So you’ve built (or had someone build you) a website? Congratulations! Having a website for blogging, business or other purposes is exciting and a little daunting all at the same time. Just like getting the keys to your first car, there’s a few things you should know about WordPress website maintenance.
Maintenance? I hear you ask. Yep! Just like servicing a car, a website needs to be maintained to keep it functioning and safe from breakdowns or hackers. In our experience, most website issues arise when a website hasn’t been serviced after being built. Not maintaining a website leaves it extremely vulnerable to breakdowns.
If you’ve gotten someone else to build a site for you, you may or may not have discussed with them who is responsible for maintaining your website. This is something you’ll want to address. Most web developers should have some form of maintenance plan to look after your site, or they’ll show you how you can do it yourself.
You should aim to set aside an hour a week to check your site and make any changes or updates. If you’ve never maintained a website before or are new to having your own WordPress website, here are the weekly checks you should be doing:
Monitor your site for new Theme & Plugin updates
Just like running software updates on your phone, theme and plugin updates are a regular part of WordPress website maintenance. A new update popup will show on the dashboard page of your WordPress platform. When updates are released, we like to wait a couple of days before running the plugin or theme update. Similar to iPhone technology, a new update may come with a few minor bugs or glitches attached. Generally these things are sorted within a few days and it’s then safe to do the update. This also saves you from having to run a second update a few days later.
Run Theme Updates First
If there’s both plugin and theme updates available, it’s generally best to run theme updates first. Updates are important to stay on top of because older versions can be prone to security breaks and hackers. Unfortunately, we know this firsthand!
Check for Plugin Compatibility
Once you’ve updated your theme, make sure any plugin updates are 100% compatible with your version of WordPress. It will list the compatibility on your updates page. If they’re not compatible, check with the developer of the plugin to be sure.
Flush the Cache
If you’ve made any changes to your website that week, such as adding or deleting content, you should flush the cache. This ensures that if a person has recently visited your site, it will be refreshed and the new content will appear when they revisit. Generally your site info gets stored for easy loading upon a second visit, which is why flushing the cache is important.
To make this process easier, consider getting a cache plugin such as WPRocket which is what we use and recommend. This will automatically do this step, which is great for bloggers or if you are frequently updating or adding information to your site.
Check your Analytics
Chances are, you already do this. Keeping track of your analytics can be addictive! If you notice any significant changes in your analytics, such as a sudden drop in traffic, this can alert you to something wrong on your site. It could be as simple as a Google algorithm change. Or it could be something that needs fixing such as a broken page, broken link or even the possibility of your site being blacklisted.
Back up your site
If you have a great host, your site should get backed up automatically. Check with your hosting provider if you’re unsure if they do this. To be doubly safe, consider a secondary weekly backup. There’s a few options to choose from if you’d like to do this. While there are free WordPress plugins that do this, some versions will make duplicate copies of your entire site, resulting in masses of files being stored on your hosting. This can affect your site speed.
If this is the first time you’ve heard this information on WordPress website maintenance, don’t stress. Talk it over with your web developer to get some clarity on who is responsible for what. If you look after your site yourself, the sooner you put this checklist into action, the better!