If you’re an owner or Managing Director of a small- to medium-sized business, you almost certainly have a company website. (If you don’t, for goodness sake, get in touch with Paul asap!!!)
There’s also a good chance that you’re paying for some sort of monthly maintenance package to keep the website ‘up-to-date’. But what does that mean exactly, and why is it so important? Hopefully this article will answer both of those questions.
[Disclaimer: Here at HERRON + CO, we work exclusively with WordPress, which is the most popular content management system on the planet, so this article will be dispensing its advice through a WordPress-tinted hose. But don’t worry, if your website uses a different CMS, most of the information in this article will still be relevant.]
Right, with that out of the way, let’s just jump into it!
How WordPress Works
Basically, WordPress is the engine that powers both the front-end and the back-end of your website. It’s a CMS (content management system) which consists of 2 parts:
1. WordPress core – this part contains all of the core functionality (Pages, News Articles, Navigation, etc.)
2. Plugins – these are separate pieces of software that extend the core functionality of WordPress
Essentially, you can think of WordPress as a smartphone, and plugins are the apps you install so that it can do more stuff. Or you can think of it like a computer, and the plugins are the programs.
The Back-end: Why You Need to Keep WordPress and Its Plugins Up-to-date
Just like Microsoft and Apple, WordPress is constantly being updated. Here are a few reasons why it’s so important:
This is the main reason you need to keep WordPress and its plugins up-to-date. Like all software, the older it gets, the more insecure it becomes. And with millions of websites using WordPress, it’s a huge target for hackers and other malicious people looking for exploits.
Fortunately, security risks are identified regularly by the security team at WordPress and they release ‘patches’ or updates in order to fix these vulnerabilities. It’s much more likely to see vulnerabilities on older versions of WordPress installations or plugins, so by not keeping WordPress up-to-date, you are leaving yourself open to attack. And if your website gets hacked, this could have a serious impact on your business – loss of client data, the site being offline, etc. And of course, to “unhack” the site and fix everything is likely to end up costing a lot of time, effort and money.
“Wait, if WordPress is such a huge target, why not use a less popular CMS?” I hear you asking. It’s a good question for sure, and there are a few use cases where using a different CMS would be preferable, but none of those cases involve security. I know that it sounds counter-intuitive, but even though WordPress is the biggest target for hackers, it’s also the most secure CMS because it’s constantly being updated and made more secure.
2. Speed and SEO
WordPress keeps getting better and faster with each new version, which is great for your visitors. And all other things being equal, Google will generally prefer a website that’s using a newer version of WordPress.
Not only that, but Google knows which version of WordPress you’re using and, again, all other things being equal, Google will generally prefer a website that it knows is more secure.
Put simply, the longer you wait to update WordPress, the more difficult it becomes to update it. Updating WordPress once a month would take an hour or two. If you leave it a year, it could take a few days or weeks and may also require additional development work.
The Front-end: Why You Need to Keep Your Website’s Design Up-to-date
There’s more to keeping your website up-to-date than just the back-end stuff. Having an updated, modern design is also extremely important for a couple of reasons:
1. Customer experience
They may be your customers, but your website isn’t the only one they’re using. They’re browsing dozens (or if you’re like me, hundreds) of other websites as well, so they’re savvy to what a modern website looks like. So if they come to your website and it looks like it’s a few years old, it’s going to give them a less-than-ideal impression of your company, especially if they check out your competitor’s website and see that theirs is fresh and modern.
2. Google and SEO
When Google sends its ‘spiders’ out to crawl your website, it’s not just looking at the underlying code and checking to see if you’re on the latest version of WordPress. Believe it or not, it’s also looking at the design to make sure that it complies with the latest best practices in terms of layout and usability. Yes, you read that right. Google can actually see the design of your website and assess its usability. If your website adheres to the latest trends in website design, it’s going to rank your website higher, all other things being equal.
Hopefully, now you understand why keeping your website updated is so important. If you have a website that isn’t being updated on at least a monthly basis, get in touch with Paul today to see if there’s anything he can do to help.