Is Your Website About to be Hacked?
When someone wants to learn more about you, the service you offer, or the product you create, they Google you. When a prospect finds your site — assuming they can find it — they make judgments about your business based on what they see. And if you’ve been hacked, well … there’s no telling what they’ll see!
Sometimes, they may notice that your site doesn’t look right on their browser. Or they’re using a mobile device and can’t read the font. In an extreme case, maybe a hacker from somewhere in the world targeted your vulnerable site, exposing your clients to identity theft or offensive material. They can embed links to sites you don’t want associated with you or your brand.
While periodic website redesigns are crucial to every business, regular programming updates to your site will go a long way to keeping you looking great in front of your clients and prospects, and much less desirable to hackers who look for holes in outdated programming. It will also keep you looking good to Google, who has the power to make or break a business online if their algorithm doesn’t like what it sees, especially if you’ve been hacked.
In this guide, we’ll show you how to update your site to maximize its potential, protect you from harm, and allow it to shine a light on who you are and what you do.
Your Website Success Plan
Have you ever logged into your WordPress site and seen that you have several updates in your cue? And then, not knowing what to do, you made one of these two potentially fatal mistakes:
- Thought, “I’ll deal with that someday,” and then did nothing.
- Updated everything as quickly as possible without backing up so you could move on with your day.
If you want to protect the data on your site, you must act. However, don’t start clicking without a solid plan in place.
Step 1: Back up Your Site
At Spencer Web Design, Inc., we like to back up frequently and keep several kinds of backups at our disposal. If you don’t have a service contract with a webmaster, we recommend you do the following:
- Keep a pristine copy of your original web design on a hard drive.
- Do full backups of the site and files at least once monthly, keeping the last two backups.
- Perform daily or weekly database backups, depending on how often you update your content.
If you or your webmaster aren’t already using Google’s Webmaster Console, consider connecting to it. They’ll often catch when your site has problems or been hacked and notify you, and you can revert quickly to one of your backups before diving in and trying to fix the problem with a professional.
Step 2: Start Updating, but Do It Gradually
When you’re updating your website, especially if it’s been a while, do it incrementally.
- Not to put too fine a point on it, but start with a backup of your site. As you progress, check your pages after each update and make sure they still display correctly.
- Update the core programming and check it. If the update is a small change (for example, from 5.2 to 5.3), you can usually update with confidence. If it’s a full version upgrade (i.e., 5.7 to 6.0), we recommend bringing in a professional to perform and test the update.
- Update your theme or template. As of the publication of this article, WordPress’s core programming update, Gutenberg, has made significant changes to the programming interface by switching to a “block editor.” The new editor may not work with your current theme, especially if it overlays a block editor. Proceed with caution and watch for compatibility fixes.
- Update your plugins one at a time. If you update several at a time and something breaks, you won’t know which plugin caused the problem.
As you update, be on the lookout for plugins abandoned by their developers. Since third parties develop many WordPress plug-ins, and several are free, make sure they’ve updated in the past couple of months. If they haven’t, you may experience problems either with the security it provides or its compatibility with the core-programming or theme.
Again, we recommend backing up after each programming update. As soon as something doesn’t work, you can revert to a previous backup.
Additionally, as you check each update, make sure to refresh your page, try different browsers, and clear your cache to make sure you’re getting a current and fresh version of your site.
Step 3: Update Your Content to Enhance Your Rankings
The words on your website, whether in the metadata or on the pages themselves, help Google find you. Make sure each page of your website is about one thing. Everything you post should be related to the keyword you’re building the page around, whether it’s a service you offer or idea you’re sharing, even if it’s not a direct correlation.
Though you can update or replace individual pages with better, more targeted copy, Google prefers that you not remove content from your website.
But keep adding content! Use your blog to provide non-salesy information that the kind of people who are interested in your brand will find useful: blog posts related to your product or service, seasonal tips, fun stories about your industry, and case studies.
Step 4: The Surprising Benefit of Social Media Updates
If your website points to a social media site, make sure you’re providing regular updates. Though it’s good marketing — staying top-of-mind and providing useful content — there’s an SEO purpose as well.
Google wants to make sure you’re active if they’re going to send people your way. If you have social sites you’ve decided not to use, but you link to them from your website, remove those links. (Delete your Google+ links today! That service no longer exists.)
Step 5: Consider Hiring a Web Maintenance Service
For many, doing all of this work can be frightening. You need to develop a routine and a plan to keep everything working correctly, but even then, you’re not sure if hitting the “update” button will bring everything crashing down!
At Spencer Web Design, we love maintenance!
First, we spend a lot of time backing up our sites: multiple database backups a week, multiple monthly site backups, and a copy of the original site for all of our clients.
With our Premium Managed WordPress Hosting plan, we take care of all software and plugin updates for you. At least once a month (oftentimes more) we’ll update your site’s programming and plugins, making sure it continues to work optimally. We also “armor-up” with special security software to protect your site from malware and unwanted intrusions.
If you’ve neglected your site and have found yourself in an emergency, we can still help you. But proper maintenance is less expensive. It’s the “ounce of prevention” that prevents the need for that “pound of cure.”