How healthy is your Website
Your website is a valuable marketing asset. It serves as the first contact point that many customers have with your brand. Having a strong presence in search and in social media is necessary to get "eyeballs". But equally important is having a healthy website.
- Does your website load slowly? Are your visitors getting impatient and clicking elsewhere online before even seeing your content?
- Is your content out of date? Having critical information such as your contact details is vital, but it says a lot about your business if your website is still referencing last year's promotions.
- Have features on your website started breaking or failing to work as required? Are your plugins out of date, or are they causing conflicts with one another?
- Has your website been the victim of cybercriminals? Have you been hacked and is your website showing links to dodgy supplement stores (or worse)?
Many website owners just don't give their website the care and attention necessary, and get all too surprised when their site starts falling over. Their online presence start to fall, customers disengage with their site, and when they turn for help the best option is to completely rebuild the website. Ouch!
This doesn't have to be you though!
I get it. Being a business owner is hard. And time is short.
But you can avoid losing sales and spending a big chunk on website repair by implementing a regular website health check plan.
What does a website health check involve?
Often when I am asked to build a website, the owner expects it to work flawlessly forever. The truth is, it won't. WordPress is software that is constantly being updated and improved. In fact there were 95 separate version updates to WordPress core in 2017 alone. In addition a WordPress website is built by packaging together a variety plugins and themes to achieve the exact look and functionality required for the site. Each of these are regularly being updated and improved too.
Apart from providing improved features and functionalities and correcting bugs, these updates also increase your site's security by dealing with vulnerabilities as they become known. (This is good). But with so many regular changes happening at once it's not uncommon for two updates to clash (conflict) with each other bringing your site to a grinding halt. (This is bad... really bad).
It's essential that you regularly run updates for WordPress core, your themes and your plugins as they become available. If you're going to do this yourself then I suggest the following steps:
- Do a full backup of your website first. If anything goes awry then you at least have a recent snapshot that you can restore to.
- Run any WordPress core updates, themes and plugin updates (in that order).
- After each update check your website to ensure it's still running as expected. This isn't just checking your homepage. If you updated the plugin that controls all the forms on your website then check each of your forms are working and receiving/sending information appropriately.
- Deal with any spam comments, delete your page/post revision, optimise any images and carry out any other tasks that keeps your website running as smooth as possible.
- Delete your backup.
Many business owners falsely assume that their small site is unlikely to be compromised. "Who would want to hack my site?" they ask. The fact is small sites are often the target of malicious cyber attacks. Most hackers aren't interested in the size of your website, but rather the website resources that they can use. And small sites are often easier to tap.
In this article, Sucuri (one of the world's largest website security agencies) described that the purpose of most website attacks include:
- Phishing pages
- Malvertising (ads)
- SEO spam
- Credit card skimmers (if e-commerce is on the site).
Does this sound like gibberish? In short it's like a burglar being less interested in any cash or valuables you have lying around, and more interested in tapping into your electricity and phone lines remotely so they can sell dodgy advertising to 1,000's of people.
Of course cyberattacks can be much more malicious too.
But how do I prevent it?
Update, update, update! Maintain regular updates of WordPress, your themes and your plugins to ensure any known vulnerabilities are patched as quickly as possible.
Use strong passwords and store them using a password manager (like LastPass).
Regularly scan your site for suspicious behaviour. We use WordFence as a complete integrity monitoring solution with all Website Care Plans, but you can use Sucuri's free SiteCheck to detect potential hacks.
Backup everything! Sometimes it can be days or even weeks before you realise that your website has been compromised. Having daily AND monthly backups going back three months virtually assures that you have a "pre-hack" version of your website to return to.
As part of a regular website health check it's important to confirm that your backups are still running, are saved in a secure location, and that you can restore one when necessary.
But what kind of backups should I be keeping?
