One thing we tell our clients all the time is "your website is never done." We at Balance Interactive work with our clients to develop a strong strategy, plan content and architecture, develop a user-friendly design, and build sites with CMS products with a focus on the content (the C in CMS). Then we give our clients the keys so they can drive the site themselves – and of course call on us when needed.
We give clients the keys because there is constant work to be done on a website. News needs to be posted, bios need to be updated, event speakers need to be announced, and on and on.
Here is my list of things that need attention from day 1 after your new website launches (or, really, from any point in time). Doing these things will allow you to make the best decisions about what content needs to be updated and created – and removed.
1. Develop an editorial calendar
An editorial calendar will help keep everyone on board with what needs to be done, who needs to do it, and when to do it. Editorial calendars can take many shapes – from a simple spreadsheet (preferably shared with all content owners) to a massive matrix.
Be sure to include all web channels and properties. Posting a press release on your website? Note who will tweet it or post on Facebook. Updating a bio? Note whether that tidbit needs to be tweeted? Be all inclusive in this endeavor to be sure you are getting the most mileage as you can from your efforts.
2. Review your analytics monthly
If you are not looking at your analytics on a regular basis, you only have a guess as to how your site is being used. I'm not talking about how many visitors and how much time they spend on your site, either.
Analytics programs are very sophisticated and can tell you how well a "campaign" is doing or what funnels your users are taking. Don't be concerned about the terms the programs use – like "campaign" or "event." These apply to many different type of things that you can set up to understand how effective your content is and how many conversions are happening. See Top 5 Analytics Reports You Can't Live Without for more on that.
3. Keep an eye on search engine traffic and ranking
I don't mean to continually checking Google to see where you rank for basic keywords. What I mean is that you should check in with Google, Bing, and Yahoo! Periodically to see if you are ranking well for a select few keywords you have determined are valuable to your business goals.
Preventing Post-Launch Disasters gives more insight into this. Combine this with #2 and you'll gain a competitive advantage by optimizing your content.
4. Conduct usability testing – regularly
We often conduct usability testing at some point (or various points) during a redesign process. But that is only the start. There is nothing better than talking directly with your users and watching them use your site.
Analytics will tell you what people are doing on your site. Usability testing will tell you why people do what they do. Combine the two and you get invaluable insights. Start just a couple months are launch, and set a plan to continuously test and optimize in an iterative way to get the most value out of your website. Spending just a few thousand dollars (or less if you have the capacity to do it in house) every 3-4 months will make that 5- or 6-figure redesign project last upwards of 4 or 5 years – or more!
5. Perfom periodic content audits
Though we start a new project with a content audit or inventory, it is something that needs to continue to keep your site optimized. There are a couple ways to approach this. One is to take one section of your site, document what is there and figure out – either on your own or by asking the content owners – what is outdated, inaccurate, or otherwise sub-optimally optimized and make it better or get rid of it. The second way is just to take a random sample of pages from across your site and do the same thing. (Here's a sample template.) Combine this with all of the above and you'll strike gold!
Firms like Balance can provide you with tools to do these things, but ultimately it's up to you to manage the resources and make sure the content is updated according to what your visitors want from your site. All these things will tell you what those things are. If you provide the proper care and feeding of your website from day 1, you'll stretch the value and life of your website by years.