By: Susan DeMatei
Maintenance is an important and often overlooked part of having a website. Which is odd because you spend a great amount of effort on maintaining other aspects of your life and business. You go to the gym and the doctor to maintain your health; you repair and clean your house, your car, and your yard; at work, your tasting room, Wine Club, and your wine education or tasting senses are all given careful attention to make sure they are kept in shape. Why, then, do we expect to set up our website and then let it sit? Websites need to be maintained, too.
Your website is your front door to the entire world. Will customers or the trade find broken links, missing images, or an insecure page––or will they not even arrive at your website due to poorly tagged pages, making it impossible to find it on a search engine?
The bad news? The internet, software, hardware, and browsers are constantly changing. But the good news is there are lots of plugins and systems out there to keep your website up to date and healthy. Here are 5 areas you should focus on when maintaining your website.
This may seem like it goes without saying, but if your website doesn’t use the proper, up-to-date security measures, your website will suffer. First, search engines will likely put you near the bottom of a list of search results or not even display your site. Second, a scary warning can appear where your website should be strutting its stuff.
Security is especially important if you have a WordPress site. WordPress powers over a third of the internet today. Because of sheer volume and the number of WordPress websites online, it’s the most hacked content management system on the web.
You should set up a routine schedule for removing malware, scanning for viruses or hacks, removing spam blog or product comments as well as spam signups to your mailing list. And don’t forget to monitor your SSL certificate to let purchasers know that you are safe to enter credit cards. Nothing says “don’t buy wine here” like a big security warning.
You may not realize this, but on many mainstream platforms, including WordPress, there isn’t an automatic backup feature that you can just revert to if your website gets hacked, corrupted, or damaged.
This happens more likely than you think. Sometimes plugin updates can cause irreparable damage to the design. Other times, there’s human error when that new marketing intern deletes all your trade assets by accident.
It is up to you to back up your files. Luckily, there are many tools on the market that can do this automatically.
Whether your website is five pages or 30 pages, it can be easy to miss a broken link buried on your website. If the broken link is to your ecommerce store, it’s like having a malfunctioning door to your tasting room. Even if nothing is broken, if you don’t have a proper “continue shopping” link in your cart or checkout, you could lose the customer with their frustration. Maybe the link is minor and doesn’t lead to the store, but a broken link says you’re not paying attention, so why should your customers?
Again, routine maintenance should look for achieved products, employee bios, vineyards, vintages, distributors, events, or anything on your site that may be out of date and driving to a dead link.
Google is the most widely used search engine and now processes over 70,000 search queries every second, on average; which translates to well over 5 billion searches per day and closer to 2 trillion searches per year, worldwide. By 9:30 am on any given day there have been 2.5 billion searches on Google, globally. Your winery is in there, somewhere, you just have to help people find it.
Search Engine Optimization doesn’t have to be overly complex. It’s primarily made up of tagging pages and images with keywords so Google can read them, and submitting the site and the sitemap to Google to index. The maintenance of these items requires checking that new pages and images are described and indexed. There are a number of tools on the market that will help identify and flag if a new page is missing tags, or if something is out of date.
There has been a lot in the news lately about ADA compliance, mostly coming from several lawsuits being brought against some wineries on the East Coast. The goal of this exercise is to make sure that everyone has equal access to the content on your site, including those with visual or mobility impairments.
Being compliant for something like ADA can be tricky and until the law has even more clear guidelines, it may be hard to be 100% compliant. But there are a number of ways to be accommodating for web visitors with disabilities. Think of it as very rigorous SEO: The requirements for being ADA Compliant cover tagging a large portion of your content, images, and overall accessibility. I would not recommend you try and tackle this on your own. There are scans and specific tasks required, like scripting to close modal windows, and tested functionality with the site text increased up to 200%. It is something your designer should look into. But once done, it needs to be maintained with each new image or block of text. The good news is, not only does it benefit your customers with disabilities, but it benefits your website functionality overall.
Ongoing maintenance doesn’t have to be a brain-teaser. If you consider the investment you put into your website and the sales you get out of it, then finding an agency with a maintenance package or setting up a series of plugins to manage these areas seems like a no-brainer.
Susan DeMatei is the President of WineGlass Marketing, a full-service direct marketing firm working within the wine industry in Napa, California. www.wineglassmarketing.com