There is one thing about CMS development projects that has baffled me time and time again. So much time, effort, planning, and execution goes into properly prepping, scoping, and completing a project—only to have the client end up barely utilizing the CMS.
In fact, you’d be surprised how many clients hardly use their CMS at all despite having a wish list a mile long when we first spoke.
Granted, many of those clients opt in to some ongoing maintenance plan where most of the day-to-day tasks are addressed for them. But for the remainder, they take a sit-back-and-wait approach, which costs them dearly in more than a few ways.
So, what do you need to ensure ongoing success with your CMS after it is deployed?
Here are a few key areas you should focus on after your project is finished to help you get the most out of it. Ideally, you’ll have each of these areas figured out before the actual deployment, so as to guarantee that you have your eyes on long-term success, and not just the near term.
All web and app projects are, in many ways, tests or theories. We complete a project according to best practices to fulfill your requirements, but we must always remember that having a way to measure success via metrics is the best way to achieve the underlying goals you identified before even beginning your initiative.
This means that before deployment, you must have a plan of attack for what analytics matter, and how you plan to gather them.
As part of your initial discovery and architecture process, you need to identify the statistics that are most important to your company. It isn’t simply enough to say that you want to install an analytics tracker such as Google Analytics. You want to also have a deep understanding and organization of what those stats mean, how they are gathered, and how you will interpret them. Tools such as Google Analytics are highly extensible and configurable. This means that they can be installed and massaged to accomplish a great variety of things—as long as you know what you want it to do for you.
In addition, there are many more options for statistics gathering and analysis than just Google. Marketing automation tools such as HubSpot allow for statistical analysis, and there are literally hundreds of other third-party tools that can give insight into user behavior.
The best practice for analytics is to focus on the requirements you have for statistical gathering long before the project breaks ground and implement those tools onto your old web presence to gather historical data. In this way, you’ll be able to compare apples to apples with the new iteration of your digital presence to see what’s working, what isn’t, and what needs to be focused on going forward.
Then, assemble a weekly scorecard that aggregates the most important statistics and can be distributed to your team. This is something that can be done either manually or via a plethora of “dashboard” products that automatically connect to your statistical tools. This weekly scorecard should be the holy grail of your organization and something referred to on a regular basis to track success or failure.
Remember, without insight, your project will only be judged based on non-tangibles like opinions or, even worse, (gasp!) personal preferences. Cold, hard analytics solve disagreements and rally teams around common objectives. Focus on this item first, and everything else will follow after.
It shocks us on a regular basis how many customers have no content plan prior to deployment. Most clients feel that after they populate their site with content for the initial launch, they can just let it sit.
The fact is, modern marketing has put a new emphasis to ongoing content creation. Studies and statistics prove that to have an organic footprint with search engines, you must be creating content of interest and quality on a regular basis.
It must be of the utmost importance that you have a content plan in place that begins on day one of your website’s life. And to begin on day one, you need a plan in place way ahead of time. A good time to focus on this is during the development stages of the site. This is a good time to organize who your visitor personas are and organize some content around their potential needs, requirements, and pain points.
Hopefully, your CMS project has now made content management easier. All you need to do is create and publish. Structure your content creation around a comprehensive plan with action items that have due dates, and you’ll see that over time, your organic traffic will improve, your search footprint will increase as your index of pages being crawled grows, and the end result will be more visitors and therefore, hopefully, more conversions.
Every CMS platform requires maintenance. It’s the nature of the beast. Read back on our post about why websites suddenly break to understand a bit more about why you need to constantly be updating your content management software and the server underneath it.
Remember: Maintenance needs to be arranged AT or PRIOR to deployment. Waiting weeks or months is not smart, as software packages update at a faster rate than you may realize.
Maintenance must focus on a few things. First, you should keep your CMS up to date to make sure it is being protected from security flaws that arise from time to time. CMS vendors and open-source projects are pretty good about releasing updates in response to known vulnerabilities. But many updates are not automatic, so you need to stay on top of them. Also, updates may break functionality on occasion, which is another reason why having the proper help in place matters.
Secondly, the software underneath your CMS that lives on the server itself needs updates as well. Server operating systems and core libraries are just as likely to be targets of a malicious attack as the software running on them.
Finally, not only does maintenance involve staying on top of updates, it also involves monitoring and having the ability to quickly respond to issues. Having 24/7/365 support that guarantees a quick response to downtime is essential to any business that earns the majority of its revenue online. Customers view downtime as a credibility ranking factor, so ensuring that you are not taken by surprise by having an ongoing emergency response plan is essential.
The digital medium is a place where products are never finished and improvement is continuously occurring. It’s essential that two things happen after your project is deployed.
First, you must realize that even though it’s live, it isn’t “finished.” And honestly, it never will be. And secondly, you have to commit to improving your digital footprint on a regular basis.
People ask me often what “continuous improvement” means, since we talk about it a lot on our site. It’s hard to define in general terms. Improvements to a digital property are different than physical assets like buildings in that they are often in response to specific factors and most typically treated as experiments.
For example, if a web page isn’t converting well, you can change your copy, call to action, or other UI elements and see if it works. If a physical storefront isn’t bringing in customers, it’s hard to experiment and redesign the front of the building a few times without spending a lot of time and energy.
In many ways, the digital space is empowering in that experiments are cheap and easy to conduct. But it’s also infuriating in that it can take many combinations and concoctions before you find something that works. And something that does work won’t work forever.
The point in all of this, though, is that you need to not only accept that improvements need to be continuous, but also that there is always a way to get just a little bit better. In order to do that, you need to commit to taking the time and effort to find those opportunities for improvement and actually implement them.
Are You Prepared?
Hopefully this post has shed some light on what it is you need to do to be prepared for after you deploy a new CMS. Websites are living, breathing things that need to be nurtured. You have to feed the beast! Keeping content fresh, functionality ahead of the curve, and your core software safe and secure will ensure that you receive maximum value from your investment, and a return on that investment for years to come.