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The 9-Point Checklist for Monthly WordPress Maintenance

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wordpress maintenance

From creating hobby blogs to enterprise e-commerce websites, WordPress powers more than 33% of the internet. 

When starting out with WordPress, many of us focus a lot on developing our website. And maintenance is often neglected. We do not perform important checks unless something breaks down.

But this can negatively impact SEO and our brand; or worse, we could lose out on business.

To avoid this, we’ll be sharing 9 WordPress monthly maintenance tasks, to ensure your website keeps working at its best. These are simple tasks you can perform yourself or with the help of a plugin.

Take a look.

#1 Backup your website and data

Your website is an important asset when it comes to your business or brand and you can’t risk it. By backing up your WordPress website, you can save the contents of your site and the software at another location. This data can help you restore your website in case of a crash or hack. 

Why are backups important?

There are several reasons why your website could breakdown. The most common being plugins or theme incompatibility when you update, memory issues, file transfers issues, to name a few. Sometimes, it could be a problem related to your hosting company’s server. Or worse, you could lose your website to hackers or some other security breaches.

Backing up your content and files can help you rebuild your website and get it started in no time. 

How to take regular backups?

There are several free and paid WordPress backup plugins – such as UpdraftPlus, VaultPress, BackupBuddy, or BackWPup – that help you automate the backup process. Either of these plugins works well and helps you schedule backup activities that happen in the background and don’t affect your site’s working.

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Expert Advice:

When you take a backup of all your content, you have the option to save it on the same server or on a remote server (such as your Drive or Dropbox). It’s always advisable to backup your site on remote servers, so in case something goes wrong on your server, your website can be rebuilt with ease. 

Although backup plugins work quite well, it’s always wise to keep checking your backups, once in a while. You could run a manual backup using the plugin in case of any irregularities. 

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#2 Scan your website for security breaches 

WordPress security is a serious concern and should not be taken lightly. Ideally, security monitoring should be a daily maintenance activity. However, as part of your monthly maintenance task list, you could run some checks to make sure your website was free from any vulnerabilities. 

Why should you continuously monitor website security:

Being an open-source platform, WordPress provides website owners an opportunity to add new features through plugins. But at the same time, there is a constant threat of being attacked by hackers owing to the low-quality code these plugins might contain. You need to keep an eye out for any signs of an attack. Or, you need to be updated about security concerns by subscribing to WordPress news.

How can you add security scanning on to your maintenance plan:

It’s wise to regularly update your plugins and themes to their latest versions. WordPress developers keep bettering their products and coming up with security fixes. The way to benefit from them is to use the most recent version of the product.

Security scanning plugins help too. Sucuri is a popular website security plugin that offers a firewall to protect your website against common threats. Sucuri’s Sitecheck platform is a popular and free malware scanner that analyzes your website for known WordPress malware and provides other helpful information on your website’s health. Optionally, you can install the WordFence plugin, to run automated malware scans and protect your website files from unwanted changes.

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Expert Advice:

To prevent your website from being hacked, make sure you review your site’s access and error logs on a regular basis. This can help you identify any irregularities or unusual activities. Keep track of notifications your security monitoring plugin might send you, and be sure to act soon on any sensitive notification. Also, make sure your backups are up to date to easily recover from adverse situations.

As part of security maintenance, do keep changing your admin passwords and remind other users to do the same.

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#3 Monitor for downtime and take precautionary measures 

For most businesses, their website is the primary portal to customers. And if that sounds like your business, every second of downtime can cost you money. Literally. 

Downtime is when your website can’t be accessed or refuses to load. It can create a negative impression about your brand and turn potential customers away. 

Why should you keep checking for downtime:

Whenever your website is not accessible, not only do you lose out on business but you damage your brand’s reputation too. Take, for example, the case of popular websites going down. People go crazy whenever Facebook or Twitter goes offline and these incidents become headlines. Angry customers are not a situation you want for your brand.

How can you avoid downtime:

The good part is that there are a few services that can help you monitor your website downtime:

  1. UptimeRobot is a free service that automatically tests your website every 5 minutes. If a test fails, you get a notification, so you can reach out to your hosting company or website team to fix the issue.
  2. Pingdom is a paid service and offers a more complex but powerful website monitoring service.

Although these services help you monitor downtime and uptime, what you need is a reliable web host. Low-quality web hosts are often the biggest reason for site downtime. Consider switching to a reliable hosting service such as SiteGround, Liquid Web, or Cloudways. 

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Expert Advice:

Realistically speaking, the best of hosting providers can guarantee a 99.9% uptime at most. That means your website might be down for nearly 9 hours a year. Apart from this, maintenance activities could affect uptime too. So, make sure you run website maintenance tasks during off-hours to minimize the effects.

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#4 Regularly update WordPress core and extensions

WordPress releases software updates at regular intervals. Although these updates apply to WordPress core, plugin and theme developers come up with newer versions of their products to ensure compatibility and with updated features. These updates are needed to make your website function in the best possible. 

Why are updates important:

Updates not only pack new features but important security fixes too. Your website may be at risk if you’re using older versions of any products. Most breaches happen because of outdated software versions. The best thing to do is keep updating your website from time to time.

How to update WordPress versions: 

WordPress has a built-in system to manage updates for WordPress core, plugins, and themes. Always make use of the latest version of WordPress and all your plugins and themes. To manually check for updates go to your Updates page and do the needful.

