Best Practices for Website Maintenance
Proper website maintenance can be achieved through these 4 simple routines.
Website maintenance can be a daunting yet vital aspect of running an efficient site. Just like buildings need to be maintained after construction is finished, websites need to be taken care of as well. Otherwise, you risks a loss of search engine ranking, potential security breaches, or even having the entire website crash. Trust me, we’ve seen it before and it’s not pretty!
So, how often should website maintenance be performed?
I’m glad you asked…we recommend performing website maintenance at least once a month. There’s a fine line between waiting too long and being too quick to adopt new updates. A lack of care and proper timing can cause major problems for your website, not to mention a big headache for you.
For example, if your web hosting provider changes their servers and your website isn’t on the latest software, the outdated website may be taken down automatically. On the contrary, if a specific update is implemented too quickly, unforeseen issues may arise which could crash the website.
Due to these factors, it is important to maintain a monthly maintenance schedule for most aspects of your website. However, if your site is large enough or if you have a special use like E-commerce, a weekly or even daily maintenance schedule should be put into place.
4 Website Maintenance Best Practices
Like I said, there’s a lot that goes into building and maintaining a website. To help you out, here are 4 of the most important routines we suggest.
Undoubtedly, the most essential routine is backing up your website. Let me say it again…BACK UP YOUR WEBSITE!!! Whenever any updates or tweaks are made, it is possible for the website to malfunction or even crash. The last thing you needs is for your website to go down, causing lost traffic and a potential hit to sales. So, make sure the first thing that gets done is a backup. For larger sites or E-commerce, backups can even be performed daily. That way if anything goes wrong the website can simply be reverted back to an older version. No harm, no foul.
When it comes to updating a website*, there are three main areas.
*This list pertains to WordPress sites. However, it should easily apply to most CMS platforms.
1 – Ensure the Core is updated.
The WP Core is a group of files that create the back-end interface and functionality of the WordPress platform. These updates are typically major releases (i.e. 4.0) and are the basis of the website. They should be kept up to date once the website administrator has researched the build. Minor releases of the WP core (i.e. 4.0.9) contain important security patches and bug fixes, so make sure to watch out for those as well.
2 – Update the theme.
The WP theme is a group of files that work as a template for websites. The theme is the general guide for what the website will look like to the public.
3 – Check Plugins for Updates.
WP plugins are third-party pieces of software that add functionality to a website. Plugins can add a wide variety of functionality, including everything from contact forms to analytical reporting tools.
Make sure to research if the updates work and are a stable build!
It’s essential to do a bit of reading online before hitting update, whether it is the WP Core, minor security update or plugin. This can be done by checking forums or comment sections online to see if other WordPress users have found issues with the updates. A couple of sources we like to look at for WordPress are Github or WP News. If you use a popular plugin/theme like Divi, check out the forums Elegant Themes, Divi notes, and Divi FB. Chances are that if an update is pending for a website, it has been tested by other users, so search on and make sure that it will work on your site.
Testing is another central part of proper website maintenance. Whether a bad update broke a page or the administrator incorrectly added content, it can be easy to miss an issue. To best combat this, it is essential to take time to go through every page on your website, testing each link and button to ensure that everything is functioning as it should. Remember to test on mobile too because more than half of internet traffic originates from mobile devices.
The testing process can be daunting, especially for larger websites. Thankfully, there are tools to save the day and professionals like us who make the process more bearable. Site Checker Pro, GT Metrix, and Moz are great places to start as they provide tools to check on-page SEO. This includes the status of links and other issues that might be harmful to your website.
Review Key Metrics & Analytics
Once tests have been conducted and the website is running normally, don’t forget to check out your analytics. Many of the testing tools mentioned above will give most of the key metrics needed. However, programs like Google Analytics and Google Search Console are recommended as they provide a comprehensive review of website analytics.
Last, but certainly not least…optimizing the website’s database should be a high priority for website maintenance. The WordPress media library can become huge through the bloating of images and videos. A best practice is to sort out of unneeded images, duplicate images, and any images with unoptimized file sizes.
Website maintenance can be a time-consuming process but the effort is worth it in the long run. While there is software that will automatically push updates, the reliability of these programs don’t always account for bugs and errors. When your website is securely backed up, properly updated, tested, and optimized on a routine schedule, it has the best chance to run without problems. That means a better user experience for consumers and a better ROI for the website.
Sound time consuming? Well, it can be; but there are people, like us, whose entire careers are to build and maintain websites. In most cases, proper website maintenance can be achieved through a few basic routines which we perform as a part of our hosting packages. If you aren’t thrilled about the idea of website maintenance and you’d rather be doing literally ANYTHING else, let us know, we’d love to help!