How to give your website a health check.

Once your website is up and running, it’s very important to maintain it and keep it up to date, for a number of reasons including security, SEO, branding and even legal requirements.

I like to look at a new website a bit like a new car. When you first drive it out of the showroom it looks lovely and shiny and new - perfect. But to keep it that way, you’ve got to regularly clean it and service it so it runs smooth from the inside-out. If you haven’t given it a good clean in months, or leave it too long between services, problems can arise, which can affect not only your ability to drive it, but your resale value - not to mention your confidence in driving it and how it will look on the road!

It’s the same with a new website, When you first launch it, it’s perfect - full of fresh content, up-to-date plugins, a great look and feel, and direct contact details. But if you’re rusty on the up-keep, you run the risk of losing not only your data and SEO ranking, but your customers.

Taking the time to establish and invest in your website means you are also its insurance policy, so it pays to look after it! All cars come with a maintenance schedule, and you can create one for your website. Here’s a few essentials to put into your schedule that will help maintain your website’s health - now and into the future.

1. CHECK FOR OUTDATED INFORMATION

MAINTENANCE LEVEL = EASY

There’s nothing worse than when a customer tries to call or email you, only to get a, “this call cannot be connected” message or an email bounce back, so it pays to update your contact details as they change. This also goes for opening hours - do you know how many times I’ve gone to a restaurant thinking it’s open, but it’s actually closed!? So frustrating!

Tip! Try ‘Googling’ yourself and explore the direct information that comes up - if it’s incorrect, you’ll need to find the source of where it’s coming from, which will usually be your website. Google now allows you to edit your own business listing so that you can keep on top of changes to your business contact details.

You may have also written an article that is no longer relevant, or had a change in your team that requires a bio to be taken down or put up, or had a product listed on your online shop that is no longer available. In these cases, you can archive content so that it is still searchable, but no longer relevant (such as a blog archive - this will retain your SEO), or you can simply delete and/or replace content.

2. REMOVE OR REPAIR ANY BROKEN LINKS

MAINTENANCE LEVEL = EASY

If you’re showing off some of your work in a portfolio (such as a client’s website you built), or are reviewing others’ sites, or perhaps providing links to advice, other articles, a software plugin or how-to document, be sure to test these links before and after you publish them on your website. Considering that website content is updated constantly, it would not be uncommon for you (or your customers) to find a broken link or two down the track. If this happens, you may need to delete the link entirely or replace it with another link to content that best describes what the link is about.

3. keep a user registry and change passwords often

MAINTENANCE LEVEL = EASY-MEDIUM

Probably one of the most important factors in website maintenance is keeping your website secure. By that, I mean preventing hackers from taking down your site or injecting it with malicious software. Keeping your website secure minimises the risk of hacking, data loss and SPAM in your inbox.

Make your password virtually unhackable.

One of the easiest ways to protect your website is to change your password regularly - and not to ‘administrator’ or ‘user1’. The more encrypted your password, the less vulnerable it becomes. Try using a mixture of capital letters, numbers, symbols, text and length to generate your password. If you have trouble remembering your password, you can always keep it stored in a password protector such as LastPass.

Why you should have a user registry.

If you have more than one person using your website, you should create a user registry and provide each user with their own password and permissions. This will help you keep track of who is accessing the site, as well as which sections of the site they are entitled to access. For example, a content editor who writes blog articles probably shouldn’t have access to the administration panel of your website. You may be granting them access to sensitive information or leaving your site open to breakage if an editor accidentally makes a mistake - and we all know that making mistakes on the web can be costly!

4. STAY ON TOP OF PLUGINS AND SOFTWARE UPDATES

MAINTENANCE LEVEL = MODERATE/HARD

Modern websites that use content management systems (such as Wordpress), need regular ‘back-end’ maintenance to keep your website stable, secure and optimised.

The platform itself (eg. Wordpress). along with any third-party software add-ons (such as plugins, widgets, custom themes etc.) are prone to version updates which can contain bug fixes, functionality enhancements, new features, security updates, updates in server side scripting languages (such as PHP), and more.

When your website and third-party add-ons are running at their best, your pages will load faster, meaning your content gets seen quicker! Plus, your site maintains its security too.

Tip/Warning! When performing this type of maintenance, you’ll need to ensure that the version of your platform and third party add-ons are compatible with each other - otherwise you may break part of the site when updating! My next tip is also a must before performing version updates.

5. PERFORM REGULAR BACKUPS

MAINTENANCE LEVEL = EASY/MODERATE

Every website should have a disaster recovery plan (otherwise known as a backup) should the worst happen! For example, your website might crash unexpectedly, break due to a version upgrade or be hacked and security compromised.

If any of the above happened, it can be very painful (and costly) to rebuild and totally start again! A backup plugin like UpdraftPlus can save a lot of headaches and drama by automatically performing a backup all of your website data and files at a scheduled time that you choose. The schedule you set depends on your content and how often it is updated (eg. daily content updates = daily backup). The best part is that your backup is then automatically saved to a specific area within your web hosting account, or to cloud storage such as Google Drive or Dropbox, meaning that if the worst should happen, you’ve got a fresh copy ready and waiting to be restored. Yay!

Tip! Your web developer can always install and setup a backup solution for you if you’re unsure how to go about it.

4. be on trend with Branding and competition

MAINTENANCE LEVEL = MODERATE

Design aesthetics are forever changing and today we’re seeing more and more innovative styles, interfaces, graphics and ways to engage online (just look at Instagram!)

To be competitive, your brand needs to be strong, consistent and send the right message to your customers. This also includes language! Design and language together gives your brand an overall personality and helps to deliver whatever it is you’re promoting, to your customers.

If your site is looking tired and out-dated, it’s probably in need of a revamp. It’s a good idea to check out some of your competitors websites to see where the benchmark is, and then add your point of difference to create a new sense of engagement. A design that was working perfectly for you 12 months ago may not be working for you now. Remember, design changes… and it seems to very quickly online!

Tip! If your site is not mobile friendly, it should be! Read this to learn more about website revamping.

5. get your timing right!

MAINTENANCE LEVEL = MODERATE

Setting a time to carry out your website maintenance schedule depends on your website content, how it’s built, and who it’s hosted with. Not all maintenance tasks can be completed at the same time, so you should look to break down all the maintenance tasks into daily, weekly, monthly or yearly categories. Then set reminders to flag when the updates are to occur.

Keep a checklist.

Tick off any maintenance that you have performed, and what is left outstanding so that you have a record of what is complete, what is still left to do, and what is ongoing.


Following all of the above will help keep your website healthy and will also help you plan for new ways of engaging with your customers.

Cheers,
Sarah


Need help?

If you’re finding it difficult to spare some time to pay attention to your website, you may want to consider hiring a content editor or developer to perform regular updates and maintenance checks.

Studio Manta can help you with that. If you’re interested, fill out our maintenance request form below and we’ll get in touch with you.

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