It’s all too common that with the rush to get a website live, what happens after is forgotten. If I had a penny for every site that we’ve completed over the years only to see it stay static for months on end, I’d be extremely rich.
We spend a fair amount of time at the beginning of a project explaining the benefits of having a plan to keep your website updated, keeping the content fresh, promoting it via social media channels and how this benefits end users by enabling them to find your content easier via the search engines.
We often point out the pointlessness of building a website with little or no strategy to keep it going. It’s exciting when this is taken on board.
Unfortunately more often than not, there can be a ‘Field of Dreams’ approach. ‘If you build it, they will come’, which if you think about it, is as bizarre as setting up a shop and not telling anyone it's open. You wouldn't do that would you?
So why does it happen with websites? What is it that instigates a lack of activity post launch by website owners?
Let's look at a few reasons why, and then subsequently how to deal with them. And by the way, let me tell you I've been susceptible to each of them at one time or another.
I don't know where to start
Build up your Twitter list, write a regular newsletter, write blog posts every week, get more Facebook likes, set up Instagram and Pinterest, and a YouTube channel...
There can be so much you feel you have to do once your website is live, it's not surprising that many people feel overwhelmed. Often when we get into that state, we end up doing nothing –or something completely unrelated that is more fun than thinking about promoting your site.
This is where a plan is extremely helpful. Instead of wondering what you should do first, just refer back to your plan and follow it through. If you have additional ideas, that's cool too. But just do something. More on this later.
Releasing your website –whether you are an owner-run business or freelancer, or you're part of a small to medium sized business; if you're responsible for the site there can often be a false sense of completion mixed with the tension of questioning whether users will like it.
We're human. It's natural to want people to like the new site –even if they aren't in the target audience and your thoughts can become overly consumed with this rather than focused on promoting and continuing to develop the site.
It can be a different proposition if you're a freelancer as any rejection of the site seems to be a direct rejection of you.
But because of those feelings, you hesitate to publicise it. Even though you know full well that a website launched that no-one knows about is pretty useless, you still hold off as the fear of rejection is too great.
The marketing guru Seth Godin describes it best.
"Consider the way we resist opportunities to lead, to connect, to do work that matters. We don’t resist because we’re not capable of it… we resist because if our marketing fails, if we don’t get the job or earn the trust, then we’re off the hook. No promises made, which means no promises to keep."
If you promote that site you just spent months thinking about, sweating over, writing content for, making sure it looks right and has the right message, then you may actually have to live up to what it says. That service you're offering, you'll be expected to provide. That book your website says you're writing you'll have to finish. That event your site says you're going to run in May, you'll have to now do. Or so the thinking goes.
If your website never goes live, you've no promises to deliver on. The best phrase I can think of to encourage you if you're in this situation at present is simply, 'feel the fear and do it anyway'. Let people know about your site, who it’s for and what problems it solves for that audience.
You will always have doubts to one extent or another, but one thing that can really help here is to think of your site as an experiment. It's not a finished product. A good website never should be.
Experimental thinking can lower the pressure to immediately succeed and raise the desire to try out new things. Some will work, some won't. That's experimentation.
Almost opposite to the self-sabotage issue is the ego trip. This is when you genuinely believe your idea is so good, that 'of course they'll come!' Who wouldn't want to use it?
It's easy to laugh at this one, but I've been there. In the past I've naively thought that I don't need to actively market my site as this idea is something that people are desperate for. They'll be bending over backwards to join up.
In the real world... it just doesn't work like that. It's back to the the idea of opening a shop but telling no-one about it.
So if those are some of the problems, what are the solutions?
Here's five short tips to help you overcome 'website livitus'. Yes, it's a made up word, but you get what I mean.
1. Know what you need to do
Focus on the first week, then the first three months. This is a good time period to look at, as you will have enough comparable data to see how your site is performing.
A sample task list for the first week could be:
- Post blog about the launch
- Tweet blog post several times in the week
- Post tweets directly to key members in your community/audience/workplace
- Post Facebook status (with content asking for a response i.e. What do you think of our new website?)
In terms of how many blog posts you should write, how many tweets, and Facebook posts, and which social media channels to use, you need to work out what's right for you and your market area.
2. Use a content planner
Once you know what you need to do, plan when you need to do it. Any event that happens offline, make sure you promote it online.
Your aim is to get to the point where as soon as something happens –that is useful for your visitors to know about, you post it on your site.
We wrote about content planning for in our post entitled four tips to plan your online success.
3. Use a reminder service
Now you know what you need to do and when you need to do it set reminders using your favourite app. We use Google Calendar and the apple reminders app. You can also use Wunderlist or whatever works for you.
4. Stick to your schedule
It’s easy to feel like skipping an activity if something else comes up, but stick with it. Make it a priority and keep the longer-term vision of a successful site and business in mind.
5. Monitor performance
You do know how many people are visiting your site, don't you? This is a good point to get to know your stats. Find out what terms like 'visits', 'page views' and 'bounce rate' really mean. Make sure you have some analytics software setup on your site to track these. This is crucial to assess how things are going.
Keep following those five points and you should be on track to it becoming a regular habit to progress your site so it’s somewhere your audience still want to visit post launch.
Over to you...
What did you do post website launch?