Small business owners tend to think that once their website
is built, the job is done. They rarely look at the site critically again until
it is time for an overhaul several years later.
Smart Business spoke with Steven Vicinanza, Ph.D., CEO of
cloud computing provider BlueWave Computing LLC, for some tips on how to keep
the customer Web experience crisp and fresh.
Why is website maintenance important?
When your website falls into disrepair, customers come away
with a feeling that your company is not on top of its game. Especially in
service industries, delivering a quality Web experience can mean the difference
between winning and losing business. Why take a chance? Keeping a website in
good repair is a simple matter of putting a routine maintenance program in
What is the biggest issue with website maintenance?
The No. 1 issue with website maintenance is out of date
information. Forget about the fact that the last press release on the site is a
year or two old. I’m talking about the basics. A company moves to a new office,
yet the old address is still listed on the website. Pages showing discontinued
products or referencing personnel who no longer work at the company are other
Errors like that don’t put your firm in its best light, and
when a prospect shows up for a meeting at your old office, it won’t be fun
explaining that your site has the old address. So the first step in Web
maintenance is verifying that all information is current.
I often see ‘Page Not Found’ errors. Is that a
maintenance issue, as well?
Let’s say you have a page about a discontinued product and
as part of the maintenance you remove that page. You may not realize that there
are other links around that point back to that page. So now, when visitors
click on one of those they now get a ‘Page Not Found’ error message in place of
the missing page.
Even if your site has not changed at all, you may still have
bad links. Your website may have links that point to pages on other people’s
sites. If one of those other sites changes the location of a page, image or
file that you are linking to from your page, you will have an instant bad link.
Here are some of the ways a link can be bad:
pointing to sites that cannot be reached (no such site)
pointing to valid sites but with pages that cannot be reached
pointing to pages that are found but never load (timeout)
that point to pages that are found but are restricted by security
That’s why it’s important to check out the integrity of your
site’s links on a regular basis. If your site is small, you can do this by
opening your home page and following every link to ensure they are all working
as expected. For larger sites, manually checking can be tedious and error prone
so it’s best to use some type of automated tool. Google’s free online Webmaster
Tools are a good starting point. One of those tools is a site checker that
crawls through your site to identify any broken links.
Some pages seem to take a long time to load. Why is that?
We’ve all experienced frustratingly slow websites so you
already know what a turn-off that is for your clients and prospects. Why lose
business unnecessarily because of slowness that can be easily remedied?
There are many reasons why your site may be slow to load.
The most common include:
scaled image files
designed Web application
or host site network congestion
Some of these are intrinsic to your site design and static.
Others are dependent on server load, visitor traffic or network bandwidth and
change over time. Unless you are monitoring your site’s performance, you will
not be aware of these issues until it has already impacted your business. Here
at BlueWave Computing, we use specialized Web monitoring tools to measure site
responsiveness at five-minute intervals throughout the day. We can also measure
how long it takes each individual object on each page to load. That allows us
to find the bottlenecks and optimize the page load times.
How important is security on the website?
Every site connected to the Internet is prone to malicious
attacks. Whether hackers are looking to steal data, transmit viruses to your
visitors or just share their pirated videos with the world, you want to keep
them off your server. To do that, have a qualified professional regularly
review the site’s security settings and check the Web logs to ensure only authorized
areas and data on your site are being accessed.
By instituting a routine maintenance procedure that
incorporates these items, you’ll keep your site working like new and your
clients, prospects and other visitors will come away with the best possible
impression of your site and, hence, your company.
Steven Vicinanza, Ph.D., is CEO of BlueWave Computing LLC.
For more information, visit www.bluewave-computing.com.