What’s the value of long-term website support?

You just spent three to six months focusing on a new site build or redesign, it has launched, and now you can forget all about it for a year or two, right?

Not so fast. Websites are living, breathing things. It may not seem like they need attention, but a neglected website will die a slow, quiet death. It’s just a matter of time.

Without content updates, visibility on search engines will diminish. Without security and software updates, your website’s software platform (your content management system) will become out of date, which makes it vulnerable to cyberattacks, and it could even break, which would make it difficult to update content or retrieve the site at all.

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Three Keys to a Safe and Healthy Website

Choose a design and development partner that offers long-term technology support. Check their references. Firms that offer website support after launch are interested in developing a partnership with you and creating a long-lasting site that they can build upon.

Your technology partner will pro-actively apply security updates, monitor website performance, and report on website analytics — without you having to ask for it.

1. Security and Maintenance Updates
With open-source content management systems like Drupal and WordPress, the community is continuously releasing security updates and features to close security holes that keep it safe from hackers; regular updates by your developers allow you to take advantage of these advancements.

Important: Your developer should upload updates into a test environment to make sure it’s working properly before going live, or you may experience conflicts or downtime. Whatever you do, don’t rely on automatic updates!

2. Security and Performance Monitoring
Before launch, your developer should install a web application firewall that helps protect your site from malicious attackers, such as bots that will start attacking your login URL, or individuals who are searching for a page that initiates a database query that bypasses cached content.

A database query is a high resource request, which will make your server get slow and eventually grind to a halt. Your developer will monitor activity via this web application to make sure you’re not getting hit.

Bonus? Ask if this firewall includes a CDN feature — content delivery network — which helps make the site load faster.

3. Google Webmaster Tools Monitoring

Every month, your developer should check the Google crawl reports to make sure everything is being indexed correctly. An error may mean that a website change was configured improperly, which can lead to whole sections of the website becoming invisible.

This report will also show 404s — pages not found — which may mean you’re missing out on SEO juice from referring sites. Your developer should be able to proactively fix these problems so you don’t miss out on traffic.

What if long-term website support isn’t offered?

If your design and development partner does not include ongoing support, consider this a red flag. We have done many rescue projects where a large and well-known organization — redesign completed months ago — suddenly realizes they have no access to their site, no insight on how it was put together, and no place to start fixing problems.

In fact, we’ve seen companies come very close to losing multiple years of search history, content, and online search link reputation due to a lack of monitoring.

What does long-term website support cost?

The hard truth is this: Whether or not you choose to sign up for monthly development support, you’ll likely pay for it one way or another. You’ll either pay up-front, as a part of an ongoing relationship that helps protect and support you and answer questions as your company and website evolves and grows, or in the form of emergency fixes, rebuilds, and lost opportunity when the site is not functioning.

Need help determining whether your back-end support contract has you covered or is worth the cost? We’d be happy to talk.