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There are a few reasons our clients engage us: they seek a new partner to fuel growth through holistic digital strategy; they need proposals to tackle an upcoming project; or their website has deteriorated to a "dumpster fire."

This article is about those dumpster fires.

When clients come to us with a neglected website, they almost always have a good reason. A common reason is that marketing teams rely on IT teams to update the CMS version, ensure vulnerable plugins are updated or removed, maintain website accessibility, and other ongoing website needs. The problem is that IT teams are also responsible for other internal initiatives that take priority. Marketing teams manage as well as they can, but eventually, the cracks begin to form.

Another common reason is that the website was poorly constructed from the start. We see this when big, traditional marketing agencies creep into the digital world and either over promise or rely on an outsourced overseas team to take care of the work they don’t understand. The client is left holding the bag on a website that is barely usable or unfinished.

Getting on a call with these clients to understand their problem situation and start to map a path out is one of my favorite things I get to do. To channel my inner Marie Kondo, I’m so excited because I love mess.

It’s unfortunate that any company should find themselves in this situation, but we’ve seen it enough we know exactly how to fix the problem. In fact, we created our Craft CMS Health Check as an outcome of repeatedly helping our clients resolve issues with neglected or poorly built websites. We put out the fires, plan a path forward, and build a strong new foundation to support long-term goals.

More on that in a bit. Let’s first review the contrast of the risks associated with a neglected website and the reward of treating your website as a long-term investment.

Why Do I Need to Keep My Website Updated?

There are many reasons for businesses to keep websites updated, but one reason spans across all of them: it’s a better investment. There are inherent costs to allowing a website to decline, including security risks, customers leaving due to poor performance, compatibility issues, broken functionality, and lost opportunity.

Many clients shy away from ongoing maintenance and improvement packages because the cost seems high. (Ours starts at $1,600/month.) This almost always ignores the costs associated with security breaches, website outages, and the loss of customer trust that results from the issues outlined above. The cost of neglect is high.

Security Risks

Based on the Sucuri Website Threat Research Report, over 50% of all CMS applications were outdated at the point that they become infected and 36% of all comprised websites had at least one vulnerable plugin or theme. The numbers are especially bad for small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) with more than 60% being targeted by cyberattacks in 2021, and 87% of small businesses have customer data that could be compromised in an attack.

Older CMS and plugin versions are an open invitation to hackers. When websites contain known vulnerabilities, they are easier to exploit. The consequences include data theft, downtime, and embarrassing content being placed on the website that damages an organization’s reputation. In addition, hackers can hold the website hostage, charging a ransom that is high enough to cause serious pain but low enough to ensure the company has to pay the price or lose more in lost sales or damage to its reputation.

Regular updates and security checks provide an immediate defense for Craft CMS sites. This is why our first step when helping new clients recover from website neglect is to bring the CMS and all plugins up to date.

We also support health checks for other content management systems, including Wordpress.

Performance & User Experience

Remember the last time a website started to load, then 5, 6, 7, or more seconds went by. Did you wait? Every second matters to your users and the faster your website, the better.

According to Portent, B2B sites that load in 1 second have a conversation rate 5x higher than a site that loads in 10 seconds. Google’s 2023 research showed that the chance of bounce rates increasing went up 32% when load times went from one to three seconds, and a whopping 90% when page load times went from one to five seconds.

Then, there’s the impact of poor performance on SEO rankings. Google claims to focus more on the performance of a site as experienced by real users than pure data. We use a combination of Google’s Core Web Vitals, like Largest Contentful Paint (LCP), along with user-focused reviews, like our Content Structure Analysis, to build a complete picture of website performance.

Running outdated CMS and plugin versions, bloated databases, accumulation of plugins, and evolving browser compatibility requirements all contribute to websites slowing down over time without continual investment. While these issues can be costly to fix after periods of neglect, they are relatively simple to stay ahead of month-to-month.

Every second matters to your users and the faster your website, the better.

Compatibility & Functionality

We recently had a client come to us with an outdated website. At the point we met them, the site was in very rough shape. There were frequent outages, unintended duplicate orders being placed on behalf of customers, and a host of user experience challenges caused by browser incompatibilities. These types of challenges are very common. Beyond the many clients we talk with, a study by BCG found that 22% of all URLs analyzed had at least one significant website problem.

We often ask our clients to imagine the website design and development process as the design and construction of a building. The analogy works well for the initial build, when we’re crafting a beautiful and functional experience that leverages the best technologies and practices available at the time. It also works when thinking about maintaining a website over time. Just as foundations settle, appliances break, and neighborhoods change over time, websites also require ongoing upkeep and intentional improvement to continue to do what you need them to do. The reality is, an outdated CMS is much easier to ignore than a leaky roof—until it’s not.

Testimonial: A Site That Lasts a Decade

Website overhauls are expensive. Oftentimes they are necessary to realign the website with business strategy and goals, and meet evolving customer needs. However, there is another way. An iterative approach to website improvement, coupled with a maintenance and upkeep strategy, can result in long-term savings with greater value delivered back to businesses and their customers. We’ve used this strategy to keep many of our client’s websites operating strong for 5–10 years without an overhaul.

Craft CMS Health Check

I can imagine many people reading this and thinking “sure, I see why it’s important now, but I’ve still got a broken site that needs fixing.” Lucky for you, we love helping our clients navigate out of sticky situations, and this starting point often leads to some of our best long-term relationships. Our Craft CMS Health Check, and our generalized Website Health Check, was built for clients just like you.

In our Craft CMS Health Check, we review a comprehensive set of metrics to ensure your site is running smoothly and is optimized for both users and search engines. Our review includes:

  • Google Core Web Vitals Scores: We will check your scores on the Google Core Web Vitals to assess user experience on your site.

  • Content Structure Analysis: We'll assess the use of heading tags like H1, H2, and so on, which are crucial for SEO and user navigation.

  • Site Speed Grading: We'll analyze your site's speed and provide suggestions on how to make your website faster.

  • Internal Link Check: We'll run a site audit using SEO tools to identify any broken internal links on your website.

  • SEO Index Check: We verify your site's current sitemap in Google Search Console and submit it for indexing if necessary.

  • Plugins Check: We'll identify plugins that need updates and those that can be offloaded to maintain an optimized and secure environment.

  • Craft CMS Settings Review: We'll review your Craft CMS settings to identify any possible improvements or potential issues.

  • Security & Code Health Review: We fortify your website by mitigating vulnerabilities through targeted analysis, ensuring optimal functionality and security.

  • Accessibility Review: We enhance website accessibility by identifying errors, optimizing color contrast, and ensuring keyboard and mobile compatibility.

At the end of this audit, we deliver our findings and a set of prioritized tactics to improve the capabilities and performance of your site, resulting in an experience that effectively and efficiently supports your organizational goals.

Fix the Foundation

The cost of neglect is too high for businesses like yours. But there's a way to stop the bleeding, get control, and move confidently into the future with a website that's a strategic advantage, not a liability. Our Craft CMS Health Check is the comprehensive diagnostic tool you need. It's the first step toward a website that supports your ambitions for growth and resilience.

Ready to turn things around? We’re ready to help.