The Ultimate Guide to Ecommerce Website Maintenance
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It feels like there isn’t a single person alive who hasn’t bought something online. In fact, eMarketer predicts that by 2021, there will be over 230 million digital shoppers in the United States.
This statistic comes as no surprise. After all, we have a whole internet full of goods at our disposal. After COVID forced us all to stay inside for months on end, the popularity of ecommerce has exploded. In May 2020, online store spending was up by 77% on previous years, says Forbes. And this trend is only set to continue.
Yet, it’s not enough for a business to simply think about website design at the outset, fill the site full of new products, and expect the rest to take its course. Like anything that you do_,_ an ecommerce website needs ongoing maintenance.
Think of it as moving into a new house. At first, everything is shiny and clean. After a while though, dirt builds up, the washing machine isn’t quite doing its job, and the wardrobe door won’t shut properly.
But because you care for the house, you clean it, you replace the washing machine, and you fix the door. Basically, you maintain it.
Having an ecommerce website is much like this. You need to keep up the ecommerce maintenance on the site to make sure you have the best online presence possible. Replace products where needed and fix any problems that may occur. Give people not just a good, but a great impression as to who you are, whether you are a fashion enterprise or a B2B events development company.
Maintaining your site isn’t just about changing the color scheme or marking things as ‘out of stock’. It’s about creating great content, keeping it safe from hackers, and making sure the marketing team is doing its job.
This guide will talk you through why all this is so important and what you can do to make sure you are maintaining your ecommerce site.
The point of having an ecommerce website is to make sales. So, naturally, failing to keep your website properly maintained can lead to loss of sales. There are several ways that keeping your site fresh will help your sales figures. They include:
Let’s say you sell shoes. A customer is on your site and after scrolling through, they add three pairs to their cart. However, a technical glitch causes the basket to empty. Frustrated, the customer leaves the site and chooses a competitor instead.
Keeping on top of an ecommerce website means that you can spot when something is wrong and fix it straight away. Before the customer notices, and you lose out on sales.
Keeping these glitches at bay, then, helps arrest your customer churn. You’ll lose fewer customers to your competitors. Anyone who’s looked into customer churn analysis will tell you how beneficial that can be to your business.
Think about things from a user’s point of view, and how you navigate around any site.
Now consider how your site is laid out. Are new products showing on the landing page? Are contact details easy to find?
It may be that as you have added more products to your pages, things have become jumbled. So, it’s important to maintain a clear website, ensuring navigation is straightforward. It’s all about being clear and organized.
You can link your website maintenance to other business processes here, too. Your product mapping, for instance, can help you plan out where to put products on your site and how to link them together.
Maintaining an ecommerce website ensures a smooth shopping journey and user experience from start to finish. Meaning customers will be much likelier to return.
There are lots of landing page examples across niches that show strong awareness of user experience. Skullcandy is a great example of a successful ecommerce site that gives great customer experience. Look at the following screenshots from the brand.
They show some of their most popular products on the above landing page. Then, once clicked on, customers instantly have the option to add to their cart. The product pages aren’t filled, making it very easy for the customer to choose an item and check out.
Maintaining your ecommerce website is critical. Not doing so can cause you to lose revenue. Worse yet, in extreme scenarios poor maintenance may cause your business to shut down. Here are a few issues that may occur if you don’t care for your ecommerce platforms. It should be apparent how some or all of them could spiral out of control:
If you don’t have the right security in place, not just your site, but your company as a whole is at risk. Losing valuable data, after all, can cause terminal damage to a brand’s reputation.
Website maintenance services are a straightforward way to keep your site protected. Keeping your site in tip-top condition reduces the vulnerabilities available to hackers. Don’t let laziness make you an easy target.
Your site needs to keep up to date with basic web standards, languages, and coding. If not, it runs the risk of failing when it’s updated. CSS and HTML codes change every year and if your site was developed some time ago, it’s probably carrying around a lot of codes that will be slowing it down.
Having a suspicious site means that your webpages are considered “unclean” by web browsers. This means that they think you’re a ‘phishing’ site and web browsers will flag you. What this means is that your site is poorly set up and has bad security. From a business standpoint, it means you’ll get less traffic and therefore, fewer sales.
