Keep your website running like a well-oiled machine, and your customers coming back for more
Once in a while, I run into a bizarre phenomenon with website development: A small business owner hires me to build them a beautiful, rich, responsive and engaging website. Then, amidst the enthusiasm for the new website we’ve crafted with great care, the website owner…never touches it again.
It’s a surefire way to make a solid, well-planned website sink well below the expectations their owners had, and it’s more common than you’d think.
The moment the website lies forgotten is the moment it begins to descend into obsolescence. Ongoing upkeep, then, is the key to maximizing the return on your investment in the first place.
Here are 5 regular maintenance tasks you can do to ensure you’re getting the most out of the incredible tool that is your website.
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1. Keep security tight and bugs to a minimum
One simple way to go about this is keeping the technology on your site up to date. That means updating WordPress (the Content Management System) itself, as well as your plugins and themes.
One of the main ways hackers access websites is through outdated software that doesn’t have the latest security patches. If your site is infected with malware, it may infect your visitors, attack the website itself, and may even get you blocked from search engines.
It’s also a good idea to run security checks once a month to make sure your website hasn’t been infected, despite your best efforts.
2. Optimize your site for speed
Once a site has been built, it’s not always in tip top shape for loading quickly on slower internet connections. Your website might get dinged by Google’s search results if it doesn’t meet Google’s standards for speed, so it’s a good idea to check your site and make sure nothing is mucking it up.
Luckily, running your site through Google’s Pagespeed Insights is simple and quick. It will give you a rundown of what pieces of your website may cause slowness on desktops or mobile devices. If you get a particularly poor score, it may be a good idea to spend some time on optimizing your website’s speed.
3. Test for broken links, error pages, and functionality
How many times have you gone to a website looking for a simple piece of information, and clicked the link to it, only to find the link is broken? Your first reaction is probably to find another website that gives you what you need. Don’t let your business get overlooked because you didn’t notice your website wasn’t working properly.
A great tool for checking functionality is Google Webmaster. It can crawl your website and notify you of broken links and errors it finds. There are a lot of other great tools you can use in your monthly maintenance checks as well if you’re hoping to build your Search Engine Optimization, but I won’t go into those here.
While you can always use an automated tool to check things out, nothing beats going into your website yourself and testing to make sure everything is working properly. That means trying out contact forms, any buttons that trigger automated emails, or any other functions your site performs beyond just looking pretty.
4. Keep your content fresh and your customers engaged
At least once a month (if possible, as often as once a week), you’ll want to review your website to keep the content current. Details that seem small can be dead giveaways that you never update your website, and hint to your customers that your business may not be all that active. Review your content to make sure the copyrights are current, you have news (not an article from last year) in your “Recent News” section, and your pricing and descriptions reflect your current business model, not the one you started out with.
Keeping your content up-to-date makes a great first impression on your customers, and keeps them engaged over time. The more you update your content, the more likely they are to come back for more.
As an extra plus, the more often you update your site with new content, the more often search engines will visit your site and boost your rankings. If you don’t have new content, your search engine rankings will drop until you’re completely out of the race.
5. Be prepared for problems to arise
Sometimes, things don’t go exactly as planned. Servers can go down, hackers can break in, and entire websites can be lost. Don’t get caught with your pants down.
Once a month (at the very least!), create a backup of your website and save it somewhere other than your host’s server (like your computer, a cloud service, and/or a hard drive). If you have a WordPress website, you can use a plugin like UpdraftPlus to schedule automated backups, or All-in-One WP Migration to do it manually.
It’s also a good idea to monitor your website for downtime. WordPress’s JetPack Monitor module will notify you any time your site goes down, and for how long. This can help you locate problems with your setup with your hosting account, and problems with the website that are causing it to go offline for any period of time.
Consistently adding content and making sure your website is in working order will ensure it evolves with the times and stays shiny and new for each new visitor. A little bit of love goes a long way in increasing your return on investment.