Is Your Website at Risk? 8 Checks to Run Regularly
> Many website maintenance tasks can be completed without much technical knowledge 
> Regular checks can help protect against penalties from search engines and hackers 
> Key items you can check right now: is your form working? Is your contact info up-to-date?

When your website was first designed, it’s likely the designer took the time to run a series of checks and tests before the launch.

But have you been engaging in routine website maintenance since then? Has your website been checked at all since launch?

If you’re not completing basic maintenance tasks regularly, your website could be…

  • Displaying outdated information
  • Suffering from technical issues that prevent users from reaching out 
  • Receiving penalties from search engines
  • Vulnerable to hackers

Sounding a little scary? Here’s the good news: many website maintenance tasks can be completed without much technical knowledge. 

Here are a few tasks to assign to someone in your organization — or to ask your web design team to handle for you. 

At WR Digital Marketing, we can help with all of these tasks and recommend any additional checks that may be specifically relevant to your organization.

In a rush? Check out our infographic that covers the highlights from this article.

Website Checks You Should Run Regularly

8 Website Maintenance Checks to Run Regularly

Click on any task to learn more about how to complete it, how often to do it, and why it’s important.


Run a site backup

Recommended Frequency: Weekly — and after any major site change

It’s crucial to complete this website maintenance task before all the others. 

Occasionally, updates or other website changes can cause unexpected technical issues. You want to ensure you have a working back-up of the website you can revert to if needed.

The best part? This is a task you do not have to manually run (though you can if you’d like). Instead, you can set backups to happen automatically on a regular basis.

Pretty sure your website is backed up regularly? Not good enough. Don’t take the risk. Confirm it before moving forward with any other task.

Why It’s Important:

A website backup means you have access to all your website files no matter what. You can reverse problems caused by technical issues, human error, malicious attacks, malware infections, and more — often instantly.

Update WordPress

Recommended Frequency: As soon an update becomes available

Most of our clients — and 60% of CMS-built sites around the world — use WordPress. 

So it’s likely your website requires this maintenance step. 

(If you’re running a different CMS, you should look into their specific requirements.)

Why do we mean by “as soon as an update becomes available”? Well, WordPress automatically checks for available updates. So you’ll know when one is available if a notification appears at the top of your dashboard.

To run the update, you just click on that blue link to “Please update now.”

It will bring you to a page with a big blue “Update Now” button. 

Click that. Wait patiently for a few minutes… and you’re done! 

If you want to confirm that it’s updated, click “Updates” in the top left. You’ll see a notice at the top ensuring you that you have the most up-to-date version.

Why It’s Important:

Most WordPress updates contain patches to address security issues that put websites at risk for attacks. If you’re not running the latest version, your website is at a higher security risk. 

Update plugins

Recommended Frequency: Weekly monthly at minimum

At the top left of your dashboard, you’ll notice a red bubble next to the word “Updates”. This is the number of plugins with available updates. While these are generally not as vital as actual WordPress updates, you still want to keep up with them to make sure your plugins all work correctly.

What do you do?

Click on updates. This will bring you to the page where you can update all of them in one go.

Click “Select All”. And then hit the “Update Plugins” button.

Wait patiently for a few minutes… and you’re done! (Starting to sense a theme here?)

Why It’s Important:

Plugins provide added functionality to your website not provided by the WordPress CMS itself. Your plugins may do anything from running your contact forms to adding photo slideshows. 

Additionally, like WordPress updates, many plugin updates address security vulnerabilities. But they may also improve performance and fix compatibility issues with new (or upcoming) versions or WordPress.

Check forms

Recommended Frequency: Monthly and before any major marketing push that relies on a particular form

It’s likely your website has at least a basic contact form. But you may have many forms performing a number of different functions — event registration, newsletter subscription, download forms, and so much more.

Create a list of all forms on the website. Then check them regularly by completing these two steps:

  1. Submit a query through the form. 
  2. Ensure it’s received correctly by the intended recipient.

While you’re at it, it’s good practice to confirm the process for how those messages are handled. 

Are they read? Forwarded on to the correct department? Or simply ignored?

Also, check if you are getting a heavy load of spam through the form. If so, there are steps you can take to prevent that. 

Sometimes, legitimate form messages are overlooked because you have to sift through a sea of spam to find it.

Why It’s Important:

Technical issues — on your website or with email providers — can prevent entries from being received properly. 