If your website looks unappealing on the first click, people will not use it. Furthermore, if you aren’t posting the right content, it will affect the search engine optimization (SEO) of your site.
Putting together regular SEO articles reduces your risk of falling down the Google ranks. Unique content after all, has always been vital to moving up the SERPs and staying there. Maintaining your site, and refreshing content helps keep your SEO on point.
A poorly maintained website won’t get as much traffic. Pages, links, or other site elements that don’t work are noticed by both Google and visitors. The latter will start avoiding your pages, and the former’s ranking of them will respond accordingly.
Falling traffic caused by poor site maintenance can be a vicious cycle. Even with the best call center software to help you take telephone orders, you can’t replace your web traffic. Arresting its decline takes vast amounts of time and effort. It’s far more straightforward to practice effective ecommerce website maintenance from the get-go.
We’ve talked at length about why it’s important to maintain an ecommerce platform. Now it’s time to put the microscope on how to do it. There are three types of ecommerce website maintenance tasks to focus on. These are:
Security is the number one reason for website maintenance. Hackers are always searching for ways to try and break into a company’s site. Especially those websites with access to customer details and financial information. Like every ecommerce site.
It doesn’t matter if you have built the website yourself on WordPress or if you have hired professionals in web development to take on the task. Your security needs to be tighter than tight. Regular maintenance checks are what will reveal vulnerabilities and allow you to fix them before they’re found by anyone else.
Digital marketing not only drives people to your site, but it also keeps search engines happy. If your site is doing well on Google, then even more people will end up on your site. So, it’s important to maintain marketing to make sure things are staying fresh and relevant.
This is done by creating new content in the form of SEO articles, messaging, blogs, social media posts, gifs, products, email, videos, and more. Your marketing team can use Google Analytics services to fine-tune your site and content. Such analytics help you understand both your site and its audience. You can discover the elements of your site that work well and those that don’t. You can also explore visitor behavior to get insights into what your website may be missing.
If you’re in the software niche, using a SaaS marketing Agency can also help you in this regard. Many can professionally review your site with digital marketing in mind. This would be particularly useful if you have let maintenance slide, as it can show you what to prioritize to arrest your site’s decline.
Just like a brick-and-mortar shop, online storefront maintenance helps improve a customer’s first impression. This is essential as if a customer’s first impression is poor, then you’re scrambling to rebuild their trust before they’ve even looked at your products.
Your virtual storefront shows you are selling what the customer wants. Look at this landing screen for the confectionery brand, Bon Bon Bon, for example.
Source: Bon Bon Bon
The background is made up of bright colors and fun patterns, reminding the visitor of a traditional candy store. It also moves every few seconds, to show the viewer what is on offer. Everything is categorized at the top, to make it easy to navigate, and the company even uses playful words like ‘swag’ to keep up with the humorous tone.
Now you know the three main types of ecommerce website maintenance, let’s look at each in more detail. Starting with security maintenance. You have your security software set up, but like all things digital, it needs to be maintained. Here are a couple of ways in which to keep things running smoothly, and securely, for your site.
Backing up your website is essential. Major breaches, on top of everything else, can lose vital and personal customer data. It can be very costly to restore, too, and extremely time-consuming. Any ecommerce brand should back up their website data regularly.
Most companies will be adding new information to their website daily, so data backups should be carried out as often as every day. It should be stored separately from everything else. Having more than one iteration is also a good idea. That way you’re doubly protected in case something goes wrong with your primary backup, too.
When something needs fixing, you patch it up. This is why you should always keep an eye out for suggested updates and patches with your security software. Ecommerce websites are at a high risk of cyber-attacks, and hackers will aim for weaknesses in your security.
Downloading patches when available will make sure your security stays strong. If you use any hosted software from a third-party provider, too, this must also get regularly patched and updated. If you use a SaaS product, keeping the product patched and updated is off your plate. Pay attention to your provider’s SaaS customer service emails, and make sure they’re fulfilling this part of their duties.
