group of people looking at a website on a computer

Your website — the beginning of a beautiful friendship

Launching a new website is exciting! Because a lot of work went into getting to that point. And now that it’s there for the world to see, all is well. We can relax!

Or maybe not quite.

After all, this is not the end. It’s a beginning. A new website to serve your business or organization well for a long time.

Which won’t happen automagically.

A website is like a relationship

A website is like a relationship. It’s going to take some ongoing work.

There’s dating to get to know each other. Which might lead to engagement. Then a wedding.

After the wedding comes the honeymoon. Everything is pure bliss.

Eventually, day-to-day married life kicks in. Have to figure out how to make that work for the long haul. Depending on how well we do that, it can last for decades. Or might blow up spectacularly in a short time.

Or it may do fine initially, but eventually fade away from neglect.

The same thing is true for that new website.

When it launches, everything is as perfect as we could make it. 

But before too long, there will be code updates needed. Hackers come knocking on the door to try to wreak havoc. And content that was spot on at launch will get long in the tooth. 

Those are facts of life. Happens on every website. 

A downward spiral of doom

Website life-cycle graphic
The website downward spiral: Gradual neglect leads to a website that doesn’t deliver. Until it’s replaced and the cycle starts over. Except each time we’re a bit less excited about the new website, because we pretty much know how this will end.

It’s easy to get into a downward, repeating cycle:

  • We’re really excited about building a new website. Spend all the needed time and effort on it.
  • Launch it!!!
  • It sits there, doing its job. While we get busy with other things. Because life. And business.
  • Eventually, that website isn’t so cool any more. We no longer feel excited about showing it off. It’s not pulling its weight in bringing in new business.
  • But it was so much work and expense to build the website. So we keep it. Maybe deep down hoping that it will somehow get better on its own. Or we tell ourselves things like: “I’m not really selling anything through the website.” “It’s not mission critical.” “Besides, it’s not that bad.”
  • The end result is that we ignore it way past any “best before date.”
  • Finally we conclude it’s high time to get a new website. Because the old one, is so old and totally doesn’t serve its purpose anymore.
  • We get excited, pouring time and resources into building a new website.
  • Launch it. 
  • Enjoy having a brand new, really cool website. That we tell everybody about.
  • But again, life gets busy and eventually this website starts to get long in the tooth too. 

It’s a downward cycle. That will keep happening. Over and over. Unless we do something different.

Not only is it frustrating. It’s costly. Because it means the website isn’t helping your business or organization as it could. That’s real opportunity and money lost.

A website is a relationship that needs work

Back to the relationship analogy: Unless we work on a new marriage, it won’t be healthy and won’t last. We have to invest in continuing to get to know each other and build deeper connections.

For a website that means taking care of the technology and the content. Updating and upgrading.

3 ways to do the caretaking

There are basically 3 options for maintaining a website:

  • Do it yourself
  • Have someone on your team do it
  • Get an ongoing care plan from your web designer/developer/copywriter

Do it yourself

Means exactly that: you do it. Might be an option if you built it yourself, and you can afford to schedule time on your calendar on an ongoing basis. May seem like a way to save money. But will you have the skills and knowledge to not only run some updates here and there, but to deal with anything that can and will happen to a website over time? 

Have someone on your team do it

This assumes that you already have someone on your team who is interested and able to take care of a website long term. Again, it must get on the calendar on an ongoing basis.

The same things apply as if you were doing the work yourself: Is the person able and ready to deal with any and every bad thing that can (and will) happen to a website? And what other work, crucial to the team, won’t get done because the team member is trying to fix a broken website?

Get an ongoing care plan from your web designer/developer/copywriter

You trusted their expertise to create the right website for you. Now you’ll trust them to keep it humming along for the long haul. This means your website is managed by someone who is up-to-date on changes, security threats and anything else that might affect your website’s health. 

Yes, you pay for the service. Consider it an investment. One that keeps the website well-maintained, enabling it to not only pay for itself, but provide real return on the initial investment to build the site, as well as the investment in maintaining it. 

Ongoing website care is needed in 2 key areas:

  • Technology
  • Content

Taking care of the website technology

When the website launched, all the code and plugins were up-to-date. Then updates come along. And need to be installed.

There are also security threats to deal with. Because the bad guys don’t sit still. They’re always looking to break into websites and servers. Outdated code and plugins or unpatched security holes are a god-send to them. 

A website can crash for many reasons, like hacking, overload, server problem, or an update gone wrong. So it’s essential to have regular backups of the website and all its files. Because when it does go down, is not the time to find out that the most recent backup is several months old. Meaning there’s no way to recreate any updates to content that have happened since that backup. Or even know what those are.

This also includes dealing with the hosting of the website.

Taking care of the website content

It may seem that if we create the right written content, images, video and graphics for the website once, it ought to continue to be relevant for years to come. In a sense it may be. If the website visitors haven’t seen it before.

But returning website visitors don’t want to come back to a website and find that nothing whatsoever changed. Because what’s the point in coming back then? So they stop.

You may have one product or service that keeps them coming back. Great. Except, soon they’ll learn to just go to that part of the website and ignore the rest. So they’ll forget about all the other great things you do.

Also keep in mind that our businesses aren’t static. Things change. If our websites don’t reflect that, then website visitors are missing out. And we’re missing out on opportunities that could come from the website.

Finally search engines consider updated content on a website when ranking it in search results. No matter how relevant your content is, if it doesn’t ever change, your website is guaranteed to slide down in search rankings. Nobody wants that.

Planning ongoing care

Ultimately it’s all about knowing our strengths and where we as business owners should focus.

For many website owners, having their website designer/developer maintain the website is a no-brainer. They know they don’t have expertise in that area. Nor the time and energy to do the job well.

Managing content may require a different plan though.

I covered content creation in this post. While it’s focused on creating content for a blog or social media, managing content for a website is not any different. The key to success is the editorial calendar. Because what gets on the calendar gets done. And what doesn’t, lands in the “someday pile” that we never get too. 

That’s true if you do all the content yourself or if a team member is responsible. The work still has to be done, regularly.

Turning all the content creation over to somebody else may seem scary. Because how will they reflect your voice and personality? Except that’s what a good copywriter does. Create content that is just what you would have said, if you’d said it. And you can keep your focus on doing what you do best: Run your business.

Another option is for you to work in partnership with a copywriter. You draft the content. The copywriter edits and polishes. This may be a good place to start. 

However it’s done, it’s about making sure content is created for your website. Regularly. So it stays fresh. Relevant and attractive.

With tech and content taken care of, you can relax and enjoy your website. Knowing that it will continue to provide return both on the initial investment and investment in ongoing care, making your business or organization shine.

You might even agree with these words from the movie Casablanca as Rick and Captain Renault walk off into the fog:

“Louis, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”

Rick Blaine, in the movie Casablanca

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