We live in a digital world, so your business should always be striving to portray its best-self online to gain trust and validation from your clients and potential prospects. But having a fantastic-looking website isn’t enough. You also have to maintain it.
If you own an iPhone or have access to Facebook, you will know how often you are requested to install software updates to ensure you are operating on the latest iOS or app versions. The main reason for this is to stay protected from security threats. Older versions of software can develop bugs and vulnerabilities that if not addressed and updated, allows hackers and cyber criminals to get up to no good. The same goes for your website.
Your website is made from software including the website platform (i.e. WordPress), often a theme and various plugins that provide features and functions for your website to operate (think forms, social media feeds, SEO, security etc). Ensuring you stay on top of these updates, and general improvements around your site, will ensure it continues to run like a well-oiled machine.
As a business owner, we know how overwhelming this can all sound at first… But the key to good balance is to approach the tasks on a weekly, monthly and quarterly basis. By doing so it not only makes it more manageable, but less time consuming and even creates tasks you can delegate out to team members.
Don’t wait until something breaks, or for a customer to tell you that your site is not working or worse, it gets hacked. Start maintaining your website today with our handy checklist and instructions below, or jump over to our web maintenance packages if you’d like Digibrand to ensure you’re putting your best foot forward.
Backup your website files
Ever experienced that feeling when your screen all of a sudden freezes and you realise you haven’t hit ‘Save’ on the document you were working on? Yep. That horrible pit in the bottom of your stomach when you realise all your hard work (and the last 3+ hours you’ve spent on it) could have all been for nothing.
Think of your website like this. If you don’t take a backup of your website files on a regular basis, all that precious content you have created (and the money invested too) could go down the drain in a flash. Taking regular backups will ensure you always have a recent copy of your website should the worst happen.
And the great thing is WordPress have a number of plugins that will allow you to take a back up of your site (and some are free too!). The most popular ones are BackUp Buddy, UpdraftPlus and BackWPUp.
Make sure that your website files and database backups are being performed on a weekly basis. If possible, include the dates you downloaded the files in the file names too. That way, if you ever need to upload a backup version in the future (which we sincerely hope you don’t), you’ll know which one to look for right away.
Check your 404 errors and broken links
A 404 error occurs when a page you were trying to visit, could not be found. It usually returns a ‘Sorry the page you were looking for no longer exists’ message or similar, but essentially means that the page you were looking for has been removed completely, moved to another URL or, perhaps you might have typed in the URL incorrectly (hey, no judgement here).
Running a link checker to crawl your site and look for any broken links will ensure you don’t leave any visitors frustrated or confused, and will also assist your search engine rankings.
Again, there are some free tools that will check broken links for you simply by entering in your URL. Use a free tool like Online Website Link Checker or a website auditing and SEO app like SEMrush. WordPress also has a free plugin called Broken Link Checker.
Check your contact forms
Perhaps one of the most overlooked website updates of all times, are contact forms. Whether it’s an enquiry form on your contact page, a lead magnet or subscribe function, test them regularly to ensure they are going to the right places and any automations you have in place are working correctly.
It’s not uncommon for a script or plugin update to cause a little havoc on your forms. So testing regularly will ensure you don’t miss out on any valuable leads because of a simple oversight.
If you find you are receiving a lot of spam type of submissions, perhaps look at adding reCAPTCHA to your forms. reCAPTCHA is a free service from Google that helps prevent spam and abuse by adding a “CAPTCHA” test to tell humans and bots apart.
Check out Google Captcha (reCaptcha) by BestWebSoft or engage a developer to add the Google reCaptcha Site & Secret Keys to your site.
Check comments, remove spam and reply to any unanswered comments
If you run a blog and allow comments to be posted without moderation, it’s a good idea to keep check on this on a weekly basis. Not only is it good practice, by reviewing this regularly means it won’t take up as much of your time, and the comments won’t pile up either.
Check out the Akismet Anti-Span plugin to keep any spam comments under control. It was likely already installed as part of your WordPress setup.
Check ‘Site Search’ results for keywords and content opportunities
Does your site have a search function? If so, great! Did you know you can pull a handy report in Google Analytics that will tell you what people are searching for when they land on your site?
This is a great insight tool to understand your audience needs and what your site is either lacking, or making difficult to find. Casting your eye over this report will provide you with keywords and/or content opportunities to write a blog about, create a product/service for or ensure (if the content already exists) it is easy to find.
Site Search Results can be a handy way to understand what your visitors are looking for on your website. If you have a search function on your website (most do), head on over to your Google Analytics and enable the search results.
How to set up Site Search:
- Log in to your Analytics account.
- Click Admin in the bottom left corner.
- In the View column (third column), click View Settings.
- Scroll to Site Search Settings, set Site Search Tracking to ON.
