Maintenance is a daunting yet vital aspect of running an efficient website. Just as a building needs constant work to be maintained after construction is finished, websites need to be taken care of as well. Otherwise, a website risks a loss of search engine ranking (SER), potential security breaches, or even having the entire website crash.
There are people whose entire careers are to upkeep large-scale websites. However, in most cases, proper website maintenance can be achieved through a few basic routines.
How often should website maintenance be performed?
We recommend performing website maintenance at least once a month. There is a fine line between waiting too long and being too quick to adopt new updates. A lack of proper timing and care can cause major problems for the website and headaches for the administrator.
For example, if a website hosting provider changes their servers and that website isn’t on the latest software, the outdated website may be taken down automatically. Conversely, 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 at least maintain a monthly maintenance schedule for most aspects of a website. However, if the site is large enough or has a special use such as E-commerce, a more stringent weekly or even daily schedule should be put in place. In these cases, a ‘dev’ website can be used to test updates which can then later be ‘pushed’ to the live website.
Website Maintenance Best Practices
Again, there is a lot that goes into the building and routine maintenance of a website. To help, here is a list of the important stuff we suggest.
Back up the website
Most importantly, backing up a website is essential for any maintenance. Whenever any updates or tweaks are made to a website, it is possible for the site to break or even crash. The last thing a site administrator needs is for a website to go down, causing lost traffic and a potential hit to sales. So, make sure the first thing done is a backup. Backups can even be done daily, and if anything goes wrong the website can simply be reverted to the older version.
When it comes to updating a website, there are three main areas. This list pertains to a WordPress website, the most popular content management system (CMS). However, this list should easily apply to most CMS platforms.
- Ensure the WordPress 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 a website administrator has researched into 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.
- Update the WordPress 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.
- Check WordPress plugins for updates.
WP plugins are third-party pieces of software that add functionality to a website. The functionality that can be added through plugins is vast, including everything from contact forms to analytical reporting tools.
Make sure to research whether 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’s essential to take time to go through every page on a website, testing each link and button to ensure that everything is functioning as it should. Remember to test on mobile too, as more than half of internet traffic originates from a mobile device.
The testing process can be daunting, especially for larger websites. Thankfully, there are tools to save the day. 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 a website.
Review Key Metrics & Analytics
Once tests have been conducted and the website is running normally, check out the 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.
Optimize the Media Database
Optimizing the website’s database should also be a high priority for website maintenance. For example, the WordPress media library can become huge through the bloating of images and videos. A helpful practice to conduct is the thorough weeding out of unneeded images, duplicate images, and any images with unoptimized file sizes.
Website maintenance can be a time-consuming process, however, the effort is worth it in the long run. While there is software that automatically pushes updates, the reliability of these programs don’t account for bugs and errors. When a 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.
If you’re interested in learning more about website maintenance or any website-related information, get in touch with the team here at dvs.com/contact.