Without a routine website maintenance plan, any site will show signs of age over time — like slower page load times, misaligned elements, malfunctioning widgets, glitchy content updates, and even security breaches. An unmaintained site will eventually become hard to use, hard to find (as search rankings slip) and hard to save if it breaks.
With the New Year just around the corner, now’s a good time to make sure your website is in shipshape.
Here are our maintenance musts for a healthy WordPress site:
Backing up your website means saving a duplicate version — site files (theme, plugins etc.) and the database — to a secure location, much like uploading copies of precious photos to Google Drive or saving a copy of your unpublished novel to an external hard drive in case something happens to your computer. Backing up your website on a regular basis protects your online business if (or when) something goes wrong or your site goes down entirely.
Regular site backups are usually conducted by your Web hosting provider, but if yours doesn’t, make sure you do. We cannot stress enough the importance of backing up your site. Websites can be backed up manually or plugins can be installed that allow you to schedule automatic backups.
We recommend sites are backed up weekly, or at least monthly, depending on how frequently content is updated on the site. If content is updated on a daily basis, site backups should be too!
WordPress Version Updates
Just like any other technology, WordPress is always evolving and improving with new features as well as code updates, bug fixes and security patches. It’s important to ensure your site is running on the latest version of WordPress to take advantage of new features, ensure compatibility with new plugins and, most importantly, to help prevent your site from getting hacked.
WordPress will tell you when an upgrade is available for your site via a message in your WordPress dashboard. Be sure to back up your site (see above) before running an update, just in case anything goes awry.
Theme and Plugin Updates
Updating themes and plugins is also important for the same reasons as keeping up to date with the latest WordPress version. Outdated or unused themes and plugins pose a security risk to your site and can slow things down, negatively affecting the user experience. Running updates on themes and plugins as they become available (notifications will appear in the Plugin menu) helps to ensure they are secure and working optimally.
Again, remember to back up your site first, just in case.
It’s also a good idea to go through your themes, plugins and widgets and get rid of any that are unused or unnecessary to prevent clogging up the machinery and letting in hackers (as mentioned above). It feels good to declutter!
Additional Site Security
While keeping your website up to date with the latest WordPress and component (theme and plugin) updates is an important part of keeping your site safe from online threats, it never hurts (and is in fact a very smart idea) to be proactive and add an additional layer of security. Anti-spam and security plugins identify and mitigate nuisances and threats ranging from spam to phishing to malicious attacks.
Clean Up Your Database
WordPress does a pretty good job of keeping website data in order, but over time the underlying database accumulates unneeded data like forgotten draft posts and content revisions, data from uninstalled plugins, deleted content and spam comments. Surplus data buildup takes up space and can negatively affect site loading speed.
Cleaning and optimizing the database can be done manually through phpMyAdmin, or by using a popular plugin like WP-Optimize.
View Your Site through Your Visitors’ Eyes
Regularly visit your website, imagining you are a customer. This will help you identify any issues you might otherwise overlook. Check your site on different browsers and devices (including mobile) and confirm that pages are loading quickly and properly, menus are user-friendly, plugins and widgets are working correctly and actually add something valuable to your site, etc.
You should always check your website after any updates — new WordPress version updates, theme and plugin updates and content updates too — but it’s also a good habit to get into between updates to catch any suspicious activity or things that break in the meantime.
Analyze Your Analytics
Reviewing website statistics provides insight into how well a website is doing its job and is key to maintaining its success. Performance metrics like site traffic, traffic sources, pageviews, bounce rates and, of course, conversion rates help identify any anomalies that can indicate whether content and design strategies need to be tweaked, as well as site health problems like slow load times or malfunctioning widgets.
We recommend monitoring website stats at least once a month. For more guidance, read our blog post about the six key website metrics to track.
With so much business taking place online these days, your website is a crucial sales and marketing platform; keeping it in top shape is a must. Establishing and sticking to a routine maintenance plan will help ensure your website continues to work like a well-oiled machine for optimal success.
Here at World Web Technologies Inc. we offer an optional maintenance package with our design work. Our Web professionals take care of the tedious, technical side of maintenance, including all WordPress and component (themes and plugins) updates and site security, to give you total peace of mind — and more time to focus on your customers.
Contact us for more information.