Website maintenance checklist

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. But the way people use the web has an inconvenient tendency to evolve over time. 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 visitors across all common browsers and devices (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 perform 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. The testing itself isn’t worth much if you don’t turn the insights you gain into action.

2. Check Your Domain Name Renewal Status.

You’ve invested so much in your website. Now imagine you woke up tomorrow morning, opened your browser, attempted to pull up your website and…instead you found a page saying the domain name expired. Even worse, your domain registrar filled the page with information on how someone else can purchase it—and maybe they’ve even already listed it on a domain auction site 😱.

You may feel like that sounds unlikely, but it’s happened to plenty of people and businesses before you. Losing access to your domain name could mean losing all the work you’ve done to build up your website’s authority and visibility on the web. And for busy business owners, it’s a surprisingly easy thing to let slip through the cracks. 

It’s not a risk you want to take. So at least once a year, check on your domain name renewal status. The best way to keep your domain name (and website by extension) safe is to set up auto-renew. Then you rarely have to worry about it, except to keep your payment information up-to-date. 

Your header and footer are the main parts of your website that stay the same across web pages. And they probably include some important information!

If, for example, your header includes contact information, your address, or the hours your business is open, you want to make sure that information is up to date. You don’t want someone showing up to your old address or when you’re closed, only to be disappointed they can’t do business with you after all.

Even if your header is simple, and just provides your logo and main menu, this is a good opportunity to make sure the web pages and categories you include here are the most important ones to highlight on your website.

The website footer likely includes your website’s copyright information, including the date of copyright. You want to keep that up to date as well, to protect all new updates you’ve made to your website in the last year. And confirm here as well that any links you include in the footer are the ones you most want to call visitor attention to. 

hostgator website footer
HostGator’s website footer

And I know you probably don’t want to hear this, but you should also check with your lawyer to make sure your Terms of Service and Privacy Policy are up to date. Laws change. It’s better to catch outdated legal information on your website before you can suffer any consequences because of it. Your Privacy Policy in particular may need to be revisited in the wake of GDPR and other privacy laws

Quarterly Website Maintenance Tasks

4. 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, you could lose out big on profits until you catch the problem and fix it. Most of your visitors won’t take the time to alert you that they couldn’t make a purchase, they’ll just hop over to a competitor’s site and buy what they need there instead.

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 want to find out and update it ASAP.

5. Test Out All the Forms on Your Website.

If your website includes any contact forms 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. And make sure whoever’s meant to be on the receiving end of the form gets all the information provided. 

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.

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

7.  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 customers’ 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 found.

After you make an update, take a minute to check that your website is still working properly. If you use WordPress, occasionally a WordPress update can cause compatibility issues with a plugin you use, and you want to know about it if you lose important functionality in the process. And while the possibility of losing functionality may sound scary, don’t let that stop you from completing this step. It’s a lot less scary than getting hacked! 

Don’t procrastinate making those updates, or you could be putting your website and visitors needlessly at risk.

8.  Regularly Backup 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 website 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.

9.  Test Your Website Speed and Make Necessary Improvements.

None of the work you put into your website has a chance to pay off if visitors get impatient while it’s loading and click away. And now that we’re years past the days of dial up, when waiting was a normal part of using the internet, people do get impatient. They expect websites to load fast

At least once a month, test out your website speed to get a feel for how quickly it’s loading for visitors. Don’t just test it out in your browser on your own computer—that can only tell you so much.

Google provides a Page Speed Insight tool that offers more information about how your website’s working across different types of networks, browsers, and devices. And conveniently, in the same tool, you’ll see steps for ways to improve your website speed

Google PageSpeed Insights
Google PageSpeed Insights

Weekly Website Maintenance Tasks

10. 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 (and visitors) will thank you!

Casey is the Senior Director of Marketing for Hosting and has been in the web hosting space for 7 years. He loves the slopes and hanging out with his kids.