So you’ve finished creating your website, optimising your content and have everything ready to start attracting visitors. That’s everything sorted, right? If only it was that easy!
Building a website is only the first step in the journey. After that, it’s all about site maintenance.
No matter the size of your business, website maintenance is hugely important. Ensuring your site is running correctly is key to attracting visitors, converting customers, maintaining your rankings in SERPs and protecting yours and your customers’ data. On top of this, your site represents a huge investment in terms of time and money, so you need to ensure it maintains its value.
If you implement a strategy for keeping your site running smoothly, making the most of automation and maintenance services, you can avoid a whole host of problems while also ensuring you provide the best user experience at all times. Trust us when we say that fixing an issue that comes about as a result of poor maintenance is much harder than looking after everything to start with.
So what exactly do you need to do when it comes to website maintenance?
Backing up your website regularly is probably one of the most important steps you need to take – especially if you have a site with a lot of pages and content. Daily server backups protect you from losing your site and data in the event of several situations, including:
- Human error
- Errors during updates
- Compatibility issues with new installations
- Malware infections
- A hack
- Issues with a migration
If you don’t have a recent backup of your site, any of these situations could result in you losing a huge amount of valuable data. You could also end up with a broken site that takes time to fix – losing you money all the while.
When you have a backup, any of these issues can be sorted as you’ll have a recent restore point that you can utilise. This is why it’s a great idea to have automatic backups but also to manually backup your site before starting any major work.
Core File Updates
Keeping on top of updates for your core files helps to protect your site from several vulnerabilities and can keep it running better. Core files include plugins, themes and content management systems that are all vital to the way your site looks and works.
Developers are constantly updating these files in order to ensure they work as well as possible but also because they find and fix potential security issues on a regular basis. If you aren’t updating core files, not only will your site speed decline – which can affect your rankings and SEO performance – it could leave you open to a security breach.
Updating at least once a month will ensure your site is utilising the most up-to-date security features so it is as safe as possible. You can also trust that your site will keep running well, as older versions of plugins and themes can suddenly stop working, having a negative impact on your site.
In order to make sure that updates don’t cause an issue with your website, you should be sure to back it up before updating.
Remove Spam Comments
Allowing people to comment on articles on your website can help you to grow an online community and provide assistance to people in a highly visible way, which can help you to be seen as a trustworthy brand. However, the chances are you’ll also get your fair share of spam comments, which you should regularly remove.
A large number of spammers leave comments in order to generate backlinks to their site. More often than not, these links have nothing to do with your niche and are accompanied by nonsensical text that has no relation to the content on your page. These are fairly obvious spam comments, whereas some will make a comment related to your content but still include a backlink to their site. You’ll have to decide if these are genuine or risky.
Other spam comments won’t include a link but will just include generic text, such as “nice post”, which adds nothing to the conversation and has no value for your page so may not be worth keeping. It’s a good idea to create a guide for what is considered spam.
So, other than being annoying, what’s the problem with spam comments? For starters, they can affect your site’s UX as users will find spam-filled comments sections irritating, especially as it will mean genuine comments are harder to find. This can mean they are less likely to trust your content.
Secondly, loads of extra comments can mean your page load speed times are higher, impacting your overall site speed. All of this can affect your site’s perceived credibility as well as lose you rankings, which means regularly removing spam comments is a must.
Checking your comments on a regular basis can help you weed out the spam, or you might consider setting up an approvals process for all comments. If you do this, you’ll need to quickly check your comments on a daily basis, as people may get frustrated that their comments haven’t been approved, especially if they are asking a question of the online community.
Clean Out your Database
Over time, your website’s database can get a bit cluttered, which can impact its overall performance. As you add new content, plugins, media files, themes and users to your site, among other things, your site gets larger over time, meaning it takes longer to load and to perform basic functions.
Leaving your database as it is can mean every page has a lot of data that needs to be processed before it can load. Ultimately, this results in a slow website and poor user experience. You may also find that site management becomes more difficult as the back end will also end up loading more slowly.
Luckily, you can avoid this simply by having a database clear out periodically. Removing data and content that you don’t need any more, as well as optimising the images and files that are still needed, can help reduce the strain your database has on your site. The result will be improved performance without losing anything that is essential to your website.
It is a good idea to set up an automatic function that cleans a set part of your site regularly, as well as going through the rest of it manually. If you do this on a regular basis – depending on how big your site is and what systems you have in place – will make continued maintenance easier. It will also ensure your website is always running smoothly.
Minimise 404 Errors and Set Up Redirects
4040 errors are a result of your website returning an HTTP 404 standard response code, which essentially tells the user and the search engine that the requested page doesn’t exist. While Google has said that 4040 errors don’t have an effect on your ranking or indexing, they do have an impact on UX.
If a user attempts to go to a page from an internal or external link or from SERPs but gets a 404 error message, it will affect your bounce rate and overall trust in your brand. Although not all 404 errors will need to be fixed from an SEO standpoint, you need to aim to minimise them from a user experience perspective.
When looking at your 404s, you need to assess whether the URL in question has a lot of high-quality external links, if it gets a lot of traffic and whether the URL would be expected to exist by users or by people likely to link to your site. If any of these factors is the case, you need to look at fixing the 404.
Of course, the way you fix the error will depend on what has caused it. It may be that there is a typo in an internal link or that the content has been moved. If you have content elsewhere on your site that is relevant to that URL, you should consider setting up a 301 redirect. If it’s the case that people would expect the URL to exist, you’ll need to decide whether to add the page or redirect elsewhere.
All of these fixes will make the user journey on your site much smoother and should help you make the most of existing link equity.
Keep PHP Up to Date
PHP is the coding language that many websites run on – including all WordPress sites. The version in use is set at server-level by the company you use to host your website.
Typically, the lifecycle for PHP is about three years, with it being actively supported, including security support, for one or two years. During this period of support, the next PHP version is usually available for updates. Failing to update your PHP when your version reaches the end of its life means it is no longer secure to use. You can check whether your PHP version is still supported on the PHP website.
If your site has been created with PHP, updating it with a new version may result in some performance improvements – so long as the code is compatible and everything else on your site is up-to-date and running smoothly.
Updating your PHP can provide a number of benefits, including a faster website. Newer versions of PHP will be much faster than older versions, so you’ll benefit from a quicker site, which can impact SEO and UX. You’ll also get access to new features and improvements, which could help you create a more effective website.
However, the most important factor is security. Newer PHP versions are better are counteracting hackers, especially as they come with security support and updates. Continuing to use outdated code can put your website at risk from a hack.
Get Maintenance Help
It can seem like there is a lot to do to maintain your website, but once you get started, it becomes much easier to keep things running smoothly. Some maintenance can be automated while other steps need to manual and should be scheduled into your activity.
If you aren’t sure what maintenance your website needs or you don’t have the internal capacity to managed all aspects of your maintenance, it could be a good idea to outsource. Here at Marketing Labs, we help our clients’ websites run at the highest possible level, keeping them secure, updated and backed-up.
Talk to us today about our maintenance packages and how we can help improve your site, SEO performance and user experience.
If you found this post useful, you might also enjoy reading our article on site migration SEO.