Perform regular WordPress website maintenance to keep your site up-to-date and in top shape.
At Parallel Interactive, we recommend regular website maintenance for our clients’ websites in order to keep them working properly, maintain security, and limit the chances of hacks or crashes. For more robust sites, website maintenance should be performed monthly, while smaller sites should be completed at least quarterly. Regular website maintenance helps manage our sites in a streamlined, cost-effective way to keep our clients on track and on budget. Here are our top WordPress website maintenance best practices to incorporate in your maintenance routines:
WordPress Core Updates
WordPress is constantly updating and adding more features to its core software, so it is important to check WordPress for updates and upgrades at least every quarter. If a new release of WordPress is available, it is highly recommended that you upgrade to the latest version for new and improved features and fixes, and it’s particularly important to apply any new security updates. Some WordPress installations and host providers will perform the updates automatically. It’s still important to go in and review the site both from the front end and the back end to make sure everything is still working as expected after an update.
Tip: We recommend WP Engine because of its automatic security updates and its development environments where updates can be tested without upsetting the live site.
In addition to updating WordPress, you should also upgrade to the latest version of each plugin for optimal performance, security, and functionality enhancements. Automatic plugin upgrades can be scheduled for some plugins, or you can download and install them manually. You should also uninstall any old or unused plugins to remove unnecessary clutter and improve security.
Like plugins, themes also need to be up-to-date with the publisher’s latest version. These updates can often have the most visual impact to the look and feel of your site. This is where being able to test in a development environment really comes in handy. If you find that your theme publisher hasn’t made any updates to their theme for 6 months to a year, they may have abandoned the theme and it may be time to start looking for another one. It’s only a matter of time before the old code becomes incompatible with the latest WordPress core release.
You might also have multiple, unused themes installed on your site. You should delete all but the active and the most recent default WordPress theme. If you are using a child theme, you also need to keep the active theme along with its parent theme.
Make it a part of your WordPress website maintenance to backup your site and data on both the host server and your computer. The backups should include all the files needed to run your website as well as a complete export of the WordPress database. You should be able to bring up a copy of your site on a brand new host from one of your backups. If you have a site with frequent content changes, you might want to consider scheduling automatic backups more frequently to ensure that data is backed up regularly in case something goes wrong.
Tip: This is where a full-service host provider, such as WP Engine, really comes in handy because they offer daily automatic backups.
Once all quarterly updates are completed, make it a WordPress website maintenance best practice to always complete QA testing to ensure your site is functioning properly. If possible, make the changes in a development environment and do the QA testing there before moving to the live site in order to minimize the likelihood of disruption to the live content.
Make sure you keep your content up-to-date and optimized. By consistently adding fresh content to your website, you can boost your search engine ranking and increase site traffic.
If you’ve recently made a change to your permalink structure, your website might have some 404 page errors that need cleaning up every quarter. The 404 Page Error – Page Not Found – can result from external links that have changed their address or closed, or it can be the result of misspelled/incorrect internal links.
Tip: We highly recommend taking the extra time each quarter to use a link checker to fix any broken internal or external links and make sure everything is connected correctly.
If you are using a Comment Spam WordPress plugin for your blog, spam can collect in your database. While some plugins will delete comment spam after a specific period of time, not all do. We recommend not allowing comments since most entries are unnecessary spam can slow down your site. Even with this feature, sometimes spam comments still get through, so it is good to stay on top of deleting them regularly.
Tip: Don’t allow comments unless you are really trying to build a community.
In addition to the technical component of WordPress website maintenance, SEO and metrics are also essential to keep your site running smoothly. You can use Moz’s SEO audit tool to make sure your site is optimized and on track with consistent website audits. Small- and medium-sized, non-eCommerce businesses should perform SEO site audits quarterly, while larger companies should perform them monthly.
Tip: We recommend using the Yoast SEO plugin to make optimization a breeze.
Monthly metrics can track site traffic and conversions to determine what content and campaigns are working, and what’s not. Check your website metrics monthly to see valuable information about who is visiting your site, where they are visiting from, who is linking to your site, which pages are most visited, and more. When analyzing your website metrics, you should make it a best practice to create an executive summary of the Google Analytics report to outline top-line trends. This information can help you fine-tune your site to better meet the needs for your visitors as well as increase your web visibility and search engine ranking.
Google Search Console
You should also set up Google Search Console so you can track how your site performs on the Google search platform. It provides useful analytics including click through rates and impressions. Additionally, Google Search console has a variety of tools you can use to submit a sitemap and kick-start the indexing of your site, see crawling errors, look at mobile device usability, and submit ‘fix’ requests to remove errors for specific content items from the index. It’s a very helpful tool for SEO, but keep in mind, it only applies to the Google search engine.