Tamagotchi electronic pets and were a huge craze for youngsters in the 1990s. We’re now here in the 21st Century and a lot of people are making exactly the same mistakes with their websites, that kids made back in the 90s with their electronic pets.
To be a successful Tamagotchi owner, you had to firstly remember that you were responsible for an electronic pet. It sounds basic, but a key part of success was remembering that you had the thing and taking responsibility for it’s future. The biggest mistake you can make with a website or an electronic pet is to switch it on and think that it’ll do fine on it’s own.
When it came to Tamagotchis, you had to keep an eye on it’s “vitals” and respond accordingly to the information provided to ensure that it was fed, watered and free from illness. Websites are no different. They need to be fed, with useful, relevant content. As a website owner you need to ensure that your site stays healthy by doing regular maintenance and let people know that it’s there by promoting it.
Websites can be expensive, so it really doesn’t make sense to pay money for something that you’re not going to make the most of. Paying somebody to build you a website is an investment and you need to see a return on that investment. Even if you built the website yourself and didn’t have to hand over any money, your time and effort aren’t free.
Getting a new website is exciting. Maintaining and and doing the work to create interesting content and promoting it is often much less so. In my experience the less obvious it is that a website is helping your organisation, the higher the chances are that the shiny new websites I build will be abandoned. As a developer there are few things that make me sadder professionally, than building a website for somebody and then seeing it sit there unloved and unused.
Tamagotchis existed purely to entertain people, but what is the main purpose of your website?
- Should it be selling products?
- Should it be booking appointments?
- Should it be raising donations?
- Is it purely there to give credibility so that when people find you on Facebook, they can see that you also have a website which includes your formal trading details?
- Were you swayed by the big budget television adverts by how easy it looked to build a website and how many customers were magically going to fly through the doors begging to give you money?
What job is your website supposed to be doing? A single site can do several jobs at once, but it’s usually helpful to identify it’s main purpose. Amazon’s website is there to sell products. It also offers a customer service portal, along with dozens of other things, but it’s main job is to sell products.
Looking After Your Website
Feed Your Website
Keep your website fresh and interesting by providing it with useful relevant content. Not necessarily every day, every week or even every month, but you can’t build a website, never provide any additional content and expect it to attract lots of viewers who regularly return.
It is worth noting that it is absolutely fine if you decide to create a static website that rarely changes and only provides very specific information, as long as that is what you have decided to do, rather than having an over-ambitious plan that you just didn’t stick to. The insistence on a weekly blog that eventually resulted in a single post 2 years ago because it was more work than you realised, is much more common than most people think.
Websites don’t necessarily need to be updated every two minutes, but there are definitely more entertaining ways to waste time and money than spending a long time, a lot of effort and often a lot of money having website built that you’re simply going to leave to its own devices forever more.
Keep Your Site Healthy
Sometimes keeping your site healthy means making smart choices about where you obtain themes, plugins or other features for your website. Downloading things for free from the internet isn’t necessarily dangerous, but sometimes you get what you pay for. Lots of free plugins are not maintained by their original developers, which means that they may no longer be secure. This makes it easier for hackers to sneak malicious code into them, which could allow unscrupulous people to use your website to do whatever they like.
The internet can be a dangerous place and websites need to be protected. There are lots of ways that a badly maintained website can provide opportunities for unscrupulous online strangers. The number of potential dangers on the internet is an extremely high number and whilst no online entity can indefinitely be 100% secure, we can easily keep our little online castles protected from a lot of them.
In the same way that we lock our car doors and don’t leave our house keys on our doorsteps, we can protect our websites by ensuring that we use sensible usernames and strong passwords to help keep chancers out of our website admin panels.
We need to keep our wits about us online. Unsolicited emails from companies we’ve never heard of, warning us that we need to urgently pay them in a foreign currency, to ensure that our web domains remain active are often cunning plans to make us transfer our web domains to random over-seas companies.
Stay Up To Date
As website owners we need to make sure that we keep our sites up to date. If your website is built using WordPress then you need to ensure that somebody is taking responsibility for making sure that it remains up to date. If you have managed website hosting, then this is may be done on your behalf by whoever looks after your website. I build a lot of WordPress sites for clients and I usually do this for them, but this isn’t necessarily the case.
The core files that make up the WordPress software, the plugins that give your site functionality and the themes that are responsible for it’s visual appearance will require updating from time to time. I’m just going to say that once more for those at the back. Your WordPress installation, it’s plugins and it’s themes will require updating from time to time. It’s really not open to discussion, that bit is absolutely none negotiable.
