Your website needs routine care, just like a car. It’s easy to ignore your maintenance needs until the “check engine light” comes on. I learned the hard way in college that ignoring maintenance can lead to bigger problems down the road. After ignoring a dash light on my car for weeks, it resulted in an expensive blown gasket repair that was totally preventable. Don’t let that happen to your website! Use these WordPress maintenance tips to take care of your site before it blows a gasket.
I don’t like to be dramatic or use scare tactics, but WordPress maintenance really is that important. Without proper maintenance on your website, it can become vulnerable… security breaches due to outdated software and plugins, data loss due to missing backups, or even decreased performance due to a dusty database are just a few of the numerous things that could go wrong without proper WordPress maintenance.
I’m going to walk you through WordPress maintenance tips that you can complete yourself weekly, monthly, and annually. If these tips seem overwhelming, I offer an annual WordPress maintenance plan that provides routine WordPress maintenance, monitoring, and prevention.
Take Care Of These Basics First
First, let’s tackle a few basic needs that help set your website up for success.
Choose A Reliable Host
A reliable host is crucial for the success and security of your website, just like a functioning engine is necessary for a car to drive smoothly. A quality host provides fast and secure servers for a solid foundation. SiteGround is my top recommendation for most of my clients’ sites for a great balance between performance and price.
Create A Secure Username And Password
As simple as securing your passwords might seem, this single act goes a long way toward securing your site. By default, WordPress will suggest “admin” as your username. You may also be tempted to use your name, business name, or primary email. Instead, choose a username that is not easily guessable. For your password, aim for a length of at least 10 characters and mix letters, numbers, and symbols for added security. You can also us password generators for help creating and storing strong passwords (Chrome has one built in!). LastPass also has a free password generator that you can use without an account.
As a bonus tip, you can also use plugins to change the login URL in order to make your login page slightly harder to find altogether. This is a good option if you’re having a lot of fake login attempts.
Adjust Security Settings
There are several settings and plugins you can use to improve the security of your WordPress site. Two-factor authentication, which requires users to provide two forms of identification to prevent unauthorized access, is one of the best.
Installing a reputable security plugin, such as Wordfence, can also help protect your site from common security threats. I personally install Wordfence on all of my client sites, even if they have other default security options in place.
I also like to be prepared for the worst case scenario with regular backups and a plan for recovery in the event of a problem. I personally use and recommend UpdraftPlus in addition to any backups your host may provide. More on that later.
Finally, it is imperative to understand that the more plugins a website has, the higher the chance of a security vulnerability and slow performance. Only add plugins that are absolutely essential and do your homework before adding a plugin to your site. Always make sure the plugin is from a reliable source. I like to look at the total number of installs, date of the last release, read recent reviews, etc. This is important because plugin creators are responsible for making sure their plugin stays up to date and compatible with WordPress core updates, security loopholes, etc.
Weekly WordPress Maintenance Tips
Now that we have the basics out of the way, lets look at what you should actually do to update your WordPress website.
If you allow comments on your WordPress website, you should read, respond to, and remove comments as-needed at least once a week. When new readers see you regularly engaging in the comments, it encourages them to leave one of their own.
However, comments can also be a large source of spam on your website. Installing a plugin that helps filter spam comments can help, so can closing comments on older posts after your preferred amount of time.
Regular weekly backups help you quickly restore your website if anything goes wrong, such as a hacking attempt, a plugin conflict, or a server failure. At a minimum, it is recommended to take a weekly backup of your website, including the database and all uploaded files.
I personally recommend both server level backups with your host and personal backups you store yourself. Host backups are the easiest to use, but redundancy is important. This provides double protection in case something would seriously crash.
Periodically, WordPress will receive updates with new features and improved security. You’ll receive notifications through Wordfence and your website dashboard when you have updates that need your attention. Then there’s usually a domino effect where themes and plugins also need to be updated to remain compatible and secure. I recommend turning automatic updates OFF because sometimes new versions can be a little glitchy. I like to read what the update includes and check for any potential compatibility issues first.
For websites with high levels of activity (like those that receive daily customer orders), you should take daily backups. This ensures that any critical data or changes are saved on a daily basis and can be easily restored if necessary. You should store your backups in a secure location, such as an external hard drive or a cloud storage service, so that they are protected and can be easily accessed. Updraft will do this for you.
