Like a car, a website, once built, needs to be maintained. You can either do it yourself or take up a web maintenance services package from the people who build the site for you. But more importantly, here’s what you need to know about website maintenance and why it’s important.
Modern websites these days are usually built using content management systems (CMS), the most popular of which is WordPress. These CMS as well as their accompanying themes, plugins and extensions needs to be updated regularly. Why? Because these updates are usually provided by their respective developers to do one of the following:
- maintain compatibility (between CMS, themes and plugins)
- Fix bugs
- Provide feature enhancements
- Increase loading speed; and most importantly
- Install security patches if vulnerabilities are found.
Of the above list, security patches are of gravest concern. Once a security patch is issued, responsible developers will usually make a public disclosure, to give users a heads-up to update to the latest patched version. However, this disclosure process also makes the security hole present in previous unpatched versions public domain knowledge, allowing hackers with malicious intent to exploit and gain control of your unpatched site. That’s why it’s of utmost importance that websites are properly maintained and all software used in creating a site are kept updated. This helps keep your website safe and with safe browsing being a Google ranking factor in their Page Experience update, there are SEO benefits too, in keeping websites updated.
Loading Speed too (in the form of Largest Contentful Paint, a Core Web Vitals metric) has been named as one for the ranking factors in the coming Google Page Experience update.
In fact Google has all long tried to educate webmasters that a slow loading website will result in high bounce rates and loss of web traffic. And speed enhancement is one of the reasons why developers introduce software updates, whether it’s for your CMS, themes or plugins.
A decade or two ago, the internet was dominated by desktop web traffic. Websites were optimized for desktop screens with little consideration given to mobile. But the landscape has since changed, with mobile now accounting for more than 50% of web traffic worldwide. Web design trend has similarly changed, with responsive web design now taking centre stage. The actual site design too has changed, with site owners these days showing a preference for modern, minimalist designs with lots of white spaces as opposed to the colourful, complicated designs of yesteryear.
If your site has not been regularly maintained, it will look dated and mobile unfriendly. It will put you at a disadvantage when it comes to organic search rankings where mobile friendliness is a ranking factor in Google’s Page Experience update.
Back in 7 August 2014, Google announced that HTTPS will be a lightweight ranking factor. HTTPS everywhere was and still is Google’s vision for a more secure web where data transfer is made through the encrypted and more secure HTTPS protocol. Since then many websites have migrated from HTTP to HTTPS. If you have an old site built before 2014, it is likely that it was using the unsecure HTTP protocol. But if you have someone regularly maintaining it, chances are that you too would have migrated over to HTTPS, again showing how important website maintenance is; web technology changes rapidly and the only way to keep abreast of these changes is to regularly maintain your site.
Broken links are links that point to pages that don’t exist (i.e. 404 pages). The reason why this happens can vary. For example, the page your link is pointing to could have been moved or perhaps taken down. Or you could have wrongly typed the URL of the link when you created it. Whatever the reasons are, broken links give your web visitors a bad user experience and should be fixed. And the only way to do so is to monitor it regularly.
The components of your website, i.e. the CMS itself, plus themes and plugins, are usually updated by their respective developers very frequently, for reasons such as bug fixes, feature or speed enhancements and security fixes. If your site has not been regularly maintained (i.e. if you have skipped several updates) but decide to do so now, you risk crashing your website. Why? Because old themes and plugins may not be compatible with the latest version of your CMS and vice versa. So the best way to prevent your website from unnecessarily crashing is to apply updates (be it for theme, plugins or the CMS itself) as soon as they become available.
Not all content on your website are evergreen. Some, like event dates or prices, for example, needs to be updated as and when there are changes, to give your web visitors the most up to date information.
If your website is important to you, back it up. If it’s making you money, back it up. Why? To mitigate the risk of losing everything if your website crashes or is hacked. Yes, even if you have security features or firewall protecting your site, there is still the possibility it can get hacked; nothing is 100% secure and it pays to remember that. A backup copy of your website serves as an insurance, should all other precautions fail.
And website backups are part and parcel of the web maintenance service package that we offer; we do it to give you peace of mind.
Having a website gives you an online presence which is important in today’s world, where we are all connected globally through the Internet. But it is equally important to know that a website, once built, must be regularly maintained. Security and backups aside, it’s information must be kept updated, with design and feature changes implemented now and then to keep up with the times. An unmaintained website, over a prolong period has higher risk of crashing and will look abandoned. It can hurt your corporate image and trust web visitors place in your company.