Website Maintenance: The Definitive Guide for 2021

Congratulations! Your new website is up and running! But if you’re like many small business owners, you want to focus on your running your business, not on updating your website. It’s likely it will stay in it’s current state for months. And that’s okay! Your website may not need weekly blog updates or constant content changes. One thing that is important is to keep your WordPress files and plugins updated.

What is website maintenance?

Think of it this way: when you buy a car, it doesn’t end after signing the papers and getting the keys. Cars are a long-term commitment and need regular maintenance, money, and effort to stay running in the best condition.

Between frequent updates and the ever-evolving threats to your site security, investing in a maintenance plan ensures all the time and money you’ve invested into building your site wasn’t all for nothing.

Why WordPress?

40% of the web uses WordPress. Many companies—both large and small—use WordPress in a variety of ways. Because WordPress is so popular, this means there are endless resources available if you’re the DIY type of person.

While WordPress does have a steeper learning curve than something like Squarespace or Wix, it’s also the most popular. In the long run you’re better off learning the ins and outs of WordPress. Because of its inherent SEO value and its rich ecosystem of plugins and themes—it’s infinitely more flexible and powerful.

Why is website maintenance important?

Hackers are everywhere

WordPress is the most popular platform used on the internet. This also means it’s frequently targeted by hackers and viruses. Sometimes plugins are exploited so hackers can gain access to the database and create fake credentials. Often times hacks can go unnoticed for months—and discovered when it’s too late.

Thankfully, WordPress is hyper vigilant about security. Aside from regular updates, if a vulnerability is discovered they release a fix for it immediately. This is why it’s important to have a plan to keep your website updated. A good maintenance plan will cover core updates, themes, plugins, and security checks.

Backup or risk losing it all

Hackers are not the only issue to worry about when it comes to your website. Oftentimes malware or an untrustworthy plugin can cause you to lose some or all the data on your site. Even things like human error, server malfunctions, and software/hardware failure can cause partial or complete data loss.

Obviously, this is devastating. All the hard work, time, and money put into your site—and now you have to start over from scratch. And if your site is down, you could lose many of your clients, customers, and income—as well as destroy your credibility.

A good maintenance plan should provide uptime monitoring, backups, and security. So even if your site is compromised, an earlier version of the site can be restored.

User experience is everything

Site speed

User experience is one of the most important aspect of websites today. Research shows that 53% of mobile users abandon sites that take over 3 seconds to load.

Some other reasons site speed is so important:

  • Site speed has been a Google ranking factor since 2010
  • Website speed is your first impression
  • low websites kill conversions
  • Savvy customers today expect speed

Design & content

Did you know that 94% of first impressions relate to your site’s web design and 88% of online consumers are less likely to return to a site after a bad experience?

Customers expect a website to look modern, professional, and work fast on mobile.

But it’s not just about how your site looks. It’s about the content too. If your site isn’t updated regularly, you could have broken links, or pages that don’t redirect correctly. This leads to potential customers leaving your site frustrated without accomplishing anything—or worse—going to your competitors.

A bad website leaves a lasting impression on customers and many will never return to your site. A website that has errors, bugs, or broken links could lead customers to think you are unprofessional. After all, if your business can’t even invest time and money to keep your website up-to-date, how can customers trust you to take care of them properly?

It costs more not to keep your website updated

A website that hasn’t been updated can cost you much more down the road. Messy themes and plugins can cause a hours of work to resolve correctly. Malware removal alone can cost you substantially.

Remember to think of website maintenance like you would car maintenance. You’re taking preventive steps to keep everything running in smoothly instead of waiting for a disaster and hefty price to fix the problem.

What’s involved in maintenance

WordPress Core Updates

About 74 percent of WordPress’ vulnerabilities can found in the WordPress core, especially in older versions. Keeping everything updated helps keep your site secure from malware and hackers.

Theme And Plugin Updates

Just like WordPress, themes and plugins are also subject to vulnerabilities. Developers release new versions to patch security issues and add new features. Keeping themes and plugins updated to the newest versions are just as important as keeping WordPress updated.

It’s also imperative to remove themes and plugins that you aren’t using. Not only does this help with possible security vulnerabilities, but it also helps keep your site running smoothly.

Security, compatibility and performance

WordPress is always striving to update it’s platform to best serve it’s users. Because it is open source, this means there are always security, compatibility, and performance improvements.If you don’t update your site you may not have access to the new or improved features, which will cause the user experience to suffer.

Website Backups

With frequent updating, regular backups should follow. You should not only do regular backups of your website, but you should also backup your site before running any updates.

Can I Maintain WordPress Myself?

If you’re comfortable doing these updates yourself, that’s great. Just be aware that oftentimes updates can cause your site to break (or completely crash). When things break due to inexperience or neglect you may end up not being able to access your site or make edits. You need to know what do if this ever happens and if you have to hire someone to troubleshoot, it will cost you a lot more.

Key points in DIY website maintenance

Choose themes wisely

The quality of themes varies widely.

Themes can range from free to $200 depending on who or where you buy them from. Sometimes they require a monthly or yearly subscription to continue getting updates and bug-fixes.

The downside is that many of these themes are plugin-heavy with bloated or bad code. This causes really slow loading websites and ruins the experience for your customers — and your search engine rankings.

