Christmas and the New Year are now well behind us, the Vernal Equinox has passed and the days are starting to get noticeably longer – leaving work before the sun sets is a sure sign that spring is upon us. So with the new season blooming it’s a good opportunity to take a fresh look and spring clean your website.
First, a “quick” review
How did your website do last year? Did it perform well? Was it fast enough? Did it load quickly? Did you get a lot of visits? Did your users interact, share content, pick up the phone and call you or place an order?
By taking a good look at all your reporting tools and stats packages you’ll be able to see what’s working and what isn’t. Which parts of our website can you leave alone, is there any content that needs canning and which elements of your website need more attention?
Once you’ve analysed all the data then you’ll be in a great position to make decisions on which parts of your website to tackle.
If it’s not immediately obvious, then let’s run down this list to see where we can help spring clean your website…
1. Look at Your Web Hosting
We’re talking about spring cleaning here so we’re not talking about looking for a new content management system for you. We know that having to move your content from a MODx or Joomla website to a new WordPress or Nopcommerce platform is more than just a spring clean so let’s leave that for another time.
But the next most important bedrock of your web presence is the hosting you use. We say bedrock because your choice of hosting really is the foundation for your website. Do you know if your hosting goes down occasionally? Do you use an uptime monitor to see if the server times out when you’re not looking?
Or how about the site has bottlenecks or even “falls over” when you get surges in traffic? We’ve seen this in the past and the most important decision you can make is to find a reliable web host and a server configuration that suits your needs.
So often we see websites that are on a “cheap” virtual or shared server but the traffic demands a service from a dedicated box. Even these can be misconfigured so you should really have a server solution that meets the demands of your visitors. Bigger RAM, faster drives, more bandwidth, physical firewalls, encrypted backups, caching etc. etc. These can all help your website perform better.
We’ve run speed tests on all the websites we’ve ever dealt with and the one choice that makes the biggest difference straight off the bat is speccing up the right web host. One option we use here at Clever Marketing is a hosting service that is optimised for WordPress websites. If you’re already running a WordPress website we can migrate your old version to the new platform, test it and migrate it in the space of just a few hours, dependent on the size and complexity of your website. The difference in speed and security is noticeable.
If you need help selecting the right hosting for your website then please ask – we’ll be happy to assist.
2. Get On a CDN
Once you have the right hosting solution, with it’s speed optimisations, gzip compression and built-in security features such as encrypted backups, firewalls, load balancing etc, you’ll want to make sure that you’re using a Content Distribution Network otherwise known as Content Delivery Network or CDN.
CDNs have two main benefits:
They make your website faster by caching pages and then delivering them from a server closest to where your user is viewing your site from.
CDNs offer an added layer of protection against Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks. These are cyber attacks where so much “fake traffic” is directed at your website that your server buckles under the load and your website is unavailable. CDNs make your site available by switching where your content is served from.
With a new CDN service you could be adding a spring in the step of your website, especially if you’ve taken up the new hosting option with its benefits too.
3. Get Your CMS Up-to-date
This may sound like an obvious one but we never cease to be amazed by the number of sites that are brought to us and that have not been updated in a while.
WordPress, for instance, has regular core updates. Mostly these are improvements and bug fixes in maintenance updates that seem fairly innocuous but improve your website performance.
However it’s the security updates that are absolutely crucial. Whether it’s a fix for potential SQL injections or a guard against cross-site scripting (XSS) vulnerabilities, securing your site with core updates is strongly advised. CMS vendors want their system to be safe for you and your risk manager would point to the scenarios where you risk data leaks, etc. So it’s better to be safe than sorry, especially with GDPR coming up and the recent news of data leaks making the headlines.
We’ve seen multiple security updates skipped and these leave websites vulnerable to attack so we strongly recommend that if you’re doing the updates yourself that you do so on a regular basis.
If you don’t have the expertise or you don’t have the time then please do let us know – we update websites regularly so that you have the peace of mind to get on with business whilst we take on the revisions for you.
4. Make Sure You Have All the Right Plugins
Again, this might sound like an obvious question but it’s another thing we see daily. We’ve taken over many a contract to run corporate websites only to find that all the basic “must have” plugin settings are missing.
Are you having trouble optimising your site? Did you install an SEO plugin? You moved to a faster host but you noticed that the website speed still needs tweaking? Did you enable GZIP or install the compression and files size optimisation plugin?
There are a number of essential plugins that we like to see installed as standard that we recommend are in place as soon as possible. Only then will your website be truly optimised to run at peak or near peak performance from a technical perspective.
There are also those security plugins that are missing from so many business websites that we are entrusted with. Once they’re in place and configured correctly you may then suddenly receive notifications of all attempts to access your website. The number of attempted logins from all over the world are often quite surprising – you wouldn’t know if you hadn’t installed that plugin to limit login attempts or to secure against brute force attacks.
5. Tighten up Your SEO
Who does your website’s Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)? Was it built with SEO in mind? Is it regularly maintained? Is every new page or post SEO’d?
Again, this is another common issue that we see. Web designers and web developers don’t always build good-looking, speedy and functional websites with SEO in mind. We look at this further in the article What, your Web Designer didn’t SEO your website?!
With our design, development ad digital marketing skills, we insist that SEO/SEM is an integral consideration when building a new platform. So if you’re going to spring clean your website then making sure that your SEO basics are up to scratch is vital.
Once you’ve got all your SEO tools in place, conducted an audit, crawled your website to ensure all your title tags and meta descriptions are in place, images have alt attributes etc then take a good look at the results.
Is anything missing? Is everything within limits? What are the click through rates for your keywords and could better titles and descriptions help increase this? Are you ranking for the right keywords?
If your tighten up your SEO you’ll have a good start to the new season and you can build upon all the other issues we’ve highlighted.
6. Review Your Content
Now that you’ve got your hosting sorted, a CDN to speed up and secure your site, your CMS is updated with the core maintenance and security versions all the latest, most secure plugins and you’ve got your SEO up to scratch, now you can review your content.
As with your SEO work, see which articles are getting the most traffic. Which keywords are driving visitors? Do you have a plan in plan in place to support your existing content? For instance, if you have a website that attracts enquiries for digital marketing, are you still reporting on the latest in the world of search? Are you adding articles showing your readers how to do better at SEM?
By creating and maintaining a content strategy you’ll not only have a focus but also a direction. We draw up our own content strategy docs and post them online, sharing them with our stakeholders and inviting everyone to update the docs when they have new subjects to write about, new blogs published etc.
This gives you a very visual way to see what content you have and then you can conduct a Content Gap Analysis, looking at Google suggested searches, keyword tools etc to find the subjects and keywords to base your new articles on.
Review your content, give it a spring clean and monitor your analytics to see how successful your changes have been.
If you need extra assistance to spring clean your website then Clever Marketing are here to help. As a design and digital marketing agency in Surrey, we work with businesses and corporations across the south east.
We can support you in all the above areas, providing hosting, CDNs, website maintenance, plugin updates, SEO, PPC and content strategies.