We teach you how to care for your site to avoid malicious attacks, drops in speed, and drops in Search Engine visibility… all of which will lose you money.
What’s In This Episode?
- Horror Stories (1:45)
- Increase Your Site’s Security (6:10)
- Boosting Your Site’s Traffic (10:21)
- Optimising User Experience (14:10)
- Actionable Tips (15:48)
Josh: Today we talk about one of the most forgotten aspects of your website, maintenance. Yeah it sounds monotonous, but without care your site is open to malicious attacks, drops in speed and drops in search engine visibility, all of which will lose you money.
Welcome to Creative Juices the show where we help you feel personally confident about your online presence. I’m your host Josh and today I’m joined again, two episodes in a row, by Julian.
Julz: Good to be back again!
Josh: Good to be back. So Jules, I’ve got a situation. I have a website, it looks good, it’s been working for me you know. I’ve been getting clients and sales from it.
Josh: And I’ve been doing that for three years. I haven’t touched you in three years because, you know, it’s working for me. Why would I touch it?
Julz: Three years!!
Josh: Yeah! Why would I even touch that?
Julz: Like what? If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it?
Julz: Ahhhh, yeah bad! Naughty!
Julz: Naughty, naughty, naughty!!
Julz: Why? Well, I mean I think of it this way, right? When was last time you service your car?
Josh: Oh… a few months ago.
Julz: A few months ago. And how often do you service your car?
Josh: Every 10k.
Julz: Okay. And what happens if you don’t service your car?
Josh: It breaks.
Julz: Yeah! So, websites are very, very much the same. But consider the maintenance if you will, or the servicing to be far more regular than a car. But it works in the same kind of analogy if you will.
Josh: Okay, so it’s important to care for a website.
Josh: But you know, I’ve had it for three years, I haven’t noticed anything bad. Tell us a few horror stories.
Julz: Horror stories. There are many. There are many that have come across my desk and have turned into clients because simply they have not maintained their website. And whilst it might appear from a front-end perspective that nothing’s changed there’s a lot going on in the back end, a lot of updates. I mean think about your iPhone, right? How often do you get updates to your iPhone?
Julz: All the time! It’s that little red dot. It’s the same thing that’s happening to websites all the time and if those things aren’t updated, or cared for, or maintained the sites go down. I’ve seen that happen on many, many occasions where a client has reached out and gone ‘I don’t know what’s happened! I haven’t changed anything but my website has crashed, or has gone down, or I’m getting this error, or something has, you know, caused this to stop working all of a sudden, or it’s going really, really slow all of a sudden. What’s happening?’
And so, I log in, or try to log in, gain access. Sometimes I have to do a force back up, go back up into their hosting and renew a backup from when it was working and then trying to get this old version back up and then logging in only to find WordPress hasn’t been updated for a year and a half! And plugins, 15,000 plugins that are all out of date! I saw once, I logged into one just recently where they had two and a half thousand spam comments!!
Julz: Spam comments sitting on their site! And you should have seen this stuff!! I mean it’s the perfect gateway for malicious malware to get implanted on your website! And I was like wow! That was a record for me. I took a screenshot.
Josh: How do you miss that? So many red notifications. It’s because you don’t login to maintain it!
Julz: Yeah, yeah probably. One thing on that, I think that there’s this misconception that websites are just set and forget. A lot of people, I find that there are clients that come to us, they’ve gone, you know, I’ve had this website made and it’s almost like a one-time transaction. And the designer so if it’s a designer or developer has just built this and then handed me the keys and I’ve done nothing about it. It’s just not set and forget. These days it’s sort of like parking car in the garage and never looking at it again.
Josh: Yeah exactly! See I remember I owned an old school Land Rover. I used to park this Land Rover out the front of the house every single day and it was parked there, I didn’t really use it that much, but because we are near an ocean, a lot of salt in the air…
Josh: I came out one day and realized that the salt had literally eaten through the bottom of the car.
Julz: There you go!
Josh: There was a hole in it! I didn’t touch it, I didn’t remove it, and the thing about not maintaining your site is that while you’re not touching your site WordPress is still updating this.
Josh: Google is still updating algorithms. Everything’s still changing!
Julz: Every plugin, every bit of software. There’s still activity taking place.
Josh: Yeah, and so if you sit there with your website and not do anything about it, you’re going to open yourself up to security vulnerabilities.
Julz: Yeah for sure!
Josh: Drops in speed because, well your sites just being bloated by all of this junk and you will slip into search engine obscurity.
Julz: And then panic kicks in because you’re not making any money from your website, and then the pressure comes onto us, and it’s like okay it’s not our fault but we’ll fix it for you. And you know so websites going down a costly all around.
