Website maintenance is often neglected by small business owners. Just like your car, you need to maintain your website to avoid potentially costly and time-consuming issues down the track.
In this article, we discuss why you need to maintain your small business website and look at some of the things that you need to do to keep your site running at its best.
These days, almost every small business owner knows that having a website is an absolute must.
On top of this, most business owners know that in addition to creating a website you need to promote it. Otherwise, how are your customers going to find you?
They might spend money on advertising their small business website with Google AdWords and Facebook ads and perform search engine optimisation (SEO).
All of this makes your small business website an investment, a marketing and advertising tool, a way to communicate with customers and build authority in your field.
Just like every other investment, your website needs to be maintained to run at its best.
Website maintenance is an important part of keeping your small business website working properly.
Why Is Website Maintenance So Important?
Websites today are similar to smartphones… they need regular updates to keep running at their best.
Just like a smartphone, your small business website uses software to run. Phone and app developers create and publish updates continually for a variety of reasons, primarily to include new functionality, and to fix security issues. Your website software is no different… it also needs regular updates and maintenance to introduce new features and to keep your site secure.
Most likely you run your small business website on software called WordPress, a free and open-source content management system.
As of April 2016, over 26% of the top 10 million websites on the Internet were using WordPress.
Because of its popularity, WordPress developers regularly issue updates to make sure that the WordPress core software doesn’t contain any vulnerabilities. This is similar to updating the Android or Apple iOS phone software.
Almost all WordPress small business websites also use auxiliary software from third-party developers. This type of software is called plugins. Plugins are similar to apps on your phone, as they are designed to do specialised tasks.
Just like the WordPress core software, plugins also need to be regularly updated. This is why WordPress maintenance is so important.
If you don’t update your small business website as a part of your online presence strategy, this makes it more vulnerable, meaning that it can be compromised more easily and can get affected with malware.
In addition to this, there are many other things that need to be maintained. Some of the things commonly checked include:
- looking for broken internal and external website links
- images not displaying correctly
- out of date content
- website speed issues
- website downtime
- domain name and hosting expiry
- industry standard changes (eg. Mobile responsive checks)
Search engines don’t scan your small business website just once. Their goal is to provide the best possible experience for their users. This is why Google and other search engines scan your website on a regular basis. A website that has broken links, loads slowly or has other problems will not rank high on Google, as it will not provide the user with a good experience.
These are just a few issues that may happen if you don’t keep performing regular WordPress website maintenance.
Website Maintenance Options
There are two ways to go about maintaining your website: you may choose to do it yourself or you may choose to leave it to people who specialise in building WordPress websites and who also perform WordPress maintenance.
The only benefit of doing WordPress maintenance yourself is that you will save the money that you would otherwise pay to someone else for doing so.
The problem with doing website maintenance yourself is that it does take time, and some technical knowledge to do it properly.
Most likely, you are really busy with things other than your small business website maintenance and you could spend time more productively marketing and operating your business.
If you fail to maintain your website and something does go wrong, because you may not have the skills to investigate and immediately remedy the issue (it may take you days or even weeks to actually know something is wrong), it may present your business in a bad light, damaging your reputation. As almost always in life, it often costs more to fix an issue than to regularly maintain it.
This is why the decision to invest in your business and have experts take care of your website maintenance regularly is popular with small business owners. It allows them to focus on what they are best at and provides them with the peace of mind that their small business website will work properly for years to come.
In case you still want to do all the work yourself, we have prepared a WordPress Website Maintenance Checklist for you. Of course, different website owners may have variations and personal preferences for the individual tasks and how often they are carried out.. this is just a guide that you can use to help keep your website maintained.
The tasks on the checklist are divided into daily, weekly, monthly and quarterly tasks.
WordPress Website Maintenance Checklist
- Perform a backup of all of your small business website files and WordPress database
Your WordPress software platform uses PHP scripting language to operate and MySQL databases to store information.
Just like files on your computer can get corrupted or infected by viruses, so can your website files and databases. This is why you need to backup both the files and the databases for your website daily.
There are a lot of plugins available for WordPress that make this task easy to complete. Examples of such plugins include BackUpBuddy, Backup to Dropbox and UpdraftPlus plugins.
Make sure to store your backups off-site. The entire idea of a website backup is to have a copy from which you can restore your small business website files and databases in case something happens to your hosting or your computer. This is why backup creation comes as #1 on our website maintenance checklist.
Storing backup files on your main computer is dangerous because should something happen to your computer, the files are going to get lost. This is why you want to use a service such as Dropbox or Amazon S3 to store your backups.
You may already be familiar with Dropbox… it is a free premium file hosting service operated by a company headquartered in San Francisco, California.
You can get 2GB of basic service for free. You can also increase that amount to 18GB of free storage by inviting your friends and colleagues to use Dropbox. You will get 500MB of free storage per referral. Click here for more information.
Paid Dropbox plans start at USD$9.99 a month and include 1TB of storage and a number of extra features such as password-protected and expiring links and advanced collaboration tools for your team.
What you may not know is that Amazon, the second most valuable retailer in the world, is also in the cloud storage business.
Amazon Simple Storage Service or Amazon S3 is a part of Amazon Web Services or AWS. Amazon S3 free tier includes 5GB of standard storage for 12 months.
- Respond to customer inquiries that are coming from your website
The major goals of your small business website are to generate new business and to stay in touch with your current customers. If your website is functioning the way it should, you should be getting messages from your customers.
Inbound requests are a valuable opportunity to get more business and should be treated accordingly.
