88% of online consumers are less likely to return to a website after a bad experience with it.
And what does a bad experience look like?
The list goes on.
And most of the mishaps above are a result of a neglected website.
If you want your website to generate uninterrupted conversions, you need to maintain it regularly.
“But where do I start?” you ask...
If you’re a business owner with limited website technical knowledge, who also can’t afford to outsource your site maintenance, then this post is for you.
Read on to learn how to keep your website updated and fully functional, so your visitors have a great user experience. You can also download your own Website Maintenance Checklist at the end of this guide.
What Is Website Maintenance and Why Is It So Important?
Website maintenance is the practice of regularly checking your website for issues and errors, as well as keeping it up-to-date and relevant.
You should monitor your website regularly in order to maintain its health, grow your traffic, and strengthen your search engine rankings.
Regular website maintenance includes:
Keeping Your Site Secure
Hackers target websites that have vulnerabilities or security gaps. These vulnerabilities tend to come in the form of outdated plugins and software.
An outdated website also becomes a problem when you want to update something. For example, if you update a plugin that requires your server to be recently updated, but the last time you updated your server was three years ago… a fatal error could occur and your website might crash.
Content management systems (CMS) like WordPress release regular software updates and patches to keep your website up-to-date and secure. It’s important to make sure your website has the most recent version of these updates activated.
Growing Your Site's Traffic
Search engines tend to prioritize websites in their rankings that are updated regularly. Updating your website includes:
Now, these tasks depend on the kind of website you have. So, if your site isn’t content-heavy, there’s no need to focus on adding blog posts on a regular basis. Focus on doing what’s best for your website so you can keep your visitors engaged and interested in your business.
Improving Your Visitor Experience
Regularly updating your site with engaging content such as blog posts, upcoming events, image galleries, and videos encourages your visitors to engage with your content. It also gives them a reason to return to your site regularly and purchase your products.
Maintaining your website regularly also improves site performance and provides your visitors with a safe environment to browse and engage with you in.
A well-maintained website helps you build a brand your customers can trust. It creates a great impression for your site visitors; encouraging them to return and take action.
To make that happen, though, you need to know what to update when.
To help you manage your site upkeep, we put together the following checklist for you — broken down into three maintenance frequencies:
NOTE: Not every task in the following checklist will apply to your website, and there’s no problem with that. Focus on what is relevant to keeping your website updated, safe, and secure.
Perform the following maintenance tasks on a monthly basis.
This list is very important for newly-published websites. As you get used to managing your website, you can modify the frequency of these tasks from monthly to bi-monthly or quarterly as needed.
1. Make Sure Your Pages and Posts Load Properly
First, check how your most important pages (e.g. homepage, sales pages, shop page, most popular blog posts, etc.) load on different devices — on at least 1 desktop device and 1 mobile device minimum.
NOTE: If you don't physically possess multiple devices to run such display checks, you can use Google Chrome's Device Toolbar to do this instead.
Next, you should use PageSpeed Insights to check the load performance scores on these critical pages for both mobile and desktop devices:
Try to address any poor performance issues discovered to boost your scores as much as is feasible.
Finally, confirm that all your links on these critical pages are working properly. You can use the URL Inspection Tool or the Screaming Frog Spider Crawler to help identify broken links. Don’t forget to test the links in your site’s headers, footers, and sidebars, too.
2. Test All Your Contact and Opt-in Forms
Consider the following when testing the functionality of a contact or opt-in form:
If you’ve integrated any 3rd-party tools or services to your forms (like your email marketing platform), make sure to test each connection for proper performance too.
For example, if an automatic email is meant to be sent out directly after a form is submitted, make sure this actually occurs during your test.
Finally, ensure that all form entries are appearing correctly in the destination database.
3. Create a Backup for Your Site
Few things sound scarier than losing ALL your website data. Imagine having to build your website all over again from scratch!
That’s why you need to backup your website regularly.
That way, should your website ever crash unexpectedly, you can easily restore it. The more recent the backup, the better because it means you’ll be able to restore the most up-to-date version of your site.
The easiest backup strategy is to use the one provided by your hosting platform. Most popular hosting services offer a daily automatic backup feature, so avoid those that don't.
Alternatively, you can use a plugin to backup your site. But, for safety reasons, make sure you use a plugin that has a high number of installs and positive reviews like JetPack or BackUp Buddy.
4. Update Your Plugins
Plugins are found in the WordPress Admin dashboard for your website. If a plugin needs to be updated, you'll see a white number inside a red circle on the “Updates” tab, indicating the number of plugins waiting to be updated. It looks like this:
Don’t ignore this alert.
An outdated plugin can cause serious problems for your website - potentially even crashing it.
Save yourself the time - and headache - by updating your plugins on a regular basis.
