Visitors simply don’t stay on websites that are slow to load, difficult to read or hard to navigate.
A site that offers up to date information nurtures a visitor’s interest and will have them returning.
There’s much more, though, to website maintenance than a few updates.
What is website maintenance?
Maintenance to a website doesn’t only include the visual updates to a portfolio, service or product page.
Good website maintenance also combines the addition of news articles and blog posts, as well as adding media like images and videos.
There are also extra obligations like upholding a reliable SiteMap, link building, checking for dud links and keeping an eye out for broken images.
When left unresolved these factors can actually harm a website’s page rank, so tune into them.
A very simplified list of harmful crawl errors are:
- Site speed.
- Duplicate content.
- A lack of canonical URLs.
- Missing meta-tags.
- Lack of images.
- Dud links.
- Incorrect business details.
- Not adhering to latest design standards.
Website maintenance is a truly essential part of running a business and a site that is ignored is likely to be penalised.
Search engine programmes called bots crawl sites, looking for updates and checking for errors. They send information back to the search engine and the search engine will index as they see fit.
Sites that have fewer crawl errors, plenty of back-links and regular fresh content are crawled and indexed more frequently.
Website updates help a website to rank
Files such as pages, posts and media, are ‘date stamped’ when uploaded or saved on WordPress, meaning that search engines can detect when they were last edited.
They can also tell if significant changes have been made to those files – search engines compare current version to the last crawled version. So minute edits, like a date or one word, will not suffice.
It makes sense to release a sizeable update as often as possible if you’d like a site to do well. At a VERY minimum update the site once each month.
Show the search engines that you are trying hard to please visitors by correcting errors and providing up to date information.
If yours is not an industry in which services or products need regular updates then broaden reach using a blog.
Here I take you through website maintenance tasks that should be habitually carried out to help your business grow online.
Product, services or portfolio updates
Search engines recognise an operational business through both websites and social profiles that are regularly maintained.
To do well online be sure that products, services and the portfolio are up to date on your website, as well as your social media accounts. Social platforms must always reflect a website.
For a website to rank well good content is one of the most important undertakings. Website content can mean video and images, as well as text in the form of blog posts, articles and pages.
Content creates a buzz around your site, is a way to achieve natural back-links and provides search engines with fodder. Meaning the site appears in more searches.
Study your key terms. Research ones with a good search volume that are easiest to rank for and then write informative posts around those targeted key terms.
Once your website is well known and has good domain authority adopt highly searched terms.
Video and images – such as photos or infographics – can be used to strengthen pages.
Website maintenance scans
Once your site is full of amazing content, daily scans must be carried out on the website to help with the up keep.
A website scan will highlight damaging crawl errors such as dud links, missing meta tags, canonical errors and duplicate content. All of which negatively affect page rank.
Duplicate, missing and unique meta-tags
Meta-tags are one of the most basic but most important parts of SEO. When a search engine crawls a page the meta-tags (in the head tag) are some of the first snippets of code they come across.
Search engines compare meta-tags with page content and industry to be sure they are relevant.
The title and description tags are used on Search Engine Result Pages to encourage visitors to click through. When meta-tags are not provided Google does its best to produce a title and description from the content of your page.
Meta-tags have a certain impact in search engine optimisation and if you want your website to rank well there is no reason to leave them out or duplicate them. SEO Hacker explains.
Do not repeat content nor try to rank for the same keywords on any two articles. One of those articles will be penalised.
This principle was put into place to limit underhand websites from gaining rank by repeating content and keyword stuffing, which Google has cracked down on over the years.
Search engine crawlers want to find content easily, not wade through duplicated pages. By limiting any repeat content, your important articles are indexed.
Regular website maintenance scans with a company such as Moz help to stay on top of content that can be duplicated by accident.
If I find duplicates I edit one of the articles and target the content around different key terms.
Canonical URLs are the true URL (or page) that you want listed on search engines. There is a meta-tag that can be used especially to tell crawlers which is the true or original URL.
It exists because search engines can reach your page using many different URLs.
A URL could have a forward slash at the end, a https at the beginning or a http. We see them as the same page, but search engines see each as a duplicate page.
Canonicalisation helps to determine which page should be indexed, again taking some of the hard work away from the bot.
As your content grows be sure to keep your SiteMap parallel with the website structure, submitting the latest version to The Search Console when new content has been added.
SiteMap Pro is a tool that will quickly produce a SiteMap, but do always check the outcome. Pages such as ‘noindex’ or ‘error pages’ may get listed. Pages such as these should not be included as Google will flag them up.
Only pages that you want indexed should be included.
Upload the file/s to your hosting area, and submit the SiteMap to The Search Console.
Link your content – article to article, page to page. Google prefers links within content, following the natural flow of a user. Do not hide links away at the bottom of a page.
Textual links should be built around key terms to give more juice.
Be generous and link out of your site to external websites, especially where their content is relevant it.
If a website owner properly analyses their website, they can track sites that provide backlinks, and this is a great way to initiate relationships.
The internet changes rapidly. Websites move pages, update and change URLs constantly.
Dud links are a sign of neglect and something that Google penalises. Consistently check your site, using a website analysation tool, for links that no longer work. Correct any that are found.
Domain authority is term fabricated by MOZ which gives size to the popularity of a domain.
Links back (or backlinks) to your site is evidence of popularity. When Google sees natural backlinks to great content, the content is ranked higher.
Be sure that sites linking to yours have up to date business details.
Find the links to your site by searching Google, by using an analytic tool like MOZ Pro and use The Search Console.
Standards change as technology is modernised and used in different ways.
Google updates algorithms constantly, to weed out black hat tactics and offer the best user experience.
For example – Google rewards mobile friendly websites that download quickly on a 4G connection.
Too many large images that take up space and push crucial content below the fold have a negative affect. These days, users want information FAST.
Your website design should always adhere to current standards.
Most small business websites are out of date within 5 years. Some are not even provided to quality guidelines.
Don’t despair! A lot can be done to bring a site up to specification. Just email me.
Other general website maintenance
A clear, up to date pricing structures instills confidence into users and promotes an honest company, which Google loves to see.
Google expects businesses to be open with users and will reward websites that are transparent with location, ethics and policies.
It helps to clearly display a telephone number or an email address for users to contact customer service, and receive a response, fast.
Online reviews are feared because they can quickly and easily credit or discredit a company. However, user generated online reviews are really worthwhile in the search world,sending positive signs to search engines.
Google’s intention to reward truly excellent businesses is highlighted by the focus they put on reviews.
Not to mention that there is a lot of buying power behind reviews.
The duties of a website owner
I have difficulty convincing website owners how important it is to regularly maintain a website. I spend a lot of time maintaining my own.
Hopefully this post provides you with a quick insight to the time and effort that should go into website maintenance if you want your business to succeed.