So you have a gorgeous new website, congratulations! Your staff and stakeholders have helped refine the content and navigation with feedback and at long last it has gone live.
You can’t stop there, unfortunately.
In order to stay relevant and continue to attract customers, clients, donors it will need to stay fresh. In order to keep from getting hacked, it will need to be backed up and the software running it must be kept up to date. In order to attract the people you want to visit, the ones who will use your site as you hope they will, you will need to not only get your site search engine optimized, but keep it that way.
This all will take regular activity, by you and your staff, or by a specialist you hire.
Here are some tasks to plan (and budget) for to keep your investment in your new website productive.
1 Backing it up and keeping the software up to date and secure
A web server is not like your computer where you can avoid upgrading software to the latest version for years. A website is exposed to the internet and attacked daily by potential hackers. The developers of the software your website runs on usually update that software whenever a security vulnerability is found and exploited, to shut them out and if you don’t apply those updates your site will be at risk. There are two way to protect your website from this issue. The first is to make regular backups so that if anything happens you can delete the damaged copy and replace it with a backup. The second way is to make sure your site is always using the latest version of the software it needs. Fortunately, most of this software is free to update, and programs like wordpress can be set to automatically update to the latest versions. This comes with some risks however, because sometimes conflicts emerge between the updated versions of the software.
When I perform this maintenance work for my clients, I review all the updates manually, to minimize the chance of this happening and to be prepared to identify which of several software pieces are the source of the conflict and then roll back or troubleshoot changes if necessary. If you don’t have the budget for professional oversight, you can set all your software to update itself automatically, but you will need to budget for trouble-shooting services when there are conflicts. This is still much better than being hacked, particularly if your website contains a web store or other mission critical and continually updated content. For technical oversight and backup services provided externally, expect to budget between $40-100 per month depending on the services or complexity. If someone does this internally, you will need to budget for initial set up of the automatic updates and backup, and then a contingency budget with an IT specialist if problems emerge beyond what your staff can handle.
2 Posting new information on your site at least monthly
This can be as simple as adding your newsletter ( formatted as html and not a pdf for best results) to a news section of your site, adding pictures from your latest events or achievements with a brief description containing words that will be relevant to your customers’ searches. If you have someone in your organization already doing this work internally or for social media, you can likely repurpose this content by adding it to the site regularly. It doesn’t have to be perfect, but it does have to be steady and reliable. If you have several pieces to add, space them out by a few days between each rather than posting them in a big batch. If you have an event coming up, posting a small amount of information each day leading up to the event is far better than posting it all at once at the beginning of the month. If you have a newsletter with several stories in it, post all of those stories individually, over the course of several days or weeks instead of just posting them all at once. This should take an internal person an extra couple of hours a month to repurpose and post existing content, longer if they need to research and write new content for this purpose.
If your website is a major sales tool, or you want it to be, a more elaborate strategy might be better. You can hire a web content writer if you don’t have the skills or time internally, or can designate a staff member to create weekly search engine optimized and interesting blog entries for your website. Adding new content on a regular, reliable schedule is important, and not doing it is a good way to waste your investment in your new site. Continually fresh content will boost your website’s visibility to customers and clients, because search engines rank fresh content and websites containing fresh content higher. To hire a qualified content writer who will write something on topic for your business that won’t be embarassed for your customers to read, expect to pay $75-200 per post depending on length and level of sophistication. You should be able to re-use this content for newsletters, social media and other publications. A good web content writer will be willing to post the content for you on your website if you have a fairly easy to update site on a software such as wordpress or squarespace.
3 Troubleshooting and training time and money budget
Your web designer may have shown your staff around the basics of updating your websites at the time your site was launched, but may have moved on to other projects and no longer be available when that staff member leaves, or if months have passed and the steps for an infrequently performed task has beeen forgotten. You have some options here – one is to retain a webmaster who will be available to you by phone, email and zoom to do refresher training or fixes as needed. Another option is to document all of the steps involved in common tasks and make sure that documentation doesn’t get lost. A third option is to contract the regular maintenance and content update tasks to someone who you don’t have to pay to keep trained.
Often your web designer will do ongoing tasks like adding newsletters, calendar entries, photos, staff updates and other information changes for you on monthly retainer, and you can just email them the changes you need. This can often be a cost and time effective way to go about it, especially if your staff members with the requisite skills are already busy and needed for other things. I offer an ongoing content and updates retainer package, personalized to the clients needs, at the close of every new design, and am often available to perform this work for other clients as well. It’s a nice way to stay in touch with clients and make sure that their website continues to be useful.
If you have 3-4 small updates per month, you should budget about $100 a month for this service. If you are having someone internal to your company do this work, then expect it to take them and additional 1-3 hours per month, allowing for a learning (and forgetting) curve and staff turnover adjustments.
Planning Pays Off
I hope these tips will help you budget for keeping the investment you have made in your website productive.
Sophia Kelly is a highly experienced WordPress website developer based in Vancouver, BC, Canada. Call 604-813-7674 or email now to get started.
Photo by Fabian Blank on Unsplash