Website maintenance: what you need to know to ensure website quality
It only takes around 50 milliseconds (or 0.05 seconds) for a user to form an opinion about your website. So, if your website doesn’t load properly, shows outdated information, or features embarrassing errors, the damage can be far-reaching and even permanent.
If your visitors are dissatisfied with the site experience they encounter, they’re unlikely to come back. In fact, a Gomez report found that 88% of online consumers say they are less likely to return to a site after just one negative experience.
This is why website maintenance is essential. By proactively identifying issues that affect your website’s performance you can avoid the embarrassment and brand damage of your users discovering them first. One broken link on an important page can kill your chances of converting a visitor into a lead, a sluggish server can push up your bounce rate and send your site tumbling down the search rankings, and misspellings can damage a visitor’s perception of your professionalism.
Read on to learn why consistent, automated website maintenance is important, and the key issues you should monitor to ensure your site always meets user expectations.
What is website maintenance?
Website maintenance is the act of routinely checking your website for issues that negatively impact its performance and provide a poor user experience. These issues and tasks include:
- Broken links
- Poor readability
- Slow site speed
- Security vulnerabilities
- Content freshness
- SEO errors
- Conversion roadblocks
- Backing up files
- Updating software and plugins
Scheduling in regular maintenance keeps your website operative, updated, and secure at all times. A healthy website means a better user experience, increased web traffic, and higher search engine rankings for your web pages.
There are two ways to carry out website maintenance:
- Using an automated website maintenance service
Regardless of the size and nature of your organization, website maintenance is a business-critical task. Your website is the always-on digital face of your brand – and it needs to run smoothly.
What are website maintenance services?
For organizations who have large websites with hundreds or even thousands of pages, manual website maintenance is too time-consuming and complex to be a realistic option.
After all, keeping your website in peak condition requires near-constant checks and fixes. Using a built-for-purpose website maintenance tool makes managing this process easier. Website maintenance services reduce the time and effort required to keep your website in top shape so website managers can focus on more important analytical tasks and developing digital marketing strategies.
Website maintenance covers a range of services, from routine website checks and maintenance, to content optimization, to security audits. These services offer you deeper insights into how to improve your website performance in order to achieve your broader business goals.
Why you should give priority to website maintenance
Ongoing website maintenance is key to helping you achieve your wider business objectives. Whether your website is newly launched or recently redesigned, there is always room for improvement. Failing to routinely maintain your site not only results in reputation-damaging errors going unnoticed, but also in losing customers or prospects if they have a negative site experience.
Four reasons you should make regular website maintenance a business priority:
Your digital presence is an integral part of your business and contributes to your brand’s overall image. As a prospect’s first impression of your organization, a well-functioning, user-friendly website boosts your brand reputation, whereas a poorly maintained one with broken links, outdated information, and content failing to comply with your brand compliance guidelines is likely to send them bouncing back to the search engine results pages – and to your competitors.
Every organization wants to get to the top of Google. Fortunately, well maintained websites have an added advantage when it comes to search engine rankings. Factors like broken links, poor navigability, or threadbare content can harm your page rankings. By spotting and fixing SEO blockers quickly, your site won’t be punished by the search engines.
Tackling conversion roadblocks
Creating a good user experience on your website not only helps you to avoid losing customers, it can also convert prospects and generate valuable conversions or sales. Something as trivial and easily-overlooked as a single broken contact form or a disconnected phone number listed on an important page could be costing you business. Regular maintenance will ensure your site always meets visitor expectations.
Remove security vulnerabilities
A regularly maintained website is a more secure website. Website maintenance goes a long way in preventing malicious attacks on your website through security vulnerabilities like outdated scripts, exposed plugins, or missing CMS patches and security releases. Avoid your business being targeted by hackers and ending up in the news for the wrong reasons by conducting regular website checks into your site’s security vulnerabilities.
Website maintenance checklist
Websites today are never really ‘done’ – they require continuous maintenance to perform at its best. Many different elements contribute to site performance, but some of the most important ones to continually monitor to present an outstanding website experience are:
1. Keep your CMS, scripts, plugins, and other CMS add-ons up-to-date
Outdated security patches and software are a hacker’s best friend. To maintain a secure website, it’s critical that you always run the most up-to-date version of your CMS. This ensures the latest security patches, plugins, and scripts are installed on your site in a timely manner and prevents your website becoming an easy target for cyber-attacks.
2. Fix broken links
One of the biggest barriers to a positive customer experience is running into a broken link – especially on a top-level page. Besides interrupting the user journey, broken links can also hurt your SEO rankings, so it’s important to identify them as soon as possible. Broken link finders locate dead-ends across your site, helping you to fix them before visitors notice.
3. Eliminate links to unsafe domains
Linking to unsafe domains makes your website seem untrustworthy, which in turn damages your brand reputation. To ensure the security of your visitors – and your own – track and delete unsafe domains from your site where possible. This action stops your visitors from being exposed to phishing, malware, or other unwanted software.
4. Boost your readability
Users read web content differently to printed content and are quick to leave if content is too dense. For a visitor to engage and convert, your site needs to speak a language they can relate to. Readability checks identify text that is hard to comprehend, helping you to decrease the risk of visitors bouncing.
5. Banish misspellings
Typos and grammatical errors reflect poorly on your organization and can send your bounce rate skyrocketing. Locating and correcting misspellings ensures that your website (and brand) always appears professional and credible.
6. Make full website backups
7. Freshen up your content
Your website should never be static. Outdated content reflects poorly on your organization, leading to a negative user experience. Website maintenance detects old or irrelevant content, so it can easily be replaced or refreshed with pertinent, up-to-date information that meets visitor expectations. Plus, search engines prefer fresh content: the more you update your content, the better your rankings are likely to be.
8. Check for SEO roadblocks
Every page on your website should be indexable by search engines and meet SEO guidelines. Regular website maintenance ensures that your pages – both new and old – align with ever-evolving organic search best practices and algorithm changes and climb up the search rankings.
9. Speed up your site
A fast website is a must. Most visitors will abandon a site after just a few extra seconds of load time. What’s more, page load speed is a major search engine ranking factor – with Google pushing traffic towards sites that provide a fast mobile browsing experience. If your website isn’t fast enough, it will impact your bottom line. Meet visitor expectations by ensuring your site is interactive within five seconds. Use a performance monitoring tool to monitor and track your progress towards this goal.
How much do website maintenance services cost?
Paying for professional website maintenance services can help you save time, money, and resources, since:
You’ll be working with experts who are intimately familiar with the best practices of website maintenance.
Many of the routine website checks that you need to carry out can be automated, saving you the effort of having to carry them out manually.
Website maintenance services are often more cost-effective than hiring a dedicated internal resource for website management.
You can continuously tailor your website maintenance to meet your business goals.
The exact cost of website maintenance however, will depend on the function and size of your site. Maintaining a small WordPress blog will inevitably cost less than a sprawling e-commerce or government site with multiple websites and subdomains.
Pricing is also dependent on the scope of services included in the website maintenance package. This might include daily maintenance checks, SSL certification, full website back-ups, and content optimization tools for larger sites, or as little as domain name renewal and a hosting service for a self-hosted WordPress site.
Some website maintenance service providers, like Siteimprove, offer a wide range of functionalities packaged into one tool. This removes the added expense and on-boarding time required when purchasing multiple services. Siteimprove’s all-in-one website maintenance tool runs site-wide website quality assurance, SEO, site speed, and digital accessibility checks, ensuring nothing slips through the cracks.