Website maintenance is one of the most important aspects of website ownership. Unfortunately, many website owners don’t understand why it is important or what it really involves. This is partly due to the fact that a website is not a tangible object: it’s difficult to visualize where it exists in the world and how it interacts with people.
Actually, a website is a lot like a car. Think about the kind of maintenance your car requires. First of all, you need to have it washed regularly to remove dirt from the road and protect the exterior. You need to get the oil changed every 3,000 miles and replace the tires when they get worn out. If any of the parts malfunction, you have to take the car to a mechanic to get it fixed. When you arrive at home or the office, you park the car in a garage, lock it and set the alarm. At some point, you will probably trade in the car for a newer model that is safer, more luxurious, gets better mileage and has other features that you want.
Websites have similar maintenance requirements. Like a car, a website also needs to be cleaned, tuned up, repaired and housed securely. If you neglect any of these areas, you can find yourself stuck in the middle of the road while your competitors’ cars are flying past you. To help you avoid this unpleasant scenario, let’s break down some common myths about website maintenance.
Myth #1: Web Hosting Doesn’t Matter As Long As It’s Cheap
We understand how tempting it is to go after the cheapest hosting provider, especially if your website is small and you’re not expecting a lot of traffic. But if you’re planning to show your website to even a few customers, you really can’t compromise on hosting. “You get what you pay for,” as the saying goes.
The quality of your web hosting affects both security and speed, which in turn affects your bottom line. The money you think you’re saving by going with cheap hosting will multiply as expenses when you have to pay someone to clean up a hack or when you lose customers due to a security breach or slow performance. And once you lose the trust of your customers, it can be extremely difficult to get it back.
On the other hand, investing in high-quality hosting will save you money in the long term and produce a real return in terms of peace of mind for you and your customers, which encourages more sales.
Think of your hosting server as the “garage” that houses your website. You can install all the locks and alarms you want, but it won’t help if your passcode is easy to guess, the garage is located in a bad neighborhood, or you have to share the garage with other cars. We take hosting very seriously. That’s why we require all members of our website maintenance plans to host their websites on servers that we have already vetted.
Myth #2: Updates Are Optional
All software needs updating–period. WordPress websites are no exception, since they consist of many moving parts including the theme, several third-party plugins and the core WordPress code. Some updates concern the features and performance of your website. Other updates address bugs and vulnerabilities in your site. If you leave these vulnerabilities unaddressed, your website can quickly fall prey to hackers. In fact, they’re always looking for out-of-date WordPress sites since these are easy targets.
But it’s not just a matter of clicking “Update” when the notice appears. You need to be aware of what the update entails and if there are any compatibility issues between plugins or the theme. It’s also important to have a backup of your website to restore in case the update causes problems. You should postpone major updates in order to perform them separately and check for possible bugs. A staging environment comes in handy here because it allows you to test any updates before publishing them on the live site that all your customers can see.
Knowing the right time to update, and performing updates regularly, is time-consuming and requires skill. Do you feel confident in doing this yourself? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered.
Myth #3: It’s Easy to Manage a Website
The DIY fever is quite contagious. You’ve probably seen TV commercials or YouTube ads which tell you that anybody can create their own website. From this line of thinking, it follows that anybody can manage a website. Perhaps you are more tech-savvy than your peers and already know how to create pages and posts and upload images in WordPress. That’s awesome!
But the question you need to ask yourself is: how much time am I spending on my website every day? If you find that you’re wasting a lot of time making design and content changes to your site, when you could be growing your business, you might want to consider handing that off to someone else.
As a business owner, you want to use your time wisely. It’s easy to get distracted with your website, especially if you’re learning as you go. Though your website is a crucial part of your business, your number one goal should be to actually run your business, and sometimes that means stepping away from the technical or time-consuming tasks.
Myth #4: I’ll Just Use the Support That Comes with My Hosting
It’s true that most hosting providers offer customer support and the members of that support team usually have good technical skills. The problem is, they don’t know you personally and they don’t know your website intimately. They are probably not an expert in WordPress, which your site is built on, and they likely don’t genuinely care about your business goals. Big hosts serve hundreds, if not thousands, of customers, meaning that you’re nothing more than an email address or ticket number to them.
You need someone who knows WordPress inside and out and is familiar with the inner workings of your particular website. Ideally this would be the same person or agency that built your site, but it doesn’t have to be. At Imagine Higher we serve many clients whose sites we did not build, and we always take a good look under the hood before starting maintenance. While we do have a ticket system for support requests, we never treat you like a mere number. You’re a real person we care about and want to help.
Myth #5: Nobody Will Hack My Little Blog
As a WordPress agency, we love the power and flexibility of the platform, but those very qualities make WordPress sites especially vulnerable to hacking. The core code is open source (meaning anybody can contribute to it) and the themes and plugins are developed by third parties. Moreover, if you fail to keep your site up to date, use a weak password, host it in an insecure environment, etc., you’re practically asking hackers to come and wreak havoc.
Now you might be asking: Why would hackers care about my lifestyle blog targeting mompreneurs in Colorado? Wouldn’t they be more interested in some big insurance company or bank? That’s certainly a fair question. Of course, cyber criminals would love to capture thousands of credit card and social security numbers, but they realize that such information is extremely difficult to steal. They would either need genius talent or a large network of hacking experts with the right tools.
But owners of small websites usually leave the back door open, unaware of the threat. Therefore hackers find simple WordPress sites to be easy prey for spamming people, uploading malicious software, and even converting it to a pornography site. Trust us, you don’t want to be paying to clean up a preventable hack or sending out emails to customers explaining why your site is down. However, if this has happened to you, we won’t leave you out in the cold. Contact us for assistance.
As you can see, website maintenance is serious business. It’s difficult to resist the temptation to settle for the lowest price and the least amount of effort, or to try and do everything yourself. From our experience we’ve learned that if you don’t take your website seriously, neither will your customers, your competitors, or the bad guys in cyberspace.