3 REASONS WHY WEBSITE MAINTENANCE IS ABSOLUTELY ONE OF THE FIRST THINGS YOU WANT TO OUTSOURCE
1 – You Are Probably Spending Way Too Much Time On It.
If it takes you way too long to do those website updates, the thing to remind yourself is that website maintenance is not in your zone of genius. What this means is that although you are really great at lots of things, website maintenance is just not one of them. There are, however, website designers out there who operate in their genius zone when it comes to website maintenance. What would take you four hours can be done by one of them in a fraction of the time.
2 – It Is a Task That Will Pay for Itself over Time
Have you ever calculated your hourly rate? Savvy business owners know exactly how much their time is worth. However, many don’t think about that hourly rate when thinking about outsourcing. Every hour you spend tweaking your website and trying to get that image to line up just right is an hour you are spending working IN your business instead of ON your business. Think about the awesome things you want to accomplish by the end of this year and ask yourself if spending your time doing your own website maintenance will help you reach those goals.
3 – There Are More Efficient Ways to Accomplish Your Goal
When you don’t spend all day every day doing certain tasks, you usually aren’t aware of the fastest, most efficient ways to accomplish those tasks. Here’s an example. Let’s say that you need a table added to your website. You do it the only way you know how and you end up taking much longer than someone who does it every day. In addition, you will probably end up with a table that doesn’t function the way you want it to. A web designer works with many clients and has faced all sorts of challenges from each of them so she has taken the time to discover if something might exist to make the job go faster and the end product look better. For example, WordPress is a very popular content management system. If your website is built on WordPress, your designer would probably know of a plugin that makes the table not only look and function great but also be mobile responsive.
HOW TO HIRE THE RIGHT PROVIDER
Now that you have decided it’s time to outsource your website maintenance (and keep your sanity), you need to find the right person to outsource it to. You have worked hard to create a website you are proud of, whether you did it alone or with the help of a web designer, and it’s imperative that you find the right person for the job.
STEP 1: Determine What Skill Set Is Needed
Like everything else in life, there are levels when it comes to service providers who provide website maintenance. You may need an entry level VA who can update the text and images on your website or you may need an advanced level web developer who can write plugins and create scripts for your website. However, you likely need someone in between who is highly skilled with website maintenance but may not be able to do custom programming. Keep in mind that most providers have contacts who can handle the stuff they can’t do themselves.
STEP 2: Make a List of Five Potential Providers
Based on the skill set you have determined you need, write down about five providers who you feel could do the job and would do great work. You also need to be able to afford their rates but keep in mind the time they are going to save you as well when deciding what you can afford. If you belong to any communities online, ask the group for recommendations. Do you know anyone else in business that has a website they are happy with? Ask them who they are outsourcing their website maintenance to.
STEP 3: Ask the Provider for Answers and Referrals
It’s time to have some fun. Schedule a time to talk with each provider (many of them call this a strategy session or discovery session) to see if they have openings and believe they could do great work for you. Find out how long they have been in business, what they charge (if you don’t already know), how they handle website maintenance, etc. If you like their answers so far, ask them to give you the name and contact information for several people they have worked with in the past or are currently working with.
STEP 4: Interview the People Who Were Given as Referrals
It’s time to hop on the phone or send out some emails. Contact the referrals given to you by the providers you are considering hiring. Ask them how long they have been working with the provider, how well they communicate with each other, what’s the turnaround time for having work done, etc. You may get a better response by calling on the phone as emails are a bit easier to ignore. Business owners are busy running their business so offer to give them a call back at a time that’s more convenient for them. Let them know that you truly appreciate their time.
Hiring a website maintenance provider can be scary but in the end, you will discover that it is awesome to have one less thing to worry about!
WHAT TO LOOK FOR IN A MAINTENANCE PACKAGE
You know that you need to outsource your website maintenance to give you time to work ON your business and not IN your business. It can be confusing though when you are looking at the various packages that are available. Some providers have numerous packages to choose from or you may even be choosing your provider based on the packages offered.
Let’s talk about several factors to consider when deciding which website maintenance package is right for you and your business.
What the Package Costs
Finances play a huge role in many decisions you have to make about your business and deciding which website maintenance package to go with is no different. You need to look at what you will be getting in exchange for the rate you will be paying and determine whether that package is going to be within or above your budget. If you can’t afford the package, the rest of the advice on this page is pretty useless.
What Turnaround Time is Promised
Many designers have packages as a way of putting them on retainer to ensure timely service. If the package lists the turnaround time, take into consideration the type of work you have having done and how fast you need it done. If one package gives you priority treatment with your work being done no later than 48 hours after submission but another package promises that it will be done within 5-7 days, you may just have to bite the bullet and go with the package that gives you priority service.
What Services are Included in the Package
Some providers will consider certain tasks maintenance while others do not. Make sure you are clear on what your chosen website maintenance provider considers “maintenance”. Updates to the text and images of the website are usually considered maintenance but what about keeping your content management system and any plugins/addons up to date? Many providers have a separate package for CMS backup/maintenance as they consider that a separate service. This is something you want to find out up front.
