It’s easy to tell when your website has a problem when it is unavailable, Google gives you a malware warning, etc. These are big problems that, although they might not be easy to fix, are very easy to diagnose. But what about the problems that aren’t so easy to diagnose? There are three major problems present in the majority of websites that can linger for years and in many cases aren’t properly diagnosed until it’s too late.
1.) Too many 404s
So how do you find these? Use a service like webpagetest.org and Google Webmaster Central too look for 404 errors generated by missing images, scripts, etc. It’s once you find them that the fun begins. You’ll need to be creative in finding what links to them and then either eliminate the link or recreate the resource.
From experience most of these problems, at least in WordPress and Drupal, tend to be found in the CSS or from content that has been deleted or moved. Using Chrome Developer Tools or Firebug can be a great resource to find where in your CSS style sheets these links are allowing you to delete or repair the resource in question. In the case of expired or moved content, a properly placed redirect could eliminate the error directing users to a valid replacement instead of your 404 page.
2.) Your page is too slow
How long will you wait for a page to load? Your users, at least most of them anyway, will give up on you after 3 seconds. Now, how long does your site take to load?
Most sites should really have no problem loading in less than 3 seconds yet all too many smaller sites can take 10 seconds or more. To determine what yours takes take a look at Pingdom or Webpagestest.org. Both will give you a good idea of just how fast or slow your site is.
Now, what to do with this information is the tricky part. First, if your site is slow because of too many images or other media this is easy and you can probably just optimize your media for faster load times. If your issues are your host or server however this might get a little more complicated. Installing caching, combining scripts and reducing features might help or you might have to go to a new host entirely depending on where the problem lies.
While it may seem like a daunting task to improve your site load time remember that even a small speed improvement can really help. Keep this in mind and take your time in optimizing your site as each little step you take will bring results over the long term.
3.) Your site isn’t secure
What will you do if your site gets hacked? I’ll tell you what your readers will do. Many of them won’t ever come back.
If you’ve spent any time on this site you’ll know that with my Better WP Security plugin website security is a topic that is dear to me. The problem is for more site owners security is something someone else has to worry about as an attack will “never happen to me.” The facts however say otherwise. You see, attackers don’t care about how much traffic you get or what you write about. They care that your site can be another number in their bot network spreading malware and other nasties throughout the internet.
While nothing can make your site 100% secure there are a few things you should be doing to make it harder for attackers get in and to be able to recover with minimal loss should they get through your defenses.
First, make a good backup of your media and database. You don’t need copies of your plugins, themes, or core CMS files (unless they are custom). You need the stuff you can’t easily just download again.
Second, make it hard for folks to get into your site. Use strong passwords and SSL, keep your software up to date, and use tools such as the Better WP Security plugin for WordPress to make it as difficult as possible for someone to gain access to your site.
Third, no when your defenses have failed. Services such as Securi can scan your site for malware and let you know about it before Google does. This is important as once your readers know you’ve been hacked it’s too late. Check regularly for problems and be ready to act.
Finally, have a recovery plan. This means know how to use the backup you created. Also, know all the accounts, links, etc that access your site and it’s resources and have a plan in place to restore your site when disaster strikes as well as to close whatever door allowed for the problem in the first place.
Not all website errors are obvious. It is these hidden errors that might seem like they’re not a problem but, in the long run, can really hold you back from your potential. Scan through your site, make sure everything that should be there is there, spend a little time optimizing what you have, and lock the door on your way out. As in so much else in life a little work in these areas can go a long way to making your good site great.