How do you make sure your WordPress website is as speedy, secure, and beautiful as the day it was born? Whether you’re just beginning to manage a site or are old hat, there are a few easy things you can do to maintain and grow your website.
Back It Up
WordPress back ups (of both your site files and database) are paramount to your website maintenance strategy. If your site goes down or an update breaks something, you want it to be easy to revert your site back.
If you’re on a particularly good web host, they might be making site backups for you. Check in with them and see how regularly they make back ups. I pay a premium for exceptional WordPress hosting with WP Engine, who makes backups daily and extras on request at the click of a button. Lots of budget hosts provide full or partial backups on a weekly or monthly back up.
You and I both know that isn’t enough, though. Your host could lost a backup or fail to make one, so you should really be making your own back ups too. It’s a little bit of effort to set up, but it’s a lot less effort than rebuilding your whole website. There are several plugins for making back ups of your site, both free and paid. I like iThemes Security, since it also covers some basic security functionality. The plugin’s back up tool will email you your backups files at predetermined intervals. And it’s free!
Your plugins, theme, and even WordPress itself all release feature and security updates frequently. These upgrades help your site run more efficiently and keep hackers from getting in. Make a point of logging into your site once a month, if not once a week, and running available updates.
If you’ve had your site for a while, you’re probably a little apprehensive about clicking that button. You know that sometimes these changes make your site look different on the back-end, which makes it tricky to navigate for you (kind of like when they rearrange the aisles at the grocery store). Or worse, a past update caused the site to look different to your visitors, either because a plugin broke or a major component of your theme changed.
People like me are here to help when those issues arise, and I’ll devote a future post to curing update anxiety. But in the meantime, you’re better off pressing “update” and dealing with the potential aftermath than dealing with a security breach.
Keep Your Plugin List Lean
There’s a plugin for just about everything on WordPress, but that doesn’t mean you want to use them all. If you have a huge list of plugins active on your site, it’s harder to tell which might be causing a problem after an update. Too many plugins will also cause your site to load more slowly and invite security vulnerabilities.
Having too many plugins is kind of like carrying too many things at once. You might be able to balance your coffee cup on those books while you lug your purse in the other hand, but eventually you’re going to end up with hot coffee all over your shirt. (And I speak from experience on both accounts).
There’s no hard and fast rule on how many plugins you should have on your site. I frequently see long plugin lists on large, popular websites – and that can be totally okay!
My rule of thumb is this: when I add a new plugin to a site, I try to find another plugin I’m no longer using, or not using much, and delete it.
How do I find a plugin to delete? Check the next section!
Kick Unsupported Plugins to the Curb
Perhaps you set up your WordPress site two years ago and you’ve had a happy, low-maintenance relationship since. It’s probably got a few plugins on it that haven’t gotten any attention from their developers in a long time. This isn’t good news for the plugin, but it’s good news for you – it makes pruning your list easy!
You might notice that a plugin hasn’t had an update in months or years. This isn’t always a problem – plugins that make very small additions to your site can be so simple that they don’t need any changes for a long time. The real trouble comes when you check the plugin’s page on WordPress.org and see unanswered questions or support needs on the forum. If you see this, it’s a good sign that you should be searching for a replacement to that plugin.
Show Them You’re Still Around
Running updates is well and good, but if your site content never changes, visitors might wonder if you’re still around. Be sure to update seasonal content on your site and even write new posts or pages periodically. Not only will this offer visitors to your site new information and the reassurance that you’re still in business, it will help with SEO so that your site appears earlier in Google’s search results.
For small business websites, I like to block out an hour every month to dedicate to creating new content. A Twitter or other social media feed embedded on your site can also tell potential clients that you’re still engaged online.
Traffic on the 4’s
It’s hard to tell if your effort is paying off if you’re not tracking your site’s visitors and how they engage with the site. Plugins like Jetpack and Google Analytics by MonsterInsights can help make this easy.
Tracking site visitors can tell you if people are coming to your homepage and immediately leaving, clicking on a particular page of interest, or not coming to your site at all. This kind of information can tell you if you need to spend some time strategizing how to attract visitors to your site or creating content similar to the popular content on your site.
You don’t have to spend all your time checking your traffic though. I recommend taking a look at it every 4 weeks or so.
Following the tips above will ensure that your relationship with your website stays happy and healthy long into the future.
Keeping your WordPress site healthy isn’t hard, but it can be time consuming. If the thought of keeping up with all of this makes you need a nap, take a look at my Website Care Plans, which include all of the above and more. Otherwise, go forth and grow!
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