Updates should always be done manually, followed by thorough site testing to make sure that everything is working as expected.
And before you update your plugins, make sure there’s a recent, working back-up of your website to revert to if needed. Your hosting provider should have a restore function you can activate in one click.
If you’d like to take this monthly maintenance task a step further, then test your updates inside a staging site first before rolling the changes out to your live website.
A staging site is a private copy of your website made for such testing purposes.
With a staging site, you can safely install, update and test plugins to first check if they play nice with the rest of your website. You can learn how to create your own staging environment here.
And please don't forget to update your site's WordPress theme when available — of course the same backup and test advice applies to your theme too! Check out this resource in the Thrive Knowledge Base to make sure you know how to update your website’s theme and plugins safely.
5. Test Your Online Store or Checkout Flow
First, ensure that your customer log-in is working correctly by creating a test user account.
Next, make sure that your product pages are showing the right products, descriptions, and prices. Try adding different products to your cart to ensure they get added correctly.
Tip: If you use a different checkout tool that is not listed here, simply go to the "Resources" section on their website. This is where you'll find documentation on how to test your order process.
Don’t forget to also test any 3rd-party apps integrated with your store.
For example, if you send automated emails triggered by customer actions in your store (e.g. leaving items in the cart, creating an account, purchasing for the first time, etc.), then you should test these triggers are working correctly too.
Nothing's worse than having a site visitor trying to buy, but can't because your store is broken, so make sure to check your checkout flows on the regular!
6. Review Your Website’s Performance
If you use any Thrive Suite plugins, like Thrive Leads, Thrive Quiz Builder, Thrive Optimize or Thrive Apprentice, then you already have access to advanced data reporting dashboards to monitor how visitors interact with your website.
But, if you need to go deeper into the data, using Google Analytics is a great option. Refer to this guide to learn how to set up Google Analytics tracking on your website.
To get started with site analytics, we recommend monitoring the following types of data: Traffic, Leads and Site Speed.
Most analytics tools will provide you with key insights on your website traffic, including:
Google Analytics will also show your site’s bounce rate. This is the percentage rate of visitors who land on your site and leave without taking action (e.g. clicking links, filling in a form, purchasing a product, etc.).
Bounce rates are relative, as they depend on the industry you’re in and what kind of business you run. But if you have a bounce rate of over 50% — especially on your sales and lead generation pages — then you need to focus on improving this metric.
For most online businesses, a lead is anyone who signs up to your mailing list or fills out and submits one of your contact forms. You'll need to monitor the following lead analytics for your business:
First, the quality of your leads is often determined by the percentage of new subscribers who actually become customers — plus how long it took them to convert (e.g. buy a product). If, after a month, few to none of your new leads become paying customers, you must review your funnel strategies to identify what’s not working.
Perhaps you need to adjust where your new leads are coming from. For example, are you driving paid traffic to your website, but don't see them subscribe or buy?
Then you may be targeting the wrong audiences or need to test new angles on your lead generation and sales pages. If you start showing your ads to the right people and conversion optimize your landing pages, you'll see your lead quality improve dramatically.
You must also keep a close eye on your customer acquisition cost (CAC). Calculating that metric requires you add your operational and marketing costs for a given product, and divide that summation over your number of new customers.
So say you're spending $1,000 a month on advertising and $1,000 a month on operations to build, maintain and support your product (including all your monthly business costs like paying your VA and hosting your website). From that investment, you're getting 30 new customers a month as a result. That would mean your CAC is $66.67. If the product you're selling is more than your CAC, then you're making a profit. If it's less, then you definitely need to rework your marketing and funnel strategies.
To help ramp up your lead generation, boost your conversions and lower your CAC, you can use the opt-in form A/B testing feature in Thrive Leads. Use this powerful split testing tool to discover the highest performing form designs so you can rapidly boost your lead quality.
Attention Thrive Architect Users
To A/B test your sales and lead generation pages, use Thrive Optimize.
This add-on to Thrive Architect makes it easy to run conversion boosting split test experiments on any WordPress page. If you haven’t run an A/B test on one of your conversion critical landing pages yet, you should create your first as soon as possible.
Even with a stunning website displaying killer copy, if your pages take forever to load, most of your visitors will bounce before seeing a thing.
And although site speed is usually referring to keeping the search engine algorithms happy, your primary focus should always be to optimize for real humans. There are many factors to consider when improving your website’s load speeds — from optimizing your images to using a quality hosting service.
But if you’re a Thrive Suite user, site speed performance is much simpler because we've done much of the heavy lifting for you.
We built a speed optimization tool into our Thrive products called Project Lightspeed, which can increase the performance of your website and Core Web Vitals scores in a single click:
Perform the following tasks on a quarterly basis.
