hire a professional copywriter to help you.

When the Panda update was launched in 2011, Google Fellow Amit Singhal wrote what is still a fantastic article on how to build a high-quality website. Matt Cutts, Head of Web Spam at Google, refers to that post in this video from September 2013:

Add a Blog

In addition to providing information that educates or simply entertains your readers, a blog can also help you gain better search engine rankings. One of the things search engines look for is freshness of site content. This is true for Google, in particular. In fact, they patented part of their algorithm that seeks content freshness.

Because a blog can be updated more often than a static Web page, it can give you a boost in rankings. Provided the content on the blog is good content, of course.

Update Title and Description Tags

You most likely wrote title and description tags when you built your site, but depending on how old your site is, things could have changed since then. Are the keywords you used still valid? Were the tags written well, or could they use some improvement? Are they missing on any of your pages?

Don’t let the search engines automatically generate your titles and descriptions in the search engine results pages. Give them more data to help ensure people who find you via search engines see what you want them to see, and what’s going to compel them to click through to your site and no one else’s.

A new year is always a time for new beginnings and fresh starts. Make these website resolutions, but more importantly, stick to them. You may just have your best year yet.

Happy New Year!

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Image cropped from Open Space Office by Jean-Etienne Poirrier. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.
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