Why you can't set and forget a business website
Too many times I've seen good websites uploaded then left to decay in a dark corner of the web. Unfortunately the web moves fast meaning you need to stay on top of it to keep ahead. Setting and forgetting a website is no longer an option. If you own a business website there are some things you need to do on a constant basis. In this article I'll go through what you need to be aware of when you own a website.
Keeping your website up to date can be complicated and time consuming. You need to be aware of software and server security releases to prevent breaches and vulnerabilities. You also need to perform ongoing analysis to track errors and optimise your online strategy. Having complete backups of your site at your fingertips will help in the event anything goes wrong.
Content Management Systems and plugins are often updated on a regular basis to add new features of functionality, squash bugs or patch a security vulnerability. However this isn't always as good as it sounds. Protecting yourself against a recently discovered threat is great, unfortunately updates can break things where code that was once relied on needed to be changed. Being able to make these changes or having someone available to review your site with each update would be invaluable.
Similar to the way software updates are handled, the server where your website is hosted also needs maintenance. Usually this falls on your hosting provider to do this but, depending on what package you've purchased, you might have to do this yourself. If you don't, great, but just remember somebody else is doing this for you every day, even if you don't use your site.
If your site has been compromised, you'll need to restore from a backup. Backups allow you to put your website back to the way it was before the site was hacked. Having a good backup strategy in place will prevent the need to manually clean hundreds of files of any injected code. Any content you've created since your last backup might also have to be recreated if the database has been corrupted. Rebuilding website files and content can be more costly to your business.
Ongoing Anaylysis of your Business Website
Every site, especially one focused on selling your businesses products should have some form of tracking. This will enable you to see where your visitors are spending the most time. Unfortunately analytics in itself doesn't offer any value out of the box. A good website uses this data to evaluate marketing efforts and see what can be improved to convert customers.
Ongoing analysis of a business website isn't just about understanding the data and identifying weak points. It also involves making the changes needed for improvements. This can range from the design and layout of the website, the coding or backend and even the content. If you are not comfortable doing these yourself, partner up with a web designer or developer. I'm available if you don't already have an internal webmaster.
Just like tracking visitors to see how they interact with your site, you also need to track errors to see what's going wrong. Errors can come in all shapes and sizes from missing links and broken images to backend code incorrectly showing on the frontend of the website.
Find a service that notifies you when things break. This is especially important with ecommerce sites as I've seen some errors preventing users from checking out. If you have a proper release schedule for improving user conversion you can identifying exactly where the errors are happening. With the information provided you can diagnose and fix any issue without waiting for users to report them.
You may have heard of SEO ready sites which already have some search engine optimisation in the framework. However this is not a be all and end all solution. Unless the company hosting your site also provides ongoing SEO services, this responsibility falls on you.
Staying on top of SEO takes a lot of time and experience. The way search engines rank sites has got a lot more complicated in recent years. Unless you have the time and commitment to constantly update your website and social properties, using just an SEO optimised solution might not be the best answer. Maybe it's time to consider a professional SEO service.
Whether it's software, performance or content updates, monthly reviews and edits can take time. However if you don't put aside time to do this it can affect your business. At a minimum you should have a monthly plan in place that includes full site backups (Daily or weekly depending on how often you update your site), software and plugin updates, file, cache and database cleanups. A well-optimised website will perform better and prevent future problems, ensuring you get the maximum use from your investment.