WordPress is the most popular CMS in the world and is used by nearly 75 million websites. According to WordPress, more than 409 million people view more than 23.6 billion pages each month and users produce 69.5 million new posts and 46.8 million new comments every month. It also powers more than 30% of the world’s websites.
WordPress is also a highly scalable solution, ideal for anyone from individual bloggers through to large multinational companies. However once up and running, maintaining a WordPress can be a much harder task, particularly for the novice website operator.
Why do websites need maintenance?
For businesses, their websites are a window looking onto the image that they wish to portray to the world, allowing the general public as well as clients to view the corporate image that they wish to present. This allows them to manage the first impression that any potential new client has of the business. If the website doesn’t portray the best possible impression, then it isn’t a success. Managing the website is therefore just as important for a business as managing their reputation. A slow, unresponsive, stale, unappealing or error-strewn website creates the worst possible impression. That’s why maintaining the website is an important part of a business’s marketing operations.
Some of the more common errors to find on websites are:
- Unavailable sites – websites being unavailable due to hosting failures, poorly managed maintenance activities or malicious attacks can all lead to sites being unavailable which creates a very poor impression for your potential visitors.
- Broken links – links to website pages that have been removed or renamed, links to external websites that have gone offline, errors in creating the links in the first place. All result in a frustrating error for the website visitor.
- Page not found – search engines pointing to a page in your website that has been removed or renamed cause an error which creates a very poor impression to the user who wanted to view your website.
- Poor spelling, grammar and structure – there is nothing worse than content that is difficult to read because it is full of spelling or grammatical mistakes, includes sentences that are poorly structured, uses excessive niche wording, is full of undefined acronyms and abbreviations or just plain unhelpful.
Website technology evolves at a fast pace, keeping pace with changes in social media integration can be overwhelming to the uninitiated. As users follow the trends in global communications, keeping up with their changing behaviours and expectations can be very challenging. A failure to keep a website up to date with the latest trends could soon render it irrelevant or even inaccessible.
For example, a recent change is the migration of website content away from Http and onto Https, the secure extension to Http that used to just be the reserve of financial transactions on the internet but is now becoming the default requirement for every website page. Adding an SSL certificate to enable Https and the encryption of communications that it brings may not be a straightforward task, it will depend upon the nature of the website and where it is hosted.
Why is maintaining your website important?
Maintenance of any website is important for a number of reasons, including:
- Website security – the underlying software that supports a WordPress website must be kept up to date just like any operating system. Updates are regularly released to address uncovered security weaknesses. If these updates are not applied in a timely manner, then the website will be vulnerable to the exploitation of these weaknesses. Such weaknesses to lead to the website being compromised which in turn may lead to your website visitors being compromised. This would be a major threat to your reputation if realised.
- Website functionality – websites often include links to other pages or other websites. This is one of the key features of internet content, the ability to interlink content and share ideas. Having broken links on a website is a major headache for visitors, it can cause visitor frustration and discourage return visits. Keeping links up to date requires frequent checks where the links are to external content outside the control of the website owner.
- Website freshness – websites that never change will become stale very quickly and visitors will cease to be engaged with the content. To remain fresh, the layout and content of websites need regular updates. This can range from frequent changes to add new content to less frequent major format changes to refresh the look and feel of the website or to include the latest innovations available to the website designer.
Why is maintenance important in business?
Maintenance of business websites is crucial for a number of reasons, including:
- Website recovery – even the best-maintained WordPress website may fall victim to a hacker. Security weaknesses are uncovered all the time and may become known to the hacker community before a software update is available to remove the vulnerability. Such zero-day exploits as they are known can leave any WordPress website at risk of compromise. Being able to recover a compromised website quickly and efficiently can require significant effort, the website may have had its content deleted, malware code may have been inserted into the website code or the website may have been hijacked and used to display redirect visitors to other websites. Being able to remove malware and restore content is an essential skill. This may also include the need to contact search engine providers that may have blacklisted the website as a result of a malware infection.
