Getting a new website is an exciting prospect. The visuals are fresh and new; the copy is novel and engaging; and it provides an up to the minute, sleek user experience. A new website can mark a new chapter in an organisation’s entire online persona.
Alternatively, if you’ve had a WordPress site for a while and you feel its appeal has plateaued somewhat, you may be wondering how to revert back to that “fresh out of the box” potential. The answer may be simply getting back into the habit of regular maintenance.
Whether your site is brand new or it’s a little older, it’s worth remembering that a website is much more than a static shop front for your business. It’s a constantly developing, living asset that needs ongoing maintenance for best returns. Thankfully, WordPress websites make this continual upkeep remarkably straightforward.
But what should you expect when “handed the keys” to your brand new WordPress website? What should a website’s maintenance life cycle look like for its first year or so? Or in the case of an older website, how do you pick website maintenance back up where you left off? Let’s find out.
0-3 Weeks After Launch
Check Everything Over
You’re probably eager to get your hands on your brand new website, so you’ll be glad to hear we advise you to do just that! Explore your whole website with a fine tooth comb. Make sure that all links point to the right places, forms do what they’re supposed to, and graphical features look good across different devices.
In order to maintain your WordPress website, you’ll need to familiarise yourself with how things work under the bonnet too. You can usually log in to your website’s WordPress admin panel by pointing your browser to “[your site]/wp-admin”, so log in and take a look around at your WordPress dashboard. If OLCO Design developed your site, then we’re here to support you with any WordPress queries you may have, no matter how small. Otherwise, there are countless resources online to instruct you as to how everything works within the WordPress dashboard.
Explore Your SEO Options
Once you’re familiar with WordPress behind the scenes, turn your attention to your website’s search visibility. After all, what’s the point in having a website if nobody sees it? You’re likely to have discussed search engine optimisation (SEO) with your developer as your website came into fruition, so your site is likely to be packed with fresh, keyword-rich, search-optimised copy. But if you’re hoping to manage your website and create new content in-house, you need to know how to optimise future content for optimal search performance.
We have three excellent resources to help get you started. If you’re totally new to SEO, then check out our practical beginners’ guide to SEO. If you need to focus your online visibility within a set geographical area, then our local SEO guide is also worth a look. We also took a deep-dive into optimising your site’s images for search and accessibility.
Consider Your Blogging Strategy
Though there are numerous great reasons to use WordPress, it’s built for blogging. If you intend to start (or continue) blogging, then a new website is a great opportunity to address your content strategy. What topics do your audience want to hear about? What do you want to achieve from blogging? Where do you intend to promote your blog posts? Do you have capacity to blog in-house or would you rather outsource? Establish what you’re going to be blogging about, when, why, and how.
If you’re new to blogging, we suggest you check out our two articles about how blogging is an essential B2B marketing practice and how blogging can totally revolutionise your digital appeal.
Check Out Your Analytical Tools
However, getting people to your website through savvy SEO practices and attractive blog posts is only part of the puzzle. You also need to know what they’re doing once they’re there. Hopefully your developer will have set up some way of recording visitor behaviour; Google Analytics is a popular choice because it’s powerful and free.
Head to your website’s analytics platform and get acquainted. You may not have a lot of usage data there at the moment, but you should find out how to access crucial metrics like total number of visits, how people discovered your website, how long they’re spending on each page, and what pages they visited while they were there.
Start Backing Up
It’s important to keep a backup of all business-essential files – your website included. Your developer or web host may provide some kind of regular backup service, but if not then there are numerous WordPress plugins (which are optional functional add-ons) that will carry out regular off-site backups for you.
Much like PC backups, your website backups should be taken regularly – on a daily or weekly basis depending on how frequently you update your site. Backups should also be stored on a different server/device to your live website in case something unexpected happens to the hosting provider’s premises. With a good backup strategy, your site can easily be restored if something stops working or a hacker gains access.
1-9 Months Post-Launch
Keep Your Site Updated… With Caution
Over time, updates will become available for the plugins you have installed, your site’s visual theme (which powers the graphical elements of your site), and for WordPress itself. It’s advisable to keep these assets updated because their new versions may contain security patches and improved functionality. WordPress makes these updates easy, but we advise that you approach all updates with caution.
