Last time I checked, almost 30%-ish websites on the internet were running on WordPress CMS. That’s HUGE if you consider how we all, including our grandparents and their pets have at least a personal blog these days. Now it’s one thing to just set up a blog or a small business website on WordPress, but quite another to maintain a quality website over time. Many of my clients seem to neglect this important part of their business. As much as it hurts me to see it, I understand that not everyone has the funding for hiring a pro to do the job. Someone like myself for example (even though I am more on the cheaper side of the spectrum) to do regular WordPress Maintenance. There’s also a general lack of interest due to a lack of understanding why this is such an important thing. So, in this post, we will look at both the “why” and the “how”.
Keeping a bogged down WordPress site is like sleeping in a dirty room full of trash and dirty laundry piles. No one likes that, so you should not either. That’s the short version of the “why” part. As for the “how”, I figured I’d put together a basic guide to maintaining one’s own WordPress based website. This is a basic guide because well, it would be a super long article if I were to list all the nitty gritty things that go into a regular website maintenance. And this guide is not for the pros out there. We have our own resources to learn from. This guide is for the busy bloggers and entrepreneurs who do not have the technical expertise for the nitty gritty, but have enough of a grasp on WordPress platform itself that they can maintain their site to a certain level with a little direction. I’d of course advise that you hire a virtual assistant (VA) to do this on a regular basis for you, but if your business is not yet at the stage where you can afford that, then you should at least do the things mentioned in this post.
Why Should You Regularly Maintain your WordPress based Website
First of all, let’s start with why it is important to maintain one’s WordPress based website (self hosted). There are a lot of reasons out there. Raise your hand if you have experienced one of these situations:
- You get an email from SiteLock or a similar business saying your website has some malicious files.
- You get locked out of your own dashboard because *gasp* you have been hacked!
- You site starts to become excessively slow as time passes.
- You have a hard time finding a page to update because while there are only 5 pages on your navigation bar, the pages on your dashboard sports a loooong list of some 124 pages… you don’t even…
- You have 214 plugins and you don’t even know what’s doing what, and which ones you need and which ones you don’t.
These are just a few things that you can avoid if you do a regular house-keeping of your website. Take site speed for example. Now there are lots of different things that can slow down your site, but one of the those is a bogged up website backend. You have too many things and you have no idea what those are! Your database is a complete mess, and you are clueless as to where to start the cleanup process.
Security is of course one of the biggest reasons why you should always clean up your site backend. A regular WordPress maintenance takes care of that to a certain degree.
How to Maintain Your WordPress Based Website On Your Own
As I mentioned before, this is just the basics. A pro VA would be doing a lot more for you (such as myself.. haah, shameless self promo insert, DONE!), but with the following, you should be better off than not doing anything at all!
Create Regular Backups
Some of us may have experienced losing all website data for whatever reason. Or have tried to make some changes and have done something wrong and whoops! It’s a mayhem! To avoid that, I would advise you to update your site and database at least once a week. There are different ways of doing that. One of the ways is to have your host do it. Some hosting services offer regular backup for an additional cost, and if you can manage, I strongly advise you to make use of this service.
The other method is to do it with a plugin. And you should do it whether or not your hosting creates a backup, because well, it’s good practice to have multiple backups anyway. There are many plugins out there, and personally I like UpDraft Plus because well, I’m a huge fan of all things free! UpDraft Plus is a basic backup plugin that you can automate. Basically once you install the plugin and set it up to create backup every week, you can forget this portion of your regular maintenance. UpDraft Plus will do it for you!
Make Sure Everything is Up to Date
One of the fastest ways to get hacked or have malicious files in your system is by not updating your WordPress version, plugins, and themes. Check your dashboard at least once a week to see if any plugin or WordPress itself needs an update, and if so, do it pronto! It’s easy, right? Your dashboard creates notification for you when an update is available. All you have to do is click that “update” button, and you are done. One piece of advice here. Although it is not frequent, but sometimes updating WordPress itself or a plugin, or a theme, can break certain features, so it is always advised that you create a backup before you update anything. A weekly automatic update will ensure you are always taken care of, but it’s a good practice to manually create a backup anyway before you hit that “update” button. And anyhow, that backup itself is also just a click of a button itself with a plugin like UpDraft Plus, so why not, eh?
Secure Your Website
With my favorite (and free) plugin called WordFence. It has a lot of settings so it may seem like a daunting task at first, and it can also take up some valuable space, but it is still worth it for various reasons. First, it tracks malicious login attempts and can block such attempts, it also keeps track of whether or not your site has been hacked or has been infected. There’s a lot you can do with this plugin as it is extremely powerful. I wont go into the details here, since that’s not my intention for this post. Just know that this plugin will add a few extra layers of security to your site, and it is one of the plugins that I always install for my clients. This plugin also performs daily scans, and informs you (via email) if you need to update anything. So, yeah, even if you forgot the step mentioned previously where you need to always check for updates, this plugin will remind you to do so!
A few other things you can do to add an extra layer of security are these:
– Have a user ID that is NOT “admin” or your website name. That’s what most hackers try first.
– Have a really difficult password, that’s kinda long, and has a combination of uppercase, lowercase, special characters and numbers.
You should always clean up your back end so that unwanted things are not bogging up your website (one of the reasons your site tends to get slow over time).
Few things you can do:
- Check for unused plugins and themes and delete them. If you are not using a plugin or a theme, do not leave them there just because… or just in case later… If you wish to come back to a theme or a plugin that’s not being used right now, you can always just reinstall them. It’s a lot less pain to do that than say, get hacked and then losing everything and having to recover or worse, start from scratch!
- Check for unused images and files in your Media, and delete them.
- Check for unused and trashed pages and posts and comments and delete them.
- Check for tons of pages and posts revisions that are auto saved periodically and remove them for good.
- Optimize database so that past information from an old plugin or older posts/pages that you have deleted are not bogging up your database.
You can use certain plugins to achieve that and make life easier:
WP Optimize will take care of trashed posts, pages and comments for you and optimize your database. Media Cleaner will take care of unused media files for you and delete them. Run those at least every month (or every week if you are a heavy user/blogger who has new content every day) and make sure your back end is as clean as possible.
Let me know if you have Questions or better, Hire me to do the job!
Well, there’s that, shameless promotion again! But anyway, if you take care of the things I mentioned here, you should be a lot better off than say, not having done anything at all. Most of the things I said here can be achieved with plugins, so really, there’s no excuse as to why you shouldn’t be doing them. In case you are REALLY busy, so much so that you cannot afford to spend a few minutes to clean up your website and make sure everything is secure, then please hire a VA (like myself *ahem*). An experienced VA can do all the aforementioned and MORE! But in any case, if a VA is not on the plate for now, then PLEASE take a few minutes every week do the aforementioned. You’ll thank me later, I guarantee it!