Before updating, it is essential to back up your website so you have a restore point if anything goes wrong during the updating process. Always check the site thoroughly to make sure everything is working and looks as expected after every update. If you notice any issues, you can restore the backup to the previous version.
See An Update Example
Since updates can be intimidating, here’s an example of how I do it. Every Monday, I log into my sites and check for updates to plugins, themes, and WordPress itself. There will be a red icon in the top left corner if you have any updates available.
If there are updates that need to be run, I check to see when my site was most recently backed up. Because I have daily backups running with my host and off site, I can usually skip running an extra backup. If you don’t have a recent backup, take one first.
Then I update plugins one at a time from the plugins tab. If there’s an update available, it will have a yellow alert bar like this. If it’s a major update, it will sometimes have an extra note/warning here reminding you to proceed with caution.
You can click the link to “View version details” and give it a quick scan to see what’s new. I look for compatibility notes to see if it’s related to anything on my site. In this case, the update was security related. Those are super important NOT to skip and to update ASAP.
Once I’ve checked it out, I hit the “Update Now” link.
I repeat this process for all of the other plugins on my site. Then I move on to themes and WordPress core (which update less frequently).
Purchase a Maintenance Plan
if this process seems stressful, you can hire me to take care of the technical “under the hood” aspects of your site instead. Purchased in advance, this plan provides 6-12 consecutive months of routine WordPress maintenance, monitoring, and prevention.
You also receive priority email support. You know those “How do I… ?” WordPress or email marketing questions you keep Googling? Email me instead and receive a reply within 24 business hours (and typically much faster). That’s priceless!
Monthly WordPress Maintenance Tips
Review Your Site As A Visitor
Log out of your website, clear your cache, or use an incognito browser. Then visit your site like a stranger. Make sure that everything on your website looks great and that all the features work as intended.
This includes checking your website’s layout, design, and content to make sure it doesn’t have any errors and is easy to navigate. Test all links, buttons, and contact forms. I also like to do a quick mobile check on my phone to make sure my website is accessible and provides a good user experience for all visitors.
You should be using data to make informed marketing and content decisions. Tracking data in Google Analytics and Google Search Console will provide valuable insights into the performance of your website, including information about your visitors, their behavior on your site, and how they are finding you.
Correct Broken Links
Broken links (404 errors) can occur for various reasons, such as when a page or file is deleted or when a URL changes. This includes links ON your website (internal) and FROM your website (external). These broken links can create a poor user experience for your visitors and impact your website’s search engine ranking. To avoid this, you should regularly check your website for broken links. I include this as part of my maintenance plan.
Annual WordPress Maintenance Tips
Renew Annual Licenses
While WordPress itself is free, your website will have annual needs. Your host, your URL, and premium plugins/licenses need to be renewed. Renewing licenses ensures that you have access to the latest updates, bug fixes, and security patches for the tools and services that your website relies on. Failing to renew your licenses can leave your website vulnerable or broken.
Review and Edit All Static Content
In addition to regular technical maintenance, it is also important to review and edit all of your website’s content on a regular basis. This includes pages such as your “About” page, profile pictures, lead magnets, and any other static content like your copyright information, terms and conditions, etc.
Perform An Audit
A site audit is a comprehensive review of your WordPress website to identify any issues or areas for improvement on your website and to develop a plan for fixing any problems. Assessing all of your website’s content is an important part of maintaining its performance and efficiency. Over time your website may accumulate a large amount of content (plugins, media files, pages, user accounts, etc.) that are no longer needed. This excess content can slow down your website, increase the risk of security vulnerabilities, and make it more difficult to manage your site. To avoid these issues, regularly assess your site’s content and remove anything that is no longer needed.
As Needed Maintenance
Clear Your Cache
You probably have heard of “clearing your cookies” when something on your local computer browser isn’t working as expected. Your website stores information in something called a cache. Clearing the cache removes old data to improve your site’s speed and responsiveness. You should clear your cache after any updates and any time your website looks a little glitchy as the first troubleshooting step. Regularly clearing the cache on your WordPress website keeps your site running smoothly and provides a great experience for your visitors.
Make A Plan
I know it seems like a lot, but I hope these WordPress maintenance tips have given you a plan for taking control of your own website. Make a plan, mark them on your calendar, set reminders… do whatever it takes to keep your site healthy. Do not skip these updates! If you need help, consider my annual WordPress maintenance plan.