WordPress website maintenance – why?
Back in the “old days”, you would get a website designed and launched and you were done. A majority of websites are now developed in WordPress and this CMS platform has grown over the years. As it is continuously evolving, it needs to be maintained. WordPress works very hard to keep their platform secure while adding new features. Security updates are released to address vulnerabilities that are found or for certain things to work an update is needed. There are specific WordPress website maintenance tasks you should make sure are executed regularly to keep your site secure and functional.
Make sure your website is being backed up
It is often that a client thinks their website is being backed up regularly by their web hosting provider. However, this is not always the case. Many entry level or cheaper hosting plans don’t have backups, or don’t back them up on a schedule you are comfortable with. There are several available plug-ins out there that allow you to download backup files or create local backup copies on your site. Other websites uses 3rd party tools to create daily off-site backups in file storage services such as Amazon AWS. Whichever plan you use, make sure you:
- Make frequent backups of your site
- Backups are accessible even if your website or hosting provider is down
- You know how to bring your site backup or who to call to get it back up
- Both website files and database files are being backed up
Keep WordPress core updated
WordPress is an open source platform and frequent updates/versions are released several times a year. Some updates are security patches while others are bug fixes or new features. I would read on each update before updating your site and give high priority to security releases. When you log on your WordPress website, the top of the page will show you a message regarding available WordPress updates.
By default, WordPress will automatically update to the latest version and this is fine for most websites, however we prefer to turn this off and do it manually. We always do the updates on a test copy of the site, do a spot check on the pages and make sure nothing is broken. We make sure the production website is backed up and then we proceed to update it. Nine times out of ten there will be no problems, but if there is, you may need a programmer to check what is broken and get it fixed in the code.
Keep WordPress themes and plug-ins updated
This is often where websites have problems when updating their core or when a plug-in is not correctly programmed. If you go to your plugins manager in WordPress, it will show you which plugins have an update available. We follow the same steps as when updating the WordPress core, we update the test copy first and then repeat on the live site. Make sure you keep plug-ins updated because these are developed by 3rd parties and do not fall under WordPress responsibility. There may be security issues, or bugs or a code snippet may not work with a WordPress update.
The same applies to WordPress themes, however, before you go ahead and update a theme, it is critical to make sure you have a child theme installed. If the website was developed correctly and it uses a WordPress theme that was customized, the developer should have created a child theme. The child theme saves all the customizations that was done for your site. If a child theme is not used, and a theme is updated, it is possible that some or all of the customizations are lost. In this case, the best thing would be to get a developer to create a child theme before updating the parent theme.
Delete unused plugins
As explained before, plugins may have code that breaks the site or has a security issue. If a plugin is deactivated but not deleted, it is still a security risk and can affect performance. I suggest that once a month you review your plugins, see when it was last updated, make sure the 3rd party is still around, and scan for unused or disabled plugins. I would consider looking for replacements for plugins that haven’t been updated for a while. Before you delete a plugin, first disable it, make sure it doesn’t break your site and then proceed to delete it. This will delete the physical files from your server. Like with WordPress updates, make sure you back up your site.
Use a security plugin
Any website can be vulnerable, so the idea is to protect it the best you can. There are free and paid plugins and services you can use to keep your site monitored and protected, but nothing is fail-safe. This is another reason you need to make sure you have backups. We recommend that you have plugins that act as a firewall to prevent hack attempts and that provide monitoring on failed login attempts, file changes and more. You may end up using a collection of plugins to cover all of your bases. Some of these plugins also notify you of when your site or plugin is not updated.
Keep your website fast
This is a tough one. Sometimes plugins, database clutter or other things may cause your website to not be fast enough compared to your competition. Google uses page speed as a ranking factor, so this needs to be monitored. You can use Google Page Insights, or other SEO tools to get a free page speed audit. Keep in mind that these tools usually scan only one page, so it is a good idea to scan different pages and get a baseline idea of your page speed. Most of these tools will show you where your problems are that cause your website to load slowly. It could be an overuse of plugins, large images, or a lack of speed optimization tricks. I recommend getting a web developer to look at the audit results and get recommendations on what can be done to speed it up. You may end up removing non critical plugins, re-uploading images that are optimized or installing plugins that speed up parts of your site.
Optimize your WordPress database
A cluttered database can be an issue if you have a lot of spam comments, unpublished drafts and other items. This can potentially cause your WordPress website to slow down. To solve this, there are plugins and tools to clean your database, delete spam comments, empty trash bin and more.
I don’t have time for WordPress website maintenance
We feel your pain, sometimes it tough for even us to keep our website updated and properly maintained. WordPress website maintenance is important though, you don’t want your site broken, hacked or sluggish due to lack of maintenance. NearSource offers different monthly WordPress website maintenance plans that fit to different types of needs. We have basic plans that just covers WordPress maintenance and hosting for customers that post their own content. We have other plans for the less tech savvy users that don’t have time to post/upload their content, these plans cover the basic maintenance tasks and website content updates. Read more about our website maintenance plans.