You may not remember Ron Popeil, the TV pitchman who coined the phrase, “set it and forget it.” We do, but only because we turn his pitch on its head when we say, “Don’t set it and forget it” when talking about website maintenance. Don’t treat your website like one of Ron’s famous rotisserie ovens. It’s not a no-maintenance machine.
Upgrade or maintain
Technology changes rapidly – from home appliances to communications devices to the cars we drive (at least until those driverless cars are perfected). Though our phones, laptops and TVs still function, if they don’t have the fastest processor, newest integrations or highest pixel quality, we end up wanting to upgrade or update them as soon as we can.
If we aren’t upgrading, we at least maintain our stuff. Take your car for example. Every 5,000 miles or so, you bring your car to a mechanic for regular maintenance. They change the oil and filter, check the tires, inspect the brake pads and top off the fluids. At other times, more in-depth maintenance happens, such as tire rotation or manufacturer-recommended software updates, recalls or repairs. You take care of your car to make sure it works and continues performing at its best.
With that context in mind, why would you let your website stagnate for years?
Keep your site up-to-date with a website maintenance plan
Yes, keeping your website up to date can be complicated and time consuming. You need to:
- Keep software and website systems current
- Perform ongoing analysis of your error logs and optimization strategy
- Improve integrations
- Ensure you have complete backups at your fingertips and monitor for security breaches and vulnerabilities
For example, if you are using a content management system (CMS), you need to keep up with new version releases and make sure that any plugins or extensions installed also keep pace with updates. This ensures better site performance and protects your site against malicious attacks.
CMSs and plugins undergo frequent updates that address bugs discovered during previous versions and add new features and functionality. Plugin updates ensure compatibility with other code updates.
Additionally, updates address security issues. There are millions of cyber-attacks each day. Attackers look for vulnerabilities in software and develop ways to exploit them. Updates fix vulnerabilities once discovered – hopefully before an attacker has a chance to compromise your site. According to WPBeginner, 83% of hacked WordPress sites aren’t up-to-date with updates. And while an update might be worrisome, protecting against a hack should outweigh concerns that any plugins might break or become incompatible after the update.
Update these systems as new versions release to utilize incremental updates for easier performance and troubleshooting versus major version updates.
Backup your site
If your site is compromised, you’ll want access to a previous, uncompromised version of it from a relatively recent backup. Backups allow you to quickly restore your site to a point in time before the hack with as little content loss as possible. Manually cleaning hundreds of files of injected/infected code is a massive undertaking. And rebuilding a site from scratch will be costly and inconvenient.
Website maintenance due to third-party changes
Occasionally, you might do maintenance due to changes your hosting provider makes. For example, a hosting provider might update server software such as the version of PHP (a general-purpose scripting language geared towards web development) that is running. This provides better security on the host’s servers. This update could cause systems on your site to “break” due to compatibility issues. You’d then need to update your site to be compatible with the new software on your host server.
Other companies or organizations can also make changes to their systems that affect your site. Many websites these days utilize another service provider’s application program interface (API) to integrate or improve functionality. Examples include showing a Twitter or Facebook feed on your site or a Constant Contact form or enabling automatic updates of themes from a theme marketplace. If the service makes changes to their API, your site’s scripts may no longer be able to connect and display the proper information.
A website maintenance plan can also include SEO performance reviews using Google Analytics. According to SEO Moz, Google changes its search algorithm around 500-600 times each year. Most changes are minor but occasionally Google makes major changes that require a change in strategy on your part. Knowing the dates of these algorithm updates can help you understand major traffic changes. And knowing the specifics of how changes affect search rank allows you to make updates to make your site more search friendly.
Website maintenance isn’t only about the technology
The content on your site pages says a lot about your business. With so many buyers starting their buying process with online research, your website needs to make a good first impression. Displaying “latest news” that hasn’t been updated in two years doesn’t say much about your business. Additionally, Google will penalize you in search results for out-of-date information and page structure. Regular maintenance should include at least an annual review of site content to ensure it is up-to-date and accurate – and it’s not working against you.
Whether it’s content updates, software updates or performance updates, monthly reviews and edits take time. But not making them negatively affects your site and, ultimately, your bottom line. At minimum, have a monthly website maintenance plan in place including regular full backups, regular software and plugin updates, and regular cleanup of files, cache and database.
A well-tuned website, like a well-tuned car, performs better and presents fewer large-scale problems in the future. Savoir Faire provides website maintenance for nearly all of our clients. If you have other marketing efforts in place but not website maintenance, we can handle that portion for you.