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Website Maintenance: Updating CMS and SEO Impacts

In this episode we talked about website maintenance, site security, and how staying up to date can help your UX and SEO. Learn how to prevent a security breach while boosting your site and your rankings.

The Critical Role of Website Maintenance 

Join Evan Facinger and Jon Ballard in this episode as they delve into the crucial world of website maintenance, shedding light on the paramount importance of keeping content management systems (CMS) up-to-date. With a spotlight on the risks associated with using outdated platforms like WordPress, the duo emphasizes the potential security vulnerabilities and their impact on your website's safety. The conversation extends to the vital role of regular maintenance in search engine optimization (SEO) and enhancing user experience (UX). Evan and Jon provide insightful recommendations on initiating discussions with website developers, setting budgetary considerations for ongoing updates, and the potential vulnerabilities within website backups. Tune in for expert advice on the significance of professional management in ensuring the security and seamless functionality of your online presence.


  • 0:00 Intro
  • 0:54 Why You Should Maintain Your Website
  • 2:25 The Target on Wordpress' Back
  • 4:53 Hacking Goes Beyond Wordpress
  • 8:00 Boosting Your Website Performance for SEO and UX
  • 10:23 Frequency and Costs of Website Maintenance
  • 12:32 When to Rely on Backing Up Your Website
  • 14:00 The Panama Papers Horror Story
  • 16:15 Outro


Evan Facinger: It's not just security; there's a lot of other benefits for keeping up to date by maintaining the website. Right? Optimizing the performance, which is good for not only the user experience but also can be good for search engine optimization.

Evan Facinger: Hey, everybody, welcome to the Foremost Media Marketing Chat podcast. I'm Evan Facinger, and with me, as usual, is the co-founder of Foremost Media, Jon Ballard.

Jon Ballard: Hey, Evan, how's it going today?

Evan Facinger: It's going well. And I'm excited to chat about today's topic. You know, I think when we discussed this before, it was really revolving around website maintenance in general and the overall importance of maintaining the websites. To kick us off, do you want to go into a little bit of detail on what we mean by website maintenance?

Jon Ballard: Yeah, it's an interesting topic, and it's sure a timely topic as well, with all the stuff going on with hacking and just how dangerous the web has become. A lot of people ask me, especially older customers, how come I've got to maintain my website? It doesn't seem like this was as big of a deal in the past. I always say we've got to back up a little bit and look at how websites work these days. Websites are on what's called a CMS system, for the most part, which is WordPress, or DNN, or Nop, or something like that. That CMS system allows you to make changes a lot easier than you could in the past. Back in the old days when we first started doing this, a lot of websites were just static HTML; there just wasn't a lot you could do to hack those websites and there weren't a lot of moving parts. But, today's CMS systems, not only are they really complex and allow you a lot of flexibility, which is great to update and make changes on your website, but they also have a lot of vulnerabilities, so to speak. A lot of times, especially WordPress, you can easily download a lot of third-party plugins, which make things easy, like calendaring and stuff like that. But all of a sudden, you've got the regular code for the CMS. And now you've got all these plugins by third-party developers, and keeping that all secure can be a really big job. So, I think we want to dive into that a little bit and kind of just talk about the importance of it and why it's worth the cost to maintain a website. Is that kind of what you were thinking?

Evan Facinger: Yeah, that summed it up perfectly and you touched on a few key parts that I think we should start with too. Right? A lot of people know WordPress. I mean, it takes up most of the market share when it comes to website development, or at least for the content management system world, right? Which is what WordPress is, it's a CMS. And the idea there is that you do need to rely on a lot of different plugins. And I think WordPress gets a bad rep just because of some of the more known security issues, and I think a big part of that is, of course, the plugins themselves, right? Every time you have a plugin, it's a third-party plugin. Are you opening up any other sort of risks by actually implementing them? And the answer is usually yes, right? Some are more updated than others on a regular basis too. Some website maintenance web developers maintain them a little bit more also, but they are the most popular content management system. And when they're the most popular, they're going to be the most targeted, and a lot of times some of the conversations I have with people that say, well, I don't know if that's related to me, right? Nobody's looking for my website. Nobody's trying to hack my website. But what they're able to do is actually scrape and see who has this plugin that has a known vulnerability for this version, right? And then they're able to exploit that without even knowing who that company is. So you don't have to be some major player in the industry, well-known with a lot of traffic to potentially face a lot of security risks. And I think the other important part is it's not just security, too. I mean, there are a lot of other benefits for keeping things up to date, right? By maintaining them, right, optimizing the performance, which is good for not only the user experience but also the search engine optimization of the website.

