Most website owners don’t think about maintenance. Instead of it being viewed as a necessity, it’s often looked at as a chore. And unfortunately, it’s often a chore that never gets done.
By not properly maintaining your site you expose it to a variety of potential problems, such as increasing the likelihood it’ll be hacked, increasing load speeds, and reducing your search engine rankings.
In this post we’re going to explore the most important areas of your site that need to be maintained, as well as our recommended course of action for each.
Main Maintenance Areas To Consider
Before you make any major changes be sure to backup your website, just in case you make any mistakes and need to reset your site to an earlier form. A proper WordPress maintenance routine will include the following areas:
- Backing up your website
- Installing updates
- Processing comments
- Setting up security
- Keeping track of website health
- Optimizing your database
Backups are an essential part of ensuring the long-term health of your website. However, they’re one of the most-often neglected parts of the maintenance process.
Automatic backups are going to be the easiest course of action, but it’s important to regularly test your backups to ensure that they’re functioning properly. You have multiple options to choose from when picking a backup system. Below you’ll find some of the most popular.
Choosing a Plugin
There are several high-rated WordPress plugins that will help to automate and simplify the entire backup process. The most common paid plugins include:
If you’re looking for a free alternative, WordPress offers a few high-quality plugins, which are still great options. These include:
If you’re looking for a breakdown of each plugin and their best uses, take a look at this post.
Working With Your Web Host
Most web hosts also offer options to have regularly scheduled backups for your website. This is something to explore within cPanel, or by looking over your original hosting agreement to see if regular backups is included in your plan.
Use Multiple Backup Options
No matter which option you choose, it’s essential that you backup your website to multiple different locations. For instance, while you could have a regularly scheduled backup that sends your website’s files to DropBox, you could also have local backups on your machine or an external hard drive.
This extra layer of safety ensures that you’ll never be left without a way to restore your website.
WordPress software updates are released on a regular basis. This includes the WordPress core along with any themes and plugins you have installed.
These updates need to be applied to your website so it will continue to function properly. Without regularly installing these updates, you run the risk of having code conflicts and elements of your site becoming out-of-date. This leaves your site more open to hackers and it won’t function as efficiently as it could have otherwise.
When you’re installing these updates, make sure you upgrade the WordPress core, your theme and then any plugins, in that order. This will help to avoid any plugin and theme conflicts which can take down your entire website.
If your website has a lot of plugins, make sure you upgrade them one at a time. That way if a conflict arises you’ll know which plugin was the culprit and it will be easier to fix.
Comments and Spam
Comment spam usually comes in the form of low-quality comments that are generally posted for no other reason than to build a backlink. These comments are very general, don’t relate to your article and add little-to-no value.
The best way to deal with comment spam is to stop it before it strikes. Having anti-spam measures set up will help to prevent a flood of spam comments from ever plaguing your website.
This plugin usually comes equipped with each installation of WordPress. However, if it isn’t, follow the steps below to get it up and running:
1. Navigate to Plugins > Add New, and search for Akismet, once you’ve located it in the search results click ‘Install Now’.
2. Navigate back to the installed plugins screen and locate Akismet. Click the link titled Sign up for an Akismet API key, and follow the steps to obtain your API key.
3. Go to Settings > Akismet and input your API key.
You’re all set. This plugin has been downloaded almost 30 million times, and will now block spam while you sleep.
Another option is to disable comments sitewide. You can do this with a plugin called Disable Comments. Simply install this plugin and you’re all set.
Navigate to Plugins > Disable Comments and choose whatever setting suits your needs.
However, make sure you really do want to disable comments across your entire site before you run this plugin.
Website Health and Security
Keeping your website healthy means keeping attackers out while ensuring your site is performing at its highest possible level.
Tools like Google Webmaster Tools and Google Analytics will be able to give you comprehensive website metrics, so you know which areas of your site are performing well and which are not. By checking the stats of your website regularly, you’ll be able to avoid problems before they become too big to handle.
Common website health problems include excessive site downtime, slow loading pages and broken links. Monitor your metrics to notice any subtle changes in these areas before they become drastic.
Another aspect of website health is website security. The size of your site and overall security precautions will determine your course of action. Most website owners opt for the plugin option, by using a plugin like:
If you’re lucky your web host might even handle website security for you. Taking the time now to have a well-protected website will help you avoid any unnecessary pains from the result of hacking or poor security.
Optimizing and Maintaining Your Database
If you have a busy site with a lot of traffic and tons of content continually being uploaded, your database could probably use a little love. By maintaining your database you’ll be essentially cleaning out your website’s cobwebs, which will help to improve your loading speeds and reduce the frequency of database errors.
The easiest way to keep your database clean and up-to-date is to use a WordPress plugin to simplify the entire process. Any of the plugins below will do a variety of tasks to maintain and optimize your database. And best of all, they’re all free!
Each plugin boasts high ratings and high downloads, so the plugin(s) you choose is (or are) truly up to you!
Staying In The Loop
Simply intending to maintain your site won’t be enough; you actually have to do the work. However, by taking your website maintenance seriously from today, and taking the necessary actions regularly, you’ll be able to avoid serious headaches in the future.
The best way to stay on top of things is to create a maintenance plan that fits into your schedule. Whether you’re doing the work or outsourcing the work to a professional, make sure that it’s handled on a regular basis.
It can also be worthwhile to stay on top of WordPress updates, including updates for any plugins or themes you might be using. This will help you become aware of any security flaws to watch out for and their respective patches to install.
Regular WordPress website maintenance will keep your site running clean for years to come. With the plugins we highlighted above the process doesn’t even have to be that difficult. No more than possibly just an hour per month and you can ensure that your site is healthy and running the latest updates.
Do you have a regular maintenance routine you follow? How about a favorite WordPress maintenance plugin? I’d love to hear about them!