- Next a ‘Query Parameter’ field will open giving you the option to strip the ‘query’ characters from the URL in your search results. What this means is…. When users search your site, a query string including the search parameter and search terms are usually included in the URL.For example, see below search results from ‘Website Layout’ on digibrand.com.au. You will see s (Digibrand’s query parameter) followed by the search term ‘Website+Design’:https://www.digibrand.com.au/?s=websiteTherefore the query I want to omit from my search results is ‘s’.
To view the report in your analytics, navigate to Reports / Behaviour / Site Search / Search Terms.
Review theme or plugins updates
As mentioned previously, it is crucial to keep all the functioning parts of your website such as plugins and themes, up-to-date to ensure you are not exposed to security vulnerabilities and performance is maintained.
Besides security, these updates can often involve new and improved features or fixes for bugs users have previously reported. Updating your plugins regularly means your site runs smoother and faster and your server isn’t being weighed down with a clunky, old plugin.
There are a few things to know and look out for before you go diving in and updating every plugin update in sight…
First, check ‘View Details’ to see what is included in the update and if it is compatible with your version of WordPress.
If unsure, check support forums or your development team for feedback.
Most importantly, ensure a full site backup before installing the update so if for any reason there are performance issues you can roll back to your most recent working version of your website. Another good idea it to update one plugin at a time so that if anything breaks you can pin point which plugin may have caused the conflict.
Review your Google Analytics reports top and least performing pages, user behaviours goal tracking and KPI’s
Keeping an eye on your Google Analytics is a good way to keep a finger on the pulse when it comes to your website and how people are using it.
Getting a handle on your GA will give you insight into where people are spending their time, what pages they are going to next, where they drop off and what percentage of users are actually making it to the pages you want them to see.
Another good tip is to also look at what devices people are using to view your popular pages. If mobile is accounting for more than half of your traffic to your top performing pages, ensure these pages are optimised for a mobile experience and that your call to actions are in the appropriate places.
If you have goals in place, it’s a good time to check in on their performance and the conversion data in your reports to confirm that key actions and events are being recorded for analysis.
Test your headlines and call to actions
Off the back of your reports, you can draw some assumptions and conclusions as to whether your headlines and Call to Actions (CTA’s) are doing the heavy lifting you need them to do, or if it might be a good time to change it up a bit.
A good website should provide a clear path for users to get the information they are looking for and/or take the action you want them to take. The homepage for instance, should feature CTA’s that encourage users to explore the site further, sign up to your lead magnet or move them closer to the sale.
Buttons and headlines that say “READ MORE ABOUT …”, “SIGN UP FOR A FREE TRIAL” or “DOWNLOAD OUR FREE GUIDE” are all examples of CTA’s. Ensure the CTA’s on your site are clear and instruction based so your users know what is expected of them, or where you are leading them to next.
Remember, if you are adding a new page whether it be a new service, piece of quality content or product page, consider adding a new CTA (button) to your homepage or top performing page/s. Your users won’t be able to find your new page if you don’t tell them that it exists!
If you are experimenting with headlines and CTA’s, remember to take stock of your current site performance and then review/compare again in a months time. Rinse and repeat the process.
Create a monthly blog or optimise your site with quality content
Blogs can be super helpful not only for answering your potential prospects questions and moving them through the sales funnel, but also for Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) purposes.
By adding fresh and relevant content to your website, Google sees that you are ‘active’ and rewards you for it.
The key here is a couple of things…
- Make sure the content you are creating is relevant to your target audience and/or industry
- Optimise your content for relevant keywords and search terms
- Be consistent. The key to creating a successful blog is being consistent with content and your brand voice
- Ensure any new pages and/or blogs are updated to your sitemap and indexed on your Google Search Console
It’s also worth highlighting when blogs or outdated content can be detrimental to your site. If you have a blog, but the last post you made was sometime back in 2017 (or older), users can very quickly be deterred and question the accuracy of your entire website.
People want to buy from businesses that know how to deliver the goods or service in the best way possible. Your outdated site may not only make you look like you are out of touch with advancements in your industry, but that you simply don’t care. And that’s not the impression you want to be giving. For more on how an How an outdated website is hurting your business, read our post here.
Check your product or service pages to ensure they are up to date
As your business evolves, so should your website. Be sure to check in on your product and service pages, update any pricing, service inclusions, product FAQs or complementary products and services that can be considered as additional revenue streams.
Review keyword and search performance
Google Search Console is the best free tool for understanding what keywords are driving organic traffic to your website.
Check Google Search Console for web errors and ensure sitemap is up to date
Google Search Console is a free tool that measures all things web performance, site traffic, keywords and notification of any issues your website might have when it comes to search results and ranking.
