18 Aug ‘18
Website Maintenance Plan: 5 Essential Components
18 Aug ‘18
In: Content Management Systems (CMS), Marketing, Search Engine Optimization (SEO), Web Design & Development, / By: Chris Simental
One of my favorite quotes about planning is “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” That might sound a bit harsh, but there are times when, in hindsight, it is absolutely true. And when it comes to website maintenance, not having a plan is a very risky … uh … plan.
The thing about websites is, unlike the legendary Showtime Rotisserie, once you build it, you cannot just set it and forget it.
This is actually a common mistake we see companies make with their digital presence. Whether they spend a lot or a little on creating a website, they think launch day is the end of all the work and that sales and leads will just keep pouring in forever.
And then what happens? The site eventually starts looking outdated, which starts to impact the company’s credibility. Or maybe the site starts loading slowly because of outdated code or compatibility issues. Or worse, there could be security gaps that leave a door open for hackers.
Some companies go months, even years before they realize their website has stopped helping their business. In some cases, a slow or outdated website can actually hurt a business.
Once the company realizes the site needs to be updated, it can often be a difficult task just to find the passwords and server logins. This can especially be troublesome if the person who had all the knowledge left the company.
All of the above could easily be avoided with a solid website maintenance plan.
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5 Essentials of a Website Maintenance Plan
1. Routine Website and Server Maintenance
The core of any maintenance plan should be the actual maintenance of your website and the server on which it lives. And by that I mean regular maintenance, not just fixing things when a problem arises.
Depending on how your website is built, these tasks will vary. With WordPress or any other out-of-the-box CMS, updates will need to be done fairly frequently—especially security updates. With a custom or proprietary CMS, there will still be occasional updates and optimizations that should be performed to keep things looking and running their best.
The “routine” part of this is really the key. Unless you have a dedicated IT staff in-house, you need someone to keep an eye on things, stay up to date on the latest software releases, and spring into action proactively to avoid any website issues. Having a monthly website maintenance agreement with a web design agency will give you the peace of mind to never have to even think about these things—they’ll have it covered.
2. Digital Marketing Assistance
If you don’t have digital marketing covered in-house, it’s a great idea to have the web design agency add this to their monthly tasks.
This is where you can can get a lot of value out of a monthly agreement, because there is always something to be done for digital marketing. Whether it’s writing or updating website copy, maintaining social media profiles, or launching complex campaigns to increase your leads, a digital marketing agency can fill any gaps where your team lacks the resources.
This highlights the consultative nature of an agency retainer. Digital marketing is seldom an instant-gratification type of activity—it can sometimes take months to see results. The longer you work with an agency, the better they can make sense of the data they collect and help you make smarter decisions about your strategy.
3. Analytics, Reporting, and Analysis
Speaking of data, how much time do you have in a day to analyze Google Analytics and see what’s working and what isn’t?
There are many analytics available, and they all generate tons of data. It’s easy enough to glance at top-level stats and see how many people are visiting your site each month, but how long are they staying? What pages are they visiting the most? The least? What’s the behavior flow from point A to point B to point C? Where are the dead ends where they leave your site, and do they ever return?
This is another strategic advantage of having a long-term agreement with an digital marketing agency. Not only can they gather data and present it to you in a human-readable report each month, but they can also sit down with you and help you interpret it. And, based on the findings, they can set a plan in motion to make…
4. Continuous Improvements
Back to the Showtime Rotisserie for a moment. First of all, I absolutely L.O.V.E. rotisserie chicken. One of the reasons it’s so delicious is that it cooks at a steady temperature for a long amount of time, all the while spinning at a steady rate. Food tastes better the longer it’s left to simmer, integrating all the flavors and ingredients. Websites, on the other hand, can go stale fairly quickly.
Based on what I’ve covered so far in this article, it should start becoming clear that your site should actually be in a constant state of evolution. As you pull more visitors in through marketing campaigns and uncover more insights about their behavior via analytics, you will be able to identify areas that can benefit from improvement.
For example, are visitors going to your homepage and then immediately dropping off? It could be because the site’s navigation isn’t clear enough, or maybe there aren’t strong enough calls to action. Or perhaps business is booming and your staff is struggling to keep up with all the inquiries. Or, maybe you’re considering adding an e-commerce component to your site.
Someone is going to have to make these changes. If you have an agreement with an agency who is involved in all the other activities, they will know exactly what to do with any new requests.
Of course, even with all of the monitoring and security measures in the world, stuff happens. It could be anything from a server glitch that corrupts your customer database or human error that accidentally takes half of the site down after trying to do an update.
In a situation where you don’t have a monthly agreement with a marketing agency and have to find someone to help you on an hourly basis, you run the risk of them taking too long to get up to speed. And you may have to wait in line behind other projects and priorities.
On the other hand, when you have an ongoing agreement with an agency, there should be specifics built into your contract regarding how emergency fixes are handled. This could mean that you get top priority when/if something suddenly breaks. Or, they may already be monitoring your site 24/7 and start working on issues before you even have time to pick up the phone!
Consider a Retainer
It’s understandable that, usually, when people hear the word “retainer” they think about lawyers. As it relates to marketing agencies, the concept is similar, but the deliverables are different.
When you retain the services of a web maintenance agency, you basically pay upfront each month for a set amount of hours that can be used in any number of ways, defined by the contract. This can be an attractive option since, for a fraction of the cost of a full-time employee, you can supplement your internal team with several experts.
You could, instead, opt for an hourly arrangement where you only pay for the time spent executing individual tasks here and there. But that assumes you have the tech savvy and the time to handle everything else that good maintenance requires, which can be hard to come by.
With a website maintenance retainer, you unlock a number of benefits:
- You’ll have a team of experts working for you who know your business and goals inside and out
- You’ll have priority support and fast response times
- The team will have legacy knowledge of everything that has been done or tried before
- You’ll have a strategic, consultative relationship—a larger team means more ideas
- All work will be results-driven, not task-driven
Since retainers are a long term relationship, the agency you work with will amass a deeper understanding of your goals and needs. They will be better equipped to offer suggestions and steer you toward the best results. Familiarity will lead to more informed recommendations over time.
Retainers also help you budget more consistently because you know exactly how much you’ll be paying each month. Compare this to hoping a single task you request won’t take 2x or 3x longer than expected under an hourly arrangement.
As a digital agency that offers website maintenance services and often works on retainer, Ripe understands the hesitation when considering such arrangements. We know it is hard to predict the future—how do you know that the money you pay each month will actually be used? What if there are a few months where you don’t need anything from your agency?
Well, any respectable, reputable agency will be results-driven to make sure they’re adding value and will respectfully “roll over” any unused hours monthly or quarterly.
Creating and executing an ongoing website maintenance plan can seem daunting. But weigh that against the time and money (and possibly sweat and tears) that you may spend trying to fix things after a major website crash. Or worse, the impact of allowing your site to go stale and stop generating leads.
When it comes to peace of mind, having a retainer agreement with a website maintenance agency can be a beautiful thing. When you hire an agency to own the regular maintenance of your website, you’re not just retaining their time, you’re also retaining all of their collective wisdom, experience, and support. In addition to taking care of the technical stuff that may be over your head, you’re also gaining additional team members to fill any expertise gaps you may have. And a great agency (like Ripe) will always be willing to offer recommendations to keep your website headed in the right direction instead of letting it gather dust.
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