WooCommerce is one of the most popular plugins on WordPress, and the most popular e-commerce platform powering over 29% of online stores.
WooCommerce is both store owner and developer friendly, and contains a large amount of functionality. The team at WooThemes maintains the plugin well, with constant fixes and tweaks. But this also means more updates for the WooCommerce user.
Now, I know updates are good, but WooCommerce seems to roll out updates more often than I would prefer. The minor updates are okay.
It’s the major updates that worry me. They come packed with a warning and a lot of stress!
But you see, I can’t ignore these updates.
Maintaining Your WooCommerce Store
Updating your WooCommerce plugin is part of maintaining your WooCommerce store.
Sure the features are something to look forward to. But updates also make your store more secure.
Of course maintenance does not end at updates, there is a lot more. You have backups, security checks, product inventory updates, handling out of stock products, fixing broken links, and so on.
- Maintenance not only wards off malicious attackers but helps improve user experience.
- Keeping product information updated, reinforces customer trust.
- Uptime monitoring helps track how well your hosting is working out for you.
- Regular backups come to rescue in code black situations.
What is WooCommerce Maintenance
Similar to maintaining your WordPress website, WooCommerce maintenance involves performing a regular set of tasks on a timely basis.
#1 Backup, Backup, Backup
Your WooCommerce store contains a lot of important information. You have product details, customer details, order details and so on.
Imagine if a hacker or an erroneous update deleted these details.
A regular backup of your WooCommerce site (the files) and the data can save your store from such a situation.
A plugin like BackWPup or BackupBuddy can be used here to schedule regular updates. Make sure that the content is saved off of your server on an external file hosting or storage service like Dropbox or Google Drive.
#2 Updating WooCommerce, Plugins, Theme, WordPress
Updating your WooCommerce, plugins, theme and WordPress are a way of ensuring that you are running the latest version of the software. And if you’ve heard of the Mossack Fonseca case, you’ll know how important software updates really are. Every improved version of the software contains security fixes to ward off attackers.
Ideally updates should not break the rest of your site, but this isn’t always the case. Since the plugins you use might not be by the same author or might not be tested with each other, a conflict could arise.
So are auto-updates a ‘no’?
WordPress provides an automatic background updates concept. This enables you to allow WordPress to update the core, plugins and themes on its own. I’d say for a WooCommerce website, auto-updates might not be the best option. However, minor updates can be automatically enabled by adding the below line in wp-config.php:
define( 'WP_AUTO_UPDATE_CORE', 'minor' );
To avoid this the recommended steps to updating WooCommerce, WordPress core and other software on your site, is to first test your updates on a staging site and then update them on the live site.
(A staging site is a replica of your live site, and is used to test and review newer versions before the changes are moved into production.)
What if you don’t have a staging site?
Backup the older version of the plugin/theme, and update them one at a time. Remember, updates introduce a newer version of the software. If this version breaks your site, a backup can help you roll back to a stable version.
Do you update WordPress first or the plugins?
Although there is no fixed rule here, I recommend updating the core first, then WooCommerce, then the supporting plugins and the theme.
#3 Updating Product Information & Inventory
Product information is key to the success of any e-commerce store.
Let’s take the example of WisdmLabs’ store. We sell premium WordPress and WooCommerce plugins. We update these plugins quite regularly, and the only way we can communicate new features to interested customers is by updating the feature lists of these products. We update the documentation as well to improve an existing customer’s experience.
Keeping information updated ensures customers that you take care of your products and will care for their interests too.
- Updating product information involves:
- Updating product description and attributes
- Adding available variations
- Updating stock information
- Handling out of stock products
- Updating product images
How to delete products from a WooCommerce store?
Say you have a product in your store, you no longer sell. It’s been out of stock for weeks, and now during your maintenance routine, you decide you want to remove it from your store.
Now ideally, you’d just have to delete the product from your admin panel and all would be well. But this would mean the original product URL would now not exist. Customers who visit the URL would get a page not found error. Or if the product was linked from any other page, the link would now be broken. Broken link errors on your site, would affect your search engine ranking.
To prevent this from happening:
- You could always, add a notice on the product page, and set the catalog visibility to ‘Hidden’.
- Or, you could redirect the URL to another page using a plugin like Simple 301 Redirects.
#4 Uptime Monitoring
Shoppers can only make a purchase from your WooCommerce website, when they can access it. So you need to make sure your server functions well and can handle your website traffic, by monitoring server uptime.
There are several external uptime monitoring services like Uptime Robot and WordPress plugins which connect your website to such services which you can use to monitor server uptime.
Remember search engines penalize websites with considerable downtime. So if your server’s not performing well, it might be time to change your hosting plan or find a new host altogether.
#5 Handling Security Breach Notifications
Usually a plugin handles most of attacks, but as a general security practice you could change your admin passwords, and prompt customers to change their passwords as well.
It’s quite astounding that several users still use older versions of the WooCommerce plugin and are at risk of an attack!
Letting a Professional Handle Maintenance
WooCommerce maintenance is not a one time task. You’d have to dedicate time and effort to perform the needed tasks on a regular basis.
And if you’d rather spend this time on growing your business, then you can always hand over maintenance to professionals.
Letting WooCommerce maintenance specialists handle this can result in long term improvements. You see, experienced professionals not only do what’s needed, they also suggest improvements.
How do You Handle Maintenance?
Do you maintain your WooCommerce website yourself or have you employed a maintenance service? Are there any maintenance tips and tricks you’d like to share with our readers?