Yes, it's more likely that a Twitter handle or hashtag will be the thing most likely to be promoted during a television or radio spot, but in 2015 the corporate website still remains the most critical marketing tool and touchpoint that a brand has at its disposal.
In recent years the corporate website has quietly assumed a linchpin role that ties together all other digital marketing strategy; email, social, content, inbound and lead generation and marketing automation. This transition requires a lot of behind the scenes consideration and integration of all of your digital tools and assets.
This gradual shift along with the rise of mobile has radically altered expectations of what consumers and users expect out of a brand's corporate website. Almost five years ago, Ethan Marcotte published his seminal post on A List Apart about Responsive Web Design; at the time most marketers and creative directors dismissed the notion of fluid grids, responsive images and media queries as being the fundamental framework upon which the modern web would be built upon but it has now become widely accepted.
Below are nine signs that your corporate website is due for a refresh.
1) You and Your Employees Apologize for Your Website When Handing Out Business Cards
First impressions matter. When you meet someone for the first time in a business setting and business cards are exchanged, more often than not the first thing the other person will do is make note of the website URL. If they have a smartphone handy, they’ll probably look it up real quick to get up to speed. The corporate website is your first and best opportunity to put your best foot forward and, if you have to apologize for it, you have a serious brand problem.
When corporate websites are out-of-date; whether content-wise, visually, or technologically, this can have a negative impact on the morale of your employees and stakeholders as well as the overall culture of your firm. It becomes harder to keep customers and prospects informed of news and developments with your firm, your salespeople will have more difficulty selling your products and services, recruiting the best talent possible will be challenging and investors will form a less than favorable assessment of your company.
2) Customers Can’t Find You Online
With the advent of mobile and local search, simply having your business online is no longer a guarantee that your customers will be able to find you. Are potential customers able to find your website when looking for your business service? If the answer is no, it might be time to reconsider how you are being positioned online and if there are any specific reasons or issues that you are not appearing in local searches.
3) Your Website is not Responsive or Device Agnostic
Responsive Websites are specially crafted sites that provide an optimal viewing experience; easy viewing, legibility and navigation across a wide range of devices (desktop monitors, laptops, tablets and smartphones). The way most sites incorporate responsive design is through the use of fluid proportion-based grids, flexible images, and CSS3 media queries. The long term benefits for your business or organization is that one set of web content and assets can be accessible across any and all web enabled devices.
In addition, Google updated their search algorithms in 2013 to favor websites that provide an optimal mobile experience to customers. So when considering two corporate websites of equal quality and content, the site that offers a better mobile user experience will enjoy a higher page ranking on Google’s SERP. This could mean the difference between the number one and number two spot on Google.
The biggest challenge with moving to a responsive web design methodology is that the concept is relatively new in the industry and amongst many design and marketing professionals and stands in stark contrast and opposition with many previously held “best practices” and workflows that now find themselves painfully out of date. New skill sets, approaches and workflows are required by studios or teams in order to properly execute a responsive web site and you have to be cautious in terms of selecting the right team to make your corporate website responsive.
4) Your Website Does Not Reflect Your Online Presence on Social Media
Often times different teams or divisions manage the corporate website. Social media profiles and networks can sprout up independent from the Web team: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Tumblr… anyone with an email address can set up a corporate presence on social media. In 2015, social media is a huge brand touch point for many prospective and existing customers. The integration between your corporate website and social media presence should feel seamless and reciprocal and if it isn’t, your company should take steps in 2015 to make that a priority.
5) The Content on Your Site hasn’t Changed Since You First Launched it
Brochureware websites (where you take a corporate brochure and translate it directly for the web, often times using the same copy and visuals) are a relic of the past yet many businesses and organizations still adopt this approach when developing and deploying a new web presence. The result is usually static and quickly dated. The pitfalls of adopting this method is that you give very little reason to have users revisit your site and also there is a considerable search engine penalty for websites that is seldom updated.
With the advent of Content Marketing and Social Media Marketing, more and more corporate websites are becoming strategic content hubs and publishing platforms.
6) Your Homepage Takes Longer Than One Second to Load
90% of people will not return to a website that takes longer than 3 seconds to load. In August of 2013 Google revised its guidelines suggesting that webmasters target one second and under as acceptable load time (on Smartphones) and revised their algorithms to reward sites that met this benchmark and penalize sites that did not. As a result websites that take longer than 3 seconds to load are very difficult to find via Google and offer mobile users a very poor user experience.<
To see how fast it takes for your current website to load please check out Google's PageSpeed Insights below:
Steps you can take to optimize your website’s load time include; minimizing HTTP requests, consolidating CSS and JS files, using CSS sprites versus individual graphics, using the bare minimum of CMS plugins and widgets, optimizing images properly for mobile and using a Content Delivery Network (CDN) to speed up file delivery across the globe.
7) Third-party Tools are Out of Date
Like most corporate sites, you’ve probably embedded third-party tools and plug-ins to augment your website’s functionality: commenting widgets, shopping carts, carousel banners, image galleries, the list goes on. These plug-ins need to be updated over time and often times a lot of third-party plug-in developers go out of business or discontinue support of a specific plug-in.
Out of date plugins will often present a substantial security risk with many organizations and brands and should be updated continuously.
8) You Don’t Know if Your Website is Generating Any Results
Most corporate websites do not have adequate measurement tools in place or, in many cases, the stakeholders in the company do not have access to the data and insights that these tools provide. Whether it’s something simple like Google Analytics or something more advanced like session cookies, heat maps and session replays or CRM integration that can facilitate lead generation and marketing automation.
9) Your Website is Built in Adobe Flash
This one almost didn't make it to this list but we still see the occasional holdout that has their entire corporate website built in Adobe Flash and is feeling a whole lot of pain in 2015.
With all that said, there are some legitimate business reasons why this still occurs: sunk expenses and a considerable investment of time and resources in developing branded rich media content prior to the advent of HTML5 are the primary reasons why certain sites are still built and updated via Flash. If you were responsible for creating and developing multimedia and interactive content prior to 2010, Adobe Flash was essentially the only viable content creation platform for that and converting or porting over those digital assets to more open standard formats is still a considerable investment in time and money in 2015.
If your website is built entirely in flash or relies heavily on Flash elements or interaction, it's probably high time to consider making the switch.