We’ve written consistently on the importance of comparing one’s website to a physical, brick-and-mortar construct. Whether it’s using IHOP to create an analogy about accessibility or outlining the architectural nature of a solid web presence, we have provided a fair amount of content urging readers to alter their perspective and consider how a website should provide users an experience akin to a finished and formal business. The analogies comparing this virtual space to a physical location are seemingly endless. However, there are a couple of comparisons we think are worth expounding on, and there a few things to consider beyond the traditional site visitor in terms of these analogies.
Maintenance is as Important as Construction
Establishing a professional and inviting web presence is paramount. But, as with any physical location, maintaining the property is essential. The extent to which you maintain your property is often correlated with how you maintain your business. If you were hosting clients in a brick-and-mortar office, things like fading paint, flickering lights and dilapidated finishings would be a clear turn-off. A website that has fallen into disrepair is similarly evident. Missing SSL certificates, dead links and unresponsive layouts can send a very negative message to site visitors.
You Got Them Through the Door. How Do You Get Them to Stay?
As with the previously mentioned article on accessibility, a great website is less effective if it’s difficult for potential clients and candidates to find it. As with a physical space, there has to be a marriage of form and function. A physical building is designed to make its layout intuitive and accessible. A website is no different. Beautiful colors, dynamic images and dramatic fonts are exciting and effective. Unfortunately, if the path through the site map is convoluted and dense, users will get frustrated and go somewhere more user friendly.
Don’t Forget Your Other Audience
There’s no need to speak around the topic here. This is where website maintenance veers from the analogy. With physical structures, you’re almost entirely considering your direct audience. However, with your website, there is another important audience to keep in mind: Google. As the battle for the first page rages on, maintenance has never been more vital. While the algorithms used by Google to determine rankings are highly confidential, certain trends make things apparent. Looks matter. Google is quite sophisticated in their indexing of sites. They tend to favor sites that are responsive, thematic and functional.
At the root of the rankings is Google’s demand for legitimacy. Yet, just like a physical business that has long occupied the same space, a long established site can greatly improve your ranking. But younger competition is fierce in its attempts to dethrone ranking kings. Therefore, if you are trying to stave off younger competitors, you are best served by keeping your site modern and refreshed. If you are newer in your niche, employing these same strategies is the safest bet for rankings success.
You wouldn’t let the weeds grow high and the shingles fall off your house. And you wouldn’t want your storefront to appear crumbling and derelict. So apply the same sense of urgency to your web presence. Keep things clean. Also, keep it safe for your site visitors (through properly securing your site). Additionally, keep in mind your entire audience, because even if you don’t think your rankings matter today, they will matter when newer, more forward-thinking competitors begin to occupy your space.