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Expert Advice:

Although updates are harmless, there are times when they might mess up your WordPress installation. This could happen in case of major plugin updates. Make sure you test out newer versions on a staging website before making changes on your live site. 

In case you cannot test updates on a staging website, take a backup of your site and proceed with installing pending updates one by one. Test out your site to check for any discrepancies.

The right way to update WordPress and its extensions is to update themes and plugins before updating WordPress core.

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#5 Remove unused, spam content or users

Over time, your WordPress website might get cluttered with unnecessary data. Such as spam comments, unused images, or inactive users. As part of your maintenance activities, you need to clean up this content, to keep your website manageable. Think of it as dusting for your website! 

Why should you remove unused data:

Unused data such as spam comments, unlinked media files, settings from plugins, and themes that were uninstalled, post revisions, etc, can slow down your website. Inactive users (users who’ve registered but haven’t interacted with the website) pose a security threat, and their accounts should be deleted after a set time period.

How to go about cleaning old data:

Once a month check all users and delete those who are not required. Delete your spam comments to free up space in your database and reply to relevant comments. Delete all unused images, plugins, themes, and other data from your server and their corresponding settings from the database. Finally, remember to clean your WordPress cache after this, so that your website loads with the necessary information only.

#6 Optimize load times to smoothen the browsing experience

One of the consequences of unnecessary data piling up on your site is that it can directly affect your website’s performance. Most visitors skip on optimizing the website. They keep adding new content, plugins, users, media, etc, which ends up eating up space and weighing down the website’s performance.

Why are slow websites bad:

A slow website is like cancer affecting your business. You lose out on traffic little by little until your business goes kaput or you take some action. Page speed directly affects your page ranking on search engines. That’s because the load time directly affects user experience. 

How to optimize your website for speed:

As per stats, the ideal page load time should be less than 2s. You can check your website’s performance using tools like GTmetrix, Pingdom, or Google Pagespeed Insights. These tools offer suggestions on how to fix whatever is slowing down your website. Make sure you check the desktop as well as mobile versions of your website.

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Expert Advice:

Database optimization is a must when it comes to improving website performance. You can use tools like Swift Performance Pro (Paid) or WP Sweep (Free) – to improve overall database performance. To optimize your mobile pages, you can use a plugin like AMP for WP.

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#7 Fix and update broken links and images

Whenever you add links on your website – whether to pages on your site or external ones – over time you need to keep checking if the links are still valid. It could happen that the destination pages could no longer exist, or the content changed. In this case, the link would be either broken or misleading and would have to be updated.

Why is it important to fix broken links:

As your website grows, you’ll realize that some of the external websites you once linked to, don’t exist anymore. The reason could be that some websites may have moved to a new location, while others may have been shut down. It could also be that you may have accidentally added broken images, poorly formatted links, or misspelled your own links. 

Broken links make for bad user experience and affect your site’s bounce rate and page views.

Another scenario is when a user requests a page that doesn’t exist on your website; WordPress will show them a 404 error page. 404 errors occur because a page is no longer available; which again results in creating a bad user experience.

How to fix these broken links:

For checking broken links you can install plugins like Broken Link Checker. The Velvet Blues plugin updates all URLs in your website by replacing old with new URLs.

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Expert Advice:

If you’re using the default 404 page that came with your WordPress theme, then a better solution would be to redirect the user to another page on your website like a sitemap page or any other informational page.

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#8 Manual Testing 

Manual Testing is one of the best ways to check if your website is working properly. 

Why is it necessary to test out the site manually:

You can create forms that serve various different purposes on your website in no time. However, sometimes due to a misconfiguration on your WordPress hosting server your forms may malfunction or simply disappear. So you need to check all your forms on your website to make sure they’re working. 

How and what to manually test on your website:

Make it a point to visit your website, at least on a weekly basis, and preferably from different devices to quickly spot problems with the design layout, content, and of course, your contact forms. Your contact form is one of the most important elements of your website. A faulty form will mean that your users aren’t able to connect with you.

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Expert Advice:

In addition to checking out your site from the one browser that you’re used to, test your website in other widely used browsers like Chrome, Firefox, Safari, Internet Explorer, or Microsoft Edge.

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#9 Maintain the Content

Updating your website content regularly with the latest articles is very important. If you cannot update on a daily basis, then you can choose to add content weekly or a few times every month.

Why is updating content important:

If you want your readers to visit your site and trust your brand, you need to work on rolling out good, relevant and up-to-date content.

Your content is your gateway to potential clients. Whatever the form of your content – blog posts, images or videos keep it engaging and interesting.

How to go about regularly maintaining content:

Maintaining content doesn’t just mean constantly pushing out new information. A very important part involves renewing your existing content to make it more relevant to your audience. 

For instance, a few years ago, influencer marketing wasn’t a commonly used term. But today, it’s blown up big, and no marketing articles, podcasts, or even books are complete without a mention of this concept.

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Expert Advice:

By optimizing your website for SEO, people will be able to find your website using search engines. This is very important if you are looking to increase your sales and visibility.

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Conclusion

These 9 tasks will take care of all your major maintenance issues. Performing these tasks on a regular basis will keep it working smoothly and efficiently.

However, this isn’t the whole and sole of managing your website. Depending on the size of your website and its needs, you might have to get into the underlying code and platform to makes sure your site performs; and that’s something a professional should ideally handle. 

Goes without saying, you can always reach out to us with your ideas, suggestions, or questions with regard to managing your WordPress website in the comments section below. 

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Recommended Reading:

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Shreya Reddy

Shreya Reddy

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