Themes can looks great from the outside but it doesn’t always tell the same story behind the scenes. If you’re looking to grow your business we recommend a custom WordPress theme built for growth—lightweight, easy to navigate, and optimized for speed.

Vet plugins thoroughly

Plugins can be a double-edged sword. While they can extend functionality or add needed features, it’s important to not install them willy-nilly.

When installing plugins, a general rule of thumb is to look at when they were last updated, whether it’s been tested to work with your current version of WordPress, and the reviews. If a plugin is being updated regularly, that’s a good sign that the developer is still active and the plugin is still supported.

You shouldn’t need more than a handful of plugins (we’ll list some plugins we use below). If you find yourself installing dozens or hundreds of plugins you are not only putting your site at risk, but it’s likely that they are unnecessary.

Some of the plugins we use on every site we build are:

  • Yoast – (free) for SEO
  • Redirects(free) – easily manage url redirects
  • Imsanity – prevents huge image uploads
  • Gravity Forms (premium)
  • Postman SMTP (free)- for better email deliverability
  • SG Optimizer – the best site optimization plugin available (only for customers using SiteGround hosting (our recommended provider)).

Always backup first

We can’t stress this point enough. BACKUP, BACKUP, BACKUP!

You can run a backup either through your hosting provider or a plugin. Keep in mind if you are using a plugin and forget to download the backup before updating, you could end up in trouble if the site breaks.

We recommend using the backup tool in your hosting account so you always have access to the proper backups and can easily revert to the proper backup point.

Have a plan

Aside from backing up before a major update, it’s important to have a system for on-going maintenance. We all know how stressful it is when a surprise shows up, so having a plan will keep stress to a minimum.

An easy way to do this is to break down your tasks annually, quarterly, monthly and weekly.

Weekly Tasks

  • Check that all of your pages are working as expected.
  • Create backups of your website and databases.
  • Make sure WordPress is up to date.
  • Make sure all plugins are updated.
  • Make sure your theme is updated.
  • Check to see if there are any broken links.
  • Search for 404 errors and fix or redirect them.
  • Check that forms are working properly.
  • Purge any spam comments you may have received

Monthly Tasks

  • Test the loading speed of your website.
  • Analyze your website statistics from the previous months to see if you are meeting your goals.
  • Review your security scans and make sure nothing is out of place.
  • Check your blog for any posts that could be updated or improved.

Quarterly Tasks

  • Review your process for efficiencies and see if any of your regular tasks can be automated.
  • Review your website design and structure.
  • Check that your images are optimzied for speed and SEO.
  • Test your website on all devices and browsers to see if it displays properly.
  • Review your SEO and meta titles and descriptions.

Yearly Tasks

  • Ensure that your website domain name is renewed.
  • Make sure you are using the latest version of PHP (this should be accessible through your hosting provider).
  • Decide whether a website design update is due.
  • Update any reference to the current year, like the footer copyright area and blog posts.
  • Review each page for content accuracy, grammar, typos, and relevancy
  • Check any active email address inboxes, purge anything not needed
  • Review your top performing blog articles and see if they can be improved or updated

Why your hosting provider is crucial to your site maintenance

Saving money is a great thing. But if there’s one thing worth investing in, other than a custom WordPress site for your business, its quality hosting. Even if you’re trying the DIY route, investing in quality hosting is crucial.

Investing in a quality website, then putting it on economy hosting like GoDaddy or BlueHost is asking for trouble. Cheap shared hosting leaves your site vulnerable to other sites on the same server and vying for resources—leaving your site loading times to suffer.

Ultimately, getting a quality hosting plan is not going to break the bank. Paying a little bit more for hosting that is fast, secure, and optimized for WordPress can help give you an edge over the competition—and in turn bring in more money. It’s an investment that’s worth every penny.

We recommend SiteGround because of their easy site management, top-notch security, and super fast, managed WordPress features—like automatic backups, updates, and caching.

The Benefits of finding a web partner

A common request through our years as web designers is clients (past or present) reaching out to us to make updates and changes to their site. This is because they either can’t make the updates, or don’t have the time.

We get it, maintenance can be tedious and time consuming—especially if it’s not done on an on-going basis.

This is why having a web partner like us can make a world of difference in how your website runs and it’s longevity.

Cost of a website maintenance plan

Our website maintenance plans start at $50 and depending on the plan include:

  • Site backups – Pulling a monthly backup of the site (some hosting providers provide daily backups)
  • Updating WordPress – We check weekly if there are any WordPress updates and update as needed.Updating plugins – Out of date plugins can leave you vulnerable to attacks. We check plugins every week and update accordingly.
  • Updating themes – We update themes as needed and periodically review any modified template files to ensure they are using the latest version
  • Checking in on any security or spam risksSite Edits – Duplicating existing page templates, and adding content, or misc. site edits
  • Client Rate – Clients on our Web Maintenance package are given a discounted client rate.

Get a monthly website maintenance package and stop stressing about your site

Your website is the most important marketing asset you have, so don’t let it go to waste because of old plugins or lack of security. We know you’re busy doing what you do best, and updating your website probably isn’t something that’s on your mind. That’s where we come in!

If you’re ready to take the next step, take a look at our website maintenance plans and contact us to help determine the right plan for you and ensure your website is healthy as possible.

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