Continued Website Maintenance
Creating and maintaining a website are two very different things. As it turns out, the real work only begins once your site is online. I’m not talking about content creation and site promotion here. I’m talking about the important task of website maintenance, keeping your internet presence up and running, and in good condition.
Neglecting basic website maintenance can have many unpleasant consequences:
• Increased page loading time
• Lowered security
• Decreased user experience
• Declining search engine rankings
• Aside from that, a site that is not taken care of simply becomes more chaotic and harder to use. Therefore, regular maintenance is essentially mandatory.
I want you to learn and understand why taking care of your site matters and the importance of keeping your WordPress website the well-oiled machine that it should be.
Why Care About Website Maintenance To Begin With?
First things first: Why is maintenance for WordPress sites such an important topic? If the platform is as sophisticated as advertised, shouldn’t it be a set-it-and-forget-it kind of deal? Why do you have to invest time into upkeep?
Well, it’s important to remember that WordPress is a tool and just like every other tool it needs to be taken care of so it can perform at its best. The CMS is no different than the heating in your house. Without regular care, it won’t keep working at peak capacity and perform what it was made to do.
In addition to that, by doing smaller things regularly, you reduce the probability of having to deal with larger issue at some point.
Make sense so far? Then let’s look at our first maintenance task.
Basic Maintenance Tasks For WordPress Websites
Before diving into regularly scheduled tasks, let’s quickly deal with an assignment that comes around in irregular intervals but is among the most important to do — keeping WordPress up to date.
Always Install the Latest Version of WordPress
Staying on top of the WordPress update cycle is important for many reasons. Not only does it give you access to new features and code updates, but more importantly, it also delivers security fixes and other measures that keep your website safe. In fact, failure to update is one of the most common reasons why WordPress sites get hacked.
Therefore, you should definitely make sure your site always runs the latest version of both WordPress and all its components. As a first step, it’s a good idea to keep up to date with latest WordPress news. And the official WordPress blog will let you know whats happening in the WordPress world including when a new version has been released.
Don’t Forget About Plugins And Themes
Of course, what applies to WordPress as a whole is also true for its components. Out-of-date plugins and themes are a prime gateway for hackers trying to take over your site.
For that reason, plugin and theme authors, ideally, offer regular updates for their products to make sure they function with the latest version of WordPress and continue to be secure.
Should You Automate The WordPress Update Process?
Since WordPress 3.7, minor security and maintenance updates are applied automatically. While it’s possible to disable this function, I strongly discourage you from doing so. Security updates are very unlikely to break your site and help keep it safe, as you might have guessed from the name. Therefore, it’s a good idea to have them installed automatically the moment they come out.
It’s also possible to enable automatic updates for major releases, as well as for plugins and themes.
However, if you do so, you are running the high risk of breaking your site and/or getting hacked or compromised without being aware and I would therefore, discourage this practice.
Routine Maintenance Tasks to Perform Once A Week... or so.
Examine Your Site’s Front-end
One thing that you should never forget is that your website is meant for visitors and users, not merely your own amusement. When you see your own site too often, it’s easy to become blind to things that aren’t working right. Therefore, it makes sense to put yourself in someone else’s shoes every once in a while.
Every week or so, look at your website the way your visitors do. Have a look around in a private browser window, a different browser, or on another device.
Do all the important pages work properly? Are things looking good and usable in mobile? Would someone who has never been to your site know what it’s about and how to deal with it?
Also, while you are at it, check whether everything you see on the front-end is actually necessary. Maybe you don’t need twelve widgets in your sidebar and five would be enough. Examine your website elements regularly with regard to whether they are contributing to or distracting from your page goals. Eliminate what you can.
Check Your Analytics
A weekly look at your stats will tell you what is working, which content is popular among readers, how visitors are behaving and much more. This information can help you tweak your strategy and content efforts accordingly for even more success in the future.
It will also let you know about site health and alarm you to things going wrong, like a Google penalty, before they become a major problem. Some metrics can even be reviewed daily, however, at the very least you should check in once a week to keep a bird’s eye view of your site’s performance.
