You've spent weeks, or maybe months to get the perfect website and then let it loose into the wilds of the interwebs. Now, what do you do? Sit back and wait for the traffic to come and the sales to generate?
Wouldn't that be nice if you could set and forget your WordPress website? The reality of having a WordPress website is it continues to need love and attention after you make it live to your audience. And there are two parts to website maintenance: health and growth.
Let's keep going as we talk about the health of your WordPress website and steps to keep your marketing asset doing the job you spent your time to perfect
The Most Basic Of Website Maintenance
You need to run the updates, make the backups and monitor the site, but there's more to maintain that those tasks.
It's like planting a garden for the first time so you can enjoy fruits and vegetables all summer long and beyond. Sowing the seeds is not enough. You need to make sure you provide water and nourishment to keep those plants from withering away to a pile of useless weeds.
Tending to the basics is the first step to giving your WordPress site the love it needs. You do need some eyes on your site to regularly check, monitor its growth and make sure that it's producing the way you are hoping.
Having an ongoing maintenance plan for your website adds another layer of security too.
Set A Schedule For Ongoing Website Maintenance
With so many other things going on, it's easy to forget to log in and run updates on your site or make sure your backup ran (and is stored in a secure location) or monitor to be sure that your site is still live.
As soon as your site launches, you need to create your post-launch plan which is essentially a website maintenance schedule.
Here are some recommendations:
- Backup: If your host runs a complete site backup make sure you have a way to download them off the server and this task should run at least once a month (preferably more like weekly). If you regularly make structure changes, then you want to be sure the site backup was running after those changes. On top of that, you need to run database backups at least weekly but set the schedule based on how much you publish content.
- WordPress, theme and plugin updates: WordPress feeds you updates as they make changes to functions and security, so it's useful to set a reminder to check in at least weekly for website updates. Themes and plugins are the same. However, they often make changes after WordPress version releases to combat compatibility issues. So check for all updates while you've logged in.
- Uptime monitoring: You can easily automate this task and should be 24/7 so you know when your site goes down and for how long. If it's usually a few minutes tops, it could be a server update; but if it's longer, you'll want to find out what the problem is.
- Speed optimization and monitoring: Nothing is worse than a slow website that your visitor needs to wait to load. By monitoring your speed and optimization, you'll combat issues before they arise and become a big patch of weeds in your garden. I recommend looking at these numbers weekly too.
Add these recurring dates to your calendar or hire someone like us to run your most basic of maintenance. Trust me when I say that the small investment is worth the time and I've had many clients pass for the first few months only to realize they can't put another thing on their plate.
Don't Forget The Time-Sensitive Updates
Hopefully, you are running promotions, offers, and other seasonal themed items on your website. And if that's the case, you not only need to get it scheduled before the event but make sure it's removed after.
Who wants to see a Christmas theme promotion on the 4th of July?
Maybe you've written a killer article to help promote a time-sensitive birthday sale. Then when the deal is over you forget to remove the “birthday” reference so when your visitors come they see you turned 50 in October 2016 and it's now September 2018.
That's ancient in internet years.
You don't want to waste good content by dating it with old promotions or offers. And you certainly don't want to remove the indexed page, so when people find the link (and they will), it leads to a 404 error page.
It's like picking the ripe items in your garden. If left on the vine (stalk or tree) they will rot and die making the plant unappealing all the way around. But pick the fruit, vegetable, flowers and more will grow and flourish giving you a bounty for a long time to come.
Schedule these times on your calendar so that you don't forget to close out the time-sensitive materials and update them to be evergreen or redirect to another page/post/product on your website.
Add-In User Experience Maintenance
User experience is where it's at on your website. If it's not friendly or cohesive, your people may leave frustrated, angry or puzzled. No sales can come from this.
Regular site reviews for usability need to be part of your continuing website maintenance plan.
Regular site reviews will allow you to see where you can improve on the user journey to get the information they need and the conversion you desire. The reviews will help you to identify places you can streamline, revise and update.
It will also help you to find missed and forgotten content like a change in hours, features, prices, etc. Reviews also give you a chance to see broken links, forms that aren't working and images that won't display.
Google Analytics and Google Search Console are your friends in this stage. By looking at your GA reports on a regular basis, you will find if people are bouncing, leaving without taking any actions or abandoning the check out cart. Search Console will also help you find the broken links and other issues that can hinder good user experience.
I like to review parts of my sites monthly, quarterly and annually with my support team to see where we can continue to improve.
Keep A Content Marketing Plan
Lots of people feel that maintenance are routine tasks to keep the site from getting hacked, but without fresh and relevant content your shiny new site can become stale and dated soon.
Think about your garden. Without new plants and other varieties, it may become not so appealing. Same goes with your content and copy. Forget to add some new stuff, and there's no reason for me to come back and visit you again and again.
Some like to create a content plan monthly, others every 90 days and even some annually. Do what works for you as far as planning and creation but try to keep updated at least monthly.
What to include in the plan? Start with a content audit. If you don't have one, get one. It may be a big undertaking at first but can save you time in the long run. Maybe you previously have created an asset you can reuse or repurpose instead of needing to develop new every time.
You also want to freshen up old and outdated content. So instead of creating another article on planting a killer garden, you can update one that exists with new techniques you've learned. After the content update, schedule with updated published date and there you have it.
Using this technique allows you to give your audience relevant information without losing any search rankings you might have had from the first publishing. It could also let you find new ways to present information like a Facebook live or video of you practicing the techniques.
By having a content plan and calendar, you'll be able to keep your site relevant easily and your content up-to-date.
Continued Website Maintenance is a Must
One thing is for sure; your WordPress website will need support. With a little planning, it's easier to hit these tasks head on or find the right support team, so you don't have to think about it.
Keep an updated record of your logins, hosting credentials, email addresses, and other items at hand so that if something happens (or your site goes down) you have everything you need to make things right.
Mostly, don't panic and be prepared.
Your website is your biggest marketing asset and a powerful tool in your business. And by using the above tips, you can keep it growing, flourishing and a stress-free piece of your online business.