There are 2021 is the perfect time to update your website. You can hire a web developer to do it for you, or you can learn how to update your own website. The world is in turmoil right now and we are all changing up our product and service offerings, and your website needs to reflect that changes that your company has made over the last few months or years.

This tutorial focuses on WordPress software, but the content section of your website (like your pages, products, and blog) must be updated too. No one likes to read old information, so you must make sure that your website is up to date and fresh. It’s a big job, but if you want your customers to find you online, it’s imperative.

There are many benefits to keeping your website up to date:

  1. You will keep your customer informed about your latest products and services
  2. Your customers will always have up to date information and instructions on your blog
  3. You could improve your organic search engine rankings because Google loves websites that are updated regularly
  4. Your website will stay far more secure if you keep your content up to date.

Step 1: Backup your Website before you Update Anything

Regardless of how out of date your site is currently, always make a full backup of your website before you make any changes to it. This will save you a lot of pain in the long run. Software updates can cause conflicts with other software and break your site. Adding new content or replacing old content might move things around, which might be difficult to fix.

It’s always a good idea to backup your website fully before you make any changes to it. If you use WordPress, we love the plugin Updraft for backups. It backups up information in separate sections (database, themes, plugins, uploads, and “others” if you set it up like that). These individual sections make it really easy to roll back an update if your website breaks.

Always store these backups offsite (i.e. not on the same server as your website) so that if anything goes wrong on the sever your site resides on, you have a completely separate backup to restore from.

Step 2. Update your Website Software

We are focusing on WordPress website software. This includes the WordPress core, your WordPress themes, and your plugins. It is essential to update all this WordPress software before making any content changes on your website.

If you haven’t updated your website in a long time, this process could create conflicts or break your website, as software is constantly updated by the respective developers. It’s essential that you tread carefully here, and why step 1 is so important!!

Please backup your website first, then update the WordPress core. Once the core is updated, check your website to see if it’s working or if anything broke. After that, update your WordPress theme. If you use a premium WordPress theme (i.e. you pay an annual license fee for it) your theme might require additional updates to the plugins that are required by the theme. Update each of these plugins, one by one, each time checking to see what your website looks like and if anything is broken.

Pro Tip: Often a WordPress theme and it’s required plugins must all be updated before your website looks right again, so don’t panic if a theme update broke your site. Check to see if there are plugins that are required by your theme that also need to be updated and do those next. Often, those updates will fix your website.

After you have updated your WordPress theme and any of its required plugins, start to update each remaining plugin, one by one. After each update, check your website to see what the plugin update did, and if the update broke anything.

Sometimes, these updates can break a site so that it’s unusable unless you have FTP access directly to your website’s server, or CPanel access so you can get to the File Manage on the server. This might be a little technical and you will need to call in a professional to fix your website.

If a plugin update breaks your website and you still need the functionality that it offered, you will probably need to find a new plugin to replace it that works with the rest of your website.

We can help you with this if you need. Website backups, updates, and regular maintenance are one of our specialties! Please contact us if you need some help.

Step 3. Remove Unneeded or Abandoned Plugins

Websites should be scanned regularly for outdated plugins. Wordfence is a great plugin to check this for you. You should also be on the lookout for plugins that are no longer required by your website. Sometimes, WordPress themes add more advanced functionality that you can use instead of an additional plugin. Sometimes, you learn more code or CSS and you no longer need a particular plugin to perform an action on your website.

Extra plugins will make your website slower, and no one wants that. Your visitors and Google bot want your website speed to be as fast as possible, and unwanted plugins can ruin that.

The more plugins you have on a website, the more potential access points a hacker or bot has to get into your website and hack it, or otherwise abuse it for its own purposes. Abandoned plugins are particularly dangerous because their developers are no longer updating them. This means that their security is not being updated in line with the latest best practices or hacks. If you have abandoned plugins on your website but you still need that functionality, please find a new plugin that will do the same job.

Step 4. Look at your Website Content Structure

Have a look at how your website is laid out:

  • Pages: What pages do you have on your website?
  • Menu: What links are in your menu?
  • Footer: What is in your website footer?

Search Engine Optimisation rules are changing all the time. It has become extremely important that your website clearly indicates what you do, and what your unique selling points are. Good SEO requires you to display these products or services in a way that is easy for your website visitors to understand, and for Google to understand.

This means that your website should no longer use a menu structure like this example:

  1. Home
  2. Services
  3. About Us
  4. Contact Us

It should rather use a menu structure like this:

  1. Home
  2. Service Category 1
    1. Subcategory 1a
    2. Subcategory 1b
  3. Product Category 2
    1. Subcategory 2a
    2. Subcategory 2b
  4. Blog
    1. Subject Category 1
    2. Subject Category 2
  5. Contact

This structure makes it much easier to understand what you do and what your website is about. The fact that these headings are part of your main menu make the information on your website much easier to find.

Step 5. Confirm that the Basic Information is Correct

There is nothing more frustrating than visiting a website and finding their telephone number out of service! Check all your basic information to make sure that it is still correct. This isn’t an exhaustive list, but it’s a good place to start when updating your website.

