The Baymard Institute, a web research firm based in Copenhagen, ranked the top 100 e-commerce websites in the world in 2012 based on usability, layout, navigation, and several other factors. CrateAndBarrel.com, a Scottsdale, Ariz. home furnishings retailer, ranked at the top because of seamless navigation and checkout processes. The Symantec website was number-2 due mostly to top-quality copywriting, while the layout of Autozone’s website was the primary factor in its number-3 ranking.

Its no surprises that all the companies on Baymard’s list are well in the black when it comes to quarterly profits. Successful business websites routinely gauge and improve the customer experience, and make necessary updates and changes based on their research. Those that regularly exercise these three maintenance items are far ahead of the competition.

Behavior Metrics

When visitors come to your websites, its critical to know what pages are most popular, how long each visit lasts, bounce rates (how many visitors leave after viewing landing page), and other metrics to determine a maintenance calendar. That is where free applications like Google Analytics become invaluable.

You’ll need to set up a Google account and Gmail to use the app. Once you set up your websites in Google Analytics, the landing page alone shows crucial information for each one. The Dashboard feature breaks down data subsets like the demographics of your websites’ visitors, including their approximate age and location which they accessed your site.

High bounce rates mean you should re-evaluate your homepage. Remove fancy flash video and/or excessive advertisements and see if the rate drops. If you’re getting a lot of visitors from California, for instance, tailor more content to people of that state to keep them engaged.

Crazy Egg is another tool that gives you a “heat map” where users are clicking the most on your site. Statcounter.com is a simpler analytics tool to consider that is also free to use.

General Repairs And Fixes

Numerous broken links, bad video paths, and other bugs on your website will guarantee lower search engine rankings and a bad user experience that will lead to instant bailing. Webmasters can use sites like DeadLinkChecker.com to scan entire sites for bad links and other bugs. This should be done at least once per month to ensure your content is as up-to-date as possible.

Another routine maintenance item is checking your site’s compatibility with every browser. Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome, and Safari are the four most common and should cover a vast majority of your users. Use a tool like Browsershots to see screenshots of your website in various platforms. Those who are unfamiliar with cascading style sheets (CSS) can contact the customer service department of their hosting company for advice on how to fix any potential issues. VelvetBlues.com offers some quick fix advice for those not afraid to tinker with coding.

Migration

Many users of Godaddy’s Quick Blog Cast blogging platform were hit with some ominous news when the company announced it will no longer support the software as of June 25, 2014, as WordPress’s blog explains. This news left thousands of users with no choice but to migrate what they could from the company’s servers before it disappeared forever. Quick Blog Cast customers had no access to cPanel, so all images, videos, and other media were lost unless each was individually downloaded. Even those who managed to save their content still lost years of hard work getting search engines to recognize their sites.

The Godaddy debacle should serve as a wakeup call for those who have had websites for years on proprietary platforms that do not easily export to WordPress, Joomla, or some other common open-source content management system. When shopping for a new host and/or registrar, make certain you have complete access to all of your files at all times. Read website building software reviews and place the ones with 24/7 customer service and cPanel access at the top of the list. Imforza.com has a website migration checklist that is extremely useful for those who want a little extra guidance.

Keep in mind this list is not all-inclusive. Proofreading your content and checking load times with tools like Pingdom are also very important for maximizing credibility and usability respectively. But regularly addressing all the aforementioned will ensure your website is a well-oiled machine that visitors will continue frequenting.

Call Graham Jones Graham Jones, Internet Psychologist

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