When you invest in a website there is something you should consider, which is, website maintenance. Without proper website maintenance then there may be a little-to-no point in having a website in the first place. You wouldn’t buy a car and never service it? Because you know, ultimately, the car will break and cost a lot more to fix than if you had just maintained it in the first place. Well, a website is a bit like that. If your website is built on a CMS such as WordPress, then there are numerous factors that go into its development.
Having a healthy website means having a maintained one, making sure you can spot issues early on and prevent them from developing, website maintenance is preventative and can aid in the success of a website and, therefore, a company. Website maintenance can be boiled down into 3 stages: weekly, monthly and annually.
The Importance of Website Maintenance
Website maintenance can help your company grow, sustain and be actionable for the most amount of time. Some direct benefits of it are: user experience (UX), site traffic and security. Because WordPress is constantly updating, plugins, themes, programming languages and more all go through regular updates, websites need to also update aligned with these changes, otherwise, they may fall behind and stop working.
Imagine you are running ads to your website, but your contact forms are not working because the website hasn’t been maintained, this would annoy the users and cost you a lot of wasted money on advertising. If not maintained, the risk of errors will constantly increase until your website just stops working.
If your website is running smoothly, has a high percentage of uptime (99.9% +) and accommodates its users on all browsers and responsive devices then your user experience is likely to be a good one. However, if there are hindrances caused by outdated plugins, themes and more, which make using your website difficult, then you are likely to lose your user to a competitor.
The security of maintaining a website is a crucial factor. Plugins, themes, programming languages and the WordPress core itself all update in the name of security, either by patching errors or adding new layers of security to their code. Therefore, your website should maintain these updates and make sure that you are also secure, especially if your website handles sensitive data.
Website Maintenance Checklist
Weekly Maintenance Tasks for WordPress
1. Quality Assurance Testing
It is easy to forget about your own website. You spend so much time in the backend and promoting your website externally, that sometimes you may overlook the need to just scrummage around your own website and make sure everything is as it should be. We recommend heading on over to some of your key pages once a week to make sure everything is a-ok.
2. Website Backups
Backing up your website is always necessary and can give you the peace of mind of having a copy in case anything goes wrong with your live site. Weekly or monthly backups (depending on the type of website) are recommended and can help you have fresh copies of all your data. If your website is frequently updated, posting, adding new products, adding new pages or more, then regular backups will ensure you have this data safe and secure.
3. Form & Feature Testing
Whether your website is an e-commerce or more lead-generation based via forms, you need to make sure everything is running smoothly. You don’t want to look back and notice you have had no leads or sales for a week, only to find out that your contact form or checkout process stopped working due to it not being maintained.
If revenue hangs in the balance of your endpoints, then weekly maintenance is highly necessary, otherwise, monthly form and feature testing may be ok too. For those more crucial on-demand websites, we recommend going a step further and installing certain plugins that can help monitor performance and inform you the moment something stops working.
4. Updates – Plugins, Themes & Core
Your website needs updating at least once a week, whether it is a plugin, your theme or the core WordPress files, something will need to be updated as developers release their new developments. However, you shouldn’t just update the plugins out of the box, you need to be aware of conflicts and issues that some updates may have. Therefore, before you update, we recommend backing up your website and also testing the updates on a staging website just to be sure everything works as it should after the update is carried out.
5. Moderate Comments
If you allow guests to comment on blogs or users to leave product reviews then it would be wise to moderate these comments, making sure you do not get any spam comments or inappropriate ones of that matter.
6. Google Search Console
Your website should be set up with Google Search Console (GSG) and here you will be able to detect any issues from speed performance to responsiveness and SEO issues. Google will alert you if any page errors for you to go ahead and inspect and make the relevant changes if necessary.
Weekly Maintenance Tasks – Summary
- Quality Assurance Testing
- Website Backups
- Form & Feature Testing
- Updates – Plugins, Themes & Core
- Moderate Comments
- Google Search Console
Monthly Maintenance Tasks for WordPress
1. Perform Security Scans
WordPress, along with all Content Management Systems (CMSs) are attractive targets for malware and attacks. This can happen through plugins, directly onto your website or through emails, therefore, it is important to run security scans to make sure you can catch any potential issues and flag them.
