How to avoid website pain and discomfort by properly caring for your site

Woman frustrated by WordPress

You just can’t build a site and then leave it sitting there. You’ll be inviting problems from hackers, downtime due to broken plugins or lost enquiries from broken contact forms.

Those problems can cost you big time. A hacked site could trash your reputation (maybe from ‘accidentally’ sharing viruses) and lost enquiries could cost you lucrative clients.

It doesn’t stop there either. Not updating your site and leaving it to languish will mean it’s unlikely to be seen very favourably by Google – especially if it gets slow, has broken links or looks bad on mobile.

Nowadays to have any chance of competing online you need to keep your site in prime condition and that means regular care and attention. You can do this yourself or you can pay a WordPress care and maintenance provider to do it for you (see our Client Care Plans here)

What type of care is needed for your WordPress website and why?

Sofware updates.

Your site software is constantly being tweaked and improved to keep things secure and to perform better and faster. If this software is not kept up to date then security holes can open for hackers or features of the site, like contact forms, can break.

It’s easy to dive in and update things when you see the dashboard notifications but it’s also risky. For one thing, your site will be inaccessible while it’s updating, which might annoy users. More seriously it is not particularly unusual for a plugin update to break your site in some way – the dreaded WSOD (white screen of death) or an unwanted change to how things look or work.

To ensure things run smoothly you should as a minimum:

  • Check the changelogs on any updates – sometimes they mention particular issues that may be relevant to your site.
  • Take a backup of your files and your database before updating
  • If possible perform updates at a quiet time (or ideally do the updates on a staging site to test everything before making it live – especially important for bigger, busier sites where downtime could be costly)
  • perform a visual check of the site after the updates and check everything (contact forms, shopping carts etc) is working.
WordPress Plugin Updates
Always check the changelog

If you you do everything listed above and it all works, then great. If you do the above and something is not right, you can quickly restore a backup and schedule time to deal with things in more detail. Either way you still have a working site.

Security

Even seemingly insignificant websites are constantly under attack so the baddies can spread their spam and malware. There are steps you can take on your WordPress site to reduce the chance of a security breach such as:

  • changing the admin username
  • having a complex password
  • limiting the number of login attempts
  • changing the login url
  • preventing file editing in the dashboard
  • keeping your WordPress version, plugins and themes up to date
  • performing regular security scans to monitor for any intrusions

to name a few.

There are plugins you can use for security such as Wordfence and iThemes security as well as several third party services such as Securi – who offer a paid service as well as a free scan of your site.

Uptime monitoring

If your site goes down, how long would it be before you know? I’ve come across situations where people don’t discover for weeks. (I doubt their site was very important to them!)

If you set up an uptime monitor, you can know in as little as 5 minutes and you’ll have a chance to fix things quickly.

Backups

Your site’s files and database should be backed up regularly and stored in a different location from your hosting server. Having a recent back up of your site is the quickest and easiest way of restoring a damaged or hacked site.

Having backups also allows you to move your site to a new location (ie new host) easily, if you need to.

How often you make backups and how many old ones you keep will depend on your site – if you update your site a few times a week then you’ll definitely need daily backups.

One way is to utilise your host’s service (any good host does backups) for frequent backups and then copy these backups offsite – Google Drive, Dropbox (and/or even download) as insurance.

These care items – updates, backups security – are the minimum you need to perform regularly to ensure your site is safe and accessible.

However, to make your site perform optimally you need also to think about the following:

Page speed

Google cares about how fast your site’s pages load. But more importantly, so do your users. Website users are a fickle and impatient bunch who’ll abandon you and go elsewhere if you don’t deliver quickly. Google knows this and since it wants to return the best results for any given search slow pages are less favoured.

You can check your page speed using tools like Pingdom Tools

Some things you can do:

For most sites it’s best to focus on the low hanging fruit and get your page to load fast enough ( under 2 seconds is good – 3 seconds max) rather than obsessing on achieving the fastest pageload possible.

Content

Content needs to be kept up to date, interesting and, above all, useful. Useful content is visited and read more often and that sends a signal to Google that your site is one that should be well ranked.

Keeping your content ‘fresh’ doesn’t have to involve becoming a blogging wizz. You can simply ensure that you are adding new testimonials (why not use case studies/testimonials as blog posts for example?) or add a monthly round-up of activity/news/whatever that is relevant to your audience of clients and prospective clients.

Whatever you do, don’t be one of those sites that looks as though it hasn’t changed since 2010.

Analytics & SEO

Standing still, in web terms, is moving backwards (think downwards in Google) and if you keep your content fresh and lively, keep your site working in tip-top condition then you’ll need to be able to measure what works so you can put your efforts into the right areas.

The best way of measuring site performance is with Google Analytics (GA) and if you don’t have that on your site and you are even half-way serious about your website presence then you need to set it up now. You’ll not only be able to see simple stats like the number of site visitors but you can set up goals to see what % of those visitors booked your class or completed your enquiry form so you can try to improve those conversions.

The data you get from GA and data you can also get from Google Search Console enable you to work on your SEO (search engine optimisation).

SEO is a massive topic and, if you are running a website for your business, you need to at least know SEO basics.

One thing that is for sure is that staying on top of analytics and SEO is an ongoing task – you cannot set it and forget it; others will overtake you. To stay in the game you need to regularly review what is working and what isn’t.

That’s a lot of stuff to stay on top of just to keep your website working well for you so that’s why we recommend using a WordPress care and maintenance provider to look after things. As a minimum they’ll make sure you are online and accessible and on better plans they’ll support and help you with things like content updates, analytics and seo.

You can see our client care plans here.

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