The maintenance of your website should be seen as no different from maintenance to your car. An easy way of thinking about it is that if you consistently maintain your vehicle, it will avoid any costly repairs and potentially a serious accident. In the same way, ongoing upkeep of your website is required to avoid significant issues that can directly affect your business.
Proactive, not reactive
The best way to approach maintenance is to be proactive, and not reactive. After all, reacting to data loss can often be a very costly strategy. Your website is the front of your business and it needs to always be on and ready to work hard at generating new sales and leads.
There are six primary parts that are monitored and regularly maintained to make a website run at optimum performance and they require a lot of work and time, often too much for a business owner to spare.
This is why we would always recommend a website maintenance service that can detect issues coming and solve them before they affect anything on your site.
The Big Six
1. WordPress Updates
As with most platforms, WordPress is constantly updating its core files, plugins, and themes. Like you would see a warning light flash up on your car dashboard, these updates need to be addressed as soon as possible. WordPress’ core developers create newer versions that offer more features and bug fixes. Security and performance improvements are also included. Updating to the latest version avoids the vulnerability present in previous versions which can expose you to hackers who insert malicious code through plugins.
The only downside is that these large updates often don’t work well with other updates and in some cases, they can cause your website to crash! This may sound scary but there are ways to protect your content.
The best way around this is to perform regular backups to your website which will be your spare wheel in the case of any major issues. They allow you to get back up and running as quickly as possible.
Your website is one of your business’s most important assets and you need to have a clear backup strategy in place to best protect it:
As a rule of thumb, backups need to be performed at least weekly but it really depends on how much content you have. If you’re uploading fresh content daily, then your backups need to reflect this.
Backups need to be off-site. This means your data will be replicated on a server that has a different geographical location from your host server. We would not recommend relying on your website host provider to do this for you and instead use a third-party plugin such as Updraft.
You will want to check that on a weekly basis your backups are being made, and schedule a monthly test for the restoration of your backup.
Keep in mind that you have invested a lot of time and money into your website and its content so it is worth ensuring that, in the worst-case scenario, you will not lose all of your hard work.
3. Testing Functionality
What is the function of your website? You need to take a step back and approach your site like you would want any of your customers to do.
As a business owner, you should be checking this functionality on a weekly basis. This could be ensuring that forms are correctly sending emails and they are being received. If you are running an E-Commerce website, make a test purchase and ensure that it shows up correctly in the back end. Was a transactional email sent out? You don’t want to skip a single part of the process.
Implementing a routine testing procedure for your website needs to become a part of your weekly process. It is vital in ensuring the customer journey is always effortless, and especially so before important parts of the year such as a sale or promotion where you are anticipating a higher volume of traffic.
4. Uptime Monitoring
Your website is a primary sales platform and needs to always be accessible. Uptime monitoring performs automatic checks at least every 15 minutes, but ideally every 5 or less, to see if all pages are loading correctly. Different services will allow you to customize this time period.
Most host server providers will boast an uptime figure of 99.99% which equates to roughly five minutes of downtime (the opposite of uptime) per year. While this figure is impressive, it is often not accurate. By implementing active monitoring of your site with tools such as Uptime Robot, you can keep track of what the actual numbers are.
If you see it drop to around 99.5% – which is 1.83 days of downtime a year! – you will definitely want to consider changing your server host provider. Remember, when your website is down it cannot perform its purpose of generating sales and it can also cost you your reputation which will, in turn, cost you customers.
5. Security Scans
Let’s start off by saying that no website is 100% secure from any attacks, it is not possible. But what you can do is make it as hard as possible! Security scans will reduce your website’s vulnerability by scanning for hacking attempts, malware, and viruses and implementing firewalls to prevent attacks. They can be easily added to your site as plugins from providers like WordFence and Sucuri.
Websites that are flagged as unsafe can deter potential customers. If Google detected malware on your website and flagged it, it would have consequences on how your site ranks in search and how potential customers will interact with it across all apps.
6. Speed Optimization
Unless your business is adding new content regularly to your website, this may not appear to be so important. After all, once a website is performing well, it will usually stay that way until changes occur that cause issues. But speed optimization is now proving to be more important as your potential customers will be expecting the site to load in less than two seconds.
You can carry out a speed test easily, once a week, using free tools such as Pingdom. Your main interest here is the information relevant to you, which is page load time and a performance grade. To understand things a little deeper you will need to understand the Core Web Vitals, on a basic level at least.
Core Web Vitals comprise three metrics that score a user’s experience loading a webpage.
- Loading: The speed that a page content loads
- Interactivity: How quickly a browser loading a webpage can respond to user input
- Visual Stability: How unstable the content is as it loads
Some of these metrics will directly affect the speed of your website’s load time which can be a strong initial deterrent. As mentioned above, once a customer is on your site, if they continue to experience such issues it will not only drive them away but potentially harm your reputation too.
What makes a website maintenance plan different?
There are some great plugins and solutions to help you take control of your website maintenance and we have referenced some of our favorites throughout this article. The tools are no doubt superb, but the question is how much spare time do you have to commit to maintaining these separate parts of your website? Isn’t your time better suited growing your business?
This is why we combine all of these services, and a few more, into our Website Maintenance and Security package.
So, other than having someone else manage the maintenance – freeing up your time in the process – what are the real benefits of a maintenance service plan?
The main advantage is added security and performance. Everyone’s website is different in some way or another. Even if you offer a near-identical service to someone else, you will (or at least want to) have additional features that make your site specific to your business. Our team of WordPress experts will get to know exactly how your website operates so that you don’t need to worry about a thing. The additional services include:
- Visual checks are made before and after all WordPress updates to ensure that the look and functionality of your website have not been compromised so your user experience never suffers.
- Monthly maintenance reports are delivered straight to your inbox in an easy-to-understand PDF document so you can clearly see and understand how your website is performing.
- Our 24/7 Support Team is here to help you with any queries or if you’re looking to make content updates like uploading new images, publishing a landing page, and everything in between.
Getting back to business
You should now be behind the steering wheel of your website feeling more confident knowing how everything is (and should be) working. Whether you’re taking to the road with just a spare wheel and a toolkit or a full roadside assistance team on speed dial, you will at least have your route fully mapped out and clear direction to your destination.