Orphan websites

Is your Web site (or blog) a miserable orphan, snuffling quietly in a dark corner, wondering if anyone will ever come and update it again? Too many sites are. You’ve seen them: the “What’s New” page proudly announces the July 2006 Employee of the Month; some of the links don’t work.

It was so cool when it was new. But now even you don’t visit your own Web site any more, because it has nothing new to tell you. You’ve just realized that no one has checked the site’s E-mail address for weeks.

It’s tempting to bail out and forget the whole thing. But is that the right decision? All those reasons for getting on the Web are still valid (see The Business Case for Your Web Site).

And for every orphan Web site you’ve seen, I’ll bet you’ve seen a really good one. Why not do what you’d do with any business situation? You’ve learned something from this failure, so you might as well get the benefit of that learning.

Put someone in charge of maintenance for your site, just as you would for your advertising or a window display.

Really you only need one person to see that your Web site is supported. The details can be delegated. But that one person isn’t so easy to find. You want someone who will check the site often – maybe daily – and who will be a real pest if something needs to be fixed. If you used to tease your younger sister, she may be the very person you need now.

Here’s what has to be remembered:

  • check the links regularly to make sure they still work
  • check all the e-mail addresses on the site to make sure they are all valid. Send a message to each one and record how long it takes to get an answer. Whenever it takes more than one business day, get out there and kick some butt – or change the setup.
  • check all the content regularly to make sure it’s still up to date (more on this)
  • go to some leading search engines once in a while and see how you are doing against the competition
  • now that you know who the competitors are, visit their sites once in a while and see if they are doing something better than you are
  • if there are forms on your site, fill one out occasionally (indicating that you are just testing) to make sure it works
  • if your site offers downloads, try them yourself
  • check your site traffic reports at least monthly, to look for volume trends and especially to look for any “page not found” errors that may have developed