Congratulations on your new website! You’ve put a lot of work into this site over the course of a few weeks, months, maybe even a year. Now that you’re launched, you’re done with the work of the website right?
Here’s the “fun” part about the web…things change every day. A website I built 5-10 years ago, for instance, may be using outdated code, the copy might be written for a different Google search algorithm, or information on the site may simply have gone out of date, among other issues. While we can build websites that last for several years (our GJ & Company LLC website is actually turning 4 very soon), we also understand the importance of making routine changes on your website.
Before you start feeling overwhelmed, these changes are calculated based on need. Don’t feel like you need to go in and adjust copy every few months just for giggles. However, there are some basic reasons why you need to change your website as it ages.
1. Google Loves Fresh Content
This is probably the easiest one for people to understand. One of the many factors that Google looks at to determine the relevancy of your customers’ search query is how “fresh” your content is. After all, if your website is 3 years old and you’ve not updated it since, Google (and a customer) can look at that and think that the information might be out of date. Google believes their searchers want the most accurate information, and information accuracy can change with the times, right?
Now, this is especially the bit where you don’t need to go tweak a few things on your website just to make the changes. Blogging is the number one way to combat this; writing those 400-600 word articles every month or so helps to show Google that you’re constantly updating your website in your area of expertise with the most relevant information. It also allows you to boost your site’s overall fresh factor on a regular basis.
That fresh content, especially provided on a regular schedule like through a blog, can also mean Google indexes your website more often. Once it learns that you’re providing updated articles, it comes back to crawl your website to find those updates. Of course, it can take awhile for this to happen, but sticking to a consistent schedule is not just good for your customers as you share on social media, it’s also great to teach Google how often they should come back to your website.
2. Accuracy is Important on the Web
Honestly, as a user experience and a customer service person, I rank this as most important (but Google is flashier). If your website is the foundation of your business’s marketing, you better be sure everything on it is accurate. Over time, your address, phone number, even services can change. You want to make sure everything is accurate to your business as it is now, not how it was when you launched your website 2 years ago.
Let’s just take us as an example…we recently launched the new version of our own website (yes children, the one you’re on right now!) just a couple of months ago. Our business has grown and changed from when Chrissy and I designed that first website during our first summer in our shiny new office as full-time Hexcode Girls. We needed to better communicate our story, our updated services, and completely overhaul our portfolio to include much more recent work. The funny thing is, after just a couple of months, we’ve already added more portfolio pieces, written multiple blog articles, and we need to add another service page to our website. And that’s just in 2-3 months! You can imagine the changes we needed to make after two years.
Your website needs to accurately reflect your business, otherwise you’ll get the wrong types of customers to it. Keeping it accurate doesn’t have to take a bunch of time, however. Once a quarter, browse through your website and look for those items that need to be updated. Look for broken links (use an online tool like brokenlinkcheck.com to find those easily) to ensure browsers aren’t hitting that dreaded 404 page, read through your copy to make sure everything is accurate, update employees and contact information as needed. About once a year, go through your website and change out outdated images (if you need to), update blog articles for accuracy, and even re-share those older articles. Taking just a few minutes every few months can do a lot to help your SEO, but it will go a long way to improving your customers’ experience with your business.
3. Updating Code Can Keep Your Website Secure
tl;dr (also tech speak!) Have your developer look through your website every quarter to ensure it’s secure and code is up-to-date.
I fully realize this one is hard to do on your own (unless you coded your website yourself), but keeping your website code updated to current standards can go a long way to keeping your website secure. For instance, we code all of our websites in WordPress which currently is a PHP-based open-sourced content management system (nerd words!). PHP base has changed from 5.6 to 7.3 over the last few years. Certain pieces that many of us coders have been using for years will be deprecated in the next update. Thankfully, I switched years ago to these things (largely out of laziness but yay they won!), but that can theoretically affect thousands of websites across the web.
If your website is built on a CMS like WordPress, they also roll out routine updates to patch security issues. Keeping core WordPress and those plugins updated can be the difference between having your website hacked or not, which can in turn can save your company thousands of dollars in repair fees and loss of sales if you do get hacked. (Having saved a few hacked websites, please do these things!) Updating plugins yourself can be intimidating because conflicts can arise, but creating a backup each time you update your website and saving that in the cloud or even on your desktop will help to ensure that you can roll back any changes you made.
Now, I fully don’t expect most of my readers to feel comfortable doing the above. I get it’s pretty specialized. However, it is vitally important that it happens. Getting on a maintenance plan with your web designer/developer, while a monthly investment, can save you a huge amount down the line. Think of it as website insurance. They take care of the hard stuff and you breathe easily!
Keep it Simple and Keep it Accurate
I know, I know, that’s a lot of information. But if you do nothing else, remember to keep your website accurate to your business and the way it is now, not the way it was when you first launched your website. Taking that time to double check your own website every few months can go a long way to saving a sale, a customer’s frustration, and money down the line. Plus, focusing on that accuracy can take care of a lot of the rest!