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Your website is now live and your work here is done!

Well, that’s what you want us to tell you. You want to hear that your awesome new site – mobile responsive and packed with engaging content, striking images and up to date information – is complete and you have nothing more to do than sit back and let the good times roll.

You want to hear that your investment in time, patience and (let’s face it) cash has come to its glorious conclusion and you can now live happily ever after – just you and your website. Cue sunset, cue music, cue ‘The End’ written in cursive script.  

Boy, would we love to tell you all of that. We love a happy ending as much as the next guy, but we’re not in the business of making up fairy stories to get your business.  

The truth is – your website will never truly be finished. Ouch. Yeah, we know.

 

What happens if you don’t practice website maintenance?

 

A good website – the ones that make you money and keep your audience engaged – needs regular attention. Picture it like a beautiful rose garden. You need to check the soil, water the plants, prune the stems so the roses grow and thrive. It’s about nurture, care and love. If you don’t tend to your website on a regular basis, it will never blossom beyond the here and now. This is as good as it gets. Left to its own devices, your rose garden of a website will slowly grind to a halt. No more blooms only a tired, lifeless shell of its former glory. If that’s not the saddest way to end your shiny website story, we don’t know what is.

Cue very sad music, indeed.

 

Keeping your website up to date – the easy way

 

Most gardeners know that the trick is to do little and often – and website maintenance is no different. Build website maintenance into your monthly admin schedule and the investment you piled into your new website – investment of time, energy and money – won’t go to waste. Instead it will grow, and your business will grow with it.

It feels like a lot, we totally understand. You’re running your business, working all the hours and trying to keep hold of this weird thing called ‘Your Life’ at the same time.

Starting from scratch, website maintenance can seem overwhelming – especially if there’s no true end in sight. So, to help you with this, we’ve pulled together the top maintenance tasks we always do here at 39 Steps. If you need a hand with any of it – give us a shout.

 

13 things you need to do every month to keep your website fresh.

 

1. Develop a monthly admin / website maintenance schedule

Snore. Is there anything more boring than an admin schedule? Yes, there is actually – a tired and out of date website. So, buck up buster and get your diary out! What follows is a list of 12 key tasks that will keep your website ticking along. If you break each one up into a monthly 10-15 minute task, you’ll easily squeeze each one in.  

And if I don’t?

If you don’t build up a schedule, chances are you’ll leave it to the end of the month and must do it all in one go. And then you’re less likely to do it properly (or at all). Treat website admin like you would the other tasks you need to complete to bring in the money – bookkeeping, sending invoices, replying to quote queries.  

2. View your site on different browsers and devices

Plugins and browsers are regularly updated, and this can cause issues with the way your site looks and runs on devices and in different browsers. Check your site on your smartphone, your tablet, your kid’s tablet, your mum’s ancient desktop – and on each one use different browsers. You want to make sure key pages and links are working the way they’re supposed to.

And if I don’t?

You have no idea what device or browser your next big customer will use to find you. It’s not a case of assuming it’s fine if it works for you. One thing you can assume is that a potential customer who can’t use your site will not fiddle about on different devices and browsers to get it to work. They’ll just find someone else who does what you do instead.

3. Check for broken links

One of the key roles of your site is to build trust with your audience. Nothing is more frustrating than landing on a website to find broken links for the pages you really want to visit. So, fix those links!

And if I don’t?

Frustrating potential customers is a big no-no, but broken links can cause even more problems. We’re all competing for organic ranking on search pages (Google, Bing etc) and broken links go towards affecting your search scores. Search engines must trust the pages it offers in search results pages (SERPS). Broken links devalue this trust. This means your potential customers might not even land on your site in the first place and your competitors – the ones who regularly maintain their websites – are nicking your customers.

How do you get broken links in the first place?

Don’t worry – it is common, and they are all over the net. They can occur with a spelling mistake or a moved page, images changing, links to redundant articles, websites or companies. All sorts of fiddly reasons can cause them.

Thankfully it’s easy to double check and fix. Our favourite tool for this is Screaming Frog. There’s a free version for up to 500 pages and a paid for version for larger sites. The frog scans your entire site and quickly identifies broken links to fix.  

