Let us be clear about one thing – there is no concept of ‘do once and then you are done’ as far as websites are concerned. In fact, you need to continue taking care of your website and conduct ongoing website maintenance procedures to ensure that it continues to function properly.
Once you have constructed your website and it is up and running, it is imperative that you conduct a few important web maintenance tasks so that the users do not experience any lag or downtime. Moving forward, you might need to enhance the capabilities and speed of your website and without adequate maintenance, it is very difficult to do so.
This holds particularly true for small to medium-sized business enterprises. If it is ‘your’ responsibility to take care of the website, then ‘you’ have to make sure that it does not fall to the bottom of your to-do list. Similarly, if you assign website maintenance responsibilities to one or more of your staff members, you have to make sure that they take this job seriously. Many seemingly more important tasks may intrude on your web maintenance time, but you have to keep the end result in sight.
If your site is not adequately maintained, it might crash, or even worse, be hacked due to unpatched security holes, and you will lose not just real and potential customers but also your online reputation. Both large and small companies and even Presidential candidates sites have been hacked due to security holes.
It is pertinent to note here that thanks to the advancement in information technology and the sheer pace of global digitalization, businesses are investing more in online marketing strategies. These can include paid search, SEO (search engine optimizations) and other online marketing strategies. The more ‘net savvy’ your target market, the greater the chance that their first interaction with your brand will be through your website.
Think of your online site as a sort of digital storefront. And, just like you keep your office neat and tidy and decorate your store and display to attract new customers, your website also requires regular upkeep.
In fact, this is the best way to impress your onsite visitors and compel them to enter the web marketing funnel that will ultimately culminate in a conversion. That is, the visitor is more likely to become a loyal paying customer. Let us check out a few website maintenance tips and pointers that will ensure that your site is always up and running with zero to minimum leg time.
The Constant Need for Speed
It is very simple really. The faster your website displays your products, the better the chances of an eventual conversion. Apart from that, the popular search engines have algorithms that factor in the speed of a website to determine its value in serving up to potential visitors in search results. This means improving the speed of your website is one of the best ways of ensuring that it ends up in the ‘holy grail’ of all organic searches, in other words, in the ‘top ten’ sites on display whenever a person types in a relevant query.
Unfortunately, this will not happen if your website is slow. This can also mean that your competitors’ websites will end up with a distinct advantage over your website. Not only will competing sites be displayed in the initial top ten searches, but also their initial faster speeds will mean that the potential customer won’t have to wait to make a purchase decision. He will not bother to browse and visit other sites. Instead, they’ll simply buy the product or service that appears in front of him, in the blink of an eye.
A person is likely to only wait for an average of 2 to 3 seconds for a page to load before he moves on to another site.
As a general rule – the slower the site, the lesser the chance of the visitor getting interested enough to stay on the site. And once this potential customer leaves in search of ‘greener pastures’, (or faster sites, in this case), you may lose a long-term convert and your competitors will make the most of it.
There is a long-term aspect of this outlook. Once an individual becomes a loyal customer, he won’t be interested in the hassle of looking for other sites for the same products. So if your potential customers go to your competitor, it’s very hard to win them over. This means that your competitor will be able to sell his products without spending anything on marketing and advertisements that are necessary to lure customers from other sites. Ultimately, this is a very big loss indeed, and it is all because of latency or lag which stems from a lack of speed.
A person is likely to only wait for an average of 2 to 3 seconds for a page to load before he moves on to another site. If your site does not perform during that two to three-second window, you are in big trouble. For every extra second of load time, the overall conversion drops by 7 percent. Similarly, for every one second of extra load time, visitor’s satisfaction tends to drop by 16 percent or so.
Many people create very fast sites but then neglect to check them periodically for latency. The fact is that sites tend to slow down over time as different pages are added and removed. Keeping your databases optimized periodically helps to minimize lags caused by this. Images, badges, social media buttons, third-party feeds, etc., offer functionality and features but also can take a toll on the overall speed of your site. You should check your page load time at least once or twice a day to ensure that you are not losing valuable business because of any latency-related issues.
Sometimes, extra traffic can also overload the main servers and crash the site. This is why you should make sure that you have adequate bandwidth and you are using a reliable hosting service with 24/7 back-end customer service.
Broken Links and Imagery
The world wide web is in a near constant state of flux. This means that it is continuously changing and evolving with the times. Site addresses, images, and links are also undergoing a similar evolution. As blogs and sites go down, new ones take their place. While linking your site to a popular blog or other site is certainly a good idea, you should never become complacent.
