Having a website means it’s going to need maintenance. It’s like servicing a car or keeping your house tidy: there are regular tasks that make everything work the way it should. Just like your marketing, your website should remain flexible. With a bit of forethought, these WordPress website maintenance tasks will take up little time and often be done automatically. That’ll leave you and your team to deal with the unusual tasks, emergency situations, and continual improvement. After all, you don’t just want to maintain a website. You want to use it to make your business grow and get even better.
Why Regular WordPress Website Maintenance Matters
Maintenance isn’t an exciting word. But unlike car or home maintenance, WordPress maintenance doesn’t have to be time-consuming or expensive. With the right plugins, you can even do a lot of the basic tasks automatically. That leaves your web team able to focus on the meatier tasks.
Regular maintenance is vital for any website. These tasks, if done semi-frequently, will help your website stay secure, load quickly, work as it’s meant to, and get back online quickly in the case of an unlikely emergency. (Like someone getting hacked or a server with all the files failing.)
Your Maintenance Checklist
A Quick Maintenance Audit
Before you dig into regular maintenance, make sure everything’s been set up properly to start with. Here are a few key areas you should double check:
- Change all of your admin passwords. Use highly secure ones and a password manager like 1Password to keep track.
- Don’t use your admin account as the ‘Author’ of your blog posts or pages. Why? It could show hackers what your username is. Go through and change this as needed.
- Require users to use two-factor authentication, aka 2FA. This is a super simple but really important security step. (If you have a membership site or option where normal users can register, this might only apply to higher member types.)
- Use the appropriate account types. Don’t use an admin account when you only need access to add and update pages or blog posts. It’s just safer that way.
- Make sure you’re notified about downtime, immediately. If you have an e-commerce site, these alerts are essential so you can communicate with your customers. You can set this in JetPack or use a downtime plugin.
- AND make sure you’re notified about unusual login attempts or changes to your files. WordFence will do this automatically, as well as block login attempts that look fishy.
- Turn off auto-updates. You want to test updates (to your theme, plugins, and the WordPress core itself) in a safe testing environment, that won’t affect your live website. This is even more important if your website has registrations or e-commerce features!
- Make sure your website is set up with a Child Theme. Otherwise, when you do update, all of your customisations could be overwritten. Whoops. Here’s how to use a Child Theme.
- Block spam with Akismet or a similar tool. You don’t want your website flooded with spammy comments.
- Set up SSL. It’s 2019. HTTPS is not optional and it’s not just for websites that take payments.
Daily WordPress Website Maintenance Checklist
- Backup your website. You can use a plugin like UpdraftPlus to backup a copy of everything to your cloud file saving platform of choice.
- Check for WordPress core updates. There will be an alert in the Admin area of your site if there is one. If there is, prepare to update ASAP!
- Optimise all the images you upload to your site. A huge image file can make pages take too long to load – making people leave your site in frustration! Kraken.io has a free web interface that you can use to optimise images, no image editing software required.
- Visit your website, without being logged in. Test new pages and blog posts like this when you publish them, too. You’ll quickly spot any errors, such as broken images.
Weekly WordPress Maintenance Tasks
- Check your analytics. This means asking questions like: how are your pages performing? Do you have any new backlinks you could thank people for? Because you’re putting in so much work on your website, you need to know what is and isn’t working. If you set up Google Analytics in WordPress properly, you’ll get clear, accurate data you can use.
- Check Google Search Console to make sure there aren’t any errors, dead links, or dead images on your site. These can punish your search rankings, so you want to fix these problems ASAP.
- Update any pending plugins, core updates, etc. Remember to do this in a test environment before updating the live website.
- Empty your Akismet-flagged spam comments, making sure there aren’t any relevant ones that got flagged as spam by mistake.
- Use a different device to visit your website. Normally check it on your computer? Browse it on your phone, or vice versa.
- Remove unnecessary plugins, themes, and other files. Because you’re not using them, even the default themes that come with WordPress can be removed. By doing so, you improve security and can help with loading times, too.
- Change your admin passwords. And make sure you delete user accounts that are no longer needed. Double-check that pages and blog posts aren’t published under admin names.
- Assess your website load times. For instance, you can use Google Page Insights to check how long your website takes to load across devices. It’ll highlight any pages that can be improved.
- Delete old backups that you don’t need anymore, to save space.
- Optimise your database file. But don’t worry, it only takes a quick click.
Semi-Annual and Annual Tasks
- Change the passwords of other users, such as authors, at least every 6 months. Remove old accounts that aren’t needed.
- Check your hosting is still the best choice. Have you had a lot of downtime? Is there a better price elsewhere?
- Renew your domain for as long as possible. It might be worth buying similar domains so that people can’t try to spoof your website, too. Having a long registration period on your domain looks good to search engines, and also means you don’t have to risk it expiring.
- Make sure your website reflects your business. Services and products can evolve. Is your website still on brand? Does it reflect all of the amazing work you’ve done? Are all your current social media profiles listed?
Don’t Set and Forget
Yes, you should absolutely run your regular WordPress website maintenance with as many tools as possible. (But don’t use so many that it slows your website down.) And as well as tools, you do still need a human eye. Does the website LOOK nice? Does it feel good to use? And does it read well? And automatic data reports are great, but what does the data tell you to do? For instance, do you have to change your tactics?
Point is, you have to use tools to help your strategy. You can’t just set and forget. Otherwise, you’ll come back to a stagnant website riddled with errors and outdated info.
Your website is a living part of your marketing strategy. It deserves the regular attention.