A website can be a huge investment of time and money. I know, I’m not telling you anything new. But what if it doesn’t have to be that way?
The key is to continuously improve your website so that you sustain the life of it. Making iterative adjustments and keeping the content fresh will not only bring visitors back, it’ll keep you from having to overhaul it time and time again. We want you to avoid the boom/bust website cycle if you can help it.
Below are a few things you can do each month, quarter, or year to maintain your website on your own. The goal is to build a habit of continuously updating and maintaining your website, so don’t get caught up on the cadence! Whether you’re a team of one or a team of ten, tech savvy or tech-confused, there are enough options for you to customize these suggestions based on your time, resources and comfort level.
Oh, and did I mention that every tool listed here is free? Now you really don’t have any excuses.
Once a month
- If you have a Continuous Care subscription with Four Kitchens, you know that generally once a month there are security updates for Drupal and WordPress websites. If you’re handling your website’s security updates on your own, these can be critical to ensuring your site stays safe and secure.
- Adding alt text to images each and every time you upload them to your website’s media library is something you are hopefully already doing. If you’re not in the habit of adding these types of descriptions, it’s never too late. Browse your media files and add alt text wherever it’s missing. Alt text helps screen readers identify and read the description of images to sight-impaired visitors. Not only does alt text make your website friendlier and more accessible, it can help boost your SEO as well.
- Look at your homepage and make sure you don’t have any stale content, then update it as necessary.
- Keeping your website’s content up-to-date is a must, but did you know it’s also a good idea to aim for posting 3,000 words each month? Doing so will tell search engines that they should continue to revisit and index your site and boost your SEO at the same time. While that word count may feel pretty intimidating for smaller organizations, it’s really meant to be broken up into smaller chunks of content. To aim for that goal, consider hiring freelancers or inviting volunteers or interns to repurpose content you had originally written for newsletters or print. You can also get there by transcribing videos and other audio content.
- While you’re at it, make sure the links throughout your content are set up correctly so that visitors can easily flow through the site.
Once a quarter
- Conduct a quick audit using Website Grader which is an intuitive tool that provides a score of your website’s performance, SEO, mobile performance, and security. Results are easy to decipher since they’re either pass or fail, and definitions provide context into what each result is and how to fix it.
- Check for broken links by using a free tool like Dead Link Checker. If you have a few links, fix them fast and be done with it. If you find that there are quite a few, consider setting aside maybe an hour every other week to fix them over an extended period of time.
- If you have a Drupal website, get into the habit of checking the Page Not Found logs. This report makes it easy for you to see the most frequent pages affected by errors and allows you to add redirects to help visitors get to a better page on your site.
- If you’re not looking at your website’s Google Analytics, you should! Google Analytics gives you a better sense of things like how often visitors come to your site, where they’re coming from, and what content they review and engage with most. Get in the habit of regularly looking at your top 10 most and least viewed pages and see if there’s an opportunity to spruce them up.
- Review and update all your social media links to ensure you’ve accounted for new and/or inactive accounts. While most social media links live in a website’s header and/or footer, consider other places and platforms that may need to be updated, like a sidebar on the website, any contact or “stay connected” pages, your newsletter templates and staff’s email signatures.
Once a year
- Take a step back and give your website a thorough technical review. Perhaps there have been some web advancements that your site could take advantage of. Or maybe your visitors see big error messages on pages that you don’t often visit. On an annual basis, peek under the hood of your site to make sure that everything is functioning as it should. If you’re already a Four Kitchens client, depending on which Continuous Care subscription you may have, we will do this for you. Typically our annual audit includes reviewing your website’s logs, accessibility, performance, user experience and security at a high level.
- Take a look at all of the users that have access to your website. This could arguably be done at any point in the year, especially if you’ve had recent turnover. Are there inactive users that should be deleted? Are permission levels for active users set correctly?
- Pull a report in Screaming Frog to identify the largest files on your site like images and/or PDFs which can bog down speed and performance. Consider compressing your largest images if needed (personally, I like Iloveimg for compressing, resizing, and cropping images) or migrate PDF copy and graphics to a page on your site for a more accessible user experience.
- Get a better sense of just how accessible your website really is. Accessibility is not a one-and-done achievement, but rather a constant movement towards improving your website to be inclusive for all visitors. Download and install Google Lighthouse as a Chrome extension and it’ll run a series of audits on any given page. Fair warning, the results may be a bit technical, but Google’s helpdesk is great at providing information and context to help you understand how to improve your site. And if you have any questions, ask us!
- Understand how your key audiences engage with your organization online by conducting your own research. User experience research is extremely valuable, though arguably difficult to come by, especially if you’re a smaller organization with little time and budget. Still, taking a step back and reviewing your website through the eyes of your key audiences is crucial. If it’s possible to have one of your stakeholders review the website to provide feedback, great! But if not, at least have a colleague, friend, or family member provide a fresh perspective by reviewing the content. Does the messaging make sense? Are there any hang-ups in the navigation?
- Bring it on home and see if your website strategy and content ladders up to your organization’s mission and communications/marketing objectives. Does your website align with your larger communications strategy? Brand strategy? If you don’t have a larger communications or digital strategy, consider developing one to help focus the time and energy spent on the website.
Again, take as much or as little of these suggestions as time and resources allow. Every little bit counts toward improving your website over the long haul.
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