Today we’re going to talk about web maintenance and why it is a major step in the health and success of your business. Web maintenance, you say? But I paid a LOT of money on quality web design to get my website up and running…it looks amazing…and it’s doing exactly what I want! Why would I mess with success, you ask?
Imagine that your web site is like a new puppy. You went to the breeder (or the pound, I’m an adopt-don’t-shop person but everyone is different!) and found the perfect puppy for you. You have its papers, it is YOUR puppy. You got it a collar with its name, a leash and some toys. Everything is perfect…until you decide to walk it on the leash. No puppy, no matter how good, knows how to walk on a leash the first time! So you take it to the trainer, and you take it to the vet for check-ups. You and your puppy grow up happily ever after together.
It would never occur to someone (at least someone smart enough to be reading this blog!) to NOT do regular check-ups on a puppy, so why would you treat your web site any differently? Web maintenance is for you and your customers; it maintains the health and well-being of your World Wide Web image, so that you can have a long and positive relationship with your clients wherever they are. Below we will outline 10 major points to having a long happy relationship with your dog…er, web site!
Our first area to address is a little vain, but who wants an ugly puppy? An ugly web site is no better, and it won’t attract the customers!
- You and your web site look alike. Your web site is your online window into how you run your business. If a web site is regularly down, has broken links or out of date information, customers will start to doubt the business behind it, and may not want to take a chance on the products or services you provide. Regular maintenance checks into contact information, price lists, goods available and the functionality of enclosed links will be a great way to keep your web site up to date and working for you.
- How often do you let it out? How frequently you do maintenance depends a lot on the size and scope of your business. If you have more of a brochure type business that provides information but not a lot of moving parts, monthly check ups may be frequent enough to stay fresh and current. If your site ties into other programs, such as bookkeeping or inventory programs, you should probably check it more frequently, to ensure that the inventory available is correct, the links that get people to the check out area are fast and working and that everything is running as smoothly as possible for your customer experience. Remember, a police dog will need a lot more time and effort put into its development than a grandpa’s porch hound!
- UX and UI – both dogs, but different breeds! These are both fairly technical terms, but if you are going to stay up with the big dogs, you better get the language right. UX stands for User Experience – the ease of use and value people get when they interact with your company’s products or services. When you look at UX, you want to think, “how can my web site best meet my users’ needs?” This would include providing quick page uploads, clear pictures of products and complete explanations of services. You want your web site to work seamlessly, so that people feel good about coming to your site. UI the User Interface – the presentation and interactivity of a site or application. At its most basic level, it is making sure that the various buttons are easy to locate, that your logo is easy to find and when you do click it it goes someplace useful. Both UX and UI are critical to a user’s enjoyment of your web site; maintaining the ease of use and that everything is pertinent and available adds to the success of your business.
Web maintenance isn’t just How you present things, but What you are presenting. Often businesses get a site up and running but don’t visit it often enough to make sure it is up to date. Even worse than bored customers is a bored search engine….kind of like a cattle dog in an apartment, it only spells trouble for you AND your dog!
- SEO it isn’t so! Search Engine Optimization is critical in today’s fast moving business world. When you update your content more frequently the search engines wag their tails, and are move you up in their search ranks. When you move up in the ranks, your business becomes more visible to potential customers, which increases your site traffic – which, by the way, also moves you up in the big world of SEO. Failing to make frequent changes to your content could cause you to fall below your competition in the SEO rankings, and could cost you business over time. Bad dog, no bone.
- Plug ins don’t sit stay! Plug ins are software components that add a specific feature to an already existing program. Plug ins help you customize your site, by offering internal search engines, virus scanners, or the ability to use a different file type, such as a new video format. They expand your web site, but they are not a once and done type of thing. To keep your site up to date and prevent potential security gaps, make sure to keep your plug ins and add ons up to date by uploading their latest versions.
- Offer your site visitors a treat. Even with a brochure type site, updating your content can be a great way to keep current clients visiting often, which, as we mentioned above, will raise your SEO ratings. Offering monthly updates such as employee of the month, tid bits from the owner or other easily changed content will keep people interested in your site, and will increase recommendations to visit your site. Good boy, here’s a treat!
- But it’s the neighbor’s dog! Remember to not only give your immediate site a monthly check, but test all the internal and external links on your pages every time. Sponsors, advertisements, business partners – check each link to make sure it is viable, so that you are giving your customers the best experience they can have on your site. It doesn’t matter whose dog digs under the fence, it only matters that they got away!
You’ve invested in your business and you’ve had some success, so how do you protect it? Just like a junk yard always has a few dangerous looking dogs lurking around after hours, your web site security needs to be working all the time, whether you are or not. Here are a few ways to keep you – and your customers – safe from the evils that lurk on the web:
- Keep your dog house clean. Your digital dog house, that is! Remembering to maintain all domain names and email links is a critical part of web security, and yet it is one that is often overlooked until the burglars are out with the loot! Imagine coming into work on a Monday morning to check over the weekend’s sales and emails, only to find no sales took place over the weekend. Problem? Your domain name expired over the weekend, and your site was not up for days. Who knows how many potential customers and sales you might have missed? So while it is a once a year or once every two year project, make sure to have it on your calendar to do, not only for your domain names but for your email links as well.
- Lock the gate, feed the dog, take it off the leash…a maintenance check list is vital. Even the best guard dog is useless if you forget to take it off the leash when you lock the gate. Here are a few simple but important items to use as a monthly maintenance checklist for your web security:
- Use strong and secure passwords – use combimations of letters, numbers, symbols and Capitals whenever possible – then lock up your updated list so you don’t forget them!
- Remove old and unused applications and back ups
- Keep repository files secure
- Make sure no sensitive temporary files are available on your site.
- Again, keep all information up to date
- Keep your old dog company, get a puppy! In the pet world, the best excuse for getting a puppy is to keep the current dog company (but how often do we really buy that?!). In the business world and the world wide web, that same tactic is known as Backup. Backing up your website safeguards you against many possible disasters (kind of like puppy training pads) such as:
- Computer catastrophes – site failures, hard drive crashes, etc.
- Website hackers – with the number of evil doers on the web, you want to make sure your site is as secure as possible, not just for you but for your visitors. Good dog!
- Breakdowns from web updates – unfortunately it can happen to the best software – be prepared.
- Malware and viruses – because kennel cough is no laughing matter.
- Errors by employees – who let the dog out? Nevermind, he’s microchipped, we can track him!
The bottom line of maintenance is this: you have two choices, to maintain or to fix. Bringing in a professional can be costly, and the down time will have an unknown effect on your internet presence. Take the time to do a little regular training and your dog will be less likely to jump in someone else’s car.
We hope you have enjoyed our slightly-sarcastic-but-absolutely-serious take on why web maintenance is critical for the long term health of your web site and therefore your business. Make it a regular thing and you will see the positive effects of good maintenance in your customer reviews, increased revenues and rankings. Now get off the computer, go get a leash and take your dog for a walk!
A well-maintained website is critical for real-time service industries. All businesses need regular website maintenance to attract and retain customers, maintain search engine rankings and present new information, products and services to the public. Website maintenance is also required to maintain the value of the website over time.