What? You Need to Maintain Your Website?

The short answer: Yes.
When a website is launched (or relaunched), the work doesn’t end. And one thing we’ve seen plenty of at Whole Whale are nonprofit websites that go live and are then neglected in terms of ongoing maintenance.
The good news is that you don’t have to hire a fulltime developer to keep your beautiful new baby up to speed. Below are our tips for basic website maintenance in terms of what needs to be done and who can do it.
What? You have to maintain your website? (Short answer: Yes.) Click To Tweet

Keep Your CMS Up to Date

Frequency: Monthly
Why: Making sure that your website is running on the most current version of its CMS (content management system) is the most valuable piece of maintenance you can perform on your site. Over time, hackers will familiarize themselves with every version of a CMS platform that comes along, so in turn providers like WordPress are continually working to add new security features to keep your site hack-proof and functioning properly.
How: WordPress earns our recommendation time and again for a CMS that’s intuitive and user-friendly. Since the October 2013 launch of their version 3.7 (“Basie”), they’ve seen to it that all versions automatically update for two categories: minor updates and security updates.
For major core updates, consider a service like WP Engine to handle the updates on your behalf. To give you a sense of how frequently these can occur, WP 3.8 was launched just a few months after 3.7. WP Engine will keep you up to date on the new features of each system and contact you with a scheduled date for updating — which they only do after they’ve tested the new release and its features to see how they perform and note any issues and solutions.
Who Should Do It: Your developer can opt in for automatic smaller updates; the monthly fee for WP Engine justifies the cost of vigilance for larger updates if you don’t have a full-time programmer on your team.
Who Should Do It: Your developer can opt in for automatic smaller updates; the monthly fee for WP Engine justifies the cost of vigilance for larger updates if you don’t have a full-time programmer on your team.

Keep Your Plugins Up to Date

Frequency: Monthly
Why Just like your host, your website’s plugins also need to be kept up-to-date, because just like your CMS, plugins become vulnerable over time. Also, as WordPress launches new features, your plugins will have to meet new standards of performance. (And if the plugin author isn’t rolling out updates to work with changes in WordPress and its features, you may need to change out your plugin.)
How: Plugins are a quick fix in terms of updating. Once you’ve logged into your WordPress account, click on “Updates” under your Dashboard menu. Plugins and themes that are eligible for an update will appear first with a note that new versions are available. Select the plugins to be updated using the checkbox on the left, and then click “Update Plugins.”  
Who Should Do It: This is a pretty straightforward update to perform and can be done in-house by anyone with a working knowledge of your website’s backend.

Put New Content on Your Website

Frequency: Weekly
Why: Building out your website’s content in a strategic way is essential for search engine optimization and brand recognition. As Google works to organize the world’s information and aid users in finding what they’re looking for, they’re banking on monetizing fast, accessible, and relevant search results.
How: Spend some time with your website analytics and see how people are finding you. What search queries are bringing them to your website, and which pages are they landing on? Use a tool like Moz.com to see which keywords that relate to your organization’s mission and work have the most potential to land your website on the front page of Google in an organic search and plan an editorial calendar around these keywords. For example, if you see that the term “you need to maintain your website” has a high potential to get you in the top page of Google search results, you may want to write a piece of website content titled “What? You Need to Maintain Your Website?”
The key with content updates to your site is similar to exercise. Doing one marathon without any preparation and never running again isn’t going to do you much good — in the short-term or long-term. Working with a system of peaks and valleys, however, will help you build up mileage and endurance. When your organization hits a busy time — such as an awareness month or the holiday season — you can then increase your output to align your content strategy with your overall marketing strategy.
Who Should Do It: Someone on your team who can ideally balance a background in marketing (in order to plan content that works with SEO algorithms) with one in writing (in order to build credibility and loyalty with your reader base). We like to call this system “Writing for the robots to attract the humans.”

Review Your Google Analytics

Frequency: Monthly
Why: Stories only matter if people hear them. Google Analytics will help you to determine your content strategy, and they will also act as the first line of defense in alerting you if something is wrong with your website. If there is a 100% bounce rate on your Donate page, for example, you can probably bet on something not linking up correctly.
Stories only matter if people hear them: Make sure you're writing for the robots to attract the humans. Click To Tweet
How: When your website is launched, you should immediately set up your Analytics as Google does not currently offer backdated tracking. Google offers a full step-by-step for setting up your Analytics, which boils down to a fairly simple inclusion of a tracking code in your website’s HTML.
From there, if you have Google AdWords (and if you’re a nonprofit, you should totally have Google AdWords) you can also set this up within Analytics to track how much traffic is coming to the pages of your website through AdWords and set up clear goals for conversion such as email signups or donations. Here’s our full library of resources for all things Analytics to take you deeper into the data, or you can click here for our basic Google Analytics checklist. 
Who Should Do It: Your developer should insert your Google Analytics tracking code into your website before launch. From there, someone on your marketing team can run the same reports on a monthly basis — but it pays for the entire organization to be aware of how people are interacting with your website. Make this a monthly recap meeting to get the lay of the land.
That’s it. Four easy things to check on in order to make sure your website is a lean, mean, digital-representation-of-your-organization’s-core-ethos-while-simultaneously-helping-to-earn-you-donations-and-loyal-supporters machine.