Website Hygiene: Basic Maintenance for WordPress & Squarespace
Just like your home, your website requires regular maintenance and cleaning up to keep it in top shape!
Of course, the amount of maintenance you have to do depends on where your website is set up. I've explained the difference between self-hosted and 'managed hosted' websites before, and with regards to looking after your site, the difference is very much the same as when you own a house or rent one (self-hosting being the 'owned home', and managed hosting being a 'rented home' in this anecdote).
When you own a home/self host a website (on WordPress for example), you are responsible for all the maintenance and updates yourself. Meanwhile, generally when you rent a home/have your website set up with a managed platform (eg. Squarespace, or Wix, for example), you're only responsible for the minor things, it's much lower maintenance for you!
But there are still some things you will need to keep up to date regardless, so pay attention! Below are some general maintenance activities that anyone should be doing for their website, no matter what hosting set up they're using, as well as a few platform specific ones.
ANNUAL or BI-ANNUAL Website Hygiene & Maintenance Activities
Update your copyright notice & Terms (annual)
That little copyright notice in your footer isn't just for show; it's an important reminder to people that you own the copyright for the content on your website that was published in the stated year. If your notice is out of date (ie. 'Copyright 2015, YOUR BUSINESS NAME'), it tells your website visitors that either you haven't updated the content on your site in several years (which may make people question whether you are even currently trading!), or you simply aren't professional enough to care about details. Neither are good!
Audit your content to make sure it's up to date
Don't let your website content go stale; this sends a message to your websites visitors that you're not doing anything new or innovative, and that you may be behind the times or - as I said - not even trading right now!
Particularly your Home page and About page, and any Services pages that you may have. Changing up your Home page every 6 to 12 months at least is a good idea to make it seem like your business is staying up to date with trends and generally being active, while updating your About page with new information and credentials shows that you are improving as a business/person as well.
Double check broken links & old landing pages
A 'broken link' is basically just a link that someone might click on, either from within your website or from elsewhere like social media, that doesn't send them to the right place. Often broken links will send visitors to a '404 - Page not found' notice, which is obviously not very helpful for them.
You can find your broken links using a tool like Dead Link Checker, and you can set up redirects to stop them from happening (read the 301 redirect guide for WordPress users or for Squarespace here!). You can also spend some time creating a fancier 404 page so that people don't just see a boring message; you could show them some other useful pages or even direct them to a newsletter sign up form! Learn how to create a custom 404 page in Squarespace, or in WordPress.
Update your core opt-in forms
If you have been using opt-in offers & freebies to build your email list, this is again something you should be changing up so it doesn't go stale. You could create a new offer/freebie, or update your existing one and share the news about your update in a blog post or on social media.
MONTHLY Website Hygiene & Maintenance Activities
Check vital Key analytics
Head over to Google Analytics and take a look through your vital statistics (learn how to create an easy 'vitals dashboard' to access information quickly). Obviously for your own interest you'll want to see things like pageviews, conversions, popular content & traffic sources, but some key 'maintenance' things to look for include your Page Load Speed and Bounce Rate. If your bounce rate is extremely high (over 80%), you may need to check that there are no broken links or something wrong with your home page. If your pages are taking ages to load, it may be worth taking some measures to speed up your site.
Update your content at least once
The best way to keep your website fresh is to have a blog, but that can be super hard work (more info on starting a blog here!), so even just having a regularly updated portfolio, or refreshing your website graphics/photography/imagery every month or two is a good idea. It also tells Google that you're still an active business so very important for SEO too.
Test Contact Forms and/or checkout pages
This isn't totally necessary, but if your business relies on people getting in touch via a Contact Form, or relies on sales via your website, and you haven't had anything come through for a few days or even weeks - it's time to check that everything is definitely working! It's also worth checking your emails are working too - it's surprising how easy it is to reach your maximum inbox space, which means you can't receive any more emails without ever realising!
*WordPress: Update plugins/Themes
Theme and plugin developers regularly publish updates to patch bugs and improve security, so it is incredibly important that you regularly check for these updates, or else your website could be at risk. Generally on my WordPress sites I update the plugins and themes as soon as I notice there is an update, but if you don't go on your website that often, just set a reminder in your phone to check once or twice a month.
*WordPress: Perform a content & database backup
How often you do this depends on how often you update the content on your website or if you have recently done any plugin/theme updates. On my other website, I publish new blog posts up to 3 times a week, so I tend to do back ups once or twice a month so I don't risk losing my recent content. However if you are only updating your website once a month or less, you can probably just stick to quarterly backups.
I use a plugin called Updraft Plus to do full database backups, and it's free to use so definitely worth installing! I've written an in-depth post about keeping your website content safe and secure on WordPress for more detail.
*Squarespace: Update password
On WordPress, I'd highly recommend installing a '2 step authentication' plugin to secure your website. This means that as well as typing in a username and password, your website requires another form of identification before it lets you into the backend (eg. it sends a code in a text to your mobile phone, or sends an email confirmation to your email address). I personally use Rublon for my WordPress websites, which is free and works great - I don't have to worry about hackers or bots guessing my password!
However, Squarespace hasn't yet released a '2 step authentication' feature yet (no matter how much us Squarespace designers beg them in the feature suggestions!!), so the best way to protect your website is to regularly change your login details. Make sure you are using random letters and numbers as well as other characters so that your password is impossible to guess, and I'd suggest changing your password once or twice a month depending on how big your site is and how much traffic you are getting to it.
*WordPress: Monitor Your security plugin
Again, you can check out my WordPress security blog post for more details on what plugin to use and what it's for, but generally it's a good idea to check up on its reports each month to check if there have been a lot of attacks of if its found any vulnerabilities in your website. Usually security plugins (like Wordfence) will give you the chance to set up email notifications if these things do happen.
*WordPress: Clean old post revisions & spam
One simple hygiene tip to keep your database clean and your website nice and speedy is to regularly delete any outstanding spam comments (you can use a plugin like Akismet will control these for you) and if you blog a lot, delete any old unused post revisions. It's surprising how much space these can take up, so I use a plugin called Better Delete Revision to delete these every month or so. Think of it like taking out the trash! It's not 100% necessary to keep your house standing but if you don't do it, your home will get gross and messy pretty quickly.