Josh: And you don’t want to wait until your website is down. You don’t want to wait until your exhaust system falls off your car. You don’t want to wait until the salt in the air eats through the bottom of your car. You want regular care, regular maintenance. And so, there are three reasons why you should care for your site, and the first one is increased security.
Julz: Yeah well straight off the bat, I mean keeping things up to date as we know, they do these updates for a reason. And often it’s because hackers or people that are trying to access your site, they’ve found portals or ways through plugins or through other methods. And so, what the software developer is doing is going okay I’ve identified the risk factor here and I’m going to do an update here to reduce that so that the security would be increased and no vulnerabilities would take place.
Josh: Yeah. Those kind of updates happen for plugins, they happen for WordPress itself.
Josh: It happens for PHP, all these things!
Julz: They can be every two or three days sometimes particularly if there’s a major update around that time. I noticed that particularly in core updates like WordPress or any PHP updates and things like that, everything is a chain effect. So, one week it might be zero, two days later there might be a WordPress update and then literally within the next two or three days, it’s like dozens and dozens of updates and it’s like wow!
Josh: Overwhelming! The other thing about security is also comments. Like you said that you logged into this site, it has thousands of these spam comments.
Julz: Of yeah!
Josh: Even if they’re not spam comments, even if they’re comments of people, I don’t know, soliciting their services, if you don’t maintain them, if you don’t delete those or approve the good ones, it doesn’t even affect the actual site itself but it also affects the user experience. Because a user’s reading your blog and they see all of this spam it gives a bad look.
Julz: It does give a bad look and you know like I know that you’ve got to approve that spam or approve the comments but it also, like you said, if you’re not checking it then there is also potential missed opportunity in that because somebody might have genuinely commented on your blog and it’s just fallen in amongst the array of 2,000 spam comments.
Julz: And it does also affect the ranking. So, if you’re getting targeted by a ton of spam there’s probably a good reason for that.
Josh: And one thing about that is that if let’s say a BOT has targeted you and found a vulnerability and exposed that by like posting heaps of spam comments, it also pings a whole load of every other BOT that just draws it in and suddenly you have two, two-and-a-half thousands spam comments which are bloating the back-end of your site…
Julz: As well as hosting…
Josh: As well as the front-end. It’s pushing your hosting and in fact that kind of leads to the next malicious thing which is bad BOTS.
Julz: There’s naughty BOTS!
Josh: Explain our situation with bad BOTS Julian.
Julz: We have experienced this a couple times. I think every web developer, if they were honest, has come across the experiencing bad BOTS and it’s kind of like think of a good BOT like Google. Google’s a good BOT. You want that BOT to crawl your website and see it. Other BOTS, you mentioned the other day that there’s other BOTS that are crawling your website to gather information and things like that. Bad BOTS yeah…
Josh: They’re malicious!
Julz: Yeah, they’remalicious. They don’t have good intentions. They don’t benefit your site in any way and they’re trying to suck out things from your website.
Josh: And we’ve seen bad BOTS that have maxed out people’s servers.
Julz: Yeah for sure!
Josh: And so, we go in the back-end of this server and you see a spike and suddenly 54,000 hits to this one page happened in a millisecond and then it crashed this person’s server. There’s bad BOTS like that.
Julz: Naughty BOTS!
Josh: Yeah! Naughty BOTS! And so, without maintaining or caring for your website it opens it up for vulnerability.
Julz: Yeah for sure.
Josh: So, number one reason why, is to increase your security. Number two, it boosts site traffic.
Julz: Yeah for sure! So, I mean like as your car would respond to a good service Google responds to a service of your website as well. So, it can see that your site’s up to date. It’s got all the current, you know, PHP files and the current WordPress and the current everything is up to date. And you’re on it, you’re regularly maintaining it and things like that. It can see, okay we can trust this website to send searchers there as well. It’s not going to be an issue for our customers to be going to their website.
Josh: Yeah, just like one of the best strategies for ranking in organic SEO is consistent content, pushing out consistent content. It’s the same as consistent maintenance to your site. Every time you update your site to the correct WordPress update, every time you even update the content on specific pages. As you maintain that, Google sends their good BOT and they recognize, oh something’s changed here. That’s good. And the more consistently you maintain or update something on your website, Google actually sends more and more BOTS to rank better and it’s fresh. Google wants to present fresh content to people.
Julz: Yeah! I mean it’s actually a great opportunity as well, speaking of content, because it’s like at that time if you’re going to go in and maintain and update your website it’s a good opportunity to see, is my content really up to scratch in terms of SEO? So, you might not be on it as much as say we are because we’re monitoring our clients’ sites hourly, let’s put it that way. But if you’re logging in, say every month is probably… I wouldn’t push it any longer than that. At that point it’s a good opportunity just to go okay what needs a freshen up? Is there anything that I could improve or is there anything that I could do to help my website, just so that it doesn’t get de-ranked or you know anything that’s…. maybe if there’s been an algorithm change or something.
