So, you've got a website. Congratulations! That's a big deal! You've likely spent hours pouring over every little detail and spent a good chunk of change getting it laid out just right! And you did a great job! This is absolutely something to celebrate! But hold on a second – before you get too comfortable, let's talk about something crucial: website maintenance.
I know what you're thinking....Maintenance? Why would I need that ALREADY? My site isn't big enough to need website maintenance! But the thing is all websites, no matter what age need to be maintained because all websites are valuable. And if you ask anyone who works in tech, they'll tell you the same thing: the only thing you can rely on with technology is that it can be unreliable.
I've seen websites lose whole pages overnight, servers lose websites with no record of them ever existing, and could write a short story horror collection to rival R.L. Stein centered around development issues.
But fret not, maintaining your website doesn't have to be overwhelming, expensive, or time-consuming. In fact, today I'm walking you through the entire process so you can handle it all on your own as well as your options if you're looking for help! So let's get into it, shall we?
First Website Maintenance: the easy way!
If you're looking for easy, set-it-and-forget-it website maintenance you're best bet is to start a conversation with The Clever Catalyst, that's us! We offer turn-key website maintenance packages starting at only $200 a month!
But wait it gets better! Not only are they affordable and you never have to lift a finger but they also include full-site back-ups. Monthly. Meaning if you ever experience the truly agonizing experience of your entire site just being rotated 90 degrees for some reason or worse a virus. You will have a clean back up saving you literally dozens of hours cleaning it up.
Oh and did I mention there is no contract or long-term commitment required?
Website Maintenance: The DIY Approach
As much as we'd love to help every single one of you maintain you're sites. I know that the reality is for a lot of you it will make more sense to go it alone. And I support that so here's what you should be handling if handling your website maintenance yourself listed in order of importance.
A note on perspective:
We should also note that I am speaking from the perspective of a WordPress site. If your site is a Squarespace, Wix, Weebly, Google, or any other site-builder platform there will be some of these steps you may need to adjust or won't be necessary at all with your non-WordPress site.
The reality is as great as the other builders are (I'm housed on Wix) the majority of the internet uses WordPress and that is still the most robust builder on the market, making it the last option before going custom for many brands!
Step 1: Security Check
Maintaining the security of your small business website is paramount. Schedule regular backups of your website to safeguard against data loss in case of unforeseen issues. Keep all software, including your website platform and plugins, up to date to patch security vulnerabilities. Furthermore, ensure that your SSL certificate is valid and current to secure data transmission on your site. A proactive approach to security helps protect sensitive information and maintains trust with your audience.
To do this simply log into your WordPress and check for alerts. If there is a new WordPress update, it will show up on your WordPress Dashboard, and that will need to be applied. Plug-ins will show a notification icon over the plug-in menu option if any are available and then from within the plugin menu, you will see which of your plug-ins have available upgrades.
Pro-Tip: If you have any updates to perform be sure to pull a backup of your site or have a static version you can reference. Updates especially WordPress itself have been known to cause problems.
If you're using a platform like Squarespace or Wix, most of this will be handled for you. You will not need to update plug-ins typically and there will not be a Wordpress Update to handle. But it wouldn't hurt to double-check your backup situation, even if just to know where and how to access them.
Step 2: Regular Content Updates
Your website is like a favorite playlist. You wouldn't want your visitors listening to the same old tune on repeat, right? Well, the same goes for your site content. Keeping things fresh and relevant isn't just a good idea; it's basically the secret sauce for keeping your audience hooked. Regularly publishing blog posts, videos, new pages, and active content updates not only provides value to your audience but also signals to search engines that your site is active.
If you're website lists products or services this is even more important. Comb through your inventory and ensure all the details are accurate and if they haven't gotten fresh descriptions in a while consider jazzing some of them up.
Pro-Tip: Changing which image is the product's featured image can be helpful as well. Even to customers who've already seen the products. It can give your whole store page a fresh feel.
This isn't one we can get away from on the user-friendly builders. So wherever your site is housed this is a necessary step.
Step 3: SEO Maintenance
Search engine optimization (SEO) is an ongoing effort to maintain and improve your website's visibility on search engine results pages. Regularly update your website's keywords based on changes in your industry or target audience. And before you say "Sounds great Christi but what does that mean?" I'll share some examples of what that looks like.
This would be a good time to mention that I have a FREE Complete SEO Checklist that you can download today. It is the same checklist we use internally and it's THOROUGH!
Pro-Tip: Start a monthly blog. This allows you to add a new page on your website every single month and you can optimize that blog post around a pre-determined keyword and really get ALL the bang for very little bucks!
Step 4: User Experience (UX) Enhancements
The User Experience (sometimes referred to by us nerds as UX) is just a fancy way of saying how the user uses your site. A positive user experience is fundamental to the success of your website. Regularly review and enhance the navigation to make it intuitive and user-friendly. This is possibly the easiest but most impactful step on this list and all you have to do is use your site with the eyes of your customer.
That's it. Just use your site. Click through the journey you might take. See if it all flows nicely. As the people making the sites it can be easy enough to know where things are or to know the blog is hidden in the second scroll of the menu bar, but these things are not obvious to our users. And sometimes links just break. Regular checks and improvements to the overall usability of your site contribute to its long-term success.
Pro-Tip: Check your mobile UX. As an increasing number of users access websites on mobile devices, ensuring your site is mobile-friendly is non-negotiable. Optimize the design to be mobile-friendly, making navigation and content consumption easy for users regardless of the device they use.
Step 5: Optimization for Speed
It's time to tap into the speed force! Optimizing your website for speed is crucial for providing a positive user experience. (Wait, weren't we just talking about that?) By regularly optimizing for speed, you ensure that your website remains fast and responsive, catering to the expectations of modern online visitors. Users are FAR more likely to leave a slow-loading site, impacting both user satisfaction and search engine rankings.
You want to do thinkings like compress images, minimize HTTP requests, and enable browser caching to reduce loading times. This is not 101-level material but it also doesn't require any coding. Here is a great walkthrough. There are also plugins to help with some or all of this process.
Step 6: Monitoring and Analytics
Monitoring and analyzing your website's performance is essential for making informed decisions. Utilize tools like Google Analytics to track website traffic, user behavior, and other valuable metrics. Implement error monitoring to receive alerts for website issues and address them promptly.
By regularly reviewing analytics data, you gain insights into user preferences, allowing you to make data-driven improvements to your site. This ongoing analysis is crucial for adapting to changing trends and optimizing your website for continued success.
Pro-Tip: If you haven't already updated your site's tracking to GA4, you are missing data! Get that handled as soon as literally possible!