Ecommerce content marketing is key to helping your business thrive. Keeping on top of what you put on your website is crucial. Here are some things to keep in mind.
If you don’t consistently add SEO-driven content, you run the risk of losing traffic and your site slipping down the Google ranks. A blog is a great tool for adding content related to topics that may draw readers to your site.
You can also place links throughout your posts to take potential leads to a page where they can make a purchase. The key is to make any article genuinely relevant and interesting to readers. Don’t create content purely to upsell or redirect users to product pages.
There’s obviously more to SEO than merely building and maintaining a blog. Precisely what you need to do depends on your niche and the size of your business. Enterprise SaaS SEO, for instance, looks very different to that undertaken by an ecommerce startup.
What doesn’t change is that SEO is essential. It drives new customers to your site and allows you to create partnerships. You should be posting a new blog or article every week or every month. That’s as well as checking and maintaining existing content.
One crucial part of maintaining your content for SEO purposes is identifying and fixing broken links. A vital part of your website maintenance checklist is to conduct a backlink audit to make sure that you have a successful campaign.
This essentially means looking at your links and assessing if they are natural and relevant. And equally crucially checking that they work. Most internet users will have come across 404 error messages. They mean that a link is dead and needs to be changed. This should be part of your ongoing auditing and maintenance. Dead links are off-putting to site users and search engines alike.
You will also need to be aware of redirects. When you come across one in your SEO, you need to ensure that it’s placed somewhere that still makes sense. Otherwise, it’s a pointless link.
Finally, you need to make sure that your desired pages are indexable. If your pages aren’t properly indexable, Google won’t recognize them and they will not work when clicked on. To make your pages indexable, remove any 404 errors, and make sure the content and site are both genuine.
It isn’t just SEO that gets traffic for your site. The content you post on social media is also a good way to drive people to your site and so needs upkeep and maintenance. Content helps you build a voice and connect with people, making them realize how much they need your company.
Updating your social media creates brand awareness, more traffic, and higher customer interaction. For the same reasons, responding to customer messages and comments is also important and should be done ASAP. Doing this will also give you a good reputation and make people want to visit your site if they feel they can relate to you.
Social media posts should go up every day on each channel. They can vary from a “Good morning world. What are you doing today?” on Twitter to sharing an interesting white paper on LinkedIn. With technology literally in the palm of our hands, there is no excuse for a bad social media presence. Using a CMS will help with knowing when and where to put out content.
Take a look at this interaction from Bliss World:
Source: Bliss World
The company has posted an inspirational quote that relates to their products. The clever part of this though, is that they asked a question to their audience and have created a dialog around it. Again, building up trust with their customers and subtly advertising their products, too.
We mentioned earlier the importance of a great first impression. Keeping up the maintenance on your storefront needs to draw people in and keep them there with great user experience. Here are some ways to keep up with your maintenance plan and stay ahead of the competition.
A successful ecommerce company will change their products with regularity. A fashion brand, for example, will need to make regular changes to their website. This is especially important as the audience of those brands will only want the latest trends.
Not only do regular updates encourage people to return, but they also help you attract new customers. Ideally, you should be updating your shop front every time you get a new range of products, and let customers know what’s newly released.
It’s also important to update the site when products are low on stock, out of stock, or discontinued. Communicating with customers like this avoids disappointment and pushes them to look for other, similar items. If there is a change in product images or descriptions, this should be updated ASAP to avoid any sort of actionable false advertising.
The same goes for promotions and price changes. If you make a promotion or decide to put any discounts on products, make the message loud and clear. Say where the price changes can be found, how long they will be changed for, and if there is a discount code.
Not updating any changes can be seen as false advertising. It can also make you appear unorganized – losing your customers. The storefront should be updated any time you change the price, as well as add or take away any discounts or promotions. Your marketing team should send out emails and update social media when this is the case, too.
Burrow gives the perfect example of this:
We know there is a sale because it says it on the landing page. We know the sale is for Labor Day. We know that storage and tables & benches are new because it says it clearly in red. And we also know there is a permanent sale page for the products labeled ‘outlet’.