Always take a full site backup before you click “Update”. Plugins and themes are critical to your site’s functionality and appearance respectively, but they’re often developed totally independent of each other. This means that a well-meaning piece of code within a plugin or theme update may not be compatible with other elements within your site. It’s not an everyday occurrence, but incompatibilities like these can considerably impair functionality or totally break the site. At least by taking a backup, your developer can easily revert back to the most up to date, working version of your site if an update does send things haywire.
Notice Usage Trends
Keep looking at your website analytics at regular intervals. Hopefully after a while, you may start to notice certain usage trends. These could be as simple as “most of our social media click-throughs come from LinkedIn”, or as detailed as “a high amount of conversions on Tuesday evenings come from 18-34 year olds in Berkshire”.
Trends like these aren’t just nice to know. They can help to prioritise your digital focus and inform future marketing efforts. For example, if most of your social media click throughs are coming from a single platform, it will probably be worth your while to maintain a strong brand presence on that platform. For our “Berkshire” example, this data could inform a Google Ads campaign aimed at 18-34 year olds in Berkshire on Tuesday evenings to maximise sales to that market.
Continue to Review Your Online Presence
Schedule in time to review your SEO, blogging, and social media presence every 3-6 months. This review should establish what practices are working, what isn’t, and what may need to be improved. Can you identify any ways to potentially boost your search rankings, increase the amount of people reading your blog posts, or build social media engagement?
We know that consistent blogging takes time and effort, but keep going! Producing new, well-written, original content on a regular basis shows Google that your site is alive and your organisation is open for business. We recommend reviewing your planned blog posts (and overall content strategy) on a regular basis – at least every three months.
9-12 Months Post-Launch
Book an Annual Service
We consider this step absolutely essential. Just like you would send a vehicle for its annual service or attend a yearly checkup for your physical health, it’s also well worth booking an annual yearly service for your website. The amount of upkeep involved here may differ depending on the amount of upkeep you’ve been able to do in-house, though there are a few things that your developer should review on a yearly basis.
Firstly, your developer should update WordPress to its latest version, update all plugins, and update the WordPress theme too. As we’ve already touched upon, new updates are essential for security and functionality, but they can also interfere with each other. The version of PHP used by your website’s hosting may also have been updated during the year – this should also be updated for security.
When these updates are completed, your developer will need to check that these changes haven’t affected your site’s appearance or usability. If they have, your developer should fix any resulting issues. Once all updates and changes have been implemented, the developer can then take a full offsite backup of your site for recovery purposes.
Review Your Security Setup
This step should take place as part of your annual service, but it’s important enough to highlight on its own. Cybercriminals are constantly looking for poorly secured websites to carry out a number of nefarious plans. They can use hacked websites to spread malware, publish unprofessional content, or even take your website down altogether. Even without hacking your site, they can flood it with visits, slowing it to a crawl (called a DoS or DDoS attack).
There are security plugins and products that can mitigate these risks, so your developer should seek to find the best possible solutions for your needs and budget. They should have already built your site with these tools in place, but cybersecurity moves very quickly – what worked well a year ago may not be appropriate now. Better solutions may have become available, older solutions may have faded into obsolescence, and the load on your site may have changed significantly in the intervening year.
Review How The Website’s Working for You
This is a less techy part of your annual review, but it’s just as important. A yearly review is a great time to consider how your website is currently working for you and whether it needs tweaking to accommodate changes to your business and to your marketing strategy.
For example, do you need some sort of new website functionality to support forthcoming business goals, e.g., like email subscription forms or e-commerce? Do you need to encourage engagement on particular pages where you’re not currently seeing a lot of activity? How well is your site performing in organic search – do you need to change anything to improve your SEO? If you’ve taken a more hands-on approach to managing your site, you may already be bursting with ideas! Discuss these changes with your developer ahead of your annual review.
Are you due for an annual website review? Or perhaps long overdue for one? Whether OLCO Design built your WordPress website or not, get in touch! Yes, even if we didn’t create your site, our experts may still be able to help. Book your consultation today!
Maybe you haven’t got that far yet and you’re still weighing up your website options. We highly recommend WordPress for these 9 practical reasons.