Are you reviewing your company website? Is part of that review looking at expenses related to the website? If your answer is yes, that may be what is attracting you to this post. Doing a periodic review of your website is a good thing. You should also review all re-occurring charges related to your website. It is so easy to let monthly charges continue on auto-pilot. Yet, one re-occurring charge you should not skimp on is website maintenance. Let us explain why.
Benefits of Website Maintenance
Website maintenance is not about avoiding a major crisis. Website maintenance done well helps creates a competitive website that grows your business. Here is how:
- Extends the life of your website. – A website that is always current will not need replacing. Think about some of today’s most successful websites. When was the last time you saw a site like Amazon or Walmart or Facebook take down their site and replace it? You don’t and they won’t. Instead, they make continuous improvements over time. If your website is up-to-date, there is no reason for a complete redesign. Instead you can work with what you have. Continue to update and improve on it and you will see business off the website grow over time.
- Improves User Experience. – Website visitors don’t have a lot of patience for troubleshooting your website. If your pages won’t load on their device or their browser, they won’t spend a lot of time figuring it out. Websites that work for everyone are easy to use. Fixing broken things quickly. Making sure pages load fast. Publishing up-to-date information. All are good practices to make your website better for visitors.
- Improves Conversions/Sales. – Early in 2019, we had a client come to us to help update their 10 year-old company website. They were getting feedback from potential customers. Prospects that almost did not contact our client because the website was so old. Clients thought their service was old too and couldn’t handle their project. Your website is factoring into sales decisions. Visitors to your site will ask about your new product or service if they find the information on your site. When visitors like what they find, they will stay. They will contact, sign-up and request to get in your sales pipeline.
What Business Websites need regular Maintenance?
The more active you website is, the more visitors you get. The more updates you are posting, the more maintenance you need. Skipping website maintenance wastes money. Here are a couple of examples of websites that can’t afford to skip maintenance.
- E-Commerce site or take orders online. Any glitch or hesitation by your website to function could loose a sale. It is a leap of faith for a website visitor to buy something from a website that they are visiting the first time. Or might not be as well known as a Walmart or an Amazon. If pages load weird or a link does not seem to respond, you could scare an online buyer. Maintenance would catch these problems.
- Spending money on digital advertising. If you are buying online ads, regardless of the source, you are paying for visitors to come to your site. What do they find when they get there? Does the site load fast? Is the information correct? Can they visit from a mobile device? When a paid visitor bounces off your site because of issues that’s a direct cost.
- Rely on Organic Search for site traffic. Website owners call our office all the time to ask about finding their business on Google. A common issue is finding incorrect information in the search results. Where did Google get the incorrect information? From an out-of-date website. Lack of website maintenance is impacting your search rankings.
Is Website Maintenance an SEO Ranking factor?
I believe so. Most of the big changes that have happened in SEO in the past couple of years are about technical upgrades. Upgrades that required websites to do maintenance. When sites didn’t hit the set deadlines, they suffered loss of search traffic because of it. Excellent example, https upgrade or adding security certificates to all sites.
Unmaintained websites should be rated Lowest if they fail to achieve their purpose due to the lack of maintenance. – Google Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines
Google Quality Search Guidelines was first released in 2016. It included language about website maintenance. The Guidelines were updated again in 2019. Many SEO experts noticed that more attention was paid to evidence of maintenance.
Google also defined what they called an “Abandoned” website. This is a site where it was obvious updates had not been done in a long time. Things they looked at include: not displaying in browsers, evidence of a hacking or malware and stale or mis-leading content. Abandoned sites also receive the lowest rating.
The Search Guidelines don’t give us the total picture of good search optimization. Website owners who rely on SEO know that content is the key to good rankings. Common sense would tell us that a website that has not changed in weeks or months will not have current content. And it follows it will not do well in search.
Why is website maintenance not happening?
How does a website get to this point? How does a large investment on a brand new website end up as an “abandoned” website. I have 3 theories on this.
- As of 2018, 52% of small businesses are trying to handle website maintenance in-house. Which is fine for some things. The problem comes when the website is part of their job and other things take priority. Or they are procrastinating website updates because issues have exceeded their expertise. Days turn into weeks, turn into months when no one is focusing on the website.
- Many businesses work with the web developer who created their website. But the relationship is not working. Communication is not happening. They don’t seem to move fast enough and maybe you end up doing things yourself anyway. In their defense, it may be a skill-set mismatch. Their business is setup to run on a project basis. Maintenance may not be their thing because they are not setup to work that way. We hear this story on a weekly basis. Don’t give up, you just need a new resource.
- Concerns about costs. Lots of folks believe that once they finish the website and take it live, they are done. So they don’t have maintenance in their budget until a crisis occurs. One of the biggest crises you will have is a malware infestation. A malware can do a lot of damage to a site and most of the time it is preventable. The biggest cause of a malware is out-of-date code. To repair the damage, a webmaster can spend up to 30 hours to put your site back together. Way more expensive then routine maitenance. Save yourself time and money, get a maintenance plan in next year’s budget.
How soon will I need website maintenance?
At a minimum, you will want to address website issues on monthly basis. As part of our practice, we address security and functionality issues on a weekly basis. Google sends alerts on technical SEO issues on a weekly basis through Search Console. I would use that as a base line to judge whether your site is getting the attention it needs.
To produce a professional website, you need a dedicated resource. You may not be ready for an internal resource. In the meantime, there are many benefits to a hiring a professional webmaster.
Website maintenance is not optional. A professional business website needs upkeep and maintenance. Just like any other store front. This store front happens to be online. You need good website maintenance in your annual budget.