Creating a professional-looking, a full-function website has never been easier than it has become today.
With the advent of WordPress, even novices can quickly create websites that provide a canvas for sharing personal opinions, swapping life experiences, and so much more.
WordPress websites are utilized worldwide for many purposes:
- Personal blogs and participating in discussions
- Freelancers and entrepreneurs building websites for profit, including providing audio, video, and other media for download or sale.
- Businesses creating eCommerce storefronts for products and services, or building enterprise applications for use by employees scattered across the globe.
While building and deploying WordPress websites is now easier and facilitated by the many tools, templates, themes, and plugins than ever before, getting the site up and running is only one phase of the overall effort.
Keeping the website running securely and reliably is just as important. That requires a number of critical tasks to ensure:
- Visitors can get the information and services they seek
- Undesirable elements cannot access private information
- Unexpected events such as hardware failures or power outages to not shut down your website
Regular maintenance and precautionary measures can go a long way toward providing high reliability of your website, with optimum performance.
Ten Website Maintenance Tasks You Should Regularly Perform on Your WordPress Site
Although each of these tasks is important to the sustainability of your WordPress site, they may or may not be listed in the order of importance for your particular website.
Weigh each of these carefully and consider the relevance depending on the functionality and critical nature of your site.
Even a personal blog WordPress website needs regular maintenance to run smoothly and perform at its best.
Change WordPress Passwords
It’s astonishing how many WordPress website builders do not take the simple precaution of changing passwords on a regular basis.
In some of the worst horror stories of compromised websites owned even by sophisticated businesses, the intrusion was not detected until weeks or even months after the hackers obtained access.
By changing passwords frequently and utilizing strong passwords, vulnerability is greatly reduced.
Strong passwords are defined as those that include a combination of both upper and lower-case letters, numbers, and special characters. Remember that hackers use sophisticated tools to try many combinations of words or phrases to gain access to websites or accounts, so the less your password looks like a value in a dictionary, the more secure it is.
Example: DogLover (weak) Dog1over (better) Dog!0ver (stronger)
When changing your passwords, don’t forget to change the many passwords that are included in your website:
- WordPress Admin Area
- Any applicable FTP or SSH accounts
- Your WordPress database password
If you have difficulty in managing your WordPress passwords (and your many other online passwords, for that matter), there are a number of good applications that can assist with password management.
How to Back Up Your WordPress Website
You wouldn’t think of running your home or business computer without periodically backing up your critical files or those of personal value to you. The same is true of your WordPress website.
Failure of a critical hardware component or intentional damage by a disgruntled visitor or hacker can leave your website disabled indefinitely, without an effective backup strategy.
There are numerous WordPress plugins that make backing up your entire WordPress website quick and easy.
If you’re using a web host, they often include a service of backing up your website. It’s still to your own advantage to undertake this function at least periodically, to be certain you’re covered in the case of a catastrophic failure at the hosting service. Regularly performing this simple maintenance task on your WordPress site will give you protection and peace of mind.
Backup plugins offer automated processing of your backups, which you can schedule at your own discretion. This will be dependent on several factors:
- How critical is your data? – if your site consists purely of personal blogs, daily or weekly backups may not be in order. But if this is a business-critical function with customer information or frequent updates, you will want to consider that in your backup schedule.
- How often do you update your website? – if your web pages are less volatile, weekly or even monthly backups may be sufficient, but frequent changes call for a more aggressive strategy.
- Where is your backup data retained? – your web host may provide backup data that is immediately recoverable, while your own manual backup may be stored in a location of your choices such as Dropbox, Google Drive, Rackspace Cloud, or other storage facilities. Speed and ease of access to the backups is another consideration of how often to perform the backup task.
Backup plugins have different features, such as automated scheduling, full or incremental backups (incremental means that only data added or updated since the last backup is copied to the new backup content – this saves time and storage, but may not be appropriate for all websites).
Be sure to weigh the pros and cons of the backup plugin you select. Whichever you use, do not store the backup data on the same server where your production WordPress website resides. If that system fails, you could lose your backup data files at the same time.
WordPress plugin Akismet is a commonly-used tool for capturing spam detected in comments and contact forms. This protects your website from potentially malicious content that you would not want on your site.
This content is isolated in your website spam comments. Periodically, you should review the spam comments to determine if the plugin has misidentified legitimate content as spam so that you can properly view it as genuine comment information.
Having completed your review, you can safely delete the spam comments to free up space and make your next review of spam comments easier.
WordPress stores your information in a database that is updated continuously. This data includes:
- Content data
- User information
- Settings and other values
As information gets inserted or deleted from the database, some of the data become obsolete and unnecessary. This means your backups take longer, and could also impact upload/download speeds.
WordPress database optimization cleans up the unneeded information and defragments your tables, improving performance and reducing backup/restore times.