Jon Ballard: Yeah, a lot of people ask why WordPress has such a bad rep. I kinda equate it to like Apple versus PC or Microsoft. You don't hear a lot of hacks in the Apple computing system or computing world But what happens is, Microsoft is the dominant player. Most PCs out there are Microsoft. So the hackers are gonna create exploits for that because they can use it so many more places where Apple doesn't have quite the market share. So WordPress definitely has a target on its back just because it is the big player, and there's a lot more opportunity to create a hack to go after victims, I guess.

Evan Facinger: Right, but it does go beyond WordPress too. WordPress might be the most targeted, like you said, just because it is the most well-known. However, even a content management system that we do build in as well because we build in multiple content management systems. You know, we try to be agnostic and make sure that whatever content management system we are recommending is based on the situation, right? Based on the type of site that's needed, based on what is going to be best. Not just this is the shop that we are. And this is what we build in. So you know it's interesting to see it from that perspective, like DotNetNuke, which is a less-known content management system, DNN, and one that we've developed in for a number of years right over a decade that we've been developing in. And it's been known to be more enterprise-level, very secure, very stable. And there were versions running on that without major issues that were pretty old. We're talking years and years old, right? Maybe 8 plus years old for a content management system, which isn't something that, you know, we recommend for a multitude of reasons. However,  showing that it was still stable, I think, speaks to it. However, all of a sudden, there was a major security vulnerability with the Telerik, and that was something that had to be addressed, had to be looked at. There's a lot of companies that were running DNN on their website that had a major vulnerability that had to be corrected. And there was a lot of time spent by organizations having to all of a sudden go through and handle the maintenance that would have been less time-consuming had they kept up on it the entire time.

Jon Ballard: Right? And a lot of people look at us as their web developer. Let's say we built a site for you back 10 years ago, and you haven't really done any maintenance and hosting is not maintenance. I think that's one thing we really need to make clear unless you specifically have something in your hosting agreement that says they're gonna maintain your site and update plugins. They're not updating your site right? So what Evan's talking about can compound over years if maybe you haven't had problems for 10 years. But all of a sudden a problem arises and you're back 6 major versions. It can be pretty expensive for not keeping up. And you've lost the benefit of those updates over the 10 years. So a lot to think about. And I think you know that's why I think we're really starting to preach to our clients, especially the importance of maintaining your website. And then the other thing is, websites have become such a more important part of people's businesses than they used to be right. It used to be kind of just a yellow pages ad, you could go get some information. But now they're critical parts of ordering and scheduling, and the infrastructure of the business. So that's changed a lot as well.

Evan Facinger: Yeah, so and that means if they do get taken down right, whether a vulnerability was hit for ransomware meaning they're going to essentially hold all your data, hold all of your information, a lot of times it's sensitive information hostage until you pay a certain fee, or they're just going to steal your customer data because it's there. The vulnerabilities have increased, but also the severity of what happens if you are attacked. If you are subject to somebody trying to exploit those vulnerabilities.

Jon Ballard: Let's talk a little bit about like SEO. Evan, what have you seen in websites that haven't done updates for a while versus newer websites that are more updated. Is there any SEO or marketing advantage there?

Evan Facinger: You know, it's an interesting question, right? Because a lot of times, it's the canary in the coal mine. If somebody doesn't care enough to keep their website updated, do they care enough to continuously optimize their website from a search engine standpoint? And a lot of times, there are, right? It's easier to see the ROI of having a site that's optimized for search versus one that you're just making sure it's maintained. But they do go hand in hand. Performance is a major component with it. If you have a website that is very out of date, it's most likely not loading as fast as it could. That means your user experience isn't at the point where it should be. There could be other challenges that you have where you're not able to make certain adjustments because the plugins are too old, and maybe there's been a change in how SEO is really rendered. Or maybe the plugins are, or I shouldn't say how SEO is rendered, but certain aspects of SEO that you want to interject in the site. Is it still trying to put in keyword tags because you don't have an updated SEO plugin or module or process to update those different components. Are you even able to put in the GA4 code for Google Tag Manager. Is it still trying to run off the, what is now outdated, universal analytics from that standpoint. So there are a lot of different things that it can impact by not keeping the website updated. And I would say the biggest one, though, would be performance. If you have the outdated technology, it's not loading the right way. Maybe it breaks because the way browsers render the code is different than when you had it. All of those are gonna have a big impact. Would you add anything to that?

Jon Ballard: No, I think it's just like the old analogy of a car. If you drive your car for 60,000 miles without changing the oil. Eventually, you're gonna have some problems. It may run, but it's gonna slow down over time. And you're gonna have a bigger problem and bigger cost at the end, by putting off maintenance like this. But I'm thinking of our users here, or our listeners here, and if I'm a listener, how frequently should I expect to have to do updates on a website, Evan? And what kind of costs or budget should I put aside to kind of plan for website maintenance.

