Whether you’ve got a foot of snow outside (hello, Colorado…) or are finally breaking out your shorts and sandals (hello, Tennessee), there’s just something about March that stirs up the Spring Cleaning itch, isn’t there? Vacuuming up winter cobwebs from the ceiling or swapping out your winter wardrobe for warmer weather pieces just seem to come naturally this time of year. However, the dusty corners of your digital home - while also in need of their own cleaning - aren’t quite as easy to notice.
At Berry Interesting, we’ve been focused on keeping websites clean and tidy year round for 15+ years (please don’t ask to see under our couch, though). We’re delighted to share with Creative PlanHer - and you! - a few of the website maintenance and upkeep strategies we use for our clients. Even minimal website maintenance - when performed regularly and mindfully - can have a big impact on your site’s health, and on your mental health, too.
1. Perform an annual website audit
Some websites can last without any attention for years (a few of our clients still have WordPress sites that are doing their intended job after 9 years of very little updating other than software)... and some can last 18 months before business needs demand a full-scale redesign. Your site probably falls somewhere in between - on average, we do full site rebuilds for our clients every 4 years. It all depends on the work your site is doing on your behalf (Are you selling products or services using eCommerce functionality? Do you have members-only content?).
Since we’re doing software updates twice a month for the sites we manage, we’re always in a state of quasi-auditing, asking ourselves things like “Does this site appear properly in Search Engine results?” or “Is the mobile presentation of this site still optimized?”. But you don’t have to have a website support partner to make sure you’re regularly paying attention to these things yourself. Our best advice is to create a step-by-step audit checklist for your own website (you can always download ours as a guide for where to start; we also really like this one from Digital Grace Design) and go through that checklist at least once a year (or more, depending on your site and your business needs).
2. Review crucial on-site content (and your content calendar) quarterly
We’re all - even those of us who run website support businesses - somewhat held hostage to the need to always be creating new content! Whether this is for your website itself or for social media channels, regular content creation is still king, and that means you’ve got to stay organized.
In addition to your social media and/or blogging content deadlines, you’ll want to add in routine web page content reviews to your content calendar. This might include:
Assess your blog’s categories and/or tags to ensure they’re up to date and relevant to your industry and intended audience;
reviewing old blogs for accuracy, broken links, or relevancy to your business goals;
identifying old blogs for use as evergreen content to be promoted via socials;
re-writing or updating pages on your website to ensure accuracy;
restructuring the way that pages on your site are organized to improve user experience (UX).
Doing this on a quarterly basis in addition to your weekly or monthly creation of new content will ensure that all of your content is working in concert to represent your brand as accurately and positively as possible.
3. Update software and test your website’s functionality monthly
At Berry Interesting, we primarily work in WordPress and Squarespace, but this advice generally applies to any website platform/builder. The nature of the updates and tests you’ll perform will again depend on your own unique site. These updates and tests can range from crucial functionality - “Does the buy now button work properly?” - down to back-end concerns - “Am I able to reset my own password?”. Your goal is to make sure that all software is up to date and that the site is functioning properly in support of your business needs. Your software update needs are dictated by the platform your site is built on, but in terms of functionality, all websites need regular attention to keep them safe and secure. You’ll want to do things like send yourself test submissions from any forms you have on the site (including email signups and associated automations), test purchasing or payment tools with dummy transactions, click on important links to make sure they take the user to the right destination, and review any embeds you have (like social media feeds) to ensure they’re still properly connected.
4. Keeping yourself organized when it comes to website maintenance and sanitation
When you’re not working in the back end or using the front end of your site daily, it’s easy to lose sight of the importance of keeping it tidy… only to be confronted with the equivalent of opening a closed closet door in a teenager’s “clean” bedroom when you go to investigate something broken or missing.
The best way to avoid a bunch of digital stuffed animals and dirty clothes falling down on you, sitcom-style, is to stay organized. That’s why we’re big fans of project management tools and heavy use of online calendars and time blocking. You will set yourself up for success by making sure your website maintenance tasks are planned out for the year ahead in a fashion that blocks off time for you to complete them and then reminds you of your deadlines.
There’s not much that’s mysterious or difficult about website maintenance - it’s just time consuming and, for the most part, super boring… making it very easy to procrastinate! Don’t let the semi-invisible nature of these tasks lull you into putting them off - get ahead of the game by being organized and dedicating time for them. 99% of your website woes and emergencies can be avoided just by being organized and disciplined.
5. Outsourcing the boring work of website maintenance
When you find yourself frustrated or overwhelmed by the sheer number of tasks that are filling up your calendar or project management tool, that’s a signal that it may be time to outsource. Finding a reliable and trustworthy website support specialist (which is seldom the same as a website developer!) should hit the top of your to-do list when you do find yourself procrastinating or de-prioritizing the first 4 tips above.
It’s crucial that you have a positive and pleasant rapport with anyone who’s handling website support for you; it will not only keep your website healthy, it’ll help you sleep better at night to know that an expert has your back and that you can trust their advice when you have concerns. At Berry Interesting, we’re obsessed with making sure that our clients have secure, healthy websites that support their business goals, but our number one priority is establishing long-term relationships that allow us to give our clients the best advice for their own, unique situations, no matter what kind of website they have.