- Managing software updates – it is imperative that all software updates are obtained from an authoritative source and are subjected to authenticity and antivirus checks before installation. Updates for WordPress websites are normally released every month, this includes updates for the WordPress application and for plugins and themes. Before installing any software updates on a website, the implementor must be confident that they can return the website software to a known ‘good state’ if the software update causes the website to stop working correctly. Once a software update has been installed, the implementor must also be able to monitor the website for any unforeseen negative impacts on its operation. These actions require a level of technical awareness and computer literacy that may be beyond the abilities of an average user.
- Website search optimisation – having a website favourably ranked by search engines can be an important advantage in attracting new visitors to a website. Search engine optimisation techniques include tailoring keywords and adding fresh content to improve search rankings. Particularly including topical content that reflects what people are interested in looking at will be a big help for improving visitor numbers. Also, websites that are quick loading, responsive and error-free have an advantage when it comes to rankings.
- Device supportability – when websites started, they were viewed by users through web browsers installed on their desktop computers. Now users access websites from a whole host of devices including smartphones, tablets, notebooks, laptops and whatever is next in the never-ending evolution of user access devices. Each different device type raises a new challenge for website designers to have a website that supports not only that new device but also all previous legacy devices.
What is a website backup?
All websites should be regularly backed up, not only to aid recovery from hacking incidents or software updates with undesirable side effects but also to aid recovery for other events such as hosting company failures or user error during content update. Inadvertent deletion or overwriting of files on the webserver is worryingly common events, even for the most experienced of users. Having a backup copy of the files readily available turns a crisis into a mild annoyance.
Backups should as a minimum be made before any significant change to the website as a minimum, including before the installation of any software updates. Ideally, backups should be made daily if the content of the website is updated daily.
WordPress comes with a range of available backup plugins to help with this task.
What is a website maintenance plan?
Whilst large companies may be in a position to employ a full-time website maintainer, this is not an option for most businesses. Owners of small businesses and individuals with their personal websites could consider undertaking their own maintenance if they have the skills and the time but this is the exception and not the norm. This is where outsourcing can play a vital role for the website owner.
A website maintenance plan is a service provided on an ongoing basis that looks after a website on behalf of the owner. For a WordPress website, the scope of the service should include the WordPress core, plugins, and themes as well as the website content. Plans typically include backups, site monitoring and updates.
There is a vast array of website maintenance plans on offer for a vast range of prices, the differentiators are exactly what services are included in the costs. The more extensive the service, in general, the greater the cost. Owners of websites can reduce their maintenance costs but assuming responsibility for some of the tasks themselves and choosing a plan that only includes those tasks that they are unable to perform, or does not have sufficient time to perform. As there are so many possible options, service plan providers offer a wide range of plans allowing users to clients can choose exactly what they want.
Web maintenance companies are now available around the world to support businesses with a range of packages. A typical website maintenance package includes:
- Taking regular backups of the website
- Installing software updates
- Correcting errors
- Maintaining website security
- Maintaining website responsiveness
- Keeping the website working 365/24/7
What is the website maintenance process?
If you’re maintaining your own website, steps that should be included in the maintenance process include:
- Conduct website speed audits
- Check the site for any broken links
- Ensure all software is up to date
- Delete unwanted or redundant content
- Optimise your media and database files
- Make regular backup copies and store them securely
- Periodically check the backups are actually working
- Check browser and device compatibility
- Check accessibility
- Review your cookies against your website policies
- Check the integration with social media
- Review search engine rankings and analytics
- Review hosting statistics and analytics
- Check the site functionality is working correctly
- Review the site content for spelling and grammar
- Keep content fresh
- Monitor and adjust on-page SEO if necessary
- Monitor for malware
- Check adverts if applicable
How much does it cost for website maintenance?
The average cost of a website maintenance package depends upon the size and purpose of the website, the type of content on the website and where the website is hosted. The following are the typical costs of a website maintenance package costs. This excludes any hosting costs and domain registration costs.