What Communication Method is Required/Preferred
How do you like to communicate your changes? One provider may require you to submit a support ticket while another one will let you call them, email them, message them on skype or facebook, etc. Be sure to find out what communication method is required or preferred to ensure it fits in with how you want to do business.
What Time Limit is Given
Some website maintenance packages are monthly whereas others are hourly. In other words, you may pay a certain amount each month and be allowed to submit up to a certain amount of work or you may get X number of hours to be used as needed. Packages for a certain # of hours may only be good for six months or a year due to the fact that pricing may change at some point and the provider doesn’t want to be locked into that rate indefinitely.
WHAT NEEDS TO BE ATTENDED TO REGULARLY
No matter what type of website you have, there are things that need to be updated on a regular basis. These are the types of tasks that website maintenance providers take care of on a daily basis for a wide range of clients.
Here are some things to consider having updated regularly on your own website.
Name Address Phone
This one may not be updated “regularly” but it needs to be on the list due to how important it is, especially for local businesses. People search for your business name when they are looking for your website, wanting directions or needing to give you a call. When they retrieve directions or your phone #, the information needs to be accurate. Keeping these three components (known as the NAP) updated is important no matter what business you’re in.
Do you write blog posts for your website? If your website uses a CMS (content management system), blog posts are actually a great way to keep your content fresh. We recommend adding something new to your website at least weekly. Website maintenance providers are really good at interlinking your content (linking pages on your website to other pages on your website) so that other pages get updated as well.
Do you run a monthly special? This is a great way to encourage people to visit your website as they will want to see what the latest, greatest deal is. Be sure to use a coupon code that’s unique to the special offer. If they heard about it from a friend, they won’t have a code. If they saw it on your website, they will and this will show you how effective your website is at bringing in new/repeat business.
Whether you have an ecommerce site with products or you are a service provider and have services listed on your website, these should be kept up-to-date. As you add new products, change prices or discontinue certain products, you need to have that reflected on your website asap. Service providers aren’t off the hook as service provision is often a work in progress where you tweak things as you go and the services you offer may change over time.
Have you added a new product or service that’s really hot? Maybe you hired a new staff person to take over a really important part of your business. Did you move locations and need to get the word out? News or Announcement posts are a great way to do this.
Did you add something to your website that was seasonal? Be sure to keep that section updated as the information changes.
Do you have image slideshows on your website that need to be updated periodically? Perhaps it’s a staff gallery or slideshow and someone pictured in there is no longer employed. If you are a service provider, it’s really important to keep your portfolio up-to-date.
As you can see, there are lots of elements that need to be updated regularly for your website.
HOW TO KEEP TRACK AND HOW THINGS AND HANDLED
One thing you need to know when outsourcing your website maintenance is how the work will be tracked and how certain issues will be handled.
How Initial Communication is Handled
The first thing you need to know is how to communicate that changes are needed. Some providers will require that you use their support system (web-based help desk) so all you have to do is send an email to a certain email address detailing what you want done. Others may say “Just send me an email and tell me what you want done.” It’s important to follow their business practices so you need to know what they are.
How Accomplished Work is Communicated
Once you have given them something to do, the next thing you want to know is how they will let you know that the work has been done. If they are using a support system, you can expect an email when they respond to the ticket you created to initiate your request. They should let you know what all was done and how much time you have left if you are paying for a certain # of hours. Here is an example:
DESIGN BALANCE – 4 hours
— Updated the business address in every area of the website where it appeared
— Created and interlinked all blog posts for next month
— Updated the images in the testimonial slider
NEW DESIGN BALANCE – 2.5 hours
How Vacations are Dealt With
Something else that you are going to want to know up front is how vacations or times when the provider is not available are handled. If you are dealing with a large company, there may be someone else on the team who can do the work while someone is on vacation but if you are dealing with a solopreneur (solo business owner), you may need to wait until they return. Most service providers announce to their clients that they will be unavailable (and on which dates) ahead of time to ensure no one gets upset when they have to wait.
How Errors by the Service Provider Are Counted
It’s unfortunate but it’s true. None of us is perfect. There will be occasions where a mistake is made and that is to be expected. What you want to know ahead of time is how those are counted. I can’t imagine someone charging you for the time when they made a mistake but it’s a possibility. The proper way to handle this would be:
DESIGN BALANCE – 2.5 hours
— Added the correct images to the slider and removed the erroneous ones
NEW DESIGN BALANCE – 2.5 hours (no charge)
When to Bill for More Time
If you are paying for a block of hours, you need to know how billing is handled. Website maintenance providers who bill in hourly blocks usually do so in blocks of 5 or 10 at the time. You need to know their policy. Do they automatically bill when the block has 2 hours left or do they check with you first?
I hope this ultimate guide to website maintenance has given you a better idea what to expect. If you are in the marketing for someone to handle your website maintenance for you and take it off your plate, please book a call so we can see if there’s a fit. Many of our clients have been with us for close to 20 years. I think that says a lot.