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Website maintenance is more than a cheap hosting plan and a quick page edit.

An out of date site risks customer annoyance, lost trust, or even a dip in your search engine placement.

To help you stay on top of this important (and often overlooked) issue, we’ve created the following actionable guide to update your website.

There are 4 main sections, plus some bonus tips at the end.

Levels Of Performance

Consider impact at three levels for an effective business website:

* Human Audience
* Robot Audience
* Technical Foundation

The human one is obvious; you focus on your readers. Is the content helpful, persuasive, and is there a clear call to action? Is the design serving the business purpose or distracting from it? This is an area where you could seek help from a content creator or copywriter, or even chat with your sales and customer service team to get their feedback.

The robot audience (SEO) helps drive a lot of human eyeballs to your site, so it must be taken seriously as well. Maybe you’ll want insight from a marketer or SEO specialist.

And the effect of your technical foundation is felt at the extremes. If the site breaks or the server goes down, nothing else matters. At the other end, you can optimize your performance or security to avoid future problems or enhance the other levels. This is an area where you can talk to your host or website provider.

Nearly everything on our list is simple enough for you to tackle on your own. But it doesn’t hurt to know who may have the best insight in case you need a hand.

Now let’s get to the checklist…

Content

Global Content
Don’t just check the Contact page… usually this stuff is in the header and/or footer of every page.

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Hours Of Operation
If you have business hours, and they aren’t on your website, put them on! And if they are already there, check to make sure they’re accurate. If you have seasonal hour changes, assign a staff member to be in charge of updating them as needed.

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Phone Numbers
Check your phone numbers for typos and for consistency (pick one of dots, spaces, dashes and write your numbers the same way each time they appear — Google likes dashes). Make sure your phone numbers are properly hyperlinked so mobile users can click to call. The click-to-call code is “tel:1-444-444-4444”, or you can do it with no dashes as well (14444444444).

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Business Address
Make sure your address is correct / up to date each place it appears. Here is a Page Speed tip: an embedded Google Map slows down the load time of your page, so we recommend only putting a map on one page (typically the Contact page), rather than in a global element like your footer.

Unique Content

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About Us / Bios / Staff List
If you show any staff, are their photos and bios up to date? Did anyone leave, or is there anyone new?

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Pricing
If there are prices anywhere on your site, are they still accurate? Wow, do customers get mad (and then leave bad reviews) when website prices are different than they actually have to pay.

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Gallery
Are there any old, inapplicable, or just plain low quality photos that can be removed? What about more current or relevant photos that can be added?

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FAQ
Are the answers still applicable? Could you be clearer? Are there any new questions to add?

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Events
Do you have old events that can be removed? What about upcoming events to start promoting? Give as much info as possible for each event (address, time, itinerary, who to contact to RVSP or buy tickets, etc).

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Sales / Specials
As above, remove expired offers and add any current offers. If pages like this are often empty, consider just adding a special section to your Home page and deleting this page altogether.

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New Services / Products
If your offers have expanded since the last major website overhaul, be sure to get them on the site now. Don’t ever assume that existing customers will know or ask about every other thing you offer. Make it common knowledge. If a service is closely related to something you already have on your site, it is fine to put it on an existing page (Google recognizes like content). If it is totally separate then make a new page, but try to have a reasonable amount of content to justify the new page (eg. two vague sentences is not “reasonable” content).

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Calls To Action
Give your pages a once-over to make sure you have clear calls to action. Sometimes each page will have the same CTA (eg. “get a free quote now”), but other times the user will need to go through some steps first. A searcher looking for home renovations will probably want to see some photos of past work before they commit to getting a quote. So in that case we would put a “see our work” CTA on the Home page, and then a “get a quote” CTA on the Photo Gallery page. Lastly, make sure all CTAs reflect your current offer.

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Spelling / Grammar / Punctuation
Check for basic editing errors.

