Don’t Let the Website Kill the Party: Part 3, Another Day, Another Website (aka so many websites, so little time)

6/30/2016

The third installment in our series of common ways technology can bite you…and how to avoid them.
 
Some companies approach a website like a corporate headquarters.  Put everything in one place, build it to last, and plan to stay put.  But if you manage web sites, you may find that this model often doesn’t fit. A single site can fall short in addressing dynamic business needs, including specific content parameters such as: 

  • Location-specific (e.g. a retail chain with many locations)
  • Event-specific (temporary web site for a particular event or set of events)
  • Campaign-specific (site to support certain offers, promotions, etc.)
  • Seasonal (e.g. based on holiday seasons like Christmas or New Year)
  • Localized (e.g. sites in different languages, tuned for local culture, etc.) 
Unfortunately, the tech tools for multi-site management woefully lag behind their counterparts for single-site management, both in capabilities and the number of options to choose from.  In our previous installment, we addressed the ways to manage users/members.  In this installment, we address the content side.
 
Here are some tips to reduce the headaches that come with managing many websites, and help you apply the right criteria for choosing your tech tools and platforms. 

1. Centralize administration and content management 

If you use a system like Wordpress and manage many sites, you probably have a zillion passwords and usernames.  And that’s not the worst of it.  Here are examples of stuff you can’t do with most CMS platforms:
 
  • Publish content to all your sites with one click
  • Version control – revise a piece of content once and have it update everywhere
  • Auto-publish content to certain sites based on, say, geographical regions
  • Send one email to customers with customized content based on what site they visit
  • Create groups of sites that will automatically filter content based on group criteria
A single content management dashboard, with a single repository for all your content, gives you the ability to perform the above tasks and many more.  Some web site platforms do provide this capability.  Alas, they tend to be among the paid services as opposed to the popular open source platforms.  But in spite of the additional cost, they will almost certainly pay for themselves with all the time you save.
 
Takeaway:  If you can perform all your content management tasks from one dashboard, you will dramatically increase the efficiency and accuracy of your content delivery.   This is especially true if you have content that appears on groups or subsets of your sites. 

2. Use metadata to organize content 

Adding keywords and tags to your content is another way in you can save time by spending a little.  Taking the time to think through a way to categorize content can potentially save time and boost efficiency downstream.
 
First, consider create a taxonomical hierarchy.  If each piece of content gets a tag (or set of tags) based on where it fits in this taxonomy, it will make it much simpler to implement rules-based automated publishing.  It will also speed up your ability to browse/discover content, make search results more accurate for your customers, and give you better intelligence about what topics are of interest to your customers.
 
Secondly, apply key words to each piece of content.  Unlike taxonomy, keywords are flexible and you can assign as many as you want and/or add new ones at any time. This will aid in searching and fill in the gaps in the taxonomy where a piece of content may be difficult to categorize or may be difficult to recall once it is categorized.
 
Takeaway:  applying metadata to your content takes extra time but pays huge dividends in streamlining your workflow by making automation easier, providing better search results, and improving analytics data. 

3. Consider 3rd party tools for common functionality 

Maybe you are cranking out web sites or “micro-sites” when something else might be better/faster/easier.  If all or most of your new sites are focused primarily on a particular functionality (e.g., event management), you may be able to substitute with a third party tool, where you can build a page on the vendor site and use a widget to display the appropriate content (and a link) on your site.  Some typical features with lots of SaaS (software as a service) options are: 
  • Events (invites/RSVP’s, ticketing, etc.)
  • Pop-up store (e-commerce)
  • Image or video galleries 
These services help in two important ways.  First, they consolidate management of a given functionality across all your sites (e.g., give you one place from which to manage all your invitations and RSVP’s, across all your sites, from one dashboard).  Second, they provide functionality that may be too time-consuming or cost-prohibitive for you to develop separately.
 
For more general needs, such as “micro-sites”, you should also consider using landing page providers such and Optimizely and Instapage.  These service providers offer a wide variety of templates with considerable flexibility, and typically are very easy to customize with your branding.  Creating these pages is fast and simple, and they also come with tools to measure performance in capturing leads, downloading content, and many more customer actions.
 
Takeaway:  for important, mission critical functionality that appears on most or all of your sites, you may benefit from using a 3rd-party SaaS tool in order to centralize management and defray potential development and maintenance costs.
 
Next week: Developers got you down? Looking for another way?  We’ll discuss the pros and cons of “no-coding” web development tools.

Learn more?

Here's a video with three ways you can do things for events in Brick River (2:05)


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