Websites Are a Virtual “Garden”

By: Susan DeMatei

  I was reading an article about spring gardening tasks, and they were suggesting that spring was a great time for maintenance. The types of things recommended, such as cleaning and sharpening tools, checking bulbs and seeds for moisture or mold, mulching existing flower beds, and planning for new ones, all made sense and almost inspired me enough to get off the warm couch and go out to my shed to investigate. But, because I’m a nerd, my mind immediately followed the theme to a digital correlation.

  Websites are a virtual “garden.” Their goal is to appeal to customers, draw them in and create an inviting setting so they may stay awhile. We design new sections within them, like adding blogs or recipes, we plant new products and SKUs and prune old ones no longer available. Sometimes we get tired of the entire thing and change the color scheme and layout with new pictures or templates. Like a garden, we should tend to our websites because if we let them sit over time, their ability to function and attract customers dissipate. However, regular website maintenance is something that many don’t realize is necessary. So, for this week’s blog, here is a list of periodic maintenance tasks to help you keep your website in full bloom.

  ADA Compliance:  We didn’t just start with this because it fits alphabetically – but you can remember it that way. It’s crucial to ensure that your website abides by ADA Compliance guidelines because of possible hefty fines, potential lawsuits, and these accessibility enhancements open your website to more potential consumers.

  Things to ensure to check each month to remain ADA Compliant are:

  Image Alternative Text: Every image you add to your website should have good alternative text. Alternative, or “alt” text, is a description of the image in the code that Google and screen readers for the blind can read. This code should describe what your image portrays, such as “Customers enjoying a tasting in the tasting room.” The only exception is if an image is entirely decorative (such as a twirly graphic forming a text break or a background style). With each new image you add, you will want to add alternative text to remain ADA Compliant. This addition also benefits you from an SEO lens.

  In this example, even though the picture is called “mondavi-family-04.jpg”, the website developer has given the picture an alt name of “Cesare and Rosa stading picture” to go along with the text. Helpful, but check your spelling in tags, too!

  Text Contrast: Anytime your copy or text has been adjusted, it’s essential to make sure that the characters are easy to read and not impeded by background images that may become unclear or hard to see.

  Links: Any new links that you create or add also need to contain clear relevant text. A URL with a mess of unfriendly letters and code can make you non-compliant—for example, https://www.wineglassmarketing.com/Services/Social-Media-Marketing  as opposed to: https://www.wineglassmarketing.com/Services/345j345jk345b34fsd0v.

Always try your best to have a friendly marketing URL that denotes what page they are on.

  SEO Improvements: You might think that most website building systems handle this for you automatically, but the sad truth is they don’t. You should already have a Google Analytics tracking code on your site, and ideally, you should also have a Facebook Pixel set up to track activity. If you don’t, you’re just paddling around without a plan. From a monthly maintenance perspective, the critical things for this category are:

  Meta Titles and Meta Descriptions:  While most systems do give you Meta Titles by default, these are often very basic and don’t abide by best practices according to the leading SEO platforms out there, namely Google. The real problem on the other side of the coin is Meta Descriptions are usually empty by default or don’t follow the best course.

  A big part of this is knowing how to write proper Meta Descriptions so that your website traffic improves – these aren’t just keywords of standard search terms. There’s an actual strategy to doing this correctly. For example, you shouldn’t stuff keywords into your Meta Descriptions. One case study by SterlingSky shows that when they saw brands keyword stuffing their posts, 40% of the time, the listing was suspended or removed by Google and had to be added again. With any new page created or even any new product added to your website store, it’s surprisingly vital to make sure that you’ve added the appropriate Meta Descriptions.

  Keep your “Google My Business” page up to date:  Since Google is the most widely used search engine, this gives you a significant advantage in using the free Google My Business tools. However, having accurate operating hours is critical, especially since we’re in a current teeter-totter between open and closed. Considering this fact, you may wish to check on your business hours more frequently than once a month. You wouldn’t want someone making the trip to your tasting room when you’re mandated to have your doors shut.

  If you don’t have a Google My Business page, it could increase traffic. According to Forbes, a study done in 2019 stated, “Google My Business is a critical channel, with 96% of local businesses being viewed at least 25 times per month in Search results, and 86% receiving more than 25 [views per month] in Maps. And there’s plenty of space for high numbers, with 49% of businesses receiving more than 1,000 average Search views per month, and 33% receiving 1,000+ on Maps.” As of August of 2020, Forbes explains, “Google My Business has yet to catch on with large companies and those focused on B2B it seems, but manufacturers that sell through local independent retailers should refocus on GMB and how it can help their retailers succeed.”

  Broken Links:  As offers change and products go out of stock, it’s essential to make sure that your links don’t break. So, this upcoming month, if a product went out of stock, was it a featured link in an email? If a customer opens that email a few months later as they’re cleaning out their inbox and clicks on a link, will that connection break?

  Privacy Policy Compliant: In 2020 we saw the introduction of two privacy policies that impact each of us: CCPA (California Consumer Privacy Act), obviously for California residents, and LGPD (General Data Protection Law) for Brazil. (In 2018, the GDPR for the EU was put into effect for anyone who displays their website to anyone in the EU.) These laws are worth reviewing to ensure any new forms you’ve created on your site and your cookie policies follow them. There are plugins for WordPress that can handle the necessary popups and wording.

  Social Media Ads and Posts:   You should monitor and “prune” your social media posts as well. Technically these aren’t part of your website but play a vital role in bringing people to your website. When sensitive issues are coming up in the world scene (as we saw many examples of last year), many leave their ads in place without adapting them to show empathy for those suffering or to bring awareness appropriately. Meanwhile, some go entirely the other way and turn off their ads or halt their social media presence altogether, effectively shutting the door on potential sales by showing the outreach of an emotional connection with the consumer rather than plugging a promotion.

  For instance, leaving your ads as they stand – which usually contain a call-to-action, can seem tone-deaf. You’ve heard the term “read the room”; we need to “read the news” in this case. For example, adapt your posts showing an empathetic thought regarding the displacement of families who have lost homes in wildfires. Being relevant helps prospects and consumers appreciate the heart behind your brand, build a connection with your team members, and feel motivated to keep connected with your company.

By way of review:

•   Image Alternative Text

•   Text easily legible

•   Links are friendly and easy to read.

•   Meta Titles and Meta Descriptions follow best practices.

•   Google My Business Up to Date

•   Check for Broken Links

•   Check your forms that they are compliant with privacy policies.

•   Check your Social Media Ads and posts to make sure they are relevant.

  Now you have a spring maintenance list to ensure more significant traffic to your site, correct hours, better ADA compliance, and SEO practices. We hope that with these tips, your 2021 season will bloom with well-functioning websites attracting flocks of customers that enjoy your online garden.

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