Website Maintenance

After the launch: A primer to successful website maintenance

In today’s digital world, just about anyone responsible for communicating with the public understands the value of a website. A well executed, regularly updated and maintained digital presence is an important piece of any marketing, branding, and communication strategy.

Consider the value a website can provide:

  • Inform and educate your target audiences while showcasing your products, services or mission.
  • Provide legitimacy for your organization.
  • Collect customer or visitor data and generate leads for follow-up.
  • Directly sell your products or services to your customers (e-commerce).
  • Market your organization while helping potential customers find you.

Understanding this, a website is no longer a nice to have, it’s a business necessity. But what happens after the launch? Is a website a set-it-and-forget-it type of tool?

Hardly.

Think of a brick and mortar store on its grand opening. There are shiny new products strategically placed, squeaky clean windows and walls, and a welcoming, bright sign hanging above the door. But what happens to that storefront if, after that grand opening celebration, the owners do nothing to evolve or adapt, respond to wear and tear, and ignore changing customer expectations? That store will quickly become dated, rundown, and not an appealing place to spend time. Customers will pass by for a business down the street that provides a better experience.

Your website is no different. If you have made the investment to build a website and want to utilize it to share your message and attract customers or supporters, website maintenance can’t be overlooked.

Why is website maintenance important?

Just like a car, your website requires ongoing maintenance to perform well. Without it, your visitors may have negative experiences that impact their ability to engage with you or get the information they need. An ignored website maintenance strategy can turn a perfectly good asset into a liability fast. Here are a few examples to consider:

Load time
When someone visits your website, load time refers to the amount of time it takes to download and display a page’s content in the browser window. If your homepage loads slowly, or only loads a part of an image, your visitor will give up and move on. There is a lot of research that correlates the fastest load times with the greatest sales. Today’s web users won’t wait. Plus, page loading time has become an important factor when it comes to search engine rankings.

How does website maintenance help? As software ages, website load times can increase if you don’t keep up with upgrades at both the server and website CMS level. Regular software updates, file compression and caching services all help to ensure that your website load times are minimal and user experiences remain positive. Additionally, as your site grows and traffic increases, monitoring user demand and ensuring your hosting capabilities can handle it is important. Ongoing maintenance will monitor all of these functions to ensure your site stays easily accessible.

Downtime
When your website isn’t available online or doesn’t function enough to allow a user to accomplish the task they set out to do, that is considered website downtime. The site may not load at all, or it could be a glitch that slows the site to a crawl or prevents all the content from loading. This issue typically occurs at the server or network level. Malicious attacks, equipment failure, and even human error can all cause downtime.

How does website maintenance help? Consider this: Without ongoing website monitoring, how do you know when a page on your website isn’t loading or a function of your website isn’t working? A good website maintenance plan will constantly monitor website performance, and provide alerts if downtime is detected. It also includes having people who can troubleshoot and communicate with the administrators and network engineers to minimize the time offline. Uptime monitoring is also a well-known strategy that provides ongoing performance metrics and alerts if something isn’t quite right.

Changing audience expectations and needs
Your audience’s expectations and needs change regularly. Therefore, shouldn’t your website messaging also change to reflect those perceptions? As your organization evolves and new products or services are added or important milestones about your mission are reached, you need to be sure those changes are reflected on your website.

How does website maintenance help? With regular content updates, you’ll be able to keep the most relevant news, products and services in front of your audience. You’ll also able to take advantage of the latest marketing strategies that produce the highest engagement. Plus, you appear relevant. Sites that have their most recent news last posted in 2015 don’t leave a good impression.

Bugs and broken links
There is a lot going on under the hood of your website. Servers, programs, scripts, plugins, algorithms and various types of code are constantly working behind the scenes to serve up your content. Sometimes, these things break. Bugs and broken links can discourage users from wanting to interact with your website.

How does website maintenance help? The sooner you know there is an issue, the faster you can address it. Unless you have a person solely dedicated to checking every page of your website continuously, it’s hard to know when these types of issues are occurring. Website maintenance monitors performance by using scanning software, broken link checkers, and other technologies that will automatically alert your team to potential problems or serious issues.

Security and backups
Fall behind on monitoring, upgrading and updating your website’s security and you’ll be leaving yourself vulnerable to getting hacked. As frustrating as it is, it happens to unsuspecting websites all the time. What’s worse is that if your site isn’t properly backed up and is hacked or crashes, you could quickly lose everything. Knowing that you likely made a significant investment into building and launching the site and that your target audiences use it to learn about you, make purchases, or interact with your brand, you don’t want to take the chance of losing it all at the hands of something you can control.