  1. Are your contact details correct everywhere? This includes phone numbers, email addresses, physical and/or postal addresses, and Google Map images and links.
  2. Do you have your social media links on your website, and do they work?
  3. Is your logo correct and are your company colours correct? If you have rebranded but not rolled it out onto your website, you will definitely confuse your customers!
  4. Does your contact form work? (Please test this! We find broken contact forms on websites all the time.)
  5. If you display biographies of your staff, do the same people all still work for you, or have some left?

Step 6. Does the content of your website still reflect the products and services that you offer?

The world has been through a crisis and many companies have changed their products or services, or revamped how they offer these services to their customers. Does your website content still reflect what your sell to your customers?

Have you added new products or services, or removed old ones? Is the text still accurate or do you need to rewrite it to explain more accurately what you do and how you do it?

Do you have an additional service (like delivery?) that needs to be explained in detail? Have you added a guarantee that you need to explain to your customers?

Would a Frequently Asked Questions page save your staff a lot of time answering questions? These pages are so useful to have on your website and your employees can simply ask people to visit your website to find the answers, rather than explaining the same thing repeatedly over the phone or via email.

Have you added a new product and need to upload the user manual to your website?

There are countless things that might need to be updated on your website. Please read through your content and check what needs to be rewritten, removed, or added.

Step 7. Is your website legally compliant?

Do you have all the required policies clearly visible and accessible on your website? Laws change constantly and often there are new policies that you need to add to your website so that you comply. Depending on where you are in the world and what your local laws are, your website might need to display your Privacy Policy, your Terms and Conditions, your POPI compliance, your GDPR compliance, cookies acceptance, or others.

You might also need to add your own policies so that they are always available to customers. These might include (but aren’t limited to):

  • Guarantees or warrantees
  • Delivery and returns policies
  • Payment plans and payment options

Step 8. Add an SSL Certificate to Secure your Website

It’s now standard practice to install an SSL certificate on your website to prove that it’s secure, particularly if your site asks for any customer information. This includes things like asking a visitor to fill out a contact form, or a subscribe form, or if you sell products online. Customers want to know that their information is secure, and they will trust your website far more. SSL certificates prove to your visitors that your website is secure. They will also improve your conversion and sales rates, which is great news for you!

Very importantly, Google is not ranking sites without an SSL certificate as highly as sites WITH one. Not having a certificate will damage your rankings and erode your visitors’ faith in the security of their information that they enter into your site.

You will need to contact your website host (or your website developer) to get an SSL certificate and they can install it on your site for you, or you can install it yourself, using a plugin like Really Simple SSL. At this stage in the life of the internet, it’s really not feasible to have an unsecured site. You must have an SSL certificate installed on your website – there is no reason not to have one.

Step 9. Implement a SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) Strategy

Remember that you are working so hard to update your website in 2021 because there is so much competition around. Your business needs to stand out. Your customers need to be able to find you. Whether they find you on social media or Google, your brand must be visible to your target market. If your customers search for your offering on Google, you need to be ranking in Google’s search results.

You can choose to pay for Google Adwords, or you can use a long-term SEO strategy to rank in Google’s organic listings. And to be clear, SEO IS a long-term strategy. Changes takes time and ranking takes time but, in the end, it can boost your business into the stratosphere!

Start by doing your keyword research correctly. Then create a SEO plan, a list of search terms that customers can use to find you, and the articles you need to write for those terms. Then it’s time to get writing!

Step 10. Check your Google Analytics

Your goal, when updating is your website, should be more traffic and more conversions. Conversions are actions that you want people to take on your website like:

  1. Buying a product
  2. Subscribing to your newsletter
  3. Downloading a guide or manual
  4. Clicking over to a product page
  5. Or many more, depending on what your business and website offers!

There are several ways to track your website, but the number one tool you MUST install is Google Analytics. There are other tools, but Google Analytics is by far the most important tool to start with.

Pro Tip: Link your website to Google Search Console for even more services! However, if you do nothing else, please ensure you’re tracking your website visitors via Google Analytics. Their tools and insights will show you how people find your website. They can also show you what they do when they’re ON your website. Without analytics, you’re losing a VITAL source of information that you can use to improve your website going forward.

Bonus Tip: Research your Competition – Check how they have updated their websites!

It’s always a good idea to see what your competition is up to. The world is changing at a frenetic pace and businesses are too. Have a look to see if you competitors have added a new product or service. Maybe they’ve changed their pricing or their business strategy. This competition research could give you ideas on how you could update your own business. Once you’ve done that, you can update your website, to make sure you are ahead.

Updating a website can get complicated…

When did you last update your website? How much has your business changed since your last website update? You need to check the past, but you also need to plan for the future. You need to know what you want your website to be able to do, going forward. This way, you can plan a structure and strategy that will serve your goals.

Website design companies, like ours, have been working through this process on our customers’ websites for years. There are tips and tricks and strategies and techniques that would take years to put into just one article. However, this is a great start if you want to learn how to update your website in 2021.

If this seems like a lot of work, you might prefer to ask the professionals for help. Please contact us and we can do all of it for you, so you can focus on your core business.

If you’ve read through this article and realised that your website is in need of some serious help, you might want to look at the cost to build a new website.

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