Specific details further down the page, too, tell us that there is a special code to use and how much you get off each price range. We are also told when the offer runs out. This site is clearly up to date.
Whether you are maintaining a home, a car, or a website, these things cost money. It’s the same with ecommerce website maintenance. How much you spend will depend on the size of your business. Some costs may be included in the platform you choose. But if you have chosen a free platform, you may have to pay for maintenance.
Let’s break this down a little bit. All these depend on which platforms you use and the site you choose to rely on. However, these are some average prices.
Maintaining a small ecommerce website (who sell around $4k- $50k a year):
Hosting costs (not if self-hosted) – $11.95
Domain registration and renewal costs – $1.25 a month depending on which site you choose.
Backups and Migrations – free, depending on which platform you use.
Security – also free
Additional site plugins – $10
SSL certificates – free.
For a medium-sized company (selling around $10k-$120k a year):
Hosting costs (not if self-hosted) – $19.95
Domain registration and renewal -$1.25
Backups and migrations – $7.40
Security – $17
Site plugins – $20
SSL certificates – free
For a large company (selling $40k to $500k a year):
Hosting costs (not if self-hosted) – $200
Domain registration and renewal -$1.25
Backups and migrations – free depending on the platform
Security – $25
Site plugins – $40
SSL certificates – free
All the above information is according to Commercegurus. You may also need to consider the conversion rate, depending on where you are based.
With these costs in mind, it’s definitely worth the financial investment to keep up with the maintenance of your site.
There are several options for maintaining your ecommerce website. You can do it in-house or hire a consultant/ freelancer. Which option is best for you depends on your business. Here, though, are some details on each alternative.
It may be that you are eager to make changes, but your current staff isn’t quite aware of how to do this successfully. Or perhaps your team does not have the bandwidth to keep up with the maintenance. So, should you hire a freelancer to keep up with the website?
Hiring a development company or freelancer is a good idea because you know you will be working with an expert in the field who will provide results.
But what should you look for in a freelancer?
First, you need to decide if you want a freelancer for specific areas, or the whole process of ecommerce website maintenance. For example, if you only need to sort out your security, then look for a cybersecurity expert. The same goes for marketing, web design, functionality, etc.
If you want someone who can do everything, then ideally you want a webmaster with years of experience. They should also know about marketing, current trends, and what does and doesn’t work for a site.
Always make sure to ask for a free quote.
On the other hand, you may already have a web team. If you are finding problems with your site, though, it might be time to upskill your staff. Or find a team that stays more up to date with maintenance issues.
You may look to outsource to consultants to check over your site. Tell them to have a look at the website and see where the problems lie. They can then feedback to your team on what they need to do better. Alternatively, you might hire a specialist maintenance team to take everything on themselves.
Make sure that for your in-house marketing team, maintenance is a priority. It’s important that they are posting content, whether that be making blogs or sharing social media, as part of their daily routine. They should also be checking and maintaining all existing content.
After all, their job is to lead people to your site and make sure your company is getting the traction it should be.
Website maintenance may seem like a hefty job, but with regular updates, it’s not as daunting as it appears. It’s important to stay on top of your website management. Better user experience means more sales.
If you don’t maintain your ecommerce website, you are leaving yourself open to hackers. You may also let your site slip down Google rankings, and risk the search engine presuming you are a dodgy website. All of those issues mean you will lose customers.
The three principle ways to manage maintenance are through marketing, security, and the storefront. Marketing means keeping up with SEO, social media, and general content. Security means ensuring your site is protected, patches are fixed, and details are kept safe. Maintaining a storefront involves giving customers a great first impression and letting them know about price changes and new products.
You also need to decide if you want to use your staff to do the required maintenance, or if you want to hire freelancers or specialist teams. Keeping up to date with your ecommerce website maintenance keeps you ahead of the competition and tells customers that you are worth visiting.
Nick Brown is the founder & CEO of Accelerate Agency, an SaaS marketing agency based in Bristol. He has over 12 years experience in digital marketing and works with large companies advising them on SEO, CRO, and content marketing. He has written for sites like Hubspot and PandaDoc.