How does website maintenance help? A comprehensive website maintenance plan will ensure your site’s security is updated, upgraded and backed-up using the latest technologies available. A good website maintenance strategy ensures your site is always utilizing the latest security updates and enhancements. Additionally, if you collect any type of data from the individuals visiting your site, e.g., contact information, it’s your responsibility to ensure the safe collection of that data. Your website’s security is critical to keeping your visitors, and your website, safe.

Search Engines and Searchability
Searchability (often separated into crawlability and indexability) is how good your content looks to machine learning algorithms and AI resulting in how favorably these bots will automatically place you in search results like Google. Load time (above) is one factor of searchability. Others are mobile friendliness, site architecture, removing crawl errors, identifying thin (or duplicate) content and structured data markup. It’s a world of moving targets and rapid advancement with a never-ending amount of possible tweaks that could affect how you rank and ultimately, who sees your website.

How does website maintenance help? If you don’t make some attempt to keep up with these things, at best, your website rankings will gradually slip over time. In extreme cases (i.e. mobilegeddon) there are possibilities of significant drops overnight. A thorough maintenance plan should include a bot of your own that audits your website and reports back to you what it sees as well as the time and knowledge to make the necessary adjustments.

Planning your website maintenance strategy

As you think about your own website maintenance strategy, here are the key focus areas you should be sure to include:

  1. Backups and disaster recovery: Your site should be constantly backed up, protecting you in case something goes wrong (e.g., a hack, catastrophic error or natural disaster in the datacenter where your site is stored).
  2. Security and monitoring: One of the primary ways hackers gain access to a site is through outdated software. Even if you don’t sell products on your site, you can still get hacked. From firewalls and encryption (SSL) services to malware protection, uptime, and blacklist monitoring, it’s important you have strategies in place that monitor and protect your site for suspicious activity.
  3. Content updates: If your recent news is two years old and your current special is from 2016, what does that say to your customers? Content should regularly be changing or added to reflect the dynamic nature of your business or organization. Keep your audience engaged and informed with relevant, up-to-date content.
  4. Software updates: Software updates are often overlooked, but just like Windows, your website software needs to be updated. Ignore it and you leave yourself vulnerable to crashes, hackers and general functionality challenges.
  5. Renewals (e.g., domains, software, SSL): WordPress plugins, Joomla extensions, 3rd party software that integrates with the website via API, domain name registration, hosting, and security certificates all need to be renewed in order to keep your site up and running properly. Letting one lapse can quickly lead to a hack or extended downtime.
  6. Analytic reporting: What good is a website if you don’t know what it is doing for your business? You want your site to be reporting data 24/7 to allow you to best optimize it for your visitors. Smart website strategies are driven by data. Tools like Google Analytics, Google Search Console, and SEMRush are good options.
  7. Performance optimization: Remember when we talked about the importance of software updates, load time, uptime, and removal of bugs and broken links? That’s where this all comes to play to ensure your pages load efficiently and both your visitors and the search bots have positive experiences when interacting with your site.
  8. People: At the end of the day, you need someone responsible for administering all of this, communicating with the host support team, configuring software, and managing users. It’s a lot of work, but it is important. The health and functionality of your site depends on it.

What about do it yourself maintenance?

Think about your car again. We all know regular maintenance is important. From oil changes to brake pads, if you ignore it, you will eventually have a problem. And usually, the problem ends up costing you a lot more in time and money than if you had serviced the issue proactively.

Website maintenance is the same. There is so much going on under the hood of your website that ongoing maintenance is necessary to keep it running smoothly. Many business owners, directors and managers are responsible for numerous other aspects of their business or organization. Website maintenance is an easy task to put on the back burner because on the surface, your website might appear to be working fine. But by putting off regular site maintenance, you can easily end up spending more money on emergency maintenance. Downtime, crashes, or security issues can quickly drive away customers. However, with proper maintenance, all of these issues can generally be avoided.

Hiring a professional

It’s clear that there are a lot of moving parts when it comes to website maintenance. And the importance of it cannot be understated. You’ve put a lot of time and money into building your website, and maintenance allows you to protect that investment while ensuring your website reaches your organization’s goals. In our experience, we’ve found it’s best to leave website maintenance to a professional. They’ll find errors, keep up with regular software and security updates avoiding potential crashes and hacks, optimize your site’s performance to ensure positive user experiences, address issues quickly and efficiently, and update content to ensure you are communicating the most relevant, timely information to your audience. A properly executed website maintenance strategy will save you time, heartache, and money. Plus, your website visitors will be able to easily find the information they need, complete the purchase they want, or support your organization’s mission.

At Klovera, we provide maintenance for websites of all sizes including WordPress, Joomla and custom websites built on the LAMP stack. Our clients have the peace of mind knowing their site maintenance is handled meticulously. If your website could benefit from having a dedicated professional not only manage your maintenance but also provide ongoing support, consultation, training, development or design, contact our team to learn about our website management plans. We can provide all of the services we mentioned earlier or customize a plan that will work best for your needs.