We’ve said it before, technology is changing — rapidly — from the appliances in our homes to the communications methods we use to the cars we drive. And though our phones or computers or TVs still work, 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.
And, if we aren’t upgrading, we are at least maintaining. Take your car for example. Every 5,000 miles, you bring your car to your dealer or trusted 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 is performed 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 to perform at its best.
So why would you let your website stagnate for years?
An old website isn’t working for you.
Not only has technology evolved to facilitate more interactive sites with faster image loading and pages viewable across desktop and mobile devices, it also allows you easier integration with social media, video and other emerging web trends.
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, you’ll want to keep up with new version releases, as well as any plugins or extensions that are installed. This ensures better site performance and protects your site against malicious attacks.
Content management systems and plugins are often updated to address any bugs discovered during previous versions and to add new features and functionality that might have been requested or conceived after the previous release. Plugins are sometimes updated simply to remain compatible with core 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 and hopefully before an attacker has a chance to compromise any sites. According to WPBeginner, 83% of hacked WordPress sites are not upgraded. 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.
Updates to these systems are best done as new versions are released, utilizing incremental updates that are easier to perform and troubleshoot than major version leaps.
If your site has been compromised, you’ll want to be able to restore from a backup. Backups allow you to restore your site to a point in time before the hack with as little content loss as possible and in a timely manner. Having to manually clean hundreds of files of any injected code can be a massive undertaking. And rebuilding completely from scratch even more costly to your business.
Occasionally, you might also need to do maintenance due to changes your hosting provider makes. For example, a hosting provider might update server software such as the version of PHP that is running, in order to provide better security on their servers. This could cause systems on your site to “break” due to compatibility issues. You’d then need to be able to update or rewrite information to work with the new software on your host server.
Other companies or organizations might make changes to their systems that also 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.
Maintenance 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 (such as Panda and Penguin) that require a change in strategy on your part. Knowing the dates of these algorithm updates can help explain traffic changes. And knowing the specifics of how changes affect search rank allows you to make updates to make your site more search-friendly.
But maintenance isn’t only about the technology.
Your content 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. 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 a review of site content to ensure it is up-to-date and accurate.
Whether it’s content updates, software updates or performance updates, monthly reviews and edits can take time. But not making them can affect your site and your bottom line. At minimum, you should be making sure you have a monthly plan in place that includes 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 will be perform better and present fewer large-scale problems in the future.