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Broken Links
Look at all your internal links (the ones going to another page or file on your site). Make sure they work, and (unless you are linking to an internal PDF or document) make sure the link opens in the same tab. Then check all your external links, and make sure they open in a new tab and actually end up in the place you intended. You can use this handy tool to scan your site for broken links rather than looking through it line by line:
https://www.brokenlinkcheck.com/

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Form Submission
If you have a form on your site, fill it out and submit a test message to make sure it’s still working and that you get a notification.

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Headlines
Do your main pages (especially Home) have headlines saying how the customer will benefit from doing business with you? And does each headline have a keyword that relates to the topic of that page?

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Title & Description Tags
Does each page have a title tag (piece of code) that closely matches the headline and the main keyword of the topic of that page? And does each page have a description tag that elaborates on that topic and persuades people to want to click on it? If you have a WordPress website but you’re not sure how to add these tags, you can use a great free plugin called Yoast.

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URLs & Redirects
If you have changed the name of your pages recently, or if you have combined old content into one page, you will want to make sure that people who look for the old page get redirected to the new page (instead of seeing a “not found” error). There is a simple and free WordPress plugin for this as well, called Redirection. Anytime you change the url of a page (its name in the web address, eg. domain.com/page), you should setup a 301 Redirect from the old page url to the new page url. Most good website managers will assist with this when you are doing content changes or additions.

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Image Alt Tags
Sometimes you can gain an edge in SEO by adding alt tags to your main images (these alt tags should closely match the target keywords that relate to the topic of the page where they appear). This doesn’t need to be done to every image in a gallery, but you can check some of the main images on your most important pages to see if they currently have an alt tag. It’s easy to see in WordPress — you click on any image in your Media folder and check if the “Alternative Text” field has anything in it.

Design

These are updates that relate to the look and feel of your site, including showcase-type images like a Home page slider.

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Branding
Has your logo changed? What about your company colors? If so, is it reflected on your website? Also, if you originally used a low-quality version of your logo but you have something better, it’s a great idea to update it.

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Replace Stock With Original Photos
Generic stock images may have been necessary to get your site up and running. But custom photos are always more powerful.

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Optimize Images
Replace low quality (pixelated) images, or crop images to better suit the overall design (eg. usually a landscape-style image looks better than a square image for your header). Also replace extra-large images with re-sized or compressed versions that retain quality. This will help page speed.

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Check Display On Popular Desktop Browsers
Pull up your website to see how it looks on the two most popular browsers — Chrome and Safari. Or if you have usage stats that tell you which browser the majority of your current audience uses, check it on that one.

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Check Display On Mobile
Pull up your website on your cell phone to see how it looks. Just like desktop, most Canadians use Chrome and Safari for mobile. So if you can check both, even better.

Platform & Hosting

These may require a call to your web host. Like we said before, if your website is not down then you don’t have a lot to worry about. But the following will aid your security and performance.

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Backups
Ideally you want a host to do automatic nightly backups of your site. If you accidentally make an editing mistake, it may be easy to undo it as long as you stop editing and contact them to roll back.

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WordPress Theme & Plugins
Generally it’s a good idea to be using the latest version of your WordPress theme and any plugins that are activated on your site. However it can also cause sites to break if you update something as soon as it is released (new releases have more bugs or sometimes don’t play nice with other aspects of your site). When in doubt, just ask your web provider… and of course make sure you have backups so you can revert in case of any problems.

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SSL Security Certificate
Check that your url starts with “https” rather than “http”. If not, see if your host can get a basic free security certificate for your domain.

Bonus Tips

These points are mostly off your site, but they tie in so closely with its performance that we recommend you consider them as part of regular website maintenance.

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Google Analytics
Make sure you have an account setup and the tracking code is placed in the header of your site. You’ll want these user stats to inform future decisions and updates to your site.

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Google Search Console
Make sure you have an account setup and your domains are verified. This mostly gives you more robust information about search engine results for your site.

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Google My Business
Make sure your Google listing is claimed and updated, or setup a new listing (it’s all free). This is an essential way to collect reviews and to perform better on local searches.

Whether you are concerned about the state of your website, or unsure how to improve, you can use this list to figure out what the next steps should be.

Don’t wait until any of these minor concerns become serious problems. A proper website provider will be able to help you with everything covered here.