Optimizing your WordPress database can be easily accomplished by installing the WP-Optimize plugin – a one-time effort. Once you’ve installed the plugin, the optimization is easily accomplished in two easy steps:
- Backup your WordPress site
- Utilize the plugin to perform the optimization
Once the plugin has done its work, your database will be cleaner, smaller, and running at peak performance.
WordPress and its many associated plugins and themes are continuously being updated. Make sure you check for updates on a regular basis.
Keeping WordPress up to its current version will provide you with better performance and support potential as improvements are made to both WordPress itself, or to your plugins and themes.
WordPress includes a tool that will check for updates to the product, including the themes and plugins that you have downloaded and installed. This is a website maintenance task you should regularly perform on your WordPress site to ensure stability and to take advantage of enhancements.
As a WordPress administrator, you can view available updates that WordPress has detected in the dashboard, using the “updates” option. From there, you can select to update the WordPress core or any of your installed components.
Keep in mind that if you have downloaded and installed plugins or themes from third parties, WordPress may not have visibility to updates for those objects. Referring back to the source of those downloads for updates is your responsibility as part of your regular website maintenance.
Validate Your Forms
WordPress is well-recognized for its ability to create attractive and functional forms.
The problem here is that forms you have integrated into your website may fall victim to changes in software or configurations made by your web host or third-party developer. This could cause them to stop working properly – even without your knowledge.
A simple example is a form that you have created for visitors to offer comments or place product orders, that integrates with email services to send you information or notifications. Changes to the related email system could result in emails not being routed properly, or not at all.
Verifying form functions is a task you should regularly perform on your WordPress site, to ensure they are all working as designed.
Check Your Performance
Many WordPress developers check the performance of their homepage or web pages when the site is first built, or when moving to a web host or changing hosts. Once satisfied with the performance, it may be overlooked or forgotten as the website is updated or as new pages are added.
Poor performance not only results in a less than engaging experience for your visitors, it can also result in degraded results from search engines.
You only have a limited amount of time to engage your audience. Slow page loads, images that cannot be displayed on mobile devices, and other performance problems will result in lost interest, and lack of conversion to sales.
To stay on top of your website’s performance, re-evaluate results of not only the home page but all important or regularly-visited content anytime you update the website or change themes. There are many tuning tips and plugins available online that make optimizing your WordPress site faster and easier.
Fix Broken Links and Missing Pages
There’s very little more frustrating for website visitors than clicking a link that appears interesting or important, with the result being the dreaded “404” error for a missing page or being directed to a page that has nothing to do with the link you clicked.
To keep your website up to date and avoid a negative visitor experience, check for such instances along with your regular maintenance procedures. This not only makes your site more consistent for viewers, it also avoids negatively impacting your SEO.
Fortunately, WordPress plugins come to the rescue in detecting and reporting missing and broken links, giving you the opportunity to regularly monitor and correct any wayward links, hopefully before they turn your visitors away.
Stay Vigilant – Security Counts
The last thing you want for your WordPress site is for it to join the ranks of the thousands of sites that are blacklisted by Google for malware or phishing attempts.
While WordPress itself is recognized as a secure environment and undergoes regular security audits by many developers, there is still much you can do to prevent security issues:
- Review your website’s access and error logs to detect inappropriate or questionable activity
- Utilize automatic log out to drop idle users
- Set limits for the number of invalid login attempts
- Change all WordPress passwords, and enforce strong password rules
- Backup your database and entire website regularly
These concerns are especially critical for businesses and sites that retain customer information or regulated industries such as healthcare or financial institutions. Intrusions can compromise critical data that can result in financial loss and massive fines.
Utilizing a quality security plugin such as Sucuri will go a long way toward helping you with monitoring, detecting, and analyzing the security of your WordPress website.
Time Your Maintenance
Keep in mind when performing the Website maintenance tasks you should regularly perform on your WordPress site – that some activities can actually impact site performance. Such processes as checking for broken links and optimizing your website consume system resources, which could impact overall website functionality.
For that reason, if you maintain a site that requires high-performance and quick-loading web pages, timing your maintenance tasks for periods of lowest activity is recommended.
Discipline yourself with a plan of action and a defined schedule for maintenance tasks. When performed regularly and consistently, your website will run at peak performance with minimal effort.
Website Maintenance Tasks – Conclusion
Whether you have built a WordPress website for personal blogs and feedback or created enterprise-level applications for mission-critical business use, there are website maintenance tasks you should regularly perform on your WordPress site to keep it running efficiently and to provide reliable and consistent operation.
Keep in mind that web hosting services often provide many of the maintenance tasks listed here. If you utilize a web host, be sure your agreement spells out in detail what functions are included in the service:
- Backups – entire website, database, email information, etc. – what is backed up, and how often?
- Security – is malware or DDoS software updated regularly – even daily or automated?
- Updates – is WordPress kept up-to-date by the service? Are plugins and themes included in the updates?
Having a good understanding of which of these services are performed by your web host will provide you with a good action plan for your own regular maintenance task schedule.
We wish you luck!