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Website Maintenance Tips

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Achieve More Website Maintenance With Less Work:
Tips and Techniques For Maintaining Your Website More Effectively and Efficiently Through Task Automation.

Today, many businesses reach clients and deliver services mainly through their websites which has led to an increase in demand for web development and regular maintenance services, costing businesses millions every year.

For example, the Telegraph reported that, the average annual amount spent on the maintenance of a university website is £60,375, while the average spent on website redesign is £60,882.

The good news is that there are effective ways to avoid these high costs. This post highlights key repetitive tasks that can be addressed through planning, task scheduling and automation in order to minimize costs of "website management," while maximizing results. Keep reading to find out how!

5 MAINTENANCE AUTOMATION - TASKS AND TIPS

Here are the 5 tasks that you should automate to maintain your website effectively:

1. Update The Core code and Technology - ensure a secure and healthy site:
Many websites get hacked every day due to the owner/webmaster neglecting to update the core code. You should know that web applications go through continuous development for bug elimination, performance and security. The core code can be set to update automatically any time a new version of your CMS is released.

Module and feature update is equally important for delivering secure and up-to-date technology. For example, if you run a mobile service system, such as employee messaging, it may be time to upgrade it for use with the new 4G service.

2. Manage and Develop The Content:
The process of publishing content on large business websites involves several tasks including writing, reviewing, editing, formatting, updating, organising and categorising (tagging) content. This process (content flow) can be controlled by setting up rules and conditions. Rick Allen, content strategy specialist, explains the pre-requisites for designing content workflow.

While the above applies to large websites and predominantly the e-learning sector, smaller websites and bloggers can ensure that the publishing of content runs smoothly (authoring and moderation) by utilizing their content management system for designing and controlling simple workflow states and assigning actions for state transitions. The CMS is also useful for content that has a lifecycle that can be archived for easy retrieval by certain users or on a specific date.

3. Promote Seasonal Content On The Homepage:
Inner pages will get more exposure and will benefit from internal linking when promoted on the homepage or landing pages. It’s wise to plan your site and structure such pages in a way to allow page promotion without further modification by ascertaining what content, lists and images should be active (shown) when a page is promoted.

For example you could have a big product image for display on the homepage and a smaller image for the inner page. This technique is not limited to university sites, which offer student registration and course modules at the start of each term and where the content promotion is set to expire on a specific date or when a certain condition is triggered. The technique can also be used for automatic HTML re-structuring and header grading on landing pages for seasonal promotion.

4. Follow-up On Your Service
Following up with potential and existing customers is crucial to any business. There are scripts available for automatically sending follow-up e-mails or surveys to customers several days after the order is dispatched, as well as for sending enquiries and persuasive e-mails to those who abandoned their shopping cart or cancelled an order before completing the checkout.

5. Automatic Posting to Twitter
Your CMS can do basic advertising and can initiate conversation for you without any effort from you. For example, a tweet can be posted as soon as a page is saved or as soon as a review is left on your site. The syntax/tokens will look like this: !name left a review on !product !tinyurl.

And by incorporating Livefire you can post both ways by capturing real-time conversations directly on your website from Twitter and Facebook allowing users to engage and reply to dynamic comments from your website. The Livefire module is available for both Drupal and Wordpress.

6. Automate the website backup
Unexpected problems can happen. Occasionally a website can crash, and it can be difficult to discover the cause or fix the problem. Some problems cannot be solved without restoring the website from a previous back-up copy. There are cases of sites that had to be completely re-built because the owner neglected to back up!

Automatic backup (for files and database) is offered on some CMSs, if not, it can be easily added. This is particularly important for growing sites that should not rely on the backup service implemented by the hosting provider. Do you want to implement automatic backup? This post will help you back-up the database to a local or remote server.

Tip for developers: If you have a limited storage space or if you want to save on your cloud charges, schedule an e-mail with a backup attachment to be sent to the client or to a secondary e-mail account. If you send it to a personal Hotmail inbox, make sure it is not placed in the junk folder; otherwise, all backups will automatically be deleted.

