Do you perform technical maintenance on your website, or do you only update your site with new content? Both are important, but regular technical maintenance is critical for maintaining website security. Technical maintenance involves updating software, installing patches, and removing vulnerable software when patches are unavailable.
Imagine waking up to find your entire website sabotaged through a vulnerability in a WordPress plugin you trusted. It happens all the time. For example, in February 2020, a website security company discovered a critical vulnerability in the ThemeGrill demo importer plugin for WordPress. This vulnerability allowed hackers to wipe websites clean and take them over.
Many website owners were unaware of the vulnerability and lost their websites before they could install an updated, fixed version of the plugin.
This plugin vulnerability existed for about three years before the company released a fixed version. However, many people never updated the plugin and were hacked even after a fix was provided. A regular maintenance schedule would have included updating plugins, which would have avoided many of those hacks.
If you haven’t been performing regular maintenance, this article will help you create a schedule to keep your website content fresh and secure.
Website maintenance will be different for every site, but all projects follow the same general outline. However, some maintenance tasks are best performed daily, weekly, or monthly.
There are two ways to update content. One way is to edit and improve existing content. The other way is to create and publish new content. New content additions to your site should be added weekly, while existing content should be updated as soon as you discover the need for an update.
It’s critical to quickly correct spelling or grammatical errors, typos, formatting errors, or broken images and links. You’ll also want to update existing content if you discover better sources for your claims or if you discover that your current sources are questionable.
If you can create weekly content, that’s the ideal schedule. However, sometimes that’s not possible. At minimum, publish new content once a month until you can get on a weekly publishing schedule.
You can’t maintain your site properly unless you know what needs work. Some things will be obvious, but not everything.
Log into your Google Analytics account (or whatever program you use) and see what’s going on every day. Did your site experience unexpected downtime? Does your TTFB stats indicate your site is loading too slow? Are your malware scans clear?
Multiple surveys have revealed that users bounce when a site takes more than three seconds to load. Some visitors won’t even wait a second. Most sites shouldn’t take more than a second to load in the first place, however, there are exceptions.
After checking over your SEO and PPC reports, don’t hesitate to make any changes. For example, if you’re split testing a couple of PPC ads and find that one heading is doing well while the other is tanking, make your adjustments immediately.
If you can’t make immediate adjustments, make sure you schedule the updates for a specific day rather than adding them to a to-do list.
Regular website maintenance requires updating your software as soon as new stable releases and patches are available. Depending on your software and the development model being used, updates might be released weekly, monthly, or every few months.
To ensure you don’t miss any releases, sign up for your developer’s email list to get notified the moment they post an updated package. If you’re using a custom application, make sure your developers email you new releases. If you haven’t received a new release in a while, contact your development team and request updated software.
If you’re performing your own maintenance, download and install all updates and patches immediately. Otherwise, send the links and/or packages to the person responsible for performing maintenance.
Small errors on your website will quickly add up to trouble. The following errors might seem insignificant, but should be handled swiftly. Create a list of any of the following items that need to be addressed so you or your maintenance tech can take care of them.
Maintaining your website requires maintaining your design aesthetics. Sometimes updates cause images to become out of proportion or covered up. Whatever aesthetic issues you discover, make sure they’re being fixed at least on a monthly basis if not weekly.
Cybersecurity issues that turn up in reports and alerts need to be addressed immediately, technically the minute you discover a security issue you should be on the phone with your IT security team. If you don’t have an IT security team, it’s time to consider professional cybersecurity services.
Running an unmaintained website not only puts you at risk for cyberattacks, but also diminishes returns from marketing strategies like search engine optimization and PPC ads. If you’re not maintaining your content, your marketing efforts aren’t going to produce optimal results.
Committing to a regular website maintenance schedule will help you increase your website ROI while avoiding cyberattacks like data breaches and ransomware attacks.
User experience should always be a top priority. Over time, you’ll inevitably discover small issues that affect the user experience. Having a regular maintenance schedule will ensure these issues are resolved.
For instance, say you update your custom WordPress theme and fail to notice that update created an incompatibility with a plugin. Your user experience will suffer until you discover and fix the problem. Without a maintenance schedule, fixing this issue can fall to the wayside. With a maintenance schedule, it will be taken care of quickly.
Instead of waiting for visitors to point out issues, consider browsing your site for UX/UI inconsistencies once a month.
Cybersecurity is critical for every website, even when you don’t store personal information in your database. if your website gets hacked, you’ll be severely inconvenienced. Even when you have a full backup you’ll still need to spend time and effort putting your website back online.
Adding cybersecurity checks to your regular maintenance is a must. At minimum, you should have an automated security scan performed once per week. If your site is hosted in the cloud, make sure you’re running strong third-party cybersecurity software with automated threat detection.
Maintaining your website by adding fresh content supports your SEO and PPC efforts. You’ll never make it to the top in the search engines if you don’t publish high-quality content on a regular basis. Websites that don’t get updated regularly tend to fall in the SERPs.
Ultimately, if you own a website, you are responsible for maintenance. If you experience a problem (like a data breach) caused by a lack of site maintenance, you will be held legally responsible for all damages. However, if you’re not technically inclined or you don’t have time, you can hire someone else to maintain your website.
Hiring a contractor or company to handle your website maintenance can be a huge relief, but remember that you’re still legally responsible for any problems that arise from an unmaintained website. This is why it’s imperative to choose your web maintenance person wisely.
Say your maintenance contractor forgets to update a WordPress plugin and a hacker gains access to your database where thousands of client records are stored. Say this data breach is discovered and made public. You will be held legally responsible even if your contractor failed to do their job. Depending on the laws broken, you’ll still be subject to fines and possible lawsuits filed by your clients.
If you want to pursue legal action against your contractor for not doing their job, you’ll need to file a separate lawsuit. The courts won’t be lenient with you when you’re the business owner.
If you hired a website developer to create your website, don’t assume they’ll perform ongoing, necessary maintenance. Unless it’s part of your contractual agreement, your web designer isn’t responsible for maintenance. Web development projects generally end when the site is complete and the client is happy with the results.
Generally speaking, most website developers don’t include ongoing maintenance in their contracts. Most developers don’t have time for maintenance tasks. However, there are exceptions. Sometimes a developer will include ongoing maintenance for big projects or big clients who could potentially bring them more work. Developers don’t usually provide ongoing maintenance for smaller websites.
You might be surprised to know that website maintenance can be costly. For example, most developers charge a minimum of one hour no matter how long an update takes. A five minute update can cost you $300 if the developer charges $300 per hour.
If you’re going to have a developer maintain your website, it’s best to work out a system where you deliver maintenance requests on a weekly or monthly basis so they can get everything done in one sitting. You’ll pay far less this way and your developer will respect you more for respecting their time.
Hopefully you’re ready to start maintaining your website on a regular basis. If you don’t want to do the work yourself, contact us and we’ll be happy to partner with you.
At Dev.co, our professional website developers, programmers, Devopps teams and cybersecurity experts can take on any project you have. We can fix your design issues or create a brand new design. We can strengthen your security posture using cutting-edge automated cybersecurity tools. We can also evaluate your current software for potential security vulnerabilities.
Contact us to discuss your project and see how we can help!
Ryan is the VP of Operations for DEV.co. He brings over a decade of experience in managing custom website and software development projects for clients small and large, managing internal and external teams on meeting and exceeding client expectations–delivering projects on-time and within budget requirements. Ryan is based in El Paso, Texas.