Website housekeeping – why bother?
Even with the best will in the world, we rarely have the thought, time, or inclination to make little tweaks, tidy-ups, and other incremental updates to our websites.
Adding more content to your site, for example by broadening your service pages and adding blog posts, is a great thing to do, but… more is required. Regular maintenance and housekeeping keep your site looking good, and can help your SEO. It can also prevent bigger and more costly problems further down the line.
Our 10 website housekeeping suggestions
In no particular order, here are the things we look at on a regular basis for our own websites to keep them ticking over:
1. Freshen up content
Do you have old, out-of-date content that could do with being spruced up? Posts from 10 years ago that advise on the best places to eat, the best holiday locations, and the highest resolution mobile phone camera, will probably not be as helpful today as they once were.
It usually takes much less time to improve an old post than to write a new one from scratch. So this is a really time-effective way of building your content. Get into the habit of refreshing content, and while you are at it:
- check that you have a good featured image, and add other fresh images to the post to break up long blocks of text or to demonstrate a point quickly (think ‘pictures and 1,000 words’). Read our post about the importance of images here.
- make sure you have an excerpt, and that it is compelling enough to persuade visitors to click to read the full post
- rework the post content to improve readability – you develop your ‘voice’ over time, and it may be that your older posts are a little stiff and don’t represent the way you write today! Whilst you are checking your older content, make sure that your website spelling and grammar are correct, as poor quality content can adversely impact your SEO!
- do the categories and tags you originally chose for the post still make sense? There’s not much point in having categories and tags that are used in only one post. Now that you have written lots of posts you’ll get a sense of which ones are the most relevant. Lose the rest!
Links break over time. You move and remove pages, and external websites that you have added over time get closed down.
Broken links give a bad user experience, and can adversely impact your SEO if search engines see too many links failing on your site.
Our advice is to find a WordPress plugin that scans your database for broken links, rather than one which spiders your site checking each link. The former will be far more efficient, running quickly and not causing any performance issues for users of your website. In fact, some website hosts ban the use of many broken link checker plugins. Search for ‘broken link checkers’ for a choice (adding your website platform to the search term to narrow it down).
Whichever link checker you use, don’t schedule it to run frequently. Rather, activate and run it, and then deactivate it again afterwards. Activate and run again when you need to.
3. Make sure contact forms work
Try sending yourself a message from the contact forms on your site. I’ve known website owners miss out on receiving messages because their form no longer works.
Plugin updates, theme updates, captcha failures, and website migrations can all cause previously good contact forms to stop working. It’s good to check that the recipient email address is still active too and that your emails aren’t dropping into your spam folder.
Do all your contact methods work properly?
In this post we identify a number of ways your website could be making it difficult for your customers to get in touch.
4. Make sure your site is getting backed up
Here’s a story we shared a little while ago on LinkedIn, which we think demonstrates the worst-case scenario if you don’t get your site backed up regularly…
We were contacted last week by a business owner who had lost their entire website.
They had left one of their WordPress plugins to get out-of-date, and fallen foul to a bit of malware that allowed a hacker to delete their data. To make matters worse, neither they nor their website hosts were taking backups of the site files and data.
Fortunately, Google had cached versions of their pages, and the Wayback Machine had some too, but all this content still needed to be built back into a brand new website, which needed to be styled as it was before, etc.
Although we aren’t in any way expensive, the website owner couldn’t afford our fees to do the rebuild. We would have struggled to get it done in the timeframe of a couple of days that they gave us anyway – they had a product launch within a week and so were reliant on the website.
So, we had to let it go.
The moral of the story is, of course, to keep your website (whatever platform it is built on) up-to-date, and to be absolutely certain that it is being backed up regularly. Even then, there is no guarantee that you won’t be impacted, but the risk is greatly reduced.
Of course, that’s an extreme case, but regular, reliable, and available backups of your website are an absolute must. So, be conscious of your backup strategy.
- Check with your host to see if they are backing your site up, how often they are doing it, and how many versions they are keeping. Your host isn’t obliged to back your site up for you, so don’t assume they are doing so.
- If your host isn’t backing your site up, or if you want the added protection of extra backups, try one of the many good backup plugins (for WordPress try Backupbuddy, Vaultpress, or UpdraftPlus) that can do the job for you.
- Finally, although it’s not a good idea to do so, some website owners store their backups on the same server as their website. This isn’t a great idea, because if your server blows up, then your website and its backups go with it. If you do decide to back your site up on the same server, don’t store too many copies, as you will very quickly fill up your hosting space.
5. Make sure your site loads quickly
A slow-loading site is not good for your visitors, and it’ll get your site a black mark from Google too. So make sure it is loading quickly.
Load up your home page (preferably using a private/incognito browser so that the website assets aren’t already cached by your browser from a previous visit).
