Top Three Website Check-Up Considerations for the New Year

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By Thompson Knox
Originally published in The St. Louis Women's Journal, February 1, 2011

So, it’s a New Year and how are you doing with your Internet Strategy? SteadyRain provides a great service called a Website Check-Up that merits discussion as we renew our dedication to Internet excellence with this fresh start of 2012.

I won’t give you a big sales pitch, as much as I might like to, about why you should give us a jingle. However, what I will do is provide you a few things we would recommend in a Website Check-Up.

Here’s a quick checklist of the top three things I look at and would include within a check-up:

1. What’s Broken?

It’s inevitable that we tend to let things slide at the homestead. That door creaks. That doorknob is a bit loose. I’ll get to leaves in the gutters later. Well, the same thing can happen with your website. And just like at your home, not addressing these issues can end up costing you more than you ever imagined.

What’s the impact on your personal reputation when a possible employer clicks on the link to your resume and it doesn’t work? Or the impact to your business when a visitor completes a lead or contact form and it never arrives in your inbox? I know you’ve been putting it off. Just get these things fixed. Call me. Call someone. Don’t take the hit to your reputation.

2. Copyright Date

It’s the New Year and that means it’s time to update your site’s copyright. Instead of putting off this important detail, protect your online content and consider making this quick update today.

My preferred format is the following: Copyright ©1996-2012 Company Name, Inc. All rights reserved.

I’ve been told on several occasions that it’s improper to include a date range for a copyright as it is, largely, immaterial if something was copyrighted before today. However, on the web, as content constantly changes, I feel it’s important to show how long the material and code has been under copyright.

Apparently, the attorneys for Amazon.com, eBay, IMDB.com and PayPal agree, while the legal teams for Facebook, Google, LinkedIn and Yahoo! do not. So, I’ll leave that determination up to you.

Another reason why I prefer the date range? One the Web, things can be very transitory. I like this subconsciously delivered information that says: “My site and my organization have been around for a while. So don’t just dismiss me as a ‘fly by night’ organization.”

3. Mailto: Links vs. Interactive Forms

While those blue, highlighted links that pop up a “new email message” window on your computer were fantastic in the 90s, technology has surpassed them and so have many people’s email tools, like the web-based email clients of Gmail, Hotmail/Windows Live and Yahoo!. Likewise, if you are using mailto links on your site, nothing is preventing those email addresses from getting harvested by spammers who will continue to fill your inbox with junk. Finally, and most importantly, when someone clicks the link and decides not to send you an email, YOU KNOW NOTHING ABOUT THEM.

So, what’s the alternative? An interactive form. The form should request required information, which includes First Name, Last Name, and Email.

In addition, the form should request optional data for the visitor to complete, like Company Name, Phone Number, Zip Code, a Comment or Questions text box and, finally, and most importantly, a checkbox (pre-checked) that allows for email marketing.

My verbiage preference for the checkbox is something nebulous, but limited: Please contact me with news, information and offers about your products/services.

The form submission should accomplish four (4) things, at a minimum. First, provide the visitor a clear and concise Confirmation/Thank You message on the Web. Second, send the visitor a Confirmation/Thank You email message. Third, send your organization an email notification. Fourth, if the opt-in checkbox has remained checked, write the visitor’s information to a database for future email marketing. Don’t forget, if you do begin collecting opt-in data, you need a Privacy Policy.

Well, those are my top three things for you to review for the New Year. Give me a call if you’d like to learn the rest. Happy New Year!

To read the original posting, please visit The St. Louis Women's Journal.