In website management there is a big difference between “being in control” of your website and “having control” of it. Why is this important? Many people feel that if they have full admin access to their website that they in control of the site. But this is simply not true, and can lead website owners to falsely believe that they are in control of a healthy website. Here’s why.
Defining website management
“Having control” of your website simply means you have a login to the domain, web hosting account and the website’s CMS, if it has one. You can log in and make administrative changes to billing and more.
“Being in control” of your website means so much more. It is the same as above, but also means that you are more situationally aware of not only the content of your site, but the daily threats and attacks, and overall health of the files and database. You have your finger on the pulse of the site and the ecosystem it lives in.
Ok, you’re splitting hairs here.
No, not really. It can be thought of as an owner of a car. Some people have the keys and just drive it until the wheels fall off. They have no idea how it works and why routine maintenance is so important. Other drivers check the oil and tire pressure themselves, and have a basic understanding of the technologies that are needed to move and stop the car. They start hearing a faint ticking sound and know that it isn’t normal, and don’t just turn up the stereo.
Being in control of your website means the following (more or less) where you (or someone you delegate and manage) log in periodically to:
- check for updates to plugins and the CMS core
- check the 404 error logs for attacks
- create 301 redirects where needed
- monitor the IP addresses of those persistent 404 errors
- back up the entire site (or check in on the automatic backups)
- clean and optimize the database, if you have one
- remove/unapprove the spam comments that got through
- check for broken links across the site
- make/add updates to old posts
- respond to comments
- add the latest social media service and remove the ones that are going the way of MySpace and Facebook
- fix small CSS bugs for the latest browsers
- re-test your forms (email sign-up, contact, other) to make sure they still work
- update any onsite ads you may have
- add internal links to older posts, or better yet, link older posts to the newer ones
- change up your keywords (not the meta data keywords – we don’t rely on those anymore – but the ones you use in the Title, Description and copy
- swap out Flash videos for HTML5 or latest trend
- update images that look dated
- update your custom designed social media icons
- and more
I am not saying you have to do this every week, but having a list of website chores/tasks like this can help you make a maintenance plan that is easy to perform and where things won’t get forgotten.
Tell me again, why are we doing this?
It is hard to prioritize the answers to this, so know that the following list can be reordered based on your site’s needs and your business plan.
First and foremost to me is security. Every website in the world gets attacked in some way. Daily. 25% of the traffic that comes to our site is non-human, and some of that are bad bots looking for vulnerabilities, or just to drop off spam comments. Again: every day, all day. When your site gets hacked, Google can blacklist it and then no customer will ever want to visit your site with big warning from Google. This is the equivalent of someone breaking into your brick and mortar store and having to close up for the day to investigate, repair and cleanup. Only with Google, it can take weeks to get off the blacklist after a cleanup.
SEO algorithms change often. This is what determines where you end up on search results, and no, Google does not grandfather your content in when they make updates. While relevancy is key, a site that hasn’t changed in awhile ca also weigh you down. Google likes relevant and current, so of course that is what they will be serving up to its customers/searchers. Making edits to your site can help it stay current, and help keep you up in search results.
And really, it’s for your users too. Who wants to see the same old thing over and over on your website? Not me. So change it up periodically. And I’m not talking about the structure or layout, either. Swapping out a banner ad or slideshow content can give the site a new feel. Adding a teaser bar (like you see at the bottom of our site) can also make it seem like something is new and changing – showing signs of life is important to a website. Adding the latest (relevant) social media sharing functions also shows that you are on top of the game and have your users best interests in mind.
And how often do I need to do this?
Depends on the website. The more pages and posts you have, the more often you should check your links. The more non-human traffic you get, the more often you should check your security. If you get a bunch of daily comments, the more often you should check for spam/malicious comments. A small business with a small to average sized site can get away with check it once a week to start and set a baseline, and then after a month do once a month. You are looking for trends here so that you can tell if something is out of whack. A major site with a bunch of blog posts may want to think about checking some tasks every week, or even twice a week.
This is too much for my schedule
I can understand. It’s hard for me to keep up with my car’s technologies, so I found a good mechanic I can trust and it goes in periodically for checkups (saving me time and money in the logrun.) For me, I like a dependable car, and I plan on keeping it for a long time, so it’s money well spent. Same goes for a website. I recommend you find a developer that has a good grasp on security, design, SEO, and loves to really ‘dork out’ on the inner workings of websites. I’m not just working this in to describe myself, for there are a bunch of developers like this out there.
Your website is your brand, your company, your employee that never sleeps. When that fails you technically and/or visually, your brand and company suffer. You don’t need an MBA to know what happens next.
Lastly, don’t forget about keeping your computer clean too. This is the #1 easiest target for hackers to gain entry into not only your website, but also your banking and other accounts. We HIGHLY recommend that all Mac users install the latest Sophos anti-virus software (it’s free and dependable). PC users have a ton of choices (and a ton of threats). The ‘best’ anti-virus software for PCs depends heavily on your type of PC and the business you use it for. Please do a bit of research on the one that fits for your situation. You can also read more about why it is important for everyone to Keep a Clean Machine, an article from StaySafeOnline.org.