Now, that we have covered fully automating important recurring tasks, we can have some fun with the remaining job: maintaining our healthy website.

EXTRA ESSENTIAL MAINTENANCE TASKS AND TIPS

And here are 3 additional website maintenance tips:

1. Utilize Website Reporting And Statistics
Most CMSs today offer varying features for recording and monitoring referrals, giving you useful tracking data such as how visitors arrived to your website and how they moved from page to page. Your CMS can even do a lot more than that. For example, it can watch for broken links and alert you by e-mail when a broken link is spotted, and it can keep an eye on spammy comments, giving real-time protection by automatically blocking them and reporting the spammer. Still, we should not ignore the reporting features offered by Google and Bing.

Do you maintain webmaster accounts offered by Google and Bing? These are important tools that give valuable information presented in text and graphs about your visitors, e.g. the search query they used that brought them to your website, where they are coming from, how much time they spent on each page, which pages were visited frequently, which pages of your site appear on the search engine pages.

This information can be utilized to improve content and met-tags of pages, remove duplicate pages, and improve loading time of a page where necessary. The information can also be used for preparing for the seasonal market. Both Google and Bing will send you an email when there are critical issues with your website.

Alexa provides the demographic information of your visitors including age, sex, income, etc., which can help with marketing decisions. Although this information doesn’t seem accurate to me, it can also be used for short and long-term strategies of maintaining your website.

2. Ensure Attractive And Up-to-date Content
Site visitors expect to find, in a glance, essential information about a product or service you are offering before they seek it on a competitor’s website. Informative writing, accurate information and current prices require constant update, which can be done by researching and benchmarking similar offerings on competitors’ websites.

Text should not include grammatical or spelling mistakes, and documents on the website including policies, phone numbers and contact information, should be up-to-date.

Your offerings (service descriptions) should be supported by press releases, news, and blog posts, as well as with entertaining content. How long a visitor stays on a page is an indication of how informative and interesting it is, and that is why it has become an important criterion of the search engines. Attractive photos and videos can help a visitor stay the longest.

3. Testimonials And Reviews On Your Website
Testimonials, comments and product reviews encourage customers to go for your products and services, and search engines value them, especially when they are posted directly (on-page) and supported by meta-data markup. Don’t show your testimonials section unless there are a handful of comments already posted, visitors don’t like to see an empty guestbook.

Encourage your customers to leave feedback and share their experience every time you deliver them a service. When you receive a complement by letter or email make sure you add it to your website. You may need their consent to use it, so it is always wise to ask first, and of course, remember to thank your customers for their complement.

Your CMS can do the work for you by sending an email asking the customer to leave a review on your website, and by sending a personalised thank you email once they leave a review.

Conclusion - Is Your CMS Serving You Enough?
Actions can be set to fire off when a condition is triggered, and many repetitive tasks can be automated to save us both effort and time. Go ahead and get them out of the way for yourself, let your CMS do the work for you, and focus your energy on serving your unique niche and on being creative. That's how you can maintain a website and help it grow & deliver its goals.

I hope you have enjoyed reading my post. Have you had any experience with utilizing your CMS for workflows, customer follow-ups, content publishing, updates & backups and other tasks, or do you have any special tips that may help others? Please let us know in the comments below!

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Comments

How can I migrate my website from wordpress to blogengine.net? Is it possible to move all the blog posts?

Your techniques are very useful and well detailed compared to those basic tips we hear of everyday. Thank you.

In reply to your question about moving website, make sure you have a backup file in case something goes wrong.
If you host your wordpress then this post should help you with importing and exporting all posts as well the categories and tags: http://weblogs.asp.net/aghausman/archive/2009/07/20/migrate-from-wordpre...
Otherwise, you need to export the data in XML (supported by wordpress.com) and transform it to MySQL with a tool like Navicat. See this post: http://www.devshed.com/c/a/MySQL/Using-Navicat-to-Import-Data-into-MySQL/

Hopefully this helps.

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