It’s time for some spring cleaning and I’m not talking about your kids’ playroom (although I just did that…and it’s already a mess again!)
No, I’m talking about cleaning up and maintaining your website! Many solopreneurs are doing it all when it comes to their business: sales, customer service, marketing, and part of that marketing and sales is your website. But what happens if your website, one of the BIGGEST marketing channels for your business, has a glitch like a broken link or an update that caused some weird formatting. Or worse, what if your website gets hacked or goes down entirely.
I have been working in web design for nearly 15 years so I have seen ALL of these happen. Some are more common and thankfully the worse ones (getting hacked and a site going down) are super rare. But, there are precautions you can take to improve your chances of having a clean, well maintained, and, well, LIVE website. In addition to maintaining your website, I also recommend regularly reviewing and improving your site. Your business is constantly growing and evolving and your website should reflect that.
So here are the top 5 best practices for maintaining AND improving your website to keep it alive and thriving!
I used to hide my head in the sand when it came to security. I didn’t know what I didn’t know and would just close my eyes and hope for the best. Luckily I quickly learned from other web designers the real threat of hacks and some simple ways to avoid those.
SSL Certificate: (Insert picture) An SSL certificate keeps the sensitive information on your website (like credit card numbers and login details) secure. It also gives your visitor peace of mind when they visit your site. If you’ve ever visited a website that shows “not secure,” you know the opposite feeling well. Google also punishes websites without SSL certificates by putting them farther down in the search results.
All hosting providers should offer these, but many of them charge extra (I’m looking at your GoDaddy). I recommend Siteground for hosting your website as SSL Certificates are included in every single plan.
Secure passwords: I’ve done it too. I’ve used the same password for every website or platform. But after my Hulu account was hacked and I was locked out, I realized just how vulnerable I was to a complete and total data breach. And we’re not just talking about you personally. If you have any client data stored in your website (credit card numbers, addresses, birth dates, etc.), you are not only risking your own information, but your client’s information too.
After the hacked Hulu incident, I started using LastPass to create and store my passwords. This has actually made things 100 times easier. I no longer have to try all the versions of my password only to create a new one and get the message “you cannot use your most recent password.” (Seriously, who else has done this!)
Instead, I login to the very secure LastPass app on my phone or computer, copy my username and password and move on with my day.
Don’t use admin as your username: If you have a WordPress website, please do not use “admin” as your username. That is the most commonly guessed username for Hackers (maybe include picture)
Use a security plugin like Wordfence: Finally, if you’re using WordPress, you can download a free plugin called Wordfence to add a firewall to your website, two-factor authentication, vulnerability reports, and more!
Backups of your site are vital for many reasons. First, if your site were hacked, you have a backup so you don’t have to start over from scratch. Second, you may need your backup if you make an update (which we’ll get to shortly) that completely breaks your site.
I recommend having at minimum a monthly backup of your site. If you are updating your site regularly or if you have an ecommerce site where people are buying physical or digital products, I highly recommend you backup your site daily to not lose that valuable data.
If you are a WordPress user, you can schedule automatic backups using the free plugin UpdraftPlus. With the free version, you can backup to a remote storage like DropBox or Google Drive, and restore directly from the backup. There is also a premium version that allows for incremental backups for those busier sites I mentioned.
For non-Wordpress users, you can manually backup your site with many platforms like Squarespace and Kajabi. However, you cannot currently do this with a Wix site.
Plugin, Theme, and WordPress updates (WordPress Users Only)
If your website is through WordPress, you’ll need to regularly update the plugins, themes, and WordPress itself. Outdated software like this is one of the main ways your site can get hacked. Also, if you have a plugin you’re not using or that’s inactive, delete it. If your not using it, you could be slowing down your or causing unknown problems. If it’s inactive, you won’t be notified when there are new updates. (show picture)
As I mentioned above, make sure you have a backup of your site, especially if you are updating a theme or WooCommerce. These have a bigger effect on your site and can sometimes cause big issues. With my clients, I tend to wait a week to see if other web designers have noticed issues AND to wait for other plugins to make updates to support the new changes from my theme or WooCommerce. You want to make sure all plugins, themes, and WordPress are playing nicely!
Plugin updates bring all sorts of new features, fixed glitches, and more! They can also cause some formatting issues. This is one reason why you’ll want to do regular audits.
Aside from updates (and for those who aren’t using WordPress) you will still want to be auditing your site regularly for two reasons:
Fix problems: Maybe you’ve recently changed a page title and the link with it. Well if you linked to it from another page, that link is now broken. Finding and fixing these problems will give your website visitor a seamless experience. Or say you changed your services, email, or other bit about your business. You’ll want to scan your site to make sure all of these changes are reflected on your site.
Find areas of improvement: Performing a website audit is a great way to find ways to improve your business. From sales to marketing, customer service to business processes. It all happens on your website. You can look at your analytics if you have that setup. I recommend Google Analytics as it is easy and free to set up. You can look at your traffic and trends and find ways to improve your visitor experience from there. Also, putting yourself in your visitor’s shoes and walking through your website like they would is HUGELY valuable to finding ways to improve your site.
Improvements and Additions
Once you’ve performed your audit and crafted a new strategy for your website, it’s time to make those changes. Here are some ideas that have come from actual website audits I’ve completed for my clients.
Start a blog: Perhaps you’ve decided to start blogging as a way to bring in new traffic to your website. This is great, not only to increase traffic, but it also let’s Google know your site is active which can lead to greater visibility.
Refine your process: Maybe your current process is asking people to email you if they’re interested in working with you…but you’re not getting any emails. Trying out a new strategy like asking people to complete a questionnaire or book a call with an end goal of them receiving a quote tends to work better. It gives people a clear action and a clear result. (Complete form = get quote).
Website redesign: The big kahuna! If you’ve performed an audit and realize your site needs a complete overhaul, take a deep breath, and know you can find support if you need it. If you’re interested in a done-for-you service and having a professional web designer and marketing strategist in your corner, I’m your girl. While I absolutely take care of the technical side of setting up your website, I go a step further and help you create a strategy for turning your visitors into customers. Request a quote or check out my Fit + Pricing Guide to get started!
I hope these suggestions have been helpful and I invite you to try any or all of these and please let me know how it goes! Leave a comment below with any successes or questions.
And if you’re feeling a bit overwhelmed about all of this, I can help. I offer a monthly Maintenance Plan that takes care of many of these items for you. I also offer a Website Audit if you are just looking for ways to improve your website. Either way, let me know if I can help!