According to Vertical Measures, a digital marketing company based in Arizona, “when your site has outbound broken links, it’s bad for your users and your SEO. Google’s web crawlers, or ‘Googlebots’ travel link to link and collect data about each page.” So, the experience is obviously not optimal for them when broken links crop up.
It is important that you verify on a monthly basis that all your internal and external links are in good working order. Apart from that, you might link to or even display an image from another website that can get broken over time. You will have to make sure that these links are working the way they should. Such links have a dual purpose. Apart from increasing traffic, they are also important for brand building exercises. Especially, if you are linked to popular and high profile sites.
However, there is a drawback to this. Consider, for instance, your own online shopping habits. Would you have any confidence or trust in a site if you can see that it is not being maintained and is littered with broken images and links? Few people would want to place their faith and hard-earned money in such a shady website. And thanks to increasingly more advanced algorithms, the more popular search engines also take this into consideration as a key ranking factor.
Forms and Other Contact Information
Many small business websites make mistakes when it comes to the placement of their contact information or forms on their website. If that is the case, you should immediately overhaul your whole ‘contact us’ page. Make sure that the way to contact you is clearly mentioned in the header or footer, at the very least.
Make sure website visitors have a way to clearly contact you that is working and visible.
Ultimately, the single most important part of your website is to clinch the deal. If the contact info is incorrect, how will you expect your customers to get in touch with you? This is why you should make it a point each month, to double-check all relevant contact info and see that it is up to date and accurate. Moreover, you should also check to see that all of your contact forms are in working order. It can be something as simple as a technical glitch, a misspelled email address or some other issue that may be preventing you from getting those extremely valuable contact form requests.
If you use a caller ID or any other call tracking option, you should dial it from another phone on a periodic basis to ensure that all of your calls are being passed through. It will be a good idea to review your call tracking analytics as well. This will show you the activity level on your number.
Always Update your Promotions, Offers, and Deals
If you offer special promotions, deals, discounts, or coupons then it is imperative that you make sure that they are always regularly updated and highly relevant. Let’s say you run an online florist outlet and offer a 30% discount coupon for fresh flowers. While this will be a great promotion for Valentine’s Day, it can make your online retail outlet feel dated and unkempt for the rest of the year. This holds particularly true if there is an expiration date on any of your coupons. If the promotion is over, but it is still shown on the website then this is an obvious sign of a really neglected website.
By regularly rotating and updating your promotions and other coupons, you will be able to make sure that your site will become more alive and will also give your customers a reason to keep coming back to see what is on offer.
Always Check for Important Security Updates
High-profile security breaches are now a routine occurrence just about all over the world. And for every breach that you may have heard about, there are many small ones that go undetected. Today hackers and other brands of cybercrime have become far more efficient than a con artist randomly trying his luck. And, don’t make the mistake of thinking it could never happen to you because you are just a “small fish” in a big pond. There are all kinds of reasons hackers want to breach sites, no matter their size.
This is why securing your website from the unscrupulous elements out there has become a major priority for all website owners. And such security is even more important for any eCommerce related business that has to deal with customer’s confidential data.
In our experience, the number one cause of a crashed or compromised website has been because a website owner failed to keep their software updated like they should.
One of the most important website maintenance practices that can help improve your security is to consistently check that all of your plug-ins, security platforms, protocols, and scripts are up to date. When a developers release updates for such anti-hacking software then the odds are that the company has discovered a critical vulnerability. Such security patches are vital to plug all such issues.
It is imperative that you do not procrastinate when it comes to making these updates. Failure to do the needful might end up putting your website and your customers at risk.
Keep a Back Up of Your Site
Imagine that you are working on a really important project. The system crashes and you lose all of your vital data. The same thing can happen to your website as well. In case, a hacker gets through your security and firewalls, he can wipe out your whole website in an instant.
However, there is a simple solution – maintain a regular daily or weekly backup! How frequently you back up should be directly tied to how often you are updating your site. If you have a backup, then fixing the problem can be quite easy. However, you should ensure that you are backing up all of your important data at the very least once a week.
Website maintenance is every bit as crucial as car or home maintenance. If you do it right, you will be able to save your precious time, money, as well as a whole lot of unnecessary trouble in the long run. This is why it is very important to place all of these website maintenance tips on your weekly activity calendar and stick with them. Always remember, it is not just your website that is at stake but the satisfaction of your customers as well!
As a website owner, you can certainly do this maintenance yourself, but you have to ask if it’s a good use of your valuable time to try to stay on top of it alone. That’s why many companies that design and develop websites also offer monthly website maintenance packages as well. It’s an affordable insurance policy to make sure these things are done regularly to keep your website updated, secure, and functioning at its best.