According to a Lead Response Management Study by MIT professor James Oldroyd, the odds of contacting a lead decrease by over 10 times in the first hour. The odds of successfully contacting a lead if called in 5 minutes are 100 times higher compared to a contact within 30 minutes. In other words, the faster you can get back to your prospects and customers, the better.
- Verify your daily backups
Make sure that you have all 7 backups from the past week and that the backup files are not corrupted. If one or several of the files are missing or unusable, figure out what went wrong and fix the problem. If there was a problem, check the next day to make sure that you have indeed fixed the problem and the backups are being created properly.
- Check for WordPress core, theme and plugin updates
We have discussed this subject earlier in the article. Making sure that all the software that you run on your small business website is up-to-date is crucial to keeping your website safe and protected.
- Check for broken links
Fix broken links if you find any. A broken link is a link that goes to a webpage that doesn’t exist. Broken links are created mainly because of typos in URLs of the links, or to pages that have been deleted or renamed. Broken links really frustrate both the search engines and your visitors. Do your best to keep your small business website free of them. This is a very important item on our website maintenance checklist.
- Conduct a visual inspection of your website
Browse your website to verify that all the fonts are displayed properly, that updates did not change the look of sign up forms and that there are no broken layouts or formatting errors. Check on different browsers and devices.
- Run a malware scan
Use a plugin like Wordfence or Sucuri Security to make sure that your small business website hasn’t been infected by malware.
- Review the numbers for your website and make adjustments if needed
One of the best tools to use to get the data for your small business website is Google Analytics. In Google Analytics you can and should review your data for a number of things.
First, you can see where your visitors are coming from. This can help you allocate your marketing budget better. Cut the spending on website and traffic sources that don’t work well for you and spend the money on sources that do bring in new leads and customers.
Next, you can see which pages of your website are really popular and where people are spending a lot of time. You can also see pages with high bounce rates.
A bounce rate is the percentage of visitors to your small business website who leave the website after viewing only one page. Usually, this happens when visitors decide that the content and website are not relevant to them.
Doing this analysis can tell you what your visitors are interested in and what they consider irrelevant.
You can then make changes to your website to make the content more relevant and engaging, include calls-to-action, change the headline or title, or make other fine-tuning changes to get the most out of your page.
- Update your website contact details
Make sure the contact detail on your website is up-to-date. Check your phone number, address, business hours, staff contact details, etc.
- Update listings in local directories
Local directories are search engines that specialise in information relevant to a certain geographical area or niche. Usually, they contain such information about a business as a name, phone, address, business description and business hours.
Examples of such directories include Yelp, True Local, and Google My Business.
Local directories are vitally important to a small business. You want to make sure that the information contained in these directories is accurate (and match your website), as incorrect information can have a negative impact on your SEO.
Check to make sure that all your information is up-to-date in the directories. See if any negative reviews about your business have slipped in. Update contact details, product information, photos, and videos on your listings if required.
- Write at least one blog post
Keeping your small business website fresh by regularly adding new content will help you stay on top in search engines, encourage visitors to remain on your website and keep coming back again and again.
- Change your passwords
Use a password generator like SafePasswd.com to generate easy to remember passwords that are strong at the same time.
Here’s why you need to change your passwords regularly: someone else may have access to your account and you may not even know about it. Changing a password limits the time during which a stealthy hacker can have access to your account.
- Check if all content is up to date
If you had any specials or promotions in the past, you most likely don’t want your customers to see them if now they are paying full price.
Is there anything about your business or your industry that has changed? Have you introduced any new services or products that are not yet mentioned on your small business website?
Checking that everything on your website is up to date is an important part of website maintenance.
- Review your title and meta descriptions
Titles and meta descriptions are commonly used by the search engines in their search results. It is often the first thing a visitor will see when they do a search on Google. They tell your visitors what your small business website is about. Use the information you get from reviewing the numbers and stats for your website to create more enticing titles that will bring targeted traffic to your small business website.
- Check your small business website load speed
Load speed is one of the factors search engines use to determine your rankings. Make sure that your website loads quickly, and that changes you have made to your website have not resulted in it slowing down.
- Make sure all opt-in forms, sign up forms and shopping carts are working correctly
The last thing you want to happen is a visitor completing a contact form or opt-in form to get in contact with you, or making a purchase and the form is not working correctly, or the information is not being forwarded on correctly. Check the functionality of all the forms on your website by testing them regularly.
- Remove any unneeded plugins
Just like a computer may be slow when it’s running too many pieces of unnecessary software, a website may start having glitches if it has too many plugins. WordPress website maintenance needs to include the removal of plugins that are no longer in use.
- Check your latest backup
Similarly to links, opt-in forms and speed checks, verify that your backups are working properly.
- Remove/downgrade admin users
You may occasionally let people such as web designers or other contractors access the back end of your website. It is a good idea to check if they still need access as a part of your WordPress website maintenance, and downgrade or delete their access as required.
- Optimise your database
Delete the drafts that you keep in WordPress that you never seem to complete. Visit the Spam section of your website comments and empty spam. Finally, optimise your WordPress database to remove all saved unnecessary post revisions (there are plugins that can assist with this). This will make your WordPress database more compact and help to improve reliability.
Put Your Small Business Website Maintenance Checklist To Good Use
By adhering to a daily, weekly, monthly and quarterly checklist, it will reduce the risk of issues you can have with your small business website. As you can see, every item in the checklist is for a good reason.
It may seem somewhat extensive, yet maintenance is still much cheaper and safer than any emergency solution, not to mention all the customers and business that you may lose if your website stops functioning properly.
Follow the website maintenance checklist in this article to run your WordPress website at its best, or if you have better things to do, contact us and let us do website maintenance for you!