10 Maintenance Tips for a Healthy E-Commerce Website

10 Maintenance Tips for a Healthy E-Commerce WebsiteUpdates to your website should be addressed in a prompt manner, but if you’re like most of us, you tend to get stuck in a daily routine of addressing what’s in front of you and pushing the less important tasks to the back burner. Thus, web maintenance often finds its way to the bottom of our “to-do” list—or, in some cases, bumped off the list. Unfortunately, in this instance, the old adage doesn’t apply. What you don’t know can hurt you.

Outdated information can be a big deterrent to potential customers and may cost you more than you know. Following the steps below is a great way to ensure visitors find current information about you, the products you carry, and your services when they visit your website. In addition to including these 10 items in your monthly and annual website maintenance routine, I recommend adding them to your Outlook or Google calendar as a recurring reminder to ensure they do not fall off of your to-do list.

 

Monthly Maintenance:

Be forewarned: The items listed as monthly maintenance have a tendency to change more frequently or are such a huge task that it could take a course of a year to complete when addressed on a monthly schedule.

1. Price Updates – Operating costs fluctuate constantly throughout the year for manufactures forcing them to implement price changes sometimes more than once a year.
Because of this, it’s important to check for price updates on a monthly basis rather than on an annual basis like the good old days. Be sure to add this maintenance tip to your calendar as a monthly recurrence so it’s not forgotten.

2. Product Changes – Over the course of a year, a manufacturer can make changes to a product or discontinue an item altogether. Here are three product changes you should watch for as a part of your monthly maintenance:

  1. Discontinued Products – When the demand of an item does not meet expectations, a manufacturer may find it necessary to remove it from their inventory. You don’t want a customer to discover a discontinued product on your website by purchasing it. That is a great way to discourage them from shopping with you again.
  2. Part Number Changes – From time to time, manufacturers will make slight changes to their products. Rather than discontinuing a product and introducing a new product, it is easier and less costly to change the part number. Make sure you have the latest and greatest item online, as the newer items usually mean additional features and benefits.
  3. Change in Product Description – An even less expensive solution for a manufacturer to introduce new features and benefits to an item is to make the slight changes needed to their product and keep the part number the same. To avoid unhappy customers or costly returns, it’s worth investing the time to have current product descriptions, features, and benefits on your website.

If you have thousands of products on your website, this could be a huge task. In a situation like this, I recommend reviewing a few lines of manufacturers per month so that all manufacturers are reviewed over the course of a year.

3. Test Your Checkout Process –The orders you received may have passed the test but how many have failed? A smooth checkout process is vital to finalizing sales and reducing cart abandonment for your online store. While optimizing your checkout process should be a step in your CRO (Conversion Rate Optimization), not everyone does this as frequently as they should. To ensure your checkout process is running smoothly, you should place a test order on your website at least once a month.

4. Test Your Website Forms – You won’t believe how many times I’ve used a form on a website that didn’t work! It’s most likely because the site’s Webmaster had it working when he set it up but somewhere along the line made changes to the site that broke it. In the battle to remain a top-performing website, programmers and webmasters are forced to tamper with web code almost daily. In the midst of testing, changing, and fixing parts of a website, other parts may have inadvertently been broken. Since communication is a key element to customer service, I added “testing forms” as a monthly maintenance step that should not be ignored.

Make a list of forms on your website (contact forms, product forms, how can we improve our site forms, etc.) and make sure they are working correctly and going to the right person.

5. Check for Broken Links – A busy website can mean making lots of changes to your products and categories on a daily basis. In addition to this, you may use splash pages or a temporary page for a short-term promotion. Whatever the case may be, there is most likely a chance you’ve had a broken link on your website at one time or another. You may even have one right now that you are unaware of. Driving customers to a dead link doesn’t leave a good impression on them or the watchful eyes of search engines. Not only is it bad for business, but too many broken links can affect your search engine rankings.

Google has a useful free tool for checking broken links on your website called Google Webmaster Tools (see: http://www.google.com/webmasters/tools). Google Webmaster Tools has a lot of great uses for monitoring the health of your website from an SEO standpoint. If you have not done so, I highly advise signing up for this free service.

 

Annual Maintenance:

Listed in this section are items that should be checked annually. However, just because they should only be addressed annually does not make them any less important.

6. Copyright Date – To visitors, something as simple as this can say a lot about your company—and nothing good if you have an old date posted on your website. Visitors are sure to question the reliability of the rest of the information on your site and wonder what kind of service they can expect from you. Whether you prefer to continue to update your copyright date manually or add a snippet of JavaScript to have it done automatically, be sure this gets done in a timely manner.

7. Domain “WHOIS” Information – As the year goes by, job duties and staff members can change. It’s important to keep all of your contact information up to date with your registrar to make sure it’s available when need for a variety of reasons, such as ownership, billing, administrative issues, and technical issues to name a few. By keeping your contact information current, you are ensuring that you will receive any correspondence pertaining to your domain. In addition, the domain authority (ICANN) requires the WHOIS information be valid at all times. If you fail to keep your domain information current, you can have your domain suspended. Though this is a rare occurrence, why risk it?

8. Website Contact Information – Did a phone or fax number change? Maybe you opened a new location? Should your primary contact email be going to someone else now? There are many reasons you should double check your contact information regularly and, though updates should happen immediately on your website, there are times this is forgotten about. Be sure to keep your contact information current to ensure you are not losing business due to outdated contacts.

9. Review Your Policies – Having managed an e-commerce store for 10 years, trust me when I tell you the content on your policy page will be tested by everyone from your regular customers to one-time visitors. Because of this, you will want to make sure your organization’s practice and procedures are reflected properly on your policy page. Any time you change internal procedures, add third-party tracking software to your website, or make even the slightest operational change that will affect anyone visiting your website, update your policy page immediately. But as we all know, the policy page has a tendency to be forgotten so add this task to your annual web maintenance checklist. For a thorough annual review, be sure to include decision makers in the company that impact company policies such as management, IT, Human Resources, the Legal Department, and the marketing team.

10. Company Services – Whether its upgrades or downgrades to your organization, it’s important that the services you offer are current on your website. Maybe you started selling refurbished products? Perhaps you now ship internationally? Maybe you decided to offer leasing to your customers? Whatever the case may be, not posting this information to your website is a disservice to both your organization and your shoppers. You would be missing out on a great free marketing opportunity and your customers will shop elsewhere for a particular service if they don’t know you offer it. The effects can be pretty damaging—losing potential customers, lost sales, current customers losing trust in you because you didn’t notify them the service was available, and the list goes on. At first glance this part of maintenance may seem miniscule, but looking into it deeper, you can clearly see its value. As with any maintenance, this should be done at the time the service was added or removed from your organization, but an annual review is vital to ensuring nothing was overlooked

 

Final Thoughts

Running a finely tuned e-commerce website requires a lot of time and attention to detail and website maintenance comes with the territory. Scheduling maintenance as part of your routine can only make your website that much better and will offer you the opportunity to stand out in a sea of competitors in the eyes of a shopper.

If website maintenance proves to be too much for you to handle yourself, there are many agencies that are willing to do it for you. I recommend doing a Bing or Google search for “website maintenance service” and selecting a reputable agency. So whichever route you choose to take, do-it-yourself or a paid service, make your website better today by adding website maintenance to your routine.

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