Josh: Yeah and to put it into context about how regular you check it, Google updates their algorithm, it can be up to 600 times a year Some of them are major ones that they document and some of them are unconfirmed. An example is one of the more recent updates, it’s an unconfirmed one, and it actually gained the nickname Fred. What happened is this update caused widespread damage to a whole load of sites with short articles and keywords stuff, content, and we actually saw this in one of our client’s sites as well. And if we weren’t consistently checking that we wouldn’t have the opportunity to rectify that and fix it. And because we were checking it so often, we were able to minimize the risk of losing too much traffic.
Julz: Yeah, that impact.
Josh: And so, monitoring these kinds of updates in Google Analytics it’s very important!
Josh: So not just maintaining the site but also keeping an eye on it through Google Analytics.
Julz: Yeah! For sure! And also if you’re using your search console, I know that’s a developer tool, that’s another way through the performance dashboard there. Your developer would know about it at least and that’s a surefire way to see if there’s an issue with your website.
Josh: Definitely! And so, reasons you should care for your site, number one increased security. Number two, it boosts your site traffic and number three it optimizes the user experience.
Julz: Yes, it does! I mean, like you mentioned before, not maintaining or not updating things, it can cause those issues, slow things down affecting that speed side of things or even crashing it like we talked about as well. But you know, it can slow your site down which of course affects user experience. If it’s not loading correctly, or fast, or whatever then yeah, it’s just creating that poor user experience.
Josh: Yeah! Conversion rates fall by 12% for every extra second that it takes your website to load. Crazy! And so, as well as affecting the speed, again, it’s like what we were saying that if someone goes into a blog post and see lots of spam comments it reflects badly on you.
Julz: Yeah it does!
Josh: So, the three things of why you should take care of your site again is increased security, it boosts your site traffic, and it optimizes the user experience.
Julz: Yeah! You know, probably the other aspects of it is the back-end. You want to have a really reliable host. There’s a lot of self-hosted WordPress that offer that, updating and things like that, but you want to get a repeatable one for sure, somebody that knows what they’re doing, somebody who’s really in the space of, you know, caring for the service side of the site as well, because at the end of the day, like we mentioned in the other podcasts, it is the core foundation for your site. That’s what it sits on.
Josh: Most definitely! And so, some actionable tips is to find yourself a great host.
Josh: And I guess, there’s not really many other actionable tips other than you should be updating your WordPress, you should be updating your PHP, and you should be updating your plugins.
Julz: Yeah! But be careful with that because the last thing that you want to do, if you haven’t updated your website in three years, I’ve seen this happen before where someone’s gone oh I can see that there’s some updates here, select all, hit update and the site crashes. It just can’t handle it you know. Proceed with caution when doing web updates! If you don’t know what you’re doing, get a professional to do it!
Josh: Yeah! And if you can, make sure you make a back-up.
Julz: Yeah! For sure! Every time!
Josh: Before major updates.
Josh: Because even if it’s just some of the WordPress updates come out and it may break certain elements of your site.
Julz: Yeah, I’ve seen it!
Josh: And then along the lines of security, we would recommend an anti-spam plug-in called Akismet as well as security. Now security is great!
Julz: Cool! I like security because if you are one of these people that haven’t updated your site this is probably one of the first steps too, is to copy your URL. Security have a testing tool, we’ll put a link in in the blog below, where you can go copy your URL, paste it into security and they’ll actually test the site to see if there has been any malware that’s come in because the last thing you want to do is do all these updates and still have malicious stuff on your website without knowing it. So, security does a great job at testing that and they’ve got an awesome service as well that can go in and remove it.
Josh: Yes, so we will link that in the show notes. The other thing that I will link is a blog from moz.com. It’s titled “How to avoid an SEO disaster when changing your website”. And again when you update your website it has the potential to change how Google ranks and crawls your website. And so, you want to minimize the risk of losing traffic. So that blog is great. It is big but it’s great!
And so that’s it for today. Thank you so much for listening. I guess one last thing that I will say is that we do, at Newcastle Creative Co, we do offer care plans which help with the maintenance of your website and we do have an upcoming course that teaches you how to maintain your and care for your website correctly. But I will make a note that our care plans, that there are limited spots, so you can apply for it but again, it’s not guaranteed that we’ll be able to take you on.
And that’s it for this episode. Next week we chat about why websites don’t rank in Google and also, how you can start ranking better. So, I’m excited for that one. It’ll be good!
Julz: Awesome! No worries! Thanks.