Many people do not realize how important it is to maintain your website. However, a website is like anything else (your computer or your car) and will start to have trouble if it is not properly maintained over time. You could lose traffic due to broken links and images, have poor loading times, negatively affect your SEO ratings, have inserted malicious scripts, or even have a website that is broken down completely. All of these will make your website hurt you more than help you. However, there are ways to prevent these things from happening (or allow you to quickly recover if one of them does happen) and most of them are easy enough for you to do yourself (or to pay us to do it for you if you don’t want to!) The first and most important thing to do to maintain your site is to MAKE SURE YOU HAVE AN AUTOMATIC BACKUP. This is so important that I can’t stress it enough. Without a recent backup, what will you do if the site breaks? You won’t have any working copies to quickly back up to and you will spend lots of time and money trying to get back to the base line that you were at. Luckily, most hosting companies will back up your site regularly per your hosting contract. Make sure that you know how often though- if it’s less than once a week for a popular and highly used site, it’s not enough and you will need to figure out a way to get this set up on your own. There are many services that do this for a small fee (some even will do it for free) such as http://site-vault.com, http://siteautobackup.com, http://website2backup.com/automatic.html, and many, many more. (Do a search on “website backup” on Google to find out more of these services). Alternatively, if you use Drupal, you could use the Backup and Migrate module or, if you use WordPress, the EZPZ One Click Backup plugin. The point is that no matter what type of site you have, there is no reason that you shouldn’t have an automatic backup running! Making sure that your load times are reasonable is a good next step in the maintenance of your website. If your load time is poor, you will lose traffic and negatively affect your SEO ratings as well. No one wants to visit a website that takes forever to load and the longer it’s been since the website was optimized, the slower it will load. There are many things that can slow down the load time of your website such as total of individual HTML/PHP/CSS files to load, the number of pictures and animations, the total numbers of scripts, etc. (You can check your load time at http://www.websiteoptimization.com/services/analyze/). It’s important to make sure that you have as few files as is needed for the site to function properly and that you make use of caching tools when you are using a CMS based site (due to the large number of files used in CMS sites). For Drupal, there is a cache tool built in under Site Performance and the ImageCache module. In WordPress, you could use the WP Super Cache plugin. Using these caching tools will greatly improve your load times and keep your site from being sluggish for penalized in SEO rankings. Site security checks should be done regularly. It is easy for hackers to insert malicious scripts into websites and this can hurt your site’s reputation both for users and in SEO rankings. For that reason, if you are using any sort of CMS, you should have anti-spam measures enforced. As annoying as those fields requiring you to enter the code seen are, they are your first line of defense from spam or malicious code. WordPress comes with Akismet, a spam checking plugin and many Drupal modules will come with spam prevention filters built-in. If you suspect that you have a malicious script on your site, you can run a checker at http://www.avg.com.au/resources/web-page-scanner/ to see if you have been hacked. If you have FTP access, you can also make sure that your site files do not have write access allowed for all users. When using a CMS, it is very important that you can regularly run scheduled events, many of which help keep your site from breaking or help keep streamed content up to date. If you use Drupal or WordPress, you can use modules or plugins to make sure that this happens regularly. Drupal offers modules (such as Poor Man’s Cron) as does WordPress (WP-Cron Dashboard). If you don’t have a CMS (or prefer to go the old fashioned way), you could always configure cron to run directly on the server (or have your web administrator configure it for you). Another function of cron is that it will normally check for updates for these systems. Updating your site files (when using a CMS) is also important. This keeps your system up to date in case you need to update your content or functionality and it helps close security holes that may be found in the code of the CMS. Generally, WordPress and Drupal will both notify you if you need to update your core files. You can opt to do this but ALWAYS MAKE SURE YOU HAVE A CURRENT BACKUP OF YOUR SITE BEFORE HAND. You will also need to update all of your modules/plugins to the latest versions (or find suitable replacements if there is no compatible version for the new core files). Updating your content is also important. Without new relevant written content, users will have no reason to visit your site more than once and you will not gain traffic. It will also negatively affect your SEO rankings, which favor sites that are regularly updated. This is the quickest and easiest way to make sure that your site is maintained. Check your site reports for anomalies. This will allow you to see how the site is doing and clue you in if there are any problems. Reporting is built into Drupal and you can install useful plugins to report to you on WordPress (such as Graphical admin report). You can also easy set up and manage reporting from Google Analytics which gives you loads of useful information and can be set up to automatically email you a report at a set time interval. While many of the maintenance tasks above require some understanding of websites and web development, most are easy enough for end-users to set up on their own. If you want to maintain your site but don’t have the time, you could always hire us to do it or set up the reoccurring tasks for you. We can also help you understand what needs to be done to have your website running in tip-top shape.