The day is here, your brand new perfect website is ready, exactly how you want it to be. But after days, weeks, or months pass a thought pops into your head: what should I be doing to maintain my site in all its pristine glory? Think of your website like your car, in order to keep it running at its best, it needs regular maintenance both on the outside and under the hood. The same logic applies to your site; regular updates and maintenance are essential for your website both on the front end (what visitors see) and on the back end (all the technical goodies that keep your website up and running).
Sites of all sizes need maintenance. While a bigger size requires more maintenance, don’t overlook maintenance if you have a smaller site! Let’s get to it and address the four essential questions of website maintenance: why, what, when, and how.
We’ve written before about why your website needs to be updated and maintained, but let’s get things started with a quick reminder of why regular maintenance is essential. First and foremost, your website is the storefront of your company. It’s the hub where people come to read more about you, your tours, your company, and ultimately spend their precious dollars. Second, when it comes to SEO, routine maintenance keeps the (somewhat albeit ominous) powers of Google navigation on our side. Although not guaranteed to improve ranking, regular maintenance will help prevent falling in ranking. This is because a positive user experience and a well-functioning site play in your favor. Thirdly, security is a big part of maintenance in terms of ensuring that you and your guests’ information is not compromised. And fourthly, like that brand new car, when you drive it off the lot the next model is right around the corner ready to be released. With proper maintenance, you ensure that your site stays on top of ongoing trends and technical developments – keeping you looking better than some of those new models.
Try thinking of your website exactly the same way you would think of a brick and mortar store: a messy store (does not work on mobile or disorganized out of date content), a store with a long line or no available employees (slow loading speed), or a store with a broken card reader (payment or contact form problems) would all be a huge turn-off to customers. No one would choose to shop there if there was any competition with better service, and the same is true for booking tours on a site.
Your content is where you tell your guests exactly what they’re going to be doing and what they should be expecting from a tour with you. So content maintenance is about ensuring that it not only does that, it does it in the best way possible. Content is also about making sure that your message is structured in a way that lets it connect with your audience. So if you notice your audience demographics substantially changing, it may be time for an update. In addition to any lingering spelling or grammar errors, another aspect to keep an eye on is ensuring that all links and forms (contact us, more information, newsletter subscription etc.) on your site are both functional and point where they should.
More than anything else, photos are what sell your tours. They give potential customers the chance to see what they’ll be doing, see others enjoying themselves on those tours, and ultimately picture themselves there with you. But, just like your content, it’s essential that your photos represent the current experience that you’re offering and what they should expect to see. If you’re no longer visiting a particular spot, if you’ve switched your vehicle, or if there’s a new food that your guests will get to try, don’t just tell them—show them! Even if you haven’t changed up your tour, maybe you have better or more representative photos than your current ones, another reason for maintenance! It’s great that you’ve been in business for 50 years. But that doesn’t mean it’s great to use photos of women in neon and shoulder pads to sell your tours in 2020.
When it comes to testimonials, not only do you want ones that highlight the good experiences that guests have had, but you also need them to be current. Even if a testimonial provides a glowing review, seeing that it’s from years ago will take away from it. Additionally, if reviews either mention something you don’t offer anymore, or don’t mention something that now you do offer, it’s likely time for an update. There are widgets (an app that pulls in information from an outside source) that will automatically add new TripAdvisor reviews to your site. While there are free ones, the benefit of a paid one (we recommend Trustpilot) is that you have more control in terms of which reviews are shown. It’s crucial that you have both positive and recent reviews on your website even if that means copy/pasting them onto your site.
Blog maintenance takes a bit of a different direction. In theory, blog pieces could be timeless (we call those evergreens). Alternatively, they may require small adjustments to reflect changes in your tours, area, or the world. Think about all of those “tourism marketing in 2020” posts that have been updated throughout the year. Another type of maintenance you could make to existing blogs is to add links to more recent blogs (and vice-versa). It’s also important that you routinely check any links you have in blogs to make sure that they’re still functioning. But if blogs really aren’t your thing, let us take care of it! Ultimately what’s great about a blog is that it’s a way to announce any noteworthy changes such as a new tour for example.
The Back End
The back end of a site can seem like a daunting notion, even for those who feel comfortable with technology. Ultimately it’s important to understand that proper maintenance of the back end ensures that the front end looks good and works well. But it’s also important to be realistic about what you are able or unable to do on your own. Trying to do site maintenance only to accidentally break something is the worst-case scenario. In addition to appearance, site speed is a major reason why maintenance is crucial, with multiple factors contributing to it. Your images need optimization, because while you want them to look great, this shouldn’t come at the cost of significantly slowing down your site loading speed. Your site plugins (add ones which provide specific additional features or functionalities), theme (which affects layout, styling, and, and WordPress version (or any other platform) should always be kept up to date. Last but not least, regularly backing up content is crucial. If the worst were ever to happen, imagine how devastating it would be to lose it all.
The next logical question is ‘when’. In order words, how often you should be doing site maintenance. And the answer is, it depends. Sorry. Different parts of your site have different frequencies in terms of how often you should update them. In terms of your content and images, this is something you should be reviewing at least quarterly to make sure they’re the best visual representations of your tour. How great would it be to go on a site looking for autumn tours and see photos of streets lined with orange and red trees? Or you should consider making the change when the tour is available, let the people know about your new and/or improved offerings. In terms of your testimonials, if something is specifically mentioned but no longer relevant, it’s time for a swap. Otherwise, consider changing out reviews more than 2-3 years old. With the backend, there’s also variance in terms of how often you should be updating it all, but more than anything it’s important to be aware when new updates are available. Your platform (WordPress, Wix, etc.) should tell you. And again, make sure you have a backup of your site!
How: You Don’t Have to Go at It Alone
It can feel really overwhelming or confusing in terms of where to get started. Perhaps you feel comfortable with the front end changes but then completely lost with the backend. If you’re ever feeling alone, the team at Tourism Tiger is here to help take that stress off your shoulders so you can focus on giving your guests the best experience possible, and not your website. In addition to building modern, attractive, and functional sites, we understand the importance of supporting our clients after launch through our TigerCare service. A well-maintained website involves a lot of regularly moving parts, so while you may feel comfortable taking on some of them, others may not be in your wheelhouse. And that’s okay! Leave the websites to us and we’ll leave the tours to you.
Your website is the core of your brand, and it should reflect the quality of tours or services that you offer, not detract. You wouldn’t want to lose a customer simply because they’re frustrated with your website, whether it be poor navigation, confusing structure, or slow speed. A properly maintained website means a good user experience and keeps them from feeling frustrated with you. You’ve just read several tips on how to avoid that.The time has come, go forth and go update!
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