Ideally your backup solution should include:
- Daily (or weekly) backup schedule depending on how regularly you are updating your site. If you have a busy e-commerce site you may even opt for hourly backups to ensure sales information is captured too.
- An archive of backups going back three months (90 days) in case you need to restore an older version of your site (see Security above)
- Backups being sent to an offsite location (eg, not stored on your web server). If you have issues with your website host (they cease trading, get hacked themselves, you don't pay a bill, etc) having a full copy of all your website files in a separate location (such as Dropbox or Google Drive) will ensure these files are always available to you. A tool like UpdraftPlus is a great option.
Our preferred backup plan includes daily backups stored offsite in one location stored for the last 90 days, plus weekly backups stored in a second location stored for 90 days, plus monthly backups stored on the website host stored for 90 days. This gives us three locations in case things really go bad.
How's this for a sobering thought, according to Google 53% of mobile site visitors abandon the page if it takes longer than 3 seconds to load. In fact, the same report showed the average load time for mobile sites is 19 seconds over 3G connections. To reverse your thinking on this though... you could double the leads coming through your website if you were able to speed your website up to take less than 3 seconds to load... how's that for a quick win?
When your business is in a regional area, and most of your visitors will view your site on their mobile or tablet device, it's critical to do a health check of your load speed.
My first suggestion is to use Pingdom's free tool to check your load time. Not only will it give you a good idea how your site is performing, it will also give you several recommendations to increase your site speed.
But other regular tasks that you should be carrying out include deleting any unused plugins from your website, optimising all your images, and leveraging a website caching tool.
Leads and Business Automation
Ok, the reason you have a website is probably to attract and convert new customers right?
Or perhaps your website is designed to reduce the manual handling of common business tasks, making it a more seamless process for interacting with your clients?
Whatever the purpose it's worth regularly checking that the way that visitors interact with your website is as smooth and effective as possible.
This includes tasks like:
- Put a message through your "Contact" form and check that you receive the correct 'thank you' message.
- Sign up for your newsletter or lead magnet and ensure you not only receive the item, but are added to the correct section in your email database.
- Ask a question via your online chat and see how the process feels.
- Ask a friend to visit your website looking for specific information and ask them how easy/hard it was.
When should I do a website health check?
Think back for a moment. Be honest. When was the last time you checked each of these items?
If the answer was 'last year' (or longer) then STOP and check them now.
In an ideal world it's best if you can check these items weekly. This will ensure that your website is maintained as securely as possible.
But being a busy business owner monthly is probably more realistic.
Just be aware that if you schedule these checks monthly then there is a chance that your an update might break the way images appear on your site and you might go 29 days without realising, or your backups might fall over and you won't have the most current version of your website to restore when needed. It really depends on where your tolerance lies.
But coming from someone who's had to clean up multiple sites that weren't maintained, put it on some kind of schedule. PLEASE! A little maintenance is better than no maintenance. Holding out for six to twelve months is like driving your car for a year without a service and expecting that the next trip to the mechanic will be quick and easy.
Can I get someone else to do this for me?
At the end of the day I want to see you empowered to look after your own digital assets. But sometimes there are more important parts of your business for you to focus your time and energy on.
I have two options that you might like to consider.
If you haven't had any updates on your website for a while then you should consider a full Website Health Check. Each Website Health Check looks at 40+ critical factors you need to understand. You'll be provided an easy to understand, but comprehensive, report outlining how your website is performing and how you can improve it. It's even simpler than your regular medical checkup... and without cold hands or prickly needles... but just as useful in becoming a healthier.
Alternatively, if you value keeping your website maintained on a regular basis but don't have the time to carry this out yourself then check if one of my Website Care Plans is right for you. Via a Website Care Plan I will regularly log into your site on an ongoing basis and carry out all the steps above (and more) keeping your website in tip top condition. Depending on the level of Website Care Plan I also include regular content updates ("Hey, can you just change this text over here and update that photo over there"), and digital coaching calls.