Evan Facinger: Yeah, and I think that's gonna be determined by the type of site you have. Right? Do you have WordPress, which is gonna need more plugins, right? Also what are you doing on WordPress? What is the theme? Is it a custom theme, or is it another theme, or are you using a visual editor, like all of those things are gonna factor into how often they should be updated. And also, do you have DNN, do you have nopCommerce? Right? Is it Umbraco, is there another content management system that you're using? That's something that you should talk with whoever built your website. So if your website was built by us, we're happy to have that conversation. Or if you want us to take a look at your websites and go through that. That's something we can make a specific recommendation on. But in any event, it should be regularly. In most cases we are recommending a monthly package just to make sure somebody's eyes are on it. It doesn't have to be a significant spend either, for the majority of the sites. However, what you can do is just have somebody in there looking at everything on an ongoing basis and making sure that it's performing the way that it should. Because when we're talking about maintenance, too, right? There are updates. But there's also just other components that can be optimized or adjusted. Right? If we take a look at all the different PHP versions that are on different WordPress websites for now, and keeping those up to date is gonna be important, and then they can have a ripple effect throughout the rest of the site. That could come down to the WordPress version and does your plugins work with that WordPress version? Did that PHP version cause an issue with the theme that you had on there because it's not compatible, and that needs to be updated. So having somebody working with you on a regular basis that really understands your website just allows it a lot less unknowns to all of a sudden come up and surprise you.

Jon Ballard: One other thing I was kinda sitting here thinking about is, I heard this from a customer the other day goes. Well, I've got backup off-site, backup on my website. So if it just gets hacked and goes down. I'll just restore it. What's your thoughts on that approach?

Evan Facinger: Well, yes, unless your entire server has been taken over and you don't have anything to restore it to and I think that's part of it also is there are certain things where a backup would correct the issue. That's why we do backups. That's why backups are important. However, sometimes you're loading in a backup that already has the vulnerability. Other times you don't have the ability to load the backup because it is completely taken over, right? That's where ransomware comes in, and that's where it gets a scary, and that's where you hear the horror stories of the 7 figure payouts just to get their data back, and everything that goes along with that.

Jon Ballard: Hosting has evolved a lot too, and it's a lot more secure, especially our hosting. We've invested a lot, but you can't count on that, especially if your website's out of date. Right? I mean, so the two things really need to be thought about separately. Paying for good quality hosting is super important for speed and the security of the site. But on the other hand, if your updates aren't up to date, it doesn't matter how good your hosting is and how good your backup is. Sorry, you're still vulnerable.

Evan Facinger: Yeah, definitely. And I will say, though, my favorite, and I guess I don't mean favorite in necessarily a good way because I think that would well paint me in a negative light, possibly. However, are you familiar at all with the Panama Papers, Jon, If I say that?

Jon Ballard: I've not heard of that, sorry.

Evan Facinger: So the Panama Papers. Essentially, there was this law firm, and I'll probably gonna mispronunce it right? Mossack Fonseca, which is a law firm. The Panama Papers is something that did get a lot of notoriety around the papers because it essentially had a lot of data in them. It revealed a lot of financial details for extremely high-profile individuals and corporations. It exposed a lot of sensitive information that all of those people, and we're talking very important people, wanted to keep secret. So the reason that these Panama Papers even became available and known was because that law firm's website was actually built on WordPress, and it was using an outdated revolution slider plugin. So hackers were able to gain access to that firm and their network with it. And they were able to just extract all of the data. Right? And it was a ton of data, millions of data all around those sorts of issues for it. And it led to investigations in countries right around having all of these. And if you Google the Panama Papers and start to take a look at some of that. You'll see the overall horror, I think, that just having an out-of-date slider plugin on your website produced.

Jon Ballard: And we're certainly not trying to scare anybody. But, I guess again, it's just been really clear to us over the last four or five years how much more important security is becoming and updates and just the whole topic of keeping things, keeping the bad guys out, keeping ahead of them. So hopefully, you've learned a little bit today.

Evan Facinger: Yeah, anything else you want to add?

Jon Ballard: No, I think I'm good. Alright. Well, thanks, everyone. If you like what you heard, of course, you can always subscribe. We'll send these to you in an email if you subscribe on our website at foremostmedia.com. Otherwise, of course, Spotify, Apple Podcasts, wherever you're listening to your podcast, just like, subscribe there, and be sure to get notified.

Jon Ballard: Thanks, Evan. Have a great day.

Evan Facinger: Thanks, John.

Zach Baierl: Thanks for listening to the Foremost Media Marketing Chat Podcast. If you want to stay on top of your marketing game, make sure to like and subscribe so you never miss an episode. For more episodes, show transcripts, and marketing insights, visit foremostmedia.com.