“Use WordPress” they said! “You’ll make a great looking site easily” they said! “You’ll feel a bit overwhelmed by trying to maintain your site” they said! Oh, no one mentioned that last bit? Did you think you were the only one struggling? Worry not, if keeping on top of WordPress maintenance is a becoming a bit of a headache then we’re here to help.
The key to the smooth running of a WordPress site is being proactive and keeping on top of the regular WordPres website maintenance. We’ve got 9 fairly simple tips that’ll make sure your site never gives you a headache again…
It might seem like a simple and obvious first step but backing your site up is really important and overlooked by a lot of people. The main reason it’s overlooked is because of how infrequently it’s used – but, like lots of other things, you don’t realise how important it is until you need it.
The first step here is to have some kind of cloud-based backup – but be aware, if your site is hacked there’s a chance your backup might be compromised too. The most robust way of backing up is to take 2 or 3 backups over a period of a week, that way you can work on a rolling basis, only ever overwriting the oldest file – meaning if you accidently backup a compromised version then you can step a couple of days further back and restore again.
Make sure you’re not just backing up your database too, get all your files covered. Tedious? Maybe. Will you thank us for the advice if something goes wrong? Definitely.
- Moderate comments
Another simple one – keep on top of any comments you have enabled on the site. These are prime real-estate areas for spam bots placing dubious links. It won’t take you long to moderate your comments and it gives the impression of a well-maintained site to legitimate traffic.
- Keep your files up to date
Keeping files up to date isn’t dissimilar to backing up, it’s not a glamourous task but as far as preventative measures go it’s one of the best. The priority here are your WordPress core files, this is where big security issues are patched – meaning the big steps toward keeping your site safe are done on your behalf. Most hosting companies will give you the option to automatically allow these updates, so it’s a good idea to opt-in if that’s the case.
If you prefer to keep your hands on the reigns of your site for everything then keep your eyes peeled for core file update notifications and get them manually updated as a priority beyond their release.
- Update plugins
Plugins are great at a few things – on the plus side they’ll expand your site functionality way beyond anything the base platform can offer, on the downside, if they’re not properly maintained they’ll be great at causing speed, compatibility and security issues!
Keep on top of updates. If you’re working with plugins from good providers then you’ll find they keep up with your core updates – a good reason to make sure you’re only using resources from reputable sources. If you’ve having problems or you’ve stopped using one, get rid of it.
- Update your theme
If you’re one of the millions of people who’ve adopted a third-party theme for your site then you need to be a little careful with theme updates. Chances are you’ve customised colours or layout to some degree – make sure that when you update you’re not overwriting your customisation with a generic scheme.
But, don’t worry if you do, you’ve got 3 rolling backups now haven’t you?!
- Maintain your database
The more you update the more you’ll accumulate MySQL and PHP overheads – in layperson’s terms this is the mess that’s left when database functions are performed, updates are made and so forth. Whether you use the Optimize Table function or use a piece of third-party software to keep things tidy it’s well worth doing – slowing down database queries is to website performance what keeping your handbrake on is to driving!
- Traffic analysis
The only way to know if your site is doing what you want it to is to look at what your traffic is doing. Only you know what your goals are – is it sheer traffic numbers? Time spent on the site? Conversions? Completed transactions?
As a website owner or developer it’s easy to lose sight of the bigger picture, which takes us on to our next tip…
- Live the user experience
Your user experience is where your site will live or die. The best sites in the world are those that are a dream to use, simple, intuitive, predictable and understandable. Research shows that people will vote with their clicks if your site isn’t up to par, bouncing somewhere else quickly – and potentially never coming back.
Having others use your site can help with your objectivity, if that’s friends and family then great – but don’t be afraid to get someone on board who’s a user experience professional for a totally objective view.
There are lots of technical things you can check that have a big impact on a visitor experience and can be measured with simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answers.
- Does your site work neatly and efficiently over all browsers?
- Do your forms work as they should?
- Do all your navigation functions work and deliver users to the right place?
- Do you have any broken links? 404 Errors?
- Is your page load speed reasonable?
- Maintain your on-page-SEO
There are few jobs on a WordPress site that will stack up like on-page-SEO. You’ve got a choice – do you want to commit a few minutes each time you post to staying on top of the job, or do you fancy a tedious few hours by letting them build up?! For each page:
- Make sure your H1 tags are only around your title
- Make sure keywords are in your page URL
- Place keywords carefully in the first paragraph of content
- Include the right kind of outbound links
- Have the right meta description in place
Prevention vs. the cure
So, you’ve read through – what do you think? 45 minutes to an hour’s worth of work each week? If you’re working flat out you might find it difficult to justify taking that time out – but ask yourself this, would you rather factor in those minutes now? Or be forced to spend hours further down the line to remedy, restore or re-do all that hard work? The most optimal thing you can do if you are trying to save on time is to to search out a WordPress website maintenance service to take care of all of these 9 steps listed above.