The start of a fresh new year opens another chapter in timely, responsible website governance. January and February are ideal time periods to reassess your site for updates and overdue changes. However, before diving headlong into an overhaul, it’s a good idea to put a clear website governance plan in place.

Website governance is an organized process for maintaining and managing your website. It’s about establishing processes, policies, and procedures that work for you. The process is basically divided into two categories:

  • Complying with outside regulations or standards relevant to your website
  • Meeting your organization’s internal standards and guidelines.

Here are a few key areas to constructing a sound web governance plan.

Step 1: Check whether you’re living up to laws and regulations

The past few years have seen major developments in online regulation around the world. These regulations are particularly prominent in the topics surrounding data privacy and accessibility.

The most visible recent legislation is probably the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation or GDPR. Simply put, GDPR establishes strict new standards for protecting internet users’ personally identifiable information. The rules laid out in GDPR apply not only to European residents but also to anyone physically located in or doing business with consumers in the EU. That means that nearly every website that has dealings in Europe needs to be up to date on the latest privacy and data protection standards or risk considerable fines and penalties.

By researching and understanding how GDPR and other major pieces of local, national, and international legislation impact your organization, you position yourself to stay on the right side of the law.

Step 2: Make your site as accessible as possible

There’s a good chance that website accessibility falls under the “laws and regulations” category for you, especially since so many countries have already adopted or have plans to adopt the latest Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) into law. Either way, make your website as accessible as possible for users of all abilities.

If you don’t already have one, now is a good time to institute a site-wide accessibility plan. Use WCAG Level AA compliance as your guiding standard. It’s an excellent place to start. This might also be a smart time to invest in an automated accessibility tool to scan your site for common accessibility issues and recommend solutions.

Step 3: Refresh or remove outdated content

If a New Year’s website refresh is the first one your site has had in a while, odds are favorable that you’ll run across content that’s long outlived its usefulness. A website should be active and dynamic. It’s easy to overlook outdated policies, personnel changes, or irrelevant documents buried on your site. Take a content inventory to locate old material that could confuse or annoy your users and pay special attention to personal data that might be exposed on your most active website or on forgotten domains that your organization still owns.

Step 4: Measure (then boost) your website performance

Another consideration if your site hasn’t had a good cleanup for a while is the bloat and baggage that drags down website performance. Slow load times and inconsistent page performance are major turn-offs for users, especially in the age of mobile browsing. Review your website data for common performance issues such as oversized image files and outdated functions. After all, even the best content won’t make an impact if visitors don’t stick around to see it. Remember that the smallest tweaks often make the biggest differences in website performance.

Step 5: Update your SEO

SEO is a constantly changing game. Your organization runs the same race to be seen by searchers as your competitors. Revisit your SEO goals and strategies. Are there new areas where you’d like to improve your rankings? Are there new audiences you’re trying to reach? Recently launched products or services likely merit a new round of keyword research.

Make a list of high-level topics you want to focus on, then drill down within each to build lists of high-value keywords for each area. Manually researching keywords is not recommended and is a downright impossible task for complex organizations, therefore an automated keyword research tool is the way to go.

Step 6: Study your analytics data

Honestly, this step is not just one for the start of a new year. A good sharp look at your analytics should happen at the start of every year, every quarter, and every week! One of the most useful measures of the improvements your website needs in the coming year is a clear-eyed assessment of the hits and misses of last year. Web analytics provide a reliable snapshot of what did and didn’t work and point you toward a higher level of performance.

Before digging too deeply into your analytics, be sure to define a clear overall objective, whether that’s increasing retail sales, generating sales leads, improving brand awareness, or whatever else might drive your site. When you have an overarching goal in mind, you can start setting your key performance indicators and key metrics—the milestones that let you know if you’re reaching your objective. Analytics provide the figures that prove your progress. Lay out a clear analytics strategy with well-defined goals and use the data to build a better online experience and to convert traffic.

In some ways, the new year is a fairly arbitrary marker for re-energizing your website. Symbolically, though, it’s as good a time as any to take stock of your operations and make a few changes for the better. There’s no time like the present to start building a better future.