- Small blogging website for an enthusiastic amateur with less than 100 visitors each month – up to £10 per month
- Medium blogging website with less than 1000 visitors each month unlikely to engage with paid advertising – up to £25 per month
- Large blogging website with more than 1000 visitors each month engaged with paid advertising – up to £100 per month
- Small eCommerce website with a turnover of up to £5,000 each month – up to £10 per month
- Medium eCommerce website with a turnover of up to £50,000 each month – up to £50 per month
- Large eCommerce website with a turnover of over £50,000 each month – up to £250 per month
How much does it cost to maintain a website per year?
The average total cost of a maintain a website again depends upon the size and purpose of the website, the type of content on the website and where the website is hosted. The following are the typical costs of maintaining a website including hosting costs and domain registration costs, SSL licenses, plugins and tools as well as the maintenance costs.
- Small blogging website for an enthusiastic amateur with less than 100 visitors each month – up to £30 per month
- Medium blogging website with less than 1000 visitors each month unlikely to engage with paid advertising – up to £75 per month
- Large blogging website with more than 1000 visitors each month engaged with paid advertising – up to £300 per month
- Small eCommerce website with a turnover of up to £5,000 each month – up to £40 per month
- Medium eCommerce website with a turnover of up to £50,000 each month – up to £150 per month
- Large eCommerce website with a turnover of over £50,000 each month – up to £1,000 per month
The figures show that website maintenance package costs represent approximately between a quarter and a third of the overall cost of maintaining a website.
Why do websites need maintenance?
In summary, there are many reasons why websites need maintenance. The most important being:
Malicious attacks on websites by hackers are a common problem across the internet where attacks can be launched from anywhere in the world for any number of reasons. To protect WordPress websites, it’s crucially important that the underlying software is kept up to date and all security patches are installed as soon as they become available in a properly managed process.
Website page responsiveness and loading times are important factors when it comes to both visitor satisfaction and search engine ranking. Monitoring and managing responsiveness and loading times are an important part of routine website maintenance.
Backups of website code and contents should ideally be undertaken on a daily basis in case your website crashes or is hacked. Backups should be stored in a secure location that is physically and logically separated from the live website so that the backup can’t be affected by whatever affected the live website.
The performance of a website can be adversely affected by the presence of trash and junk content files or unoptimized content, as well as taking up valuable storage space. routine website maintenance should include the identification and removal of any unwanted content as well as the optimisation of the wanted content.
Managing On-page SEO
The search engine ranking of any website is dependent upon the content of the website. Making your WordPress website SEO friendly helps search engine ranking which can lead to increases in visitor traffic. The effectiveness of on-page SEO elements in a WordPress website needs to be monitored and tuned as part of the routine website maintenance if organic growth is to be achieved.
Repairing Broken Links
Dead and broken links can lead to a negative experience for visitors and can be detrimental to search engine ranking. Regular scanning of the website for any problems with links and the correction of any errors found needs to be part of the routine website maintenance.
Avoiding Missing Pages
External links to pages in the website that no longer exist or have been renamed result in anyone selecting that link to be presented with the page not found error. This may leave any potential visitor trying to access the website via a broken link to abandon the visit or worst case be left with the impression that the website no longer exists, and the business is no longer operating. Ensuring external links to your website, from search engines, affiliates or any other source, should be undertaken regularly as part of the routine website maintenance.
Removal of Redundant code
The presence of redundant WordPress plugins and themes can contribute to slow and unresponsive websites as well as posing a potential security weakness. Ensuring plugins and themes remain relevant and up to date is an important part of routine website maintenance as well as the identification of any available replacement plugins and themes whose introduction could lead to enhancement of the visitor experience.
Our top tips on how to maintain your WordPress website:
- Keep all software up to date, don’t take risks with the security of your website.
- Take regular backups so you can easily recover from any situation where content has been lost or corrupted.
- Update the content of your website regularly to keep visitors engaged and help your search engine rankings.
- Regularly check for broken links; within your website, from your website and to your website.
- If you can’t maintain the website yourself, consider outsourcing with a website maintenance package.
If you own or operate a WordPress website and you want it to be successful and effective, invest the time or the money in properly managed website maintenance.