Delete Spam Comments
Monthly would probably be enough, however, weekly is a better choice to make sure that legitimate comments don’t get caught up in the frenzy and left unanswered.
Sort Drafts And Empty Trash
By regularly deleting posts and pages that won’t see the light of day, you free up important resources. Also, don’t forget to adjust the time interval for the trash in wp-config.php so that items that have been thrown away get deleted when you would like them to.
If you are running a single-author website, doing this once a month is probably enough.
Monthly Maintenance Tasks For Your Site
The intervals are getting even longer. Still, this doesn’t mean whatever is on this list is any less important.
Consolidate Plugins And Themes
In the search for extra functionality, it’s not uncommon to try out five different plugins before you find the right one. For that reason, plugins are one of the most common contributors to clutter on WordPress websites.
Themes can be as well. Therefore, next up on our list of website maintenance tasks is a monthly look through your WordPress components to see what can be eliminated or reconfigured.
Optimize The Database
Like the rest of WordPress, the MySQL database accumulates unwanted data over time and maintenance also extends to this part of your site. If your WordPress website has been online and active for a while, your database will have accumulated a lot of information. Post revisions and drafts, and spam comments and data from uninstalled plugins increase its size quickly.
A large database can seriously affect your site loading speed because the bigger the database, the longer it takes for your server to find and retrieve information from it. No good for site performance.
In addition to that, having a large database makes backing up a long drawn-out process and migrating your website a lesson in patience. Trust me, I have been there. Plus, many hosting plans only offer limited web space so a reasonably sized database is also a matter of cost.
Scan For Malware And Signs Of Hacking
Nobody likes getting hacked, but the risk of it happening is part of the reality of having a website online. A better strategy of dealing with it, is to be proactive. By checking for irregularities on your site on a regular basis, you can fix potential problems before a hijacked site gets you blacklisted or worse.
Update Your Portfolio
If you’re using your site to advertise any sort of service, it’s important to keep your online portfolio up to date. You might have done loads of amazing stuff over time, however, if potential clients are only seeing your work from several years ago, they might think twice about hiring you.
To keep this from happening, check back once a month whether there is anything that needs to be added to your site. Better yet, make updating your portfolio part of your routine when finishing projects. That way, your website will always reflect your best work.
Quarterly To Yearly Maintenance Tasks
Finally, we are coming to those parts of site maintenance that don’t have to be done every month but that do need attention from time to time to keep your WordPress website running smoothly.
Eliminate Dead Links
By dead links I mean links either on your site, coming to your site or pointing to another website whose destination no longer exists. This can be because a resource has moved, the URL has a typo, the permalink structure has changed or simply because a page doesn’t exist anymore.
Users who click on such a link will see their browser spit out a 404 – not found error. Unavailable links don’t make for a pleasant user experience and are one of the fastest ways to increase your bounce rate, which will hurt your search engine standings.
Update Personal And Site Information
Every few months is also a good time to go back and have a look at whether your site still reflects who you are and what you do. Things change quickly not only on the Internet but also in real life.
Maybe your business objective shifted. Maybe you have taken the site towards a new direction. Or maybe your address has changed or your life circumstances. In all cases, your website should reflect it.
As part of your WordPress website maintenance, you should regularly check relevant pages like the about page, contact page, legal pages, copyright notice, author byline, and other important info to see whether it’s still up to date.
Validate Your WordPress Website
It’s no secret that web technology is steadily evolving and nothing is out of date quicker than anything online. Especially basic technology like HTML and CSS which are constantly updated and it’s worth the occasional look whether your site still conforms to current best standards.
The WordPress Codex article on validation has plenty of tools that allow you to do just that. Apply once a year or whenever you have made major changes to your site.
WordPress Website Maintenance is Necessary!
Without taking care of your site on a regular basis, you run the risk of ending up with a slow, unsecured and chaotic website that is difficult to use and creates a vulnerability for both visitors and admins.