You’ve invested a few thousand dollars in your shiny new website. It looks great. It runs like clockwork. Congratulations! Job well done.

Now, to keep your website in top shape, you need to think about taking care of it. You need a website care plan.

Things Fall Apart

Like any other asset, if you neglect it things will start to wear out. At first it’ll be small things. You’ll notice things don’t load quite as fast as they used to. Your rankings on the search engines start to drop off just a little. That once-shiny “Donate” button doesn’t get clicked quite as often.

Left neglected out in cyberspace long enough, your site may even become a target for hackers. Last year I had an old friend call me in a panic. “My hosting service emailed to say my website’s been hacked and they’ve shut it down.”

“Really?” I said. “When was the last time you updated it?”

“I don’t think we’ve ever updated it,” he said. “What should I do?”

“Do you have a backup of the site?” I asked.

“I don’t know,” he said. “Where would I find that?”

As it turns out, his hosting service did keep a monthly backup. But the backed up files were also hacked.

My friend paid a small fortune to have his company’s website rebuilt from square 1.

I saw him again last week. “Have you updated your site recently?” I asked him.

“Nah,” he said. “We don’t get that many hits on it anyway.”

Small wonder.

Don’t Be Like My Friend

I like my friend. He’s a great guy. But he’s asking to be hacked again down the line.

If your website is worth the investment to create, it’s worth the investment to take care of. I promise you, if you care for your website, it will reward you.

A Website care plan not only protects you from outright online failure, it gives you peace of mind that your online asset will be humming along, representing your organization well, even when you’re asleep or on vacation.

What to Look for in a Website Care Plan

Features vary, of course. But any website care plan should cover at least these 7 bases:

  1. Give You Peace of Mind that your website software is always up to date. My friend’s problems could have been avoided if he’d just done this one thing! Of course he has other things he’d rather focus on. And so do you. That’s why you need to have someone who knows your site doing this for you.
  2. Provide you with secure backups to get your site back up and running quickly shoud anything go wrong. My friend’s site could have been up and running in a couple hours if only he’d had a backup. Instead he spent thousands to rebuild his site and he was offline for a week. A care plan with a daily backup can save you thousands of dollars and avoid lost opportunities.
  3. Protect you with constant security monitoring to keep the nasty intruders out. My friend didn’t know there was anything wrong with his site until at least a month later, when his hosting company contacted him to say it was being shut down! A care plan that includes security monitoring nips security problems in the bud, before the hackers have a chance to do their worst.
  4. Prioritize your support, so if you have questions or issues, they get resolved in hours, not days. Without anyone else to ask, my friend ended up calling me in desperation, not knowing what he should do. I was happy to point him in the right direction, but you need to have people you know and trust, who have your back online, so you can focus on your mission.
  5. Keep your website clean, because old data hanging around clutters things up and slows your site down. Like the vaccuum cleaner company says, “Life is messy.” So is life online. Visitors leave shopping carts abandoned in your website aisles. Forms half filled with data and never submitted take up space on the server. Old copies of files collect digital dust. It all piles up. You need someone who knows what they’re doing to clean all that up without deleting the important stuff.
  6. Monitor your site to make sure it’s always up and running, 24/7/365. If the hosting company hadn’t emailed, my friend would probably still not realize that his site was down. Don’t lose that donation or sign-up that comes in at 2 am because your site was down and you didn’t realize it until the next day. A care plan that monitors your site’s accessibility can get it up and running again in minutes, not hours, days or even weeks.
  7. Reports to you at least monthly, so you have the assurance that your care plan is doing what it’s supposed to do. This is yet another way a good care plan gives you peace of mind. Because, let’s face it, if you’re paying for a monthly service, you want to know you’re getting great value for your money.

Those are the basics. But here are a few other bells and whistles you might look for in a website care plan to really maximize your website’s effectiveness:

  1. A scan for broken links.Broken links can break your visitor’s heart. But they also tick off search engines and can cause your ranking to suffer.
  2. Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Constantly tweaking your site to boost your site’s chances of getting found on Google, Bing, etc.
  3. Data Entry and Content Updates. Because you’re busy. Wouldn’t it be nice if you could have a regularly scheduled site update where you can drop your article in an email and know it’s just going to get done right.
  4. Minor Site Additions and Troubleshooting. So you’ve just got a new Instagram account, and you need that button added next to the Facebook button. How much is it worth to get that done by lunchtime without you having to waste your morning fiddling with it?
  5. Monthly Website Coaching. Regular contact for accountability and advice to keep you on track to reach your online targets and to make sure you’re not barking up the wrong tree.

All My New Clients Get Website Care Plans

Why? Because if I’m going to spend the time and effort to build them a great website, I really get bummed out to go back a few months later and see that it’s not being cared for. And, more importantly, if they’re going to spend the time and money to work with me and pay me for building them an asset for their organization’s mission, I want to make sure they get the most out of that investment.

Above all, don’t end up like my friend, with a hacked website and nowhere to turn. Do yourself a huge favor. Get a website care plan in place. Today.

Photo Credit: HomeSpot HQ