Checking your account for any error logs and notifications will help you to stay on top of any issues and rectify them promptly. Remember to check your sitemap and ensure any new pages to your site are being indexed. Check for broken links to delete or redirect traffic to the page’s new destination.
Check site speed
No one likes a slow website and neither does Google. Use Google PageSpeed Insights (another free tool from Google) or GTmetrix to check how quickly your website pages load and get tips on how to improve your page speed.
Remove old, unused or unnecessary plugins or resources from your website
Too many plugins can weigh down your website and cause it to become slow and sluggish. This is due to the extra resources and scripts all working at the same time to pull data from the server. Review your plugins list and deactivate and delete any that aren’t being used or are no longer necessary.
This is the same for any images or resources heavy pages. All too often we see images being uploaded to the Media Gallery and pages that are in excess of 2MB (sometimes 5MB!). These are considered hi-res and great for printing purposes, not web people. To use these same images online, resize and resave at a lesser quality. Where possible, try and keep it under 100KB.
If you’re familiar with and have access to photoshop, open your hi-res images and go file ‘Save for Web’ or if you’re looking for free tools – TinyPNG is just as good online resource for this task.
Change your admin password
Just as security plugins are great for detecting malicious code or attempts on your website, it pays to also update your password. A combination of letters and numbers, not including your name or the business name and adding a few symbols, hashtags or exclamation marks will help keep the bots at bay.
You can also use an online password generator tool or use a platform such as Dashlane to store, remember and update passwords to all your accounts.
Review website goals and KPI’s
Set website goals that will directly impact your business goals. Looking to improve sales of X product by 15%, set a website goal that will track product views, add to cart and/or checkout. Looking to increase email subscribers or product downloads? Set a destination goal that tracks page views of the thank you pages for successful signups.
Whatever your goals, use your website as a tool to help you drive these forward. Too many business owners settle for having a website that does little more than function as an online sales brochure and are missing the mark when it comes to their websites full potential to support their business.
Remember to review, rinse and repeat when it comes to setting goals. As your business goals change, so should your website goals and CTA’s accordingly.
Review design of your website and images
Images can be just as powerful as words. Choosing your images carefully and using high quality images (and in particular, human faces) can make or break your websites ability to connect with the user.
Evaluate the images being used on your website once a quarter and make a plan for replacing any that are outdated or don’t reflect your brand or business.
Keep abreast of web design trends or consult with your web team for the latest in conversion rate optimisation design tricks and hacks. For more tips on web design that will boost your conversions and user experience, read our blog post here.
Update any recent and relevant work
Got a job that would make a great case study? Don’t forget to put it up on your website! Take the time to think about any recently finished projects, schedule in photography and be sure to ask your client for a testimonial or review of your services. Testimonials go a long way in influencing the purchasing decision.
Renew your website domain
This one we see a lot… websites going offline usually due to a domain not being renewed, renewal notification being missed or credit card details on the account expiring. The good thing is, most providers give you a 1-2 week opportunity to rectify the situation.
In any case, knowing who your domain provider is and setting appropriate reminders to ensure your account is up to date and renewals take place will keep things ticking over like clockwork.
FYI when purchasing a domain, most are purchased for 2 years and then renew yearly (to the date) after that. If your developer or web team purchased your domain for you, it’s a good idea to check in with them that they are managing the renewals process and/or if you can have it transferred to your own account so you maintain control of your digital assets.
Review your website host
As with interest rates and loans, it’s always a good idea to keep an eye on the market and compare plans amongst web providers. There are plenty out there and all offer competitive pricing.
Aside from pricing, some other factors worth considering are:
- Customer Service
Personally, we choose to host and recommend Digital Pacific and VentraIP as their servers and support teams are all Australian based and extremely helpful. One thing to point out if you are considering a new hosting provider is to consider where your emails are hosted (if on the same server as your website) and the temporary email disruption should you wish to move. Consult with your hosting provider what services are included for email migration or engage an IT professional to assist you with any of the technical setup on your devices. If you have any questions or need further direction on this, don’t hesitate to get in touch.
Update the current year in the footer
Another common oversight in all things web updates is the copyright notification and year in the footer of your website. As mentioned above when it comes to outdated content bringing the integrity of your website down, this is the tell-tale sign that can bring all your hard work undone.
Most of the time, this can be changed by navigating to Appearances / Widgets / Footer or Bottom Footer widgets. Alternatively, have a poke around your theme settings. If you need help finding the date and getting some instruction for updating this in the future – be sure to drop us a line and mention this article.
If you need any further guidance on any of the tasks mentioned in this post, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us. We’re always happy to help.
Third party plugins and companies are suggested in this blog article, of which some are affiliate services of Digibrand. Rest assured however, we will only ever recommend services that we would recommend to our grandmother.