Have you ever been told how important first impressions are?
Of course you have. Usually, sometime in our childhoods our parents, or another role model figure, explains to us the importance of first impressions. Maybe it’s before a job interview, a first date, or even on the first day of school when you are about to meet your teacher for the first time and your Mom doesn’t want you to get labeled as ‘difficult’ for the rest of the school year. Though the situation in which it was first introduced may differ, it’s advice that nearly all of us are familiar with. Most of us listened too.
First impressions are utterly important when you’re talking about people who have the power to make important decisions directly impacting your life. For a business, who could be more important than a possible new customer who is exploring your business for the first time? The answer is NOBODY. If you or your business use a website to promote your product or services, you are probably making lots of first impressions every day. The question is, what impression are you giving?
With so many people relying on internet searches to explore new companies or services (97% of internet sessions start with a search query), your website has a more important role than ever. That role isn’t going to get any smaller either. In most cases, your website is now your best shot at nailing your first impression with a new prospect. Making sure your site is always in top-notch shape is the best way to ensure a positive influence on its visitors.
But, what does that mean exactly?
Just like being prepared to make the best impression on a first date, your website should always be at it’s best and ready to sweep the new visitor off their feet. With a combination of optimized performance, security features, a clear call to action, an attractive, modern design, up-to-date content, and simple to navigate structure, a new user will form an initial opinion of your business. Digital best practices and user expectations are constantly changing, meaning the needs of your website are changing just as often.
So, let’s dive a little deeper into how to ensure your first impression is one to remember by covering some of the reasons it’s important to have your website updated regularly.
If you really want to get down to it, website performance is the first ‘judgement test’ your website must pass. Before they are able to read your content, understand what you are offering, or are able to consider the value of your call-to-action, they are going to judge you right away based on two things: how fast your website loads on their device, and whether or not all of the elements load correctly (i.e. a broken image or overlapping content.)
Load time: People are impatient nowadays and find it pretty reasonable to expect near perfection when it comes to online performance. In fact, here are some pretty straightforward results that show how bounce rates respond as load time increases. These numbers should be pretty motivating to give your website the attention it deserves.
Broken elements: If your website loads fast, but has broken or overlapping elements in the content, it really isn’t going to be any better than a terribly slow load time. If one of the first things users see is broken content, they aren’t going to have very high expectations for the rest of the experience and are likely to just hit the back button.
Solution: Make sure your webpage is optimized for load time with the help of a professional (cough-cough) to ensure that you have a solid foundation. Also, confirm that all elements throughout the site are loading properly. Once you have a speedy load time and confirmation that nothing is broken, it’s a matter of maintaining any platform/code updates in the backend. There are many pieces of code and plugins that contribute to your website’s final appearance, and these require regular updates much like the apps on your phone.
If these elements miss a few updates and become outdated, that is when you may start having some compatibility issues and may notice people are leaving your site faster and faster. A fair maintenance schedule to maintain updated code and load times would be a minimum of once a month.
With your site loading at the speed of light (maybe not that fast), we move on to your next concern, the aesthetics/design of your website. Just like a first date, you wanna look good that first time a potential customer sees you. You pick out the perfect outfit, brush and style your hair, and give yourself a good check in the mirror to make sure you approve of the final result.
You want to put the same kind of thought into keeping your website design modern and updated with the times. Just like styles change with clothing and accessories, so do the styles of modern web designs. If you aren’t careful and don’t give your website a face-lift from time to time, you can appear a bit outdated and unappealing to the majority of users.
Solution: This doesn’t mean you need to invest thousands of dollars to have your website rebuilt every 3-6 months. That would be unreasonable. You can, however, give your site a simple ‘facelift’ every 6 months or so. This could be adding a new slider to the homepage, making modifications to the general layout to shake things up a bit, adding some new social media feeds, or any other kind of improvement or revision to the site appearance. Just reach out to your web designer, or contact us to get an idea of what kinds of changes may be available to modernize your current design.
User security isn’t an option these days, it’s a necessity. Google has really started bringing down the hammer on sites that weren’t secure recently, making it much scarier for one of their users to proceed on to an unsecured website by displaying a huge warning sign advising them not to proceed. Needless to say, this is a pretty effective way of chasing off any prospects and ruining your chance at a good first impression. Below is a graph provided by Google that shows their intention to only provide access to secure sites acroos all of their services.
There are many factors that could create potential security issues for users in your website. Using WordPress websites as an example since it is responsible for powering the majority of websites, the WordPress core, themes, and all plugins require regular updates similar to a smartphone, computer, or most other devices. If enough updates are missed in any of these areas it can create some serious security risks that could even end with your website needing to be completely rebuilt. Worse than that, you could face a hack that compromises your website users personal information. Nobody wants to send out the ‘Sorry, we got hacked and all of your information was stolen’ email.
Solution: Be sure to keep all aspects of your website updated in the backend. Everything should be looked over and updated on a monthly basis to ensure nothing major is missed. Since there are several components factoring in here, there is always the possibility that some of the updates can cause conflicts that will need to be resolved. If this isn’t something you are comfortable with, it’s probably worth hiring someone who knows what they are doing to handle the updates. There’s nothing worse than breaking your site and having no idea how the heck to fix whatever caused it.
Relevant, Updated Content
You may have heard the term ‘content is king’ used sometime over the past few years. It’s a fairly common saying in the marketing industry meant to show the value and importance of providing valuable content in any of your marketing efforts. Your design may be great, your list of leads may be sizzling hot, but unless you have great content you’re just not going to yield the same results. With our world having turned into such a fast-paced one where nearly everything we need can be found in the palm of our hands, people expect to see new content much more often. When people get bored they try new things. Which means the new thing they are trying could be your competition.
As if that wasn’t enough to make you freshen up your content from time to time, regularly updating content also makes Google happy. The more you update your content with relevant information, the better chances you have of ranking better in organic search results. So, keeping up with the metaphor, if an online prospect is the first date, then Google is kind of like their Dad. You don’t necessarily need their approval, but it sure helps make everything much easier.
Fresh content = more traffic.
Solution: Make it a habit to sit down and go through your website content every 3 months or so to look for areas that can be updated with newer content. If you have other people on your team, sit down together and get a few other perspectives. Some examples of content that can be updated on a regular basis may be:
- About us page
- Value proposition
- Company news
- Homepage slider (if you have one)
While keeping your website updated and in tip-top shape is important, it doesn’t have to be something to stress over. The points above are a few of the main reasons giving your website regular tune-ups is important. Understanding the value of a regularly updated website is the driving force behind the Website Maintenance package we offer those who aren’t comfortable with handling these kinds of tasks themselves. Keeping things secure, fresh, and always updated is a necessary part of all online strategies. Don’t besmirch your first impressions by allowing your website to become stagnant.
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