Waiting more than 3 seconds?
Visitor engagement drops exponentially for each second that your page takes to load above 3 seconds.
Quick tips to speed up your site:
- resize and optimise your images! Sizing your images for the role they need to play on your site, and optimising them for the web, can reduce their footprint 10x or more. Use an image optimisation plugin such as Smush or Imagify to optimise your images, or resize and export them for the web from your desktop image programme;
- check that your web host is compressing your pages before sending them to browsers. You can use a number of gzip compression testing tools to do a quick check.
- Reduce the number of external calls. If your website calls too many external resources (e.g. interactive [google] maps, social media feeds, tracking scripts [analytics, HubSpot, etc.]), these can really slow your site down. So only use those that you really need and remove the rest;
There can be many other reasons for a slow-loading website (including poor hosting). Double-check with Pingdom, or another page speed checker, to identify any bottlenecks in your page loading.
Most sites have links to their owners’ social media platforms. Have a click through those on your site and make sure they all work. Quick to do, and simple to fix!
7. Make sure all your website components are up-to-date (themes, plugins, WordPress – and other – core, etc.)
If you’re running a website that uses a self-hosted content management system, such as WordPress, Drupal, or Joomla, you’ll need to ensure that all of your component parts are up-to-date. We think this is one of the most important website housekeeping tips!
This should really be done regularly – at least every month, but preferably more often. Your website may be vulnerable to hacking or might miss out on a functionality or performance improvement if you don’t.
Take 2 minutes right now to log in to your website dashboard and check what needs updating.
8. Run a site audit
You’ve most probably been sent an unsolicited website audit report at some point. Usually, sent by someone whose name doesn’t correspond to their email address, which also doesn’t correspond to their business name. These should normally go straight in the bin, as they tell you things are wrong with your site that aren’t actually wrong. They send exactly the same report to everyone in the hope that you ‘bite’ and ask them to sort out the problems.
However, there are tools that you could be using to get an idea of any technical issues your website may have. You have to pay to use most of the decent ones, but there are generally free trials on offer. Try…
We use Semrush. Although it is generally accepted to be the best technical/SEO checking tool, we still treat a lot of the results with a pinch of salt. Some issues it raises can be false positives, and others may not be possible to fix due to the website platform you are running on.
Using one of these tools is likely to generate a checklist of things to work on in your website – some easy and quick, others not.
9. Check your website variants
It takes just 2 minutes to check for issues with different versions of your website. What we mean here is whether your www and non-www, and http and https versions are all working and displaying what you would expect. You can read more about website variants here. If one or more of your variants is not working (and it happens more often than you would imagine), you could be losing a ton of traffic.
10. Have a clearout – delete what you no longer need
If you are running a WordPress website, you might want to think about deleting themes and plugins that you are no longer using. Unused themes take up space, and unused plugins can slow your site down. Anything that isn’t required could be deemed a security risk too – so get rid if not needed!
You might have other data stored on your website that you are not aware of, and don’t need to keep. For example, if you are using a forms plugin, then you might be storing every form entry (including spam ones) in your database. There might also be logs of site activity being stored by your security plugin (if you use Wordfence or Sucuri). The plugin settings generally allow you to clear the logs, and set storage limits going forward.
Try using a database optimisation plugin such as WP-Optimize to keep your site free of unnecessary clutter.
Also worth thinking about…
Ok, so we’ve found a few more housekeeping tasks since we wrote this post.
Check your copyright year is up-to-date
Many websites display a copyright statement in their footer area. Not all website management systems update these automatically on 1st January. You should consider updating yours, not only to cover your copyright but also to show your visitors that your website is ‘current’.
What if I can’t do these myself?
Many of these suggestions are well within the capability of website owners, especially where they are using self-hosted website platforms such as WordPress, Joomla, and Drupal. Some other platforms might not be as simple (I’m thinking Wix and Squarespace, but can also include hand-built html websites too).
Whatever your platform, we are here to help you.
We can include some regular housekeeping as part of the retained time in our WordPress Care Packages, or we can quote piecemeal, or even give you some training so that you can do it yourselves.
Whatever you need, please let us know.
Summarising our website housekeeping tips
Regular attention to the detail on your website can help you ensure your content is up-to-date and relevant to today’s audiences, and fix technical issues that will improve your SEO and user experience.
So, it’s important to find a bit of time to work on this regularly.
We spend a couple of hours on our website each week and regularly spend time on client sites to improve them too. Although there is always more left to do, we know that these sites are nudged in the right direction each month.
“You don’t need to do everything. You just need to do more than your competitors!”
What website housekeeping do you do? Have we missed anything that you would recommend doing too? Let us know by commenting below (and, of course, get in touch if you would like us to take care of things for you).