Here we are at the doorstep of 2023 and the internet continues to be a dominant force in our world well into its third decade.
If you’re a business owner or marketing leader, chances are you have a website to maintain and improve as part of your responsibilities. And the start of each year is a natural time to take stock of that website and to make plans for fixing, extending or optimizing it in the months ahead.
Here are some recommendations from the Tenrec team on website improvements to consider in 2023.
Develop Your Inbound Marketing Program
“Inbound Marketing” is the key to a successful website and digital marketing program. If your business wants to extend your brand reach, bring in new clients or customers, and build the loyalty of your existing customers, a solid inbound marketing program is the way to accomplish that.
This year, commit to creating more and better content that meets the needs of your target audience. That content may be in any number of forms, e.g. a white paper, a blog post, a video, a survey, a contest or a VR game. And that content might take on various styles, e.g. a top 10 list, a humorous take on an issue, a step-by-step solution, a description of a new problem, an explanatory guide. But the desired result will always be the same; to nurture and grow your audience with valuable content that helps them.
Then measure the results of each campaign or content post to learn what your audience responds to and where their needs are. Each cycle of publishing content and measuring your audience’s engagement will build a better understanding of their needs and your business. In turn, your website will develop better domain authority through link building which will increase traffic from organic search. More traffic will result in more contacts and subscribers (i.e. prospective clients) that you can connect with through email campaigns.
In short, the benefits of a well-executed inbound marketing program are transformational.
Create Pillar Pages or Topic Clusters
If your website includes a repository of content in an “Insights” section (or “News and Resources,” “Thought Leadership,” “Our Blog” etc.), it’s time to revisit the idea of “Pillar Pages” and “Topic Clusters.”.
The reason for this is that disparate posts about a topic area can actually hurt your rankings for searches on that topic. The reason for that is that those posts could be competing with each other for searches on that topic’s keywords. In other words, your posts could be diluting the search rank and authority of your website, resulting in several (or several dozen) pages ranking poorly for a topic instead of one page ranking highly. To solve this, create pillar pages for larger topic areas and connect those pages to all the disparate, more specific posts about that topic.
A pillar page is a way of connecting detailed posts on specific aspects of a topic to an umbrella page that covers the main, shared subject matter. In effect, a pillar page becomes the ‘home page’ for a topic and the connected posts are the ‘topic cluster.’
Your pillar pages should describe the subject at a high level and link to pages or posts (within the same website) that cover more granular aspects of that subject. For example, a pillar page about data privacy laws in the U.S. would provide a definition of data privacy, an overview of the current laws in the country, and maybe some background or history about how these laws developed. That pillar page would then also link to all the other posts on the same website that covered aspects of data privacy laws such as the individual state statutes, enforcement, recent changes, current cases in the courts and more.
The key benefit of the pillar page is that it develops subject matter authority for your website on the main topic. This improved authority will improve your rankings for searches related to that topic as other sites link to your content and more visitors find the content useful. Over time, this will develop your website’s domain authority which will improve your rankings for other search terms, broadening the reach of your content.
Update your Google Analytics Account to GA4
Google Analytics is evolving from “Universal Analytics” to “GA4.” and 2023 is the year of the switchover for all the standard (i.e. free) accounts. As of July 1, 2023 your Google UA account will no longer collect data on your website’s traffic.
There are several benefits to the newer GA4 analytics model including:
- enhanced data collection
- improved data accuracy
- enhanced user privacy and
- enhanced reporting and analysis.
But the simpler and more imperative reason to switch is that you don’t have a choice. There is no option to stay on the Universal Analytics platform. With that end date in mind, you’ll want to get up and running on GA4 as soon as possible. That way, your new GA4 analytics account can start collecting data now, rather than starting later in the year and having only a partial year of 2023 data.
Note: Google has stated that your historical Universal Analytics data (the data on your old account) will remain available for at least six months after the July 1 cutover date (the final date is TBD). After that, your historical data stored in Universal Analytics will go away completely. Tenrec recommends that you export your historical Universal Analytics data into reports for future reference. Those reports can be exported directly from Google Analytics in PDF, CSV and MS Excel formats. Or, alternatively (and something we’re doing for many of our clients) you can build custom Google Looker reports to capture and export key performance metrics from past data.
Evaluate Your Site’s Accessibility
Keeping your site accessible to users with disabilities is an ongoing effort. Whenever you’re adding content, making design edits or integrating functional changes, you always want to keep accessibility and the WCAG top-of-mind.
But even if you’re keeping an eye on accessibility throughout these ongoing efforts, it’s still a good idea to conduct an accessibility review every two to three years. There are a few reasons for this:
- Accessibility standards and guidelines are always being updated (e.g. the new WCAG 2.2 will be formalized in early 2023),
- The technology and programming best practices for accessibility evolve, and
- New content on your site may require more extensive changes to be fully ADA compliant
At Tenrec, we conduct reviews like this every year for all our clients and with most sites, even those that have been well-maintained, there are usually a few accessibility items that could be improved. Staying on top of these fixes keeps a website from needing a more comprehensive and expensive accessibility overhaul in the future.
A Side Note
Accessibility extensions and plug-ins (e.g. Accessibe) are not solutions that we recommend for serious business clients. These tools promise a quick fix with their overlay tools but don’t provide a meaningful layer of accessibility and can cause more problems than they solve. It’s a far better solution to build a site that is accessible and usable for all users and to do the work to keep it that way.
Review Your Data Privacy Policies and Compliance
You may feel that your business is all buttoned up in terms of data privacy compliance because your website and data collection processes are compliant with CCPA and GDPR but 2023 is shaping up to be a busy year in this space.
On January 1, 2023, California’s CCPA amendment, CPRA, and Virginia’s new law, the CDPA, went into effect. Later in the year, on June 1, 2023, Washington State’s data privacy statute, the WPA, will become law. And that doesn’t include other possible changes and amendments to existing data privacy laws in states like Nevada, Colorado, Massachusetts and Vermont.
At Tenrec we start out the year tracking the relevant data privacy laws and any changes being introduced in the coming months. Then we map those laws to our clients who do business in those states, noting which clients meet the threshold to be governed by that law. Then we consult with each client on any aspect of the data stewardship rules that may require changes to their internal processes, privacy policies or website and digital marketing functions. Working with the client teams, we’ll implement those changes and get everyone into compliance for the new year.
2023 Website Management Motto: “Keep Improving”
Whether or not these 5 tips for website updates in 2023 make your short list, the key is to always be making some kind of improvement. That might mean some of the aforementioned tips or just adding content, upgrading the design, and integrating new functionality. Whatever it is, keep making improvements to your website to keep your digital marketing program moving forward. A static website can act like an anchor, holding back or slowing down your overall marketing program. And, like anything else, once your website project has slowed down or stopped, it takes three times as much effort to get it moving again.