Your 7 Step Guide To Website Maintenance
Websites aren’t something you create once and then you’re done. You need to continue caring for them and do ongoing website maintenance to ensure they continue to do the job you need them to do.
Once you’ve built your website and it’s up and running, make note of a few main web maintenance tasks that you need to remember to do moving forward.
To help you out, we’ve organized these tasks by how often you should perform them: yearly, quarterly, monthly, or weekly.
Annual Website Maintenance Tasks
1. Perform User Testing.
You worked hard to build a website that’s intuitive to users and drives the kind of actions you want them to take. Frustratingly, the way people use the web frequently changes. A website design that felt natural and intuitive in 1998 wouldn’t work for users today.
To make sure that your website continues to make intuitive sense for users and work well on all devices people view it on (including those you can’t anticipate now – who knows what people will be using in 2-3 years), mark a time on the calendar to set usability testing once a year.
Bring in people that aren’t associated with your business or brand who can give fresh eyes to browsing your website. Make sure your testing includes all browsers and device types visitors may use so you get the full picture. And create a maintenance schedule for making any updates your testing determines are necessary – it’s not worth much if you don’t turn the insights you learn into action.
Quarterly Website Maintenance Tasks
2. Make Test Purchases.
As far as eCommerce website features go, the most important type of functionality on your website is the purchasing function. If it stops working, or even if it’s glitchy for any reason, you could lose out big on profits until you catch the problem and fix it.
So at least once every couple of months, have someone in the company make a few test purchases to see how the process works. Have them do this on different devices and in different browsers so you can figure out if there are any snags in the process that only happen in some cases and not others.
If there’s anything about the process that isn’t seamless, you’ll want to find out and update it ASAP.
3. Test Out All the Forms on Your Website.
If your website includes any contact form plugins you want visitors to fill out, you want to be confident these all work properly as well.
At the same time that you make your test purchases, go through the process of filling out all the forms on the website. In this case too, make sure you try them on all the devices and browsers your visitors might use.
If any of your forms aren’t working right, you could be missing out on valuable leads, so make sure you catch the problem sooner rather than later.
4. Fix Any Broken Links.
Every time someone clicks on a link that leads to a 404 page, it’s disappointing. When that dead link is on your website, it makes your business look bad and leads people away from the page you want them to be on, which is why you need to perform preventative maintenance.
No matter what you do, you’ll end up with broken links on your website from time to time as other websites you link to move or die or change domains. You may not be able to avoid them completely, but you can make sure they don’t stay on your website long by making it part of your regular website maintenance. Every few months, check for broken links and either remove them or replace them with updated links.
Finding broken links is actually easier than you might think. There are a lot of free tools available that automatically check websites for broken links, such as Google Search Console (which offers plenty of other useful features to boot). Because these tools make the process so simple, you should easily be able to fix any broken links you find quickly.
Monthly Website Maintenance Tasks
5. Check for Security Updates.
You hear about high-profile security breaches all the time and you can only assume that there are even more low-profile ones you never hear about. Securing your website from hackers has to be a major priority for anyone that runs a website – and it’s even more important for eCommerce businesses who deal with customer’s private data.
One of the most important website maintenance practices you should plan on for security is checking that all your platforms, plug-ins, and scripts are up to date. Usually when developers release updates for these, it’s to improve the security or patch up a vulnerability they’ve found.
Don’t procrastinate making those updates, or you could be putting your website and visitors needlessly at risk.
6. Regularly Back Up Your Site.
It’s happened to all of us: you work on a project all day long, and then something goes wrong with your computer and you lose your entire project. If this has happened to you, you probably got really good at staying on top of your computer backups to save you from future trouble.
If you’re not careful though, the same thing could happen to your website. If a hacker does somehow get through, they could wipe you out in one fell swoop. But if you have a current backup solution, fixing the problem will be much easier.
You can invest in a backup system like Codeguard, to save you the work of treating this as a separate website maintenance step. If you don’t though, make sure you put it on the calendar to create an updated backup of your website at least once a month.
Weekly Website Maintenance Tasks
7. Review Your Key Metrics.
Google Analytics provides a ton of useful information about how people are finding and using your website. Make sure your website is accomplishing what you want it to and figure out what about it’s working well and what still needs improvements by logging in to check your analytics at least once a week.
Some businesses will benefit from checking it more often than that, and brand new businesses can expect traffic to be slow to start, but it’s important to keep an eye on your website’s growth and success as you go. Google Analytics is the best place to do that and a crucial resource for finding ways to improve things like SEO and site engagement.
Don’t Skimp on Website Maintenance
Just like car or home maintenance, website maintenance is crucial. But it’s important and can save you time, money, and unnecessary trouble in the long run.
Get these website maintenance steps on your calendar and stick with them. Your website will thank you!
Kristen Hicks is an Austin-based freelance content writer and lifelong learner with an ongoing curiosity to learn new things. She uses that curiosity, combined with her experience as a freelance business owner, to write about subjects valuable to small business owners on the HostGator blog. You can find her on Twitter at @atxcopywriter.