If your website dashboard tells you that there is an update available and you don’t know what to do, then you need to find out. If you’re frightened that running the updates will break your website, then get some help, but it’s really not a good idea to do nothing. The core files and major plugins of the world’s best known CMSs are generally managed and looked after by big tech companies, who are able to respond to online threats, but as a website owner you are ultimately responsible for making sure that the code they write is actually implemented on your website.
I haven’t always been “a techy” so I genuinely understand that it can be scary to click a button on your website without knowing exactly what’s going to happen, but if you have a website built on any form of CMS system you need to ensure that it stays up to date, otherwise sooner or later you’re going to have a problem. As a person that has “helpfully” updated a friends website and been met with the white screen of death, I fully understand your reluctance, but whilst some of these updates will be minor tweaks, others will contain important security updates that will keep your website and any data it may hold safe, so leaving it be and ignoring the messages in red text on your Magento dashboard or the ever growing number next to the word “updates” on your WordPress dashboard isn’t a strategy, it’s waiting for a disaster to strike.
I personally have nothing against people selling antibiotics online, helping people with their impotence or even showing responsibly made adult content to other consenting adults, but I greatly object to people trying to use my websites to do so. SPAM is a huge problem and we have to do our bit to make sure that our online creations don’t facilitate it.
Allowing ourselves to be part of somebody else spam network gets in the way of what we’re actually trying to do online. We can’t necessarily stop people posting spam comments on our websites, but we can usually stop them being displayed, we can delete them promptly, we can use software to protect ourselves and help us spot the difference between a genuine comment and somebody trying to develop a series of online links to boost their own website.
Allowing vast amounts of fake online enquiries or spam comments to waste our bandwidth can also get us on the naughty list of various hosting companies and email providers. There is absolutely no benefit to you or your business but there are numerous risks.
Always proactively protect your website from: SPAM comments, Viruses and Malware. This is often as simple as keeping your website up to date. If you have access to an admin panel then it will usually inform you from time to time that things need to be updated. If you’re not sure how to do that, then get some help from somebody that does.
Remind People About Your Website
A lot of children in the 1990s went on holiday and asked somebody else to keep an eye on their Tamagotchi for them and came back a fortnight later to a deceased digital pet that had been forgotten about. Like the Tamagotchis of our childhood, our websites are often only important to us. If we want other people to notice them, pay attention to them and support your business goals through them, then we need to make an effort.
As small businesses we can’t compete with the huge brands, but most of us, myself included, could do more to let people know that our websites exist, but before we start shouting from the roof tops let’s make sure that our sites aren’t going to embarrass us.
When did you last look at your own website? Is it up to date? Have any of the details changed? Do you have access to make any changes? Do the contact forms work? Make sure that you know your website, including the bad bits.
When it comes to promotion, big retail companies have vast budgets and huge teams of professionals working on every element, we can only work with what we have, but there are a number of small steps you could take to get started.
- Does your Twitter bio or Facebook page include a link to your website?
- If you have a website, tell people about it. Including a link to your website on your social media bio is an easy way to let people know that it exists. If people already like you on Facebook, why not give them the option to like your website?
- If you have a website that you’d rather people didn’t know about, then why is that? Does it need some work? Do you need some training on how to update it? Have you lost your login details?
- Are you regularly sharing news on your Facebook page and never adding anything to your website?
- Having your own website means that you have your own platform. Social media is a great way to easily talk to your customers, but make sure that your social media presence compliments the things that you can control. This still applies even if you choose to only update your website from time to time. When you only ever use social media accounts to communicate with your customers you put all your eggs in somebody else’s basket. Lots of people have had serious problems when social media companies have changed their algorithms or some other change has taken place. What happens to your business if for some reason your Facebook page was shut down or your Instagram account was suspended?
- How will your business operate if you only sell on a platform like Etsy or Folksy and they increase their prices with no warning?
- When you send emails, do you include your web address in your email signature? Email signatures are a very easy way to share your details with people without even trying.
These suggestions are all small steps that you could use to let people know that you have a website. Perhaps you have already done these things or can think of other ways to get the word out. How are you going to tell the world about your website?
If this post has made you think about your existing website and you’ve realised that it doesn’t seem to have a clearly defined function in your organisation, then why is that? Did you inherit it from somebody else? Did you think it would do things that it doesn’t? Are you not sure how to use it? Do you need to go back to the drawing board? Would you like a no obligation chat about how I can help?