Have you been running your WordPress website for a while now? If so, you may be wondering whether you need to conduct some maintenance. Like a great car, there are features and mechanisms within your website that require regular inspection to ensure everything’s running as it should.
The benefits of regular WordPress maintenance are numerous. For one, you’ll boost your site’s security and load times. But there are also less apparent advantages, like improving your site’s ranking and lowering your bounce rate. After all, speed optimization directly impacts the user experience, and search engines prioritize that over all else.
Companies with in-house technical teams can easily schedule, run and keep track of WordPress maintenance tasks. But smaller organizations and solopreneurs may have a more challenging time figuring out what to do and find the time to actually do it.
When you handle WordPress maintenance on your own, you run a few risks for your business and website. For instance, you might not be aware (or have the know-how) to conduct all the necessary checks, and as such, put your site’s security in jeopardy. On the other hand, while taking more time and effort, a DIY approach can save you money (providing you know what you’re doing).
Fortunately, there’s another option for small businesses looking for reliable WordPress maintenance: hire a WordPress expert to manage your website maintenance tasks for you.
That said, is maintenance really vital for your website? This article explores what best WordPress maintenance entails and how to find a WordPress expert to manage your website maintenance (should you need one).
What It Takes to Maintain a WordPress Website
Some WordPress tasks are more basic than others. So, providing you have a foundational understanding of WordPress and some rudimentary knowledge of CSS, PHP (WordPress core), and HTML, that should be enough to handle simple updates.
That said, developer-level skills are necessary for a thorough maintenance process that benefits your site in the long run. Below are just some of the required skills for carrying out expert WordPress maintenance:
- Knowledge of version control systems
- An understanding of command-line interfaces
- A familiarity with object-oriented programming
…To name a few.
Besides custom development skills, you’ll also need a clear plan in place to help organize your WordPress maintenance tasks. This serves as a reminder of what needs checking, when, and how often.
A WordPress Maintenance Plan
While many tasks can be performed without putting your website into maintenance mode, you’ll need to conduct heavy WordPress maintenance every now and again, which, of course, requires this mode.
When you put your website into ‘maintenance mode,’ visitors can’t view your site. As such, any in-depth WordPress maintenance needs planning ahead of time to ensure you lose as little traffic as possible.
Although switching your site to maintenance mode has its disadvantages – most notably, a disruption in eCommerce sales and a loss of traffic, there are some perks:
- You can hide broken pages from visitors while you’re fixing them.
- It gives you space to tweak your website settings, template, or plugins without your visitors seeing what’s going on.
- It’s also good for SEO – by signaling to search engines that your website’s periodically down for maintenance, they won’t index any changes that look incomplete. As a result, your rankings remain intact.
You can put your website into maintenance mode with or without a plugin. WordPress automatically enables maintenance mode when you start an update. To turn it on manually, you’ll have to edit WordPress’ .htaccess file on your server. Here, you can write a few lines of code to redirect all traffic to maintenance.html. To customize the maintenance page, you’ll have to construct code to style the HTML and CSS.
Alternatively, with a plugin like WP Maintenance Mode, you can easily customize the maintenance notice your visitors see, to read something like ‘coming soon’ or whatever else you think is appropriate.
Things to Note Before Starting Your Website Maintenance
The last thing you want is for your maintenance operations to drag on so that you endure prolonged downtime. As such, it’s good practice to audit problem areas on your site before officially scheduled maintenance commences. That way, you know precisely what to address while your site’s in maintenance mode. Run a performance test and audit your content and SEO (Google Analytics is a great starting point). This is also an excellent time to check your website’s speed to determine whether significant optimizations are necessary.
Next, let’s look at which maintenance tasks are the most vital and, as such, should always be included in your WordPress maintenance plan:
A site backup acts like WordPress website insurance. It ascertains that in the rare case something goes wrong, you don’t lose everything. Site backups protect you against any type of attack. So, no matter what happens, you can restore a previous version of your website.
Don’t wait to learn this lesson the hard way. Many WordPress experts believe daily backups are necessary. While that sounds like lots of manual work, you have options:
You can manually backup your WordPress site if you have access to the server it’s hosted on. You can run a built-in backup using your managed WordPress hosting provider’s cPanel. Or, you could conduct your own backup, independent of server software or WordPress plugins.
