red line

Digital decay and the risks of deferring website maintenance.

Investing in website maintenance is like giving your online presence a tune-up, ensuring uninterrupted performance, enhanced security, and higher search engine rankings, making it a critical necessity for every business.

Wow, thank you so much for reading an article with website maintenance in the title. Maintaining a website is not a sexy topic, so I’ll make sure you walk away with something valuable.

Let’s start with quickly getting clear on what website maintenance is and isn’t. I’ve spoken to many clients who don’t understand maintenance and confuse it with other efforts like enhancements. The simplest way to think about it is like a car. When you own a car, you know you must regularly perform oil changes and that other components need to be serviced on specified time intervals to keep your vehicle in tip-top shape.

I’ve never heard a friend say, “I’m going to get my car serviced,” and when I ask what they are doing to it, their response is, “Oh, I’m getting a paint job, or I’m putting in a supercharger, or I’m replacing a transmission.” Most people understand what maintaining a vehicle looks like and the difference between maintenance (preventative), repairs (when something breaks), and customizations (enhancements).

A website is actually very similar. Website maintenance is not adding new features, updating the look and feel, or creating new content. Those are other activities that should be done separately from website maintenance.

Important Definitions

  • Maintenance: Proactively performing preventative measures. Like updating your systems to be resilient to downtime and running securely as much as possible.
  • Support: Responding to requests like updating text on a page, fixing something that breaks, or making other minor updates.
  • Enhancements: Proactively working on new initiatives to improve your website.

For the rest of this article, we will only discuss `maintenance` as it’s defined above.

Goals for Website Maintenance

  • Keeping your website running (maximize uptime)
  • Keeping your website secure (bad people out of your business)
  • Keeping your website performing (slow websites don’t retain visitors)
  • Keeping your website machine-friendly (common SEO errors hurt your rankings)

Essential Website Maintenance Activities

  • Updating your hosting environment: Get the latest updates on the operating system, programming environments like PHP, platforms like WordPress, and extensions like WordPress Plugins. These should be done at least once a month.
  • Monitoring: All environments should monitor uptime, system errors, SEO errors, website performance, and security issues through tools like penetration tests. Monitoring should be real-time, and security tests can be scheduled based on your IT requirements.
  • Disaster Recovery: Keep website, assets, and database backups. Maintain a recovery plan to restore a down website or recover after a disaster quickly.
  • Legal Compliance Audits: Ensure you follow privacy laws, keep your user’s personally identifiable information (PII) safe, and evaluate your site’s accessibility.

Why Invest in Website Maintenance

  • Better user experience: Broken links, site crashes, or slow loading times contribute to a poor user experience. Regular maintenance ensures that your website functions smoothly and loads quickly, which builds trust with your audience. Moreover, consistent performance monitoring helps identify issues before they escalate into more significant problems that can be time-consuming and expensive to resolve.
  • Increase SEO Rankings: Search engines prioritize fast, user-friendly, and regularly updated websites with valuable content. Continuous website maintenance ensures your site is consistently meeting these criteria and, as a result, will rank higher in search engine results pages (SERPs). Neglecting maintenance, on the other hand, can result in lower rankings, making your site less visible to potential visitors.
  • Reduce Security Breaches: This is arguably the most critical reason. Outdated software is vulnerable to hacking, including malware, ransomware, and data breaches. Regular updates and maintenance keep your website’s security measures equipped to fend off these attacks, protecting your data, users’ data, and reputation.
  • Reduce your downtime: Regular backups, security checks, and database management prepare your website for unforeseen issues. Whether it’s a surge in traffic, a cyber-attack, or technical glitches, a well-maintained website can prevent these crises or help recover from them quickly, ensuring business continuity.
  • Reduce the likelihood of getting sued: Laws and regulations regarding the internet and data privacy, such as GDPR, are continuously being updated. Regular website maintenance ensures your site stays compliant with these rules to avoid hefty fines and legal issues. This includes updating privacy policies,  terms of service and ensuring accessibility standards are met.

I think of website maintenance as a necessity that should be budgeted for every year without the expectation that there will be any significant changes to your website as a result. What are the risks or costs associated with your website going down for a long time? Or your customer’s data leaking and leading to a lawsuit? Or your site’s positioning on search engines decline?

You’ll wish that you had done these website maintenance activities all along. If your agency does not offer these services, I would personally find a new agency, and if you decline to subscribe to these services from your agency, I hope you will reconsider.

Related resources