And sometimes personnel changes mean that a form is being sent to an email address that’s no longer being checked.

Broken link check

Recommended Frequency: Monthly

There are many tools available to check for broken links on your site.

If your website has 500 pages or less, consider using the free version of Screaming Frog.

Enter your URL. Wait for the scan to reach 100%.

Then use the filter to show only Client Error (4xx) codes. Those are all your broken links.

If you have over 500 pages, then take a look at W3C Link Checker. You want to look for any error code that starts with a 4.

The next step is addressing the broken links. If they are external links (pointing to sites other than your own), then you have two options:

  1. Remove the broken link
  2. Replace the broken link with a new relevant link

If it’s an internal link (pointing to another page on your own site), you’ll still have to decide between those two options. But you’ll also want to take additional steps as well.

This is because those broken links may be bookmarked by users, shown by Google in search results, and linked to by other websites. In short, they’re likely causing problems in places other than your website.

So once you’ve replaced or removed them from the offending page on your site, you want to set up a 301 redirect. 

What this does is automatically forward people to a different, functional page on your website. 

Ideally, you want to send them to a page containing the content they expect. 

301 redirects are usually set up through a plugin installed by your web designer. But once that plugin is set up, it’s easy to manage on your own.

Why It’s Important:

Broken links negatively impact the user experience. And if your website has a lot of broken links, it can also hurt your search engine rank.

Check for 404 errors

Recommended Frequency: Monthly

What about broken links to your site that are listed on other sites? 

There’s an easy way to find them if you have Google Search Console set up.

(If you don’t, it’s usually easy to set up. Just visit the Google Search Console and follow the setup steps.)

Under Index, click Coverage.

Here you can see all pages with Error. And under the Excluded heading, you’ll see additional potential problems.

Now you can decide if 301 redirects are needed for them. 

Why It’s Important:

Broken links mean that people who want to read content on your website are unable to.

Review your content

Recommended Frequency: Quarterly is best, but at least do it annually

If you change your office location or maybe your business name, it’s likely you’ll remember to update your website accordingly. But smaller changes often get overlooked.

If it’s been several years since you revisited your bio, for example, you can bet some major things need updating. Likewise, your services or products may have changed in small but significant ways. And your company policies may have evolved, too.

Take the time to review your website regularly to make sure it accurately reflects your business today.

Why It’s Important:

Displaying outdated information can reflect poorly on your brand, cost your clients, and cause confusion.

Check for spam comments

Recommended Frequency: Weekly to monthly, depending on the comment limits you have set up and the number of comments you get

There are a number of ways you can prevent spam comments from appearing in the first place. 

You can turn off commenting all together. You can require monitoring for first-time commenters. You can stop commenting 30 days after a post goes live. You can set up Askimet.

But if you are allowing comments in some capacity, then you should have a system for monitoring them in place. 

It is pretty easy to spot a spam comment. Don’t just look at the text in the comment — also look at the username and any links included. 

In the left column of the WordPress dashboard, click on Comments.

If you spot one that looks like spam, mouseover it and click the Spam link.

That’s it!

Why It’s Important:

Google looks for bad links — which includes spam links left in your comments section. This is a sign that you are not actively moderating your site and can therefore negatively impact your search rank. 

It also reflects poorly on your brand and can impact clients’ trust and faith in your business.

Don’t Put Off Your Website Maintenance

For many small businesses, these maintenance tasks are often put off. Relegated to the bottom of a long to-do list.

This is especially true if you don’t rely on your website on a day-to-day basis (for example, if you offer a professional service, such as plumbing). It may be weeks — or even months — since you last visited your site. 

These tasks don’t seem urgent. But continually delaying website maintenance can be costly. 

Potential consequences include:

  • Impacting your clients’ ability to get in touch with you
  • Leaving you open to attack from hackers 
  • Limiting your search rank growth
  • And negatively impacting your brand reputation

Additionally, if your business relies heavily on your website to function — such as an ecommerce store — then there are additional checks you should run. And you should perform many of these checks more frequently. 

And if your site is older than 5 years, it’s likely you may be running outdated technology. (Businesses that rely heavily on their website may want to perform a more thorough check even sooner — after just 2 or 3 years.)

If you’re having trouble prioritizing website maintenance tasks, get outside help. At WR Digital Marketing, we help many clients maintain healthier, more secure websites at an affordable rate.


Originally published 1/13/20. Updated 1/14/21.


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