4. Check your page running speed

When your new site went live the running speed would have been up to, well – speed! It’s amazing how quickly the speed performance can slow down. Adding content to a site, words, images, links, products can all plot against you and slow things down.

And if I don’t?

A slow site – again – is devalued in SERPS and your speedy savvy competitors will be nabbing your leads.

We run our site regularly through Google’s Page Speed Insights to check we’re loading quickly and delivering the right information to our audience quickly and effectively.

 

5. Update WordPress and plugins

Your site is made up of a bunch of plugins – whether you’re using WordPress or another content management system (CMS). The plugins can quickly become outdated – often the developers have been working behind the scene to make the plugins even better or more secure – but they will need refreshed regularly.  

And if I don’t?

You know about site speed time now and how easy it is for your site to be devalued by search engines. Out of date plugins affect both, but there is an even bigger reason to keep your plugins up to date. Hackers. Out of date plugins create weak spots in your site, and hackers poke their way into these weak spots and wreak havoc. Yes, there’s a much more technical way to explain this but you get the picture!

Don’t make it easy for the hackers. It’s so easy to keep on top of plugins. Log in to the main admin area for your site (often called ‘the back end’) and you’ll be notified of anything that needs your attention.

 

6. Are your sign-up forms up to date and working smoothly?

The forms on your site are there to perform one of the most important jobs ever. To find out who wants to engage with you. Engagement means business (ideally). If your forms aren’t capturing the right details or are giving your potential customers old and out of date information, then you’re not off to a good start.

Test them and check them on other devices and browsers. Log in to your site admin page for updates.

And if I don’t?

If there was someone in your office who refused to take down the name and number of customers who call you, you would probably take action, right? You’re losing leads in this area and if you’re losing leads, you’re losing business and that will never do. Not on our watch.

 

7. Test the search function

If you have a search function on your site (and you really, really should) then make sure it works. Some people go straight to search to find what they’re looking for and a broken search function is annoying. Test out the search function on your site using different words, phrases, services, products and take a note of what comes up. If vital pages, articles, posts, products don’t come up in the search, then you’ll need to make sure it’s all linked.

And if I don’t?

When is the last time you were really annoyed at a website? Where did that frustration take you – did you skip merrily to the checkout or did you stop the process to go and do something else instead (never to return)? We rest our case.

 

8. Content is king – how up to date is yours?

Search engines favour websites that build trust. If your site has loads of great, informative, interesting and engaging content then you’re going to be rewarded in the SERPS.

Having fresh, up to date and accurate content is essential for drawing in your audience, keeping them on your page and growing your business. Blog posts, articles, news items, updated product and service information, comments, reviews, pictures. There will always be something you can add to your site to freshen up the content and keep the search bots happy!

And if I don’t?

Search bots crawl over your site all the time so if you don’t update the content the bots will think you’ve given up on trying to be authoritative and you’ll be downgraded. Dammit.

Having a content plan and updating your site is something we would suggest doing more than once a month, but start off small then aim to grow out.

 

9. Test through the check-out process

If you sell products or services through your site, then running test transactions each month is a great way to work out any niggles or issues potential customers may have. Put your cart in test mode and use the test credit card functions for dummy payments. To really put your check out through its paces, run a test on a new product, priced at 0.01p and process the live order. That way you can track the funds from your site into your bank account and flush through the whole system from A to B.

And if I don’t?

Nothing will happen – things will run along as normal. But ‘nothing’ can also mean ‘no sale’ if someone has tried to buy something and there’s a blockage somewhere in your system. Customers don’t want to work hard to spend their money. So they won’t.

 

10. Check and update your contact details

It might not be a regular occurrence but contact information does change – a shift in personnel, email addresses, social media links, phone numbers. It’s easy to forget to update your site when changes are made.

Generic email addresses (admin@, recruitment@, sales@) may be directed to a member of staff who no longer works for you. You might have disbanded your Facebook page but there’s still a link to it on your site. Go through everything with a fine-tooth comb and make sure your contact information is easy to find and provides just that – contact!

And if I don’t?

