There are over 1 billion websites in the world (you should see them counting up every second!)1, a number by far different from the real total once the number of inactive websites are added. It is easy to see why, with all the work that is required not just to develop a website but also to keep it running. Digital developments, web x.0, Internet enhancements, hacking, bugs, patches, competition are as many words that any online presence has to deal with on a regular basis. For that, a website, an online course, a digital application requires on-going maintenance to keep up with the changes prompted by the opportunities as well as the threats thus presented by the Internet. This “oiling of the machine” involves Website Monitoring, Website Updates, Website Security, Website Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) and Content Refresh.
It is by monitoring your website that you can find out about its availability and access to it. A number of extensions provide monitoring features, many for free within reason. They will allow users to monitor their website’s availability and even sometimes to identify the source of the downtime. Knowing where to find the problem, how to tackle it diligently is paramount to reducing disruption to your digital presence and to the services that you offer and therefore to your customers. There is no automatic functionality that provides this kind of functionality or in fact skills and it is highly recommended to employ the services of a knowledgeable business such as ourselves.
Website updates are an important part of keeping your website fresh and active. To ensure those updates do not adversely affect your website settings or content, you need to follow a rigorous process of maintenance that requires backing up, staging, upgrading, testing and sometimes restoring. This needs to be done for each application that requires updating and can take time and be precarious.
There are four common types of updates:
- The core upgrades that relate to the framework itself on which your website is built e.g. WordPress, Joomla, Drupal…
- The extensions upgrades that relate to any additional codes that you add on to perform more specific functionality. In WordPress for example, these are the both common essential plugins pertaining to security, monitoring and performance, and business specific ones e.g. e-commerce or booking.
- The user interface upgrades keep the look and feel upt-to-date. These are for example the WordPress theme updates or Bootstrap updates
- In WordPress, there are also Translation file updates
WordPress core alone has had 19 updates in the 8 months just between Jan and Aug 20162, an average of over 2 updates a month. WordPress minor and security updates are automatic and JetPack lets you setup automatic updates for extensions in your website. Nevertheless, not all can or should be automatically updated and you must ensure you can still go back (restore your website to its pre-upgrade state if the update goes awry) and therefore allow yourself time to backup your website before the change. In addition, you will need to test your website to ensure that all upgrades have been successful and that your extensions and website functionality and look and feel continue to work with the new core codes the way that you expect them to. The more extensions you have, the more upgrades you will need, each preceeded of course by a backup for safety, and each followed by a test for quality assurance. You can see how the work can slowly but surely escalate your maintenance time.
Security is the most obvious requirement of a website on-going maintenance and yet it is often taken for granted. There are a lot of applications that will help website owners ensure security. Yet again, it is a question of identifying a security issue, preventing it in the short term but not analysing the issue behind the symptom. You can get to the bottom of issues on your own or you can get a security service such as ours to help.
Search Engine Optimisation
Search Engine Optimisation tends to be forgotten once a set of keywords have been chosen for the content and the website has been submitted to search engines. It remains important after that to maintain the website’s visibility and competitive edge. Regular analytics inform strategic digital marketing and this is something that keeps your site active, search engines aware and your digital business competitive.
Although last, content is definitely not the least and in fact might just be the most important aspect of maintaining your web presence. Unlike other maintenance aspects discussed before, content refresh concerns not just websites, web applications or online courses but also other digital presence such as social media, email newsletter and digital marketing such as banners and guest postings.
Keeping a blog or a way to continually speak about your business, its stories, its successes, its lessons, its news, what others say about it clients and press alike and a lot more is the best way to tell potential clients, current customers, competition and search engines that you and your business are active, knowledgeable, constantly fresh and highly competitive.
There are integrations that can be done between your website and your social media to allow every new article to be advertise on your social media. However, these types of automation won’t do is to choose the right content to re-advertise, to personalise messages to each social media, to find what people want to know about and refresh the content to answer specific questions and much more of what only the human touch and digital skills can do together.
One of the most time-consuming but nonetheless enjoyable parts of my work is to ensure that I am aware of the latest changes in technology. Now systems you use might alert you to security or bug fixes, enhancements or new features but one thing they might not always do or at least not completely is to let you know about new or best practice, new processes or just tips that make your life as a consultant easier. Don’t get me wrong, they do: they send newsletters, tips… Some of them even have announcements, notifications and other such little messages within their software. However, what I am talking about is the fountain of knowledge that is so often buried in super long forums, barely has the time to completely fit within the timely walls of networking events. When I go to the Adobe Articulate community forum, I feel saturated with information, great ones, but still staturated. Reading the WordPress news, going to its ‘codex’ and thousand and one place where the information exists is just, well work, specialised work.
Your website will have more than one link, including external links (pointing to other websites) and internal (pointing to webpages within your own structure). Part of maintaining your website involves checking that all these links continue to work as other websites might stop working, move things about and your own website might lose search engine credibility if it hosts so-called ‘dead links’. Part of maintaining your website therefore involves ensuring that none of your customers comes across a dead-end which turns your site into an amateurish presence and leaves the client wanting and definitely looking elsewhere for their answer. Tools like WordPress have such built-in or add-on functionality and this will reveal itself to be a great asset for the webmaster passionate about offering their customers a professional digital presence. It is worth feeding the results of such tools to strategy to help them minimise addition of such types of urls in the first place as this kind of exercise might not be feasible too frequently.
Check not only for dead links but also for redirects as those slow down the linking and do not in general look very good. In addition to verifying external links, it is definitely worth checking internal links. Finally it is an advantage to ensure that linking to your website is maintained. Having people linking to your website shows search engines that other websites trust you, but what you want to ensure is that the right websites point to you, and the right words are used to label those links. This is not about dictating what others should do with their websites but about ensuring that those you have a good enough relationship with can ensure that the backlinking is actually optimally mutualy beneficial. In fact, it should be part of the backlinking discussions in the first place to ensure that the other party understands what label you would prefer associating any link to your website with: there is such a difference between cheap websites and affordable websites!
The Internet offers great opportunities for today’s businesses. With 40000 Google searches a second, you cannot afford to not be listed among the first options. In addition, knowing that new businesses come only every minute, keeping your competitive edge with a consistently up-to-date fresh website business. You can do it yourself, no doubt, with all the digital tools available around, and distract yourself from the business of your own skill, preferring DIY to professional help in the midst of a competition that employs knowledgeable professionals. Or you can make sure you hire the services of the likes of website maintenance specialists such as 3E Web Media. We offer different options depending on how big the website is in terms of the number of applications it uses, to allow you to chose the relevant options for your needs or you can simply contact us for consultancy or custom requirements. Let us take care of your Website Maintenance or let us guide you at the very least, it would be our pleasure.