2. Database Optimisation
Optimising your database can help clear out any unwanted mess. WordPress stores almost everything in a database, content, plugins, themes, settings, and more are all stored there and over time this can become full and cause issues. Therefore, it is best practice to periodically clear it out, removing the junk and allowing your website to perform better.
3. 404s & Broken Link Scans
As time goes on, your website collects links, adds new content and pages and collates outbound links. However, websites are constantly changing, some links may go down, some pages may cease to exist, and your website may still point there. This affects your UX and your SEO as well as just sending users to a dead end.
Monthly broken link checks can prevent this and make sure that your user is hindered by any broken pages. We’ve all been there; we have been looking for something and we’ve ended up on a 404 page (which is a broken page) and it probably caused a sort of frustration and acceptance that you can’t access what you want.
4. Run Performance Tests
Speed optimisation is one of the most critical factors for a website and it is becoming even more important with recent Google algorithm updates. The speed at which your website loads affects your user’s experience, your SEO, your conversion rates, the website traffic and much more.
If your website is optimised from the point of creation, that is great, however, it is unlikely to last. With new updates, growing traffic and more, it is important to monitor your speed and website performance to make sure your users are still having a positive experience.
5. Site Traffic Analysis
If you are not already connected to Google Analytics, then we highly recommend doing so. This free tool can analyse your website from top to bottom, showing key information about your users, their demographics, how long they spent on your website, what pages are most looked at, how often visitors leave a page and much more.
Regular Google Analytics checks can help you understand the pros and cons of your website, where your traffic is coming from, where you can improve and how to perform better.
6. Backup Verification
Website backups are great and necessary to have (as previously discussed), however, do they actually work? There is no point in keeping backups if they don’t work once restored. Therefore, we recommend monthly backup verification checks where you take your backup, restore it to a testing or staging environment and make sure everything is all fine and dandy.
Monthly Maintenance Tasks – Summary
- Perform Security Scans
- Database Optimisation
- 404s & Broken Link Scans
- Run Performance Tests
- Site Traffic Analysis
- Backup Verifications
Annual Maintenance Tasks for WordPress
1. Content Auditing
Updating content can help revamp your web pages, benefit your SEO and attract more users. It is a good idea to update content, especially on the pages that lack the most content, every year. Additionally, by updating high-performing pages and content, you can keep your high rankings on search engines and maybe even improve them.
Additionally, over the span of a year, you are bound to be adding little bits here and there, therefore, it may be wise to regroup your website, make sure inbound links are pointing in the relevant directions and make the experience more efficient for your users.
Content updates also help show you what works and what doesn’t. This can be a key indicator to help you focus on the right things down the line.
2. Plugin Auditing
Plugins are great, they allow you to create all new sorts of functionalities, from e-commerce to booking engines and minor things such as mailing lists and more. However, clogging your website with too many plugins will lead to performance and security vulnerability issues.
Therefore, we recommend analysing your plugins once a year to ensure it serves a necessary purpose, if the plugin doesn’t pull its weight, it may be good to deactivate and delete it.
3. Hosting Updates
Depending on your hosting plan, you may need to consider moving to a better hosting provider. Most websites start off on a shared plan, which is more than enough for small, low-traffic websites. However, as users increase, traffic spikes and you edge nearer to the limits of your hosting, it may be wise to consider an upgrade.
Choosing a hosting provider comes with an array of factors, therefore, you just need to find which one suits your needs the best. Regardless, your hosting provider will also reach out to you if they believe that you are nearing the edges of your hosting plan’s capacities.
4. Account Security
This rule generally applies to all accounts that you have. Updating your passwords can help prevent security threats and keep your account secure. There are a few factors that can help secure your WordPress account, such as adding a reCAPTCHA to the login, changing the URL of the standard WordPress login page, usually yourdomain.com/wp-admin/ and also limiting the number of login attempts that people are allowed.
Annual Maintenance Tasks – Summary
- Content Auditing
- Plugin Auditing
- Hosting Updates
- Account Security
Your Maintenance Guide
We understand that not all of the above maintenance protocols may directly apply to your website and the frequency may change. However, the weekly, monthly, and annual lists stated above cover a comprehensive WordPress maintenance guide and, if followed, your website should do just fine for years to come.
However, understanding that the checklist requires some extensive knowledge, time, and patience it may be wise to hire or outsource a developer to oversee it for you. At the end of the day, your investment in your website is only as good as you maintain it.