If your customers can’t get through to you, they will stop trying…

11. Make friends with Google Analytics

It might seem like a dark art, but Google Analytics is an amazing tool which helps you identify issues and source opportunities. Learning a few basic tricks will help you read the traffic to your site – where people come from, what they did when they got to your site and how long they spent on those pages.

It’s a free tool and incredibly powerful and the best part is that Google offer free courses so you can learn it in a few weeks.

And if I don’t?

This is another one of those ‘nothing will happen’ scenarios – where everything will run as normal, especially if you’re updating your site in the other ways outlined above. However, embracing Google Analytics means you can identify ways to communicate better with your customers, develop your site to convert leads to sales, to design campaigns to appeal to new customers and ultimately grow your business. Analytics also helps you work out any search engine optimization issues (SEO), which will go a long way to helping save you money. It’s a no-brainer!

 

12. Review Google Search Console / Bing Webmaster Tools  

Register your site (for free) today with Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools and you’ll be updated on issues and potential problems before they have an impact on your digital marketing. As a free service, this one is worth a huge amount to your business and takes no time to set up and check in on monthly.

And if I don’t?

Your site might be blacklisted by search engines for something you don’t even know about – your site could be hacked and stuffed full of malware. A competitor could be spamming your site with links (we knew they looked shady…) and any number of indexing and crawling issues for the search bots can be easily identified – and fixed – by checking in with these services. Free to set up but priceless in its offering.

 

13. Run a complete keywords MOT

People find your site through search engines by typing in keywords. Your site should now be optimised for the key pages you want to people to find. Run through the keywords you have allocated for each of your main pages and double check they are still relevant.

Language and phrases change over time – your pages may be set to olde-timey language and you don’t even know it! You want your customers to find you. You want your customers to know that you are the best at what you do. Because you are! So, analyse your keywords and make sure there’s a dedicated page for each of the words or phrases you want to be found for.

And if I don’t?

Are you still asking that? Well, if you don’t do this it could be that you expect people to come to you based on a set of completely outdated ideas. If you keep on top of this, you move with the changes and shifts of your customers change and you will stay relevant. You’ll always be there when you need them – and surely that is the whole point of a website?

Keywords might seem to be complicated and confusing, but as always there are some great tools out there to help you on your way. Here’s some of our favourites:

Google Keyword Planner (free)

Moz Keyword Explorer (paid subscription)

SEMrush Keyword Research (paid subscription)

Keyword Tool (paid subscription)

Wordstream (free)

 

Start your website maintenance today

 

Website maintenance is something that you have to do to stay relevant in the constantly shifting digital world. Tasks broken down into bite-sized chunks like this will show you that it’s easy enough to get started on the tasks to keep your beautiful rose garden of a website blooming.

We like to remind our clients that these 13 website maintenance tasks are the minimum you should be doing on your site every month – there’s a whole host more you could be doing including SEO management and development which is altogether more complex and detailed than the 13 tasks we’ve outlined here – but that’s a blog post for another time.

 

I have no time for website maintenance – what now?

 

A list of tasks is all well and good but if you don’t have the time, the confidence, the patience or the skills to tackle each one then we always recommend speaking to your web developer. They should be able to come up with a basic level of website maintenance tasks in the shape of a maintenance agreement.

If your site developer doesn’t offer website maintenance or you fancy talking to the cool guys (that’s us by the way), then we can help you get the results you want to achieve from a website support maintenance agreement – and a whole lot more.

 

39steps Website Support Bundles

 

39 Steps website support bundles are a great way for you to keep your site in full working condition with the peace of mind that you don’t have to roll your sleeves up and get stuck into the detail. Prices can start from as little as £89 +VAT per month, which is a great investment to keep your site ticking.

Our SEO bundles give you access to our team of SEO experts, who will work away diligently in the background ensuring your site ranks beautifully for the keywords and phrases your customers search for.

The website bundles in place are designed to give you maximum support, peace of mind and website functionality so you have the time and space to run your business the way you need to, without worrying about the website.

 

Happy Ever After with 39 Steps

When it comes to your website, buying a 39 Steps website bundle is the closest we can get you to your Happy Ever After, and that’s no fairy story.

Learn more about our web support bundles.

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