Tips for Website Maintenance
Your website is a lead generating machine, working day and night to grow your business. But to remain effective, it must be maintained. This can be a daunting task that is easily forgotten and overlooked. However, if you plan properly, much of the maintenance can be handled in only minutes per week.
Plan for success
I recommend creating a list of maintenance tasks that you will be completing regularly. Then, create calendar events with reminders so you don’t lose track of each task. Below is a high-level overview of some of the tasks that should be completed regularly:
How often these items are done will vary largely depending on the website, and this guide is written with a business owner maintaining his own website in mind.
Write Compelling Content
Writing content in the form of a blog adds valuable web pages, attracts visitors, and keeps your site interesting. Set a schedule and publish at least 2-3 posts per week. Can’t think of a topic? Here are some ideas.
Review Website Analytics
Track your site’s visitors and conversions with website analytics. Google Analytics is a common and free tool to keep track of your site, and there are a lot of great tutorials on the web with instructions on setting it up. View your results every week to stay motivated and see what is gaining traction with your visitors.
Create Automated Backups
This task isn’t one that you need to add to your calendar, assuming it is happening automatically. It is good to make sure these backups are happening, and ensure they work to actually restore your website should it be necessary. A good backup strategy should do the following:
- Automated based on site needs
- Stored in a separate physical location/datacenter
- Include everything necessary for recreating your site
- Be secure
Update your CMS
Running the latest version of your web software is becoming increasingly important as new vulnerabilities are discovered regularly. Thankfully, most CMS’s are easier than ever to keep updated. I recommend using the following strategy to update your CMS on low risk websites.
Step 1: Create a whole site backup
Make sure you have it stored on a separate physical server (I recommend AWS S3) and that you can restore it quickly.
Step 2: Review Update Change logs
These can indicate where potential problems might occur, and will help you know how to test for errors after the update.
Step 3: Complete Update Tasks
This might involve running an updater or copying new files to your server, depending on your CMS. [Note: if you are using caching plugins, it is probably good to disable them before completing updates]
Step 4: Check for errors
Reload your website and look for errors. Check multiple pages, and keep in mind that the changes listed in the change log will help you know what to look for.
Fix broken links
Its always annoying to get 404 errors when you are trying to navigate a website, not to mention it looks unprofessional. Google Webmaster Tools will show you broken links that show up as the Google bot crawls your site, as well as which external links are broken. There are also other great tools that can help you find and repair 404 errors automatically, depending upon your CMS or web host.
Reviewing your sitemap, search traffic, and checking for security issues are also good things to check while you are in Webmaster Tools.
Review content for outdated material
This may go without saying, but its important your website reflects your current business. Often we forget to actually read our own content after its been published, but its important to review it periodically, as there may be old products, prices, or locations that you forgot to change.
This has an added benefit if you go to the extra effort of reviewing blog posts, because you can revamp content to keep it current, and add links to new relevant posts you’ve created since then.
Checkout the competition
It could be argued that this should be completed more often, but I believe quarterly to be sufficient in most cases. After all, you should be focusing first on your own business and improvements, and then comparing your progress to what your competitors are doing. If you are always waiting for your competitors to move first, you are losing.
Review website goals
Business goals change, and as they do, so should your online marketing goals and strategy. If you haven’t written down your goals, now would be a great time to do so. Set goals for where you want to be next quarter, and create an action plan to get there.
Optimize website speed
Its important to track how quickly your site loads for your visitors. There are many tools available to give you an idea of how fast or slow your site is, and how to begin fixing the problems.
Review your web host
Unless you’ve had trouble with your host over the past year, you probably haven’t looked at their competitors. It’s easy to take the path of least resistance and stick with your host, but there can be many reasons why this is a poor choice.
Hosting companies often have trouble transitioning from lean organization to giant web behemoth. If your site has been online for a while, the physical machines hosting it might be old, or be hosting thousands of other sites as well. If you are on a shared hosting platform, this is most likely true.
Setup speed tracking and uptime tracking with a service such as Pingdom so you know exactly how your web host is performing.
Make sure you have a routine in place, and repeating calendar reminders for each task. For tasks only done monthly or less, it’s often helpful to keep instructions in the calendar post so you know exactly how to perform the task each time. This also saves time trying to reconstruct the process.
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading my tips for website maintenance. Let me know about other tasks you would add to this list in the comments.