If you opt for the latter, this involves logging into your server. Then, downloading and compressing all your folders and loose files to store in a location of your choosing. As you’ve probably gathered, you need to be comfortable navigating your WordPress site’s database to do this.
Alternatively, you can go for the much easier option, running automatic backups. Most hosting providers offer an automated backup service, so you don’t need to do anything. They’ll schedule the backup and store files securely. Then, should you ever need to, you simply request your service provider rolls back the site to a specific version.
Paid backup services are also available. However, the downside of these is that their pricing is usually expensive – especially when you’re starting out. Plus, you don’t have your website’s files at your disposal, which means you don’t have as much control.
If control and ownership over your website backups are essential to you, manual backups are the way to go. That said, there are plugins available that automate this task while providing more control and ownership over your files. With this option, you enjoy the best of both worlds!
Pro Tip: When choosing a plugin, double-check it’s regularly updated and highly rated by WordPress users. Backups aren’t something you can gamble with!
Site updates are necessary when your WordPress theme or plugins are updated with security patches or extra functionality or when WordPress launches a new version of its software. Outdated software is more vulnerable to attack, so it’s worth keeping up with this.
WordPress automatically updates itself if it can. It likely already does this for minor updates. However, you can also enable WordPress to update itself automatically for more significant versions too. The same goes for your chosen theme and downloaded plugins. You can turn on automatic updates for these too.
While automatic updates present less work on your part, there are more risks involved. In some cases, you don’t want to update a tool or software unless you’re sure the latest version will work seamlessly with your website. Many site owners have run into issues with plugin updates. Typically, it’s best to wait a couple of weeks to allow the theme/plugin developers to identify any glitches and fix them. Then, you can pull the trigger and install these updates manually.
Website Security Monitoring
Website security comes with its own maintenance regime, ranging from backups to regularly changing your website’s password. But, to adequately protect yourself against attacks and security breaches, you should also periodically review your site’s access and error logs.
Sometimes, unusual activity isn’t detected until it is too late. Your site might already be under attack before you start noticing that it slows down or your rankings drop. You can work with a security audit plugin like the iThemes security scanner to perform these checks regularly.
As mentioned in the previous section, security updates are also vital. However, these can sometimes cause compatibility issues that can break your website. That’s why security isn’t something you should handle yourself unless you’re confident you know what you’re doing.
For the same reason, any updates should be performed on a WordPress staging site and in maintenance mode first. That way, you can rest easy knowing the update won’t jeopardize your site’s operation or aesthetic.
Performance updates ensure your site’s loading speeds remain high so that visitors don’t have to wait long before your website becomes fully interactive and visible. This is worth keeping on top of, especially when you consider that as many as 46% of users won’t revisit poorly performing websites.
There are several tasks involved in performance optimization and maintenance. Many of them you can do by yourself, including:
- Clearing your cache using a caching plugin
- The optimization of your database
- Optimizing content and images for the web
- Clearing spam comments from blog posts
- Testing WordPress forms
- Finding and fixing broken links
- Identifying 404 errors and correcting them
You should also remove any plugins you no longer use and clear any commands in your code that don’t do anything.
After completing all the WordPress maintenance tasks listed on your plan, perform a few final checks. This is paramount for ensuring everything runs smoothly when your website’s back in operational mode. For instance, you should re-validate your site after making any customizations to the code or style sheets. It’s imperative your site conforms to expected standards and is interpreted the way you want it by various browsers and search engines.
You should also check every aspect of your website thoroughly to ensure everything works before eventually logging out of maintenance mode!
Are You Ready to Better Maintain Your WordPress Website?
Your WordPress maintenance process isn’t something to be taken lightly. Adequate WordPress maintenance ensures your site performs at its best and doesn’t fall prey to ever-evolving attacks.
We hope your takeaway from this article is that maintenance is vital to your site’s safety and health. Only through regular cloud backups and a consistent security maintenance schedule can you ensure you won’t lose your hard work. As maintenance is so vital, you should never perform these crucial tasks yourself unless you have the skills, time, and resources. This is especially true of more significant security updates and website edits. These should always be handled professionally. In doing so, you avoid compromising the health of your site.
You can hire a fully-fledged WordPress agency or professional freelance support services to handle your maintenance plan. Codeable experts can be hired for regular WordPress maintenance and they’re all vetted. You can submit your project today to get a free estimation with no obligation; it’s 100% risk-free!