Website maintenance may not sound glamorous, but it’s still one of those things you need to stay on top of if you want your site to keep functioning. If you just did a quick Google search to find out where to start, you might have seen articles about security patches, legacy code, and broken links.
Don’t worry—it’s not as complicated as it sounds! Some large-scale websites will need a dedicated team of people to handle maintenance. But for most small to medium-sized businesses, a few simple routines and website maintenance best practices will keep your site running smoothly and securely.
How Often Should You Do Website Maintenance?
We recommend performing website maintenance at least once a month. Sometimes, you may have to walk a fine line between waiting too long and being too quick to adopt new updates. Poor timing or carelessness can cause significant 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For example, if a website hosting provider changes their servers and that website isn’t on the latest software, the outdated site may be taken down automatically. Conversely, implementing updates too quickly could cause unforeseen issues and crash the website.
A monthly maintenance schedule should be enough to keep your website healthy. However, if your site is large enough, has e-commerce functions, or other special features, a more rigorous weekly or daily schedule might work better. For more complex sites, a dev site (or development site) can help you test updates to make sure nothing breaks before you make the changes on the live site.
Nuts and Bolts of Website Maintenance
A lot goes into the building and routine maintenance of a website. To help, here is a list of the important stuff we suggest.
Making updates or tweaks to your website can have unintended side effects. Maybe the newest version of a plugin doesn’t work as the developer intended and suddenly your site’s event calendar or payment form no longer works. In extreme cases, your site could break or even crash. The last thing a site administrator needs is for a website to go down and cause lost traffic or sales. That’s why saving a backup of your site is essential when doing any kind of maintenance.
Backups should be done at least monthly or before making any major updates or changes. You can simply revert it to the older version if anything goes wrong with the site.
Updating a website usually encompasses three main areas. We’re going to focus on WordPress sites, which is the most popular content management system (CMS).
- 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. 6.0) and are the basis of the website. They should be kept up to date once a website administrator has researched the build. Minor releases of the WP core (i.e. 6.0.2) 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 visitors.
- Check WordPress plugins for updates.
WP plugins are third-party pieces of software that add functionality to a website. From contact forms to event calendars and reporting tools, the types of functionality possible through plugins is vast.
(Don’t Forget to Research Whether Updates Work and If They Are a Stable Build!)
It’s essential to do a bit of reading before hitting the “update” button, whether it is a WP Core, minor security update, or plugin. 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 if an update is pending for a website, other users are already testing it.
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 go through every page on a website, testing each link and button to ensure everything functions 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 Semrush 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 impact the functionality of your website.
(Don’t Forget to 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, platforms 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. Too many images or videos (or ones with large file sizes) can bloat your WordPress media library and slow down the site. A helpful practice to weed out 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 to automatically push 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.