Your website represents a significant investment into a business channel. Between the cost of building a good site, the time spent planning and generating content to put on it, and the potential return from incoming leads and sales, the stakes are high. Like any other piece of your business infrastructure, a website can only perform well if it’s well-maintained. You wouldn’t expect a fleet of delivery vehicles to succeed without regular mechanical maintenance, nor would you run the same delivery routes year in and year out, as your customers and business needs change. That’s where web maintenance comes in.
At Cantilever, we view web maintenance as an integral part of a website’s lifecycle, extending the return on your initial investment and keeping your website effective and relevant to your business as economic and business factors change.
We’ve put together a list of things a good web agency will do for you as part of their ongoing maintenance of your website. You can do all of this stuff yourself, but it requires an investment in time, knowledge and personnel that may make it difficult to keep up with. A good web agency can be a trusted partner, ensuring these maintenance tasks are regularly addressed, while you focus on running your business.
Admin Credential Review
If your website has a CMS, it’s important to occasionally review the Admin list and check for users who no longer need access to the site. Access can always be granted again later, but leaving a user with Admin access who shouldn’t have it is a security risk.
Your SSL certificate protects your users from monitoring by third parties during a connection to your site, but it’s not bulletproof. In the past few years, exploits such as POODLE, BEAST and Heartbleed have been discovered and used to get around a basic SSL implementation. Reviewing your SSL implementation regularly using a tool like Qualys SSL Server Test gives you the opportunity to harden your implementation against the latest attacks.
Language Version Upgrades
Programming languages on the web are constantly evolving, and can lose support over time. It’s important to review your site and ensure you’re using a version of your site’s primary server language (PHP, Ruby, Python, .Net) that still receives security fixes.
Server Utilization Review
Whether you’re hosting your website on Managed Hosting, such as WPEngine, or you manage your own servers with services like DigitalOcean, your server needs a check-up occasionally. This involves checking CPU and memory utilization, checking in on bandwidth, reviewing server configuration such as your Nginx and PHP configuration, and making sure everything is in order. Having your web server seize up because it ran out of disk space is both embarrassing and avoidable.
The software that runs websites is constantly changing. Security fixes are being published, feature improvements are being made and things keep getting better and more powerful. It’s one thing to upgrade the software. It’s another to test the software beforehand and make sure that update doesn’t introduce any new issues on your site. We’ll manage the software upgrade process for you so you’re running the latest and most secure versions of your site’s software in a way that minimizes downtime and interruption to your users.
Exploration Creation and Monitoring
A base Google Analytics installation can tell you some interesting things about your website, but the real power unlocks when you extend the base installation to help Google understand how your website actually works. Out of the box, Google doesn’t always understand things like “What is this site or this page trying to accomplish, and how do I know if it worked?”, “Where on my site are there multi-step actions that users need to complete?” and “What paths do people take who successfully complete business actions?”
To answer these questions, and provide helpful business intelligence that can help drive decisions, Cantilever can update your site to send markers and events to Google Analytics that we can then read using Explorations. These explorations can be modified and monitored over time to judge the success of marketing and web initiatives. If you’re not measuring, how do you know if your dollars are being well-spent?
Search Console Review
Search Performance MonitoringOrganic search, when users search for a term on Google and click on links, are a critical source of new traffic for your site and potential customers for your new business. Google offers a tool called Google Search Console that gives insights on how your website performs in the Google Search Index, and flags any issues that might be preventing it from doing better. A good web agency will monitor that performance over time, and assess how updates to your site or content are affecting your search impressions and click through rates in order to continually improve your chances of landing those new customers. A great web agency will demonstrate a progressive improvement over time, improving both your lead volume, and quality.
Recurring Performance Testing
Website performance has a massive impact on user behavior. Monitoring your site’s performance and recording benchmarks over time ensures that your site maintains a speed that gives you the best chance of completing your business goals. Using tools like GTMetrix or Google’s PageSpeed Insights can help identify performance issues, and issue reports on your site’s current performance.
Performance can be affected by changes both big and small. Shipping a small feature that unintentionally introduces additional work on each request might not cause any concern during development or local testing, but once introduced to normal traffic can affect all users negatively. By monitoring and recording results and then comparing those results historically ensures you’re on top of any significant changes to page speed.
Your site should be set up to log errors, warnings, and performance data around how your site is operating, and those logs should be reviewed on a regular basis to ensure your site is operating effectively.
It’s not possible to peek over the shoulder of every user on your site. Without logs, you won’t know when things go wrong until your users reach out and tell you. Not everyone will, and if they do, they’re likely already frustrated. Logs record when things go wrong and allow you the opportunity to fix problems so they affect as few users as possible.
Ongoing Suggestions for Improvement
A good web agency will actually use your site. We read your blog posts, we open your emails, and we spend a little time each month interacting with the different parts of your site as users. This is an important way to stay connected to the site and find efficiencies and improvements that don’t necessarily show up in a log. Does your checkout process require too much irrelevant information to make a purchase? Does your site menu act funny on certain mobile devices? Does your whole products section need a revamp? We think about that kind of stuff, big and small, and then we log those ideas for your review. We’ll bring those ideas up during planning meetings, keep them around during slow parts of the year, and help you prioritize what might make the biggest impact on your business.