After three months, your website will definitely need some fresh content. This applies to your blog, sales pages, and lead generation pages.
1. Add New Content to Your Blog
If you maintain a blog, plan your new content over a three month window. A frequently updated blog is an asset to your business because you’re giving your audience fresh content to take in and engage with.
Use engagement data from your previous quarter to identify the parts of your content strategy that are working — as well as the areas that need improvement.
For example, if one of your online courses is making strong sales, you should identify 2 or 3 related blog posts you can publish over the coming quarter to drive more organic traffic to that course.
The new content you plan should be directed towards helping your business meet its goals. These goals can include growing your:
Note to Bloggers
Consider adding video or audio content to your blog posts, to make them more engaging. More engaging organic content usually translates into higher traffic and ultimately more sales.
2. Update and Optimize Existing Sales and Lead Generation Pages
First, read through your landing pages to update any outdated or poor performing copy.
Make sure to keep your lead magnet offers up-to-date and accurate too.
Retire any pages that are no longer relevant. For example, if you’ve stopped offering a certain service, then you’ll want to ensure any landing pages related to promoting that service are retired.
If you’ve added new products to your business, check that the appropriate parts of your funnels have been updated to reflect the new offers. This includes modifying any popups, opt-in forms, and calls-to-action on all your pages.
Note to Content Creators
If you update any headlines or body content in your blog articles, make sure to review the SEO meta titles and descriptions for each post so that the correct info appears in the search engine results pages (SERPs).
3. Answer Your Comments and Delete Any Spam
Unanswered comments or an overload of spam comments can negatively affect your search engine rankings, discourage new readers from commenting, and even compromise the security of your website.
So first, make sure to engage with your legitimate commenters by replying to them as quickly as possible after you first publish content. After your posts and pages age a few weeks, check them on a monthly basis to answer any new comments that appear over time.
Fortunately, your WP-Admin Dashboard makes managing spam comments easy.
Simply head to Settings > Discussion and scroll down until you see the options for accepting and moderating comments. Adjust them as you need to help filter out the spam:
If you have Thrive Comments installed, you can set even more advanced comment moderation options in just a couple of seconds.
To do so, open the Thrive Comments dashboard, scroll down and click the “Comment Moderation” settings tab, then set who can moderate comments as well as what must happen before a comment becomes visible on your posts:
You can also use Thrive Comments' advanced Comment Moderation Feature to manage any Pending, Unreplied, Featured, Spam or Trash comments conveniently from the Thrive Comments dashboard.
Perform the following tasks on an annual basis.
1. Renew Your Annual Subscriptions
Most website hosting subscriptions renew automatically each year, and send you a heads up at least one month before your card on file is debited.
However, it’s good practice to always be aware when your next payment is due because you never want your income-generating website to go down unexpectedly.
The same goes for your domain name, SSL certificate, and premium plugin or tool subscriptions you rely on. Knowing when each service payment is due also helps your business budget its expenses astutely.
2. Review Site Content for Accuracy
A new year means it’s time to update any “date” references with page and post titles. For example, in 2023 you’ll need to update any “Best of 2022” articles to “Best of 2023” in order to maintain relevance.
The same goes for the content in your sales and lead generation pages. If you have any new opt-in offers or products, make sure you’ve updated the respective funnels for each.
Also, don’t forget to retire any pages for products or services you no longer offer.
Note to Content Creators
Lastly, if you’re a Thrive Suite user, you can make use of Global Fields to dynamically change global information (e.g. your company’s name, address, phone number, etc.) across your website, without having to manually update the same content on each and every post or page it’s displayed on.
All you need to do is update these global fields in the Smart Site feature of the Thrive Dashboard and the changes will update across your site automatically.
3. Give Your Website a New Look
Want a new design in the new year? Make it happen!
Thrive Architect makes it easy to upgrade your site design with ease.
That's because our page building plugin now gives you access to ALL of Thrive Theme Builder's Theme Landing Page Template Sets, so adding new homepage or funnel design changes are just a few clicks away.
Watch this video to learn how to use these sets to build landing pages that convert:
Turn This Checklist Into Action
Now, you have everything you need to keep your site safe and up-to-date.
As I mentioned earlier, this might be a lot to take in at first, but as you work your way through the Monthly, Quarterly and Yearly site maintenance checklists, you’ll be surprised to see how routine most of these tasks become.
But most importantly, you’ll build a secure website that captures quality leads and consistently generates ever more conversions for your business — without experiencing any disastrous downtime.
Now that's the mark of a true online business pro!
P.S. Want your own maintenance checklist to make sure your site keeps ticking along like a well oiled machine? Subscribe to our mailing list below and download the accompanying Site Maintenance PDF Checklist: