Management and Maintenance of your WordPress Website
A new year has dawned and there are sure to be new technological developments that will dazzle the world. And for sure, there will be countless new websites launched in all spheres of development. While launching a website is fairly easy these days, the maintenance part is often ignored. Most website owners do not give much thought to the importance of maintenance of their WordPress Website. It is one activity that is severely neglected.
The truth is that website management was not a very emphasized issue until the early 2000s. Websites were built using HTML and CSS and launched as soon as the content pages were set to go. There was no concept about managing a website after its launch into the world. And to be honest, there wasn’t much to worry about when it came to keeping the websites secure. Website owners weren’t even bothered about achieving the requisite loading times. But then, there really wasn’t much to be concerned about either. Websites weren’t as complex and dynamic as they are today. In simpler words, they used to be your regular informative pages/brochures. They were simply used to serve as a company’s introduction pamphlet, unlike these days when websites achieve much more than your entire marketing force put together. A well designed website will not just relay the necessary information about a business group but will strategically place content, infographics and other interactive pages to turn visitors into customers.
Owing to the complex nature of websites today, maintaining and managing them is essentially important. Not maintaining a site can bring forth various issues that can become hard to resolve at a later stage. Potential issues like a possibility of the website being hacked, increased load speeds, reduced rankings on the search engine resulting in website failure are some very likely results of a poorly maintained website.
Maintaining and managing a website is hence as important (or perhaps more so) than the launch itself. And that’s not as easy as it sounds. There is an endless list of activities that need to be tracked and monitored for maintaining a WordPress website.
The article will focus on some of the important components of a website that need to be focused on while taking your first steps towards maintenance.
As a first step towards maintenance, it is important to have Administrator access for your WordPress site. Various users, however, do not have the same. It would be required to access the WordPress dashboard for installing the plugins or sometimes, modifying the wp-config.php file with server access.
As has already been emphasized multiple times, make sure you have reliable, current backups before making any changes to your website. The best way is to be testing any changes in a test environment.
Read on to understand the most important actions which are required to be taken for maintaining your WordPress website.
Key steps towards managing and maintaining your WordPress Website
While there are tons of free resources and online learning guides to choose from, if one decides to self manage their WordPress Website, it is important to understand the key steps involved to get the job done at a professional level. It is also a wise option to hire the services of a professional expert when it comes to Website management and get your job done without facing the everyday hassles. Following are some of the key maintenance aspects that need to be understood:
- Maintenance Mode
- WordPress Updates
- Comment Spam
- Website Security
- Database Maintenance, Optimization
- Regular monitoring
- Centralized Management
Read on to understand everything there is to know about some of the steps for managing your WordPress website.
1. Back Up Your Website
We often neglect the importance of a good backup mechanism when it comes to maintaining the health of our website. That said, they’re perhaps the most critical aspect to be looked into when considering the overall health of a website. In the event that something goes wrong at the technological end, as is often the case, you could be faced with some challenging situations like a messed up website, an irreparable issue or even the loss of the entire website. And all this could happen within the blink of an eye!
A website that has been systematically and regularly backed up can be easily restored, at least to the level of the most recent backup. And no, you don’t really need to be a tech expert to do the same yourself. There are various free options available with WordPress which are easy to self learn in order to carry out a manual backup of your site.
Opting for plugins with automatic backups are of course easier and do not require the everyday manual labor but can cost you some money. That said, choosing an automatic backup system also requires efficient and regular testing of the functionality of the backups. There are various options available however which can allow you to choose a plugin with automatic backups in a cost efficient manner.
When you choose a backup option for your website, you get to place the store the backup data on the hosting platform’s server. Right? It is definitely a convenient option as well as a smooth process when it comes to fetching the data in the event of an emergency. But then, there have been instances where the hosting platform itself falls away. If the server’s systems are down, and you somehow are in a need of restoring your backups just then, you might just end up losing the entire backup or will have to wait for accessing your data till the servers get functional.
Agreed that most big hosting platforms have robust systems and technology and the chances of an entire system going down are rare. There is hence a very small chance that your backup placed with these platforms will get lost. But then, why take that small chance with your precious data?
The best way to go ahead is hence to have an offsite backup system available for your need. You could choose to go with Dropbox, Google Drive or other such freely available platforms.
Irrespective of the backup option that you choose, it is always a smart move to back up your website at different locations at the same time. You could love taking a regular backup on Google Drive or DropBox but keeping a personal backup on your machine or a hard drive ensures some additional safety for your precious data.
2. Choosing a Plugin
There are various free as well as paid plugin options available to choose from. These high rated plugins can make the task of automation and backup extremely simplified as well as convenient for you. Some very commonly used paid plugin options include VaultPress, Code Guard, Snapshot, BackupBuddy, BlogVault etc.
Additionally, there are some high quality free plugins to choose from as well. UpdraftPlus is a wonderful free plugin with easy one click backup option which is convenient to use and also allows for one click offsite backups to storage systems like Dropbox, Google Drive etc. The restoration process is as simple as it could get. A simple one click solution that allows you to restore all your data from the backups without having to deal with complex processes like importing database files, uploading the files via FTP etc.
ManageWP is another convenient option when it comes to choosing a convenient none click plugin. The plugin stores the backup on Amazon S3 instances which are completely offsite and external to your own website and server. The system allows for easy one click restoration of your website data.
Some other popular free plugins to choose from include BackWPupFree and BackUpWordPress.
3. Regular modifications and updating on WordPress Core, Website Theme, and Plugins
So you’ve probably realized by now that launching a website is not about creating it and forgetting it. Most website owners still end up making the mistake of believing that all the work ends with the creation of the website and they probably will never have to touch it again. Not true. Or perhaps true enough for those using a top notch service provider that does the work of backups, software updating etc for them.
That said, for everyone else (and that is perhaps a big majority) using a self hosted WordPress install will need to work on their updates.
Let us begin by understanding the importance of update when it comes to your WordPress Website.
All platforms including WordPress are under constant development with new features coming up every few days or so, more features being added to enhance the security, bugs being fixed etc. This requires an updating of the base code on which WordPress is originally built. This is a common occurrence with WordPress or any platform that you choose to go with. And due to the constant updates being done on various internal components of WordPress, the need to update other components like themes, plugins etc is extremely essential, to say the least.
So why bother updating the core, the theme or the Plugins? Start by understanding the importance of each of these in your overall WordPress experience.
A WordPress core as the name suggests is a set of files that is the core of the working system of WordPress. Thousands of files that form this core work in sync to give your site the functionality that you see.
A WordPress theme is nothing but a group of files (amongst the core) that give your website its own unique look and design. And plugins are your gateway to add different features and functions within your WordPress website. With thousands of plugin options available with WordPress, you can almost choose to build your site just the way you want to.
With such importance associated with these components, it is important to make an update to the theme, plugin or the core as and when an update is available. You would often find options for security updates as well. Ignoring them could be a heavy mistake in the long term. A security hole will make your website vulnerable to issues such as hacking etc. Make the security update as soon as it is available and get your security issues covered.
There could be chances of spotting update options for plugins, theme, and core at the same time. Well, in such scenarios, follow the order of size, that is, update your smallest component (plugin) first, followed by the theme and then the core (the largest component).
That said, updates can sometimes bring in undue hassles such as conflicting plugins which can break a website in a worst case scenario. If your website uses multiple plugins at the same time, update them one at a time to avoid any conflicting issues.
Also, before making an update, it is important to backup your website as explained earlier in this article. Worst case scenarios do occur. Be prepared for the same. Keep yourself ready with a backup version that can be restored in these cases.
WordPress software updates keep coming in on a regular basis. You would often spot updates available for core, themes, and plugins. Making the best use of these updates will ensure that your website keeps functioning without hassles or without running a risk of code conflicts. A website with out-of-date elements is particularly vulnerable to hackers and regular updates are your protection against the same.
Maintaining your WordPress website can be tricky. You could run a risk of website users seeing the process while you’re making those changes, especially when you work with a live interactive website. And that’s not what you want! It is recommended to make your changes offline to avoid facing such situations.
4. Optimize Your Database
As you already know, WordPress stores your entire website data including the content of the web pages, the design, the blog posts etc in a database. WordPress essentially runs its entire systems through its database. It is hence critical essential to keep the WordPress database clean from all types of junk. Junk, when accumulated over a long period of time, can get hard to remove and can also clog the website causing unnecessary hassles. Your deleted posts keep getting saved as a part of your backups. Similarly, spam comments, tags or other categories of data keep getting stored as a part of your backup. So every time you plan to make a revision and save multiple draft versions, new versions/revisions keep getting added to your database making it super loaded over time.
Not cleaning all these unnecessary segments of your database will accumulate more and more junk making your website slow. And you don’t need to know how a slow working website loses its viewers!
Cleaning the junk regularly keeps your website fresh and fast working.
Database optimization efforts truly depend on the size of your database. A busy site might need some good plugin options to keep the database optimized and well maintained. Database optimization plugins like WP-Sweep work like a wonder and are super easy to manage. It can give you a glimpse of all the accumulated junk and suggestions on what should be cleaned up. It will show you all your revision versions, deleted stuff, unused items, drafts that are auto saved, tags etc. And what’s more, it will give you a warning for not cleaning stuff that looks important (ex: a draft write up, post etc.)
Some other plugins that could be checked out are WP DBManager, WP-Optimize, WP Clean UP, Clean Sweep, Cleanup Images etc.
Further, it is also important for you as the website owner to have complete access to your database. There are several plugin options available that can give you the required access to your database. You can use these plugins to import, export or repair your data. Tools like MySQL, SQL Executioner, Adminer are worth considering if you need access to your database.
5. Security Plugins for Website Protection
A website needs careful and strong protection and there is nothing that is more important than its security needs.
One option is to separately hire professional services which cover all your management as well as hosting costs. However, more often than not, a website hosting service will not cover the security related issues for a WordPress website.
That said, you can always choose to go for some plugins (free as well as paid) to give your website the security that it needs.
With hacking technologies getting super smart, there is always a risk to your website. Irrespective of the size of your website, the risk for hacking is always real. And no, hacking is not just about copying your website for another usage. Small websites work as vehicles for various wrongdoings. Hackers often hack solely for that purpose and the same can lead you into troubled situations that would be hard to get out of. A vulnerable website that is not equipped with enough security plugins can easily be used by hackers for such purposes.
Some good security plugins to consider are:
- iThemes Security: This is a wonderful option for getting a complete security check. The system helps you find security issues if any and suggestions to fix them. Additionally, it will give you good practices that will help keep your system secure. You could receive suggestions such as a URL change or disabling your PHP code etc.
- Wordfence: This is another useful but a little complex to install interface that can give you’re the required security along with free Firewall protection. Its Web Application Firewall (WAF) offers the protection to your server from bugs and other security threats.
- MalCare: This is a wonderful security plugin that will not just protect your website from all potential security threats but will also clean up your already hacked website. The plugin is extremely easy to use and is super quick to install. The easy installation as well as immediate results that this plugin offer makes it a favorite with users. What’s extraordinary about MalCare is that it will not just find the existing security threats but will also point out others that can go undetected with other security plugins. The Firewall will automatically detect unsafe IP addresses and prevent them from accessing your site. The security plugin also automatically prevents unethical login attempts using CAPTCHA protection system. Not all security systems offer long accessible backups as MalCare. MalCare offers Blog Vault powered backups which remain accessible for 365 days. This security plugin also has other unique features like Site Management systems for updating plugins, core, and Convenient user management allows you to add/remove users or change their passwords when needed. Further, MalCare’s uniqueness comes from its super useful features like White Labeling and Client reporting.
6. Moderate the Comments
Very often, when we go for an interactive website allowing users to comment on posts, a good lot of data remains accumulated as outstanding in the queue and we end up ignoring the same. Moderating the incoming comments can quickly clear out any outstanding stuff.
Similarly, deleted comments need to be removed from the trash. A loaded trash bin can mean slowing down for your website. Using plugins like WP-Sweep or others mentioned earlier in the article can help you get rid of the deleted comments while cleaning your database.
It is also important to pay close attention to the spam comments. Of course, these need vigilant monitoring and systems to control them. However, self moderating all that spam is not an easy job.
Using options like Akismet can do that automatically for you without you ever having to deal with the spam yourself.
7. Comment Spam
Regular sites can often end up getting hit with “Comment Spam”. Now, this is a kind of Plague which comes in as comments and links that are created for a short term (usually for SEO purposes). There are various helpful plugin options available which can prevent the buildup of a high volume of spam comments within your site.
However, as a prevention mode, using anti spam options like Akismet can keep your comments automatically cleared off. You could also put in some manual work by monitoring your comments section and closing it off when not in use.
8. Search Engine Maintenance
Search Engine Optimization is an essential tool to learn for every website owner today. Just launching a website is not enough in the super competitive world of today. It is also important that your website ranks high on a search engine like Google or Bing for people to be able to view it.
One way to do so is to pay for placing ads on various search engines or perhaps create a presence on social media. However, these are extremely laborious and yet only short term means to get more visitors at one go. It is more important however to get visitors through unpaid/organic searches. While this may need some efforts on your part, to begin with, it is a good long term solution to acquiring quality visitors. The entire process of people being able to find you on a search engine and then getting attracted enough to visit your website will need extensive work at your end. And that’s what Search Engine Optimization or SEO is all about. Using WordPress plugins is an easy way to get this part of the job done. While you will still have to do the big part of researching the keywords that will help you through search engine optimization, you can still get some part of your task done using these plugin options.
Following are some of the most recommended search engine optimization plugins/tools:
- YOAST SEO for metadata: YOAST SEO is an extremely efficient and recommended tool. You can choose to go for either free or the paid versions. While the paid version is excellent, even the free version is quite efficient in its functions. YOAST SEO can help with filling up of search engine metadata for the following criteria:
- Title page which can show up in a search result
- Description pages which include the basic description of the title as shown in the search result.
- Keywords which inform the webpage/blog owners to find out the most looked for search terms. Yoast also has inbuilt tools to tell you the intensity of usage of the search term within your description, title pages, and other pages.
- GOOGLE SEARCH CONSOLE: Google Search Console is perhaps the greatest and most used SEO tool. And what’s more, you can use the same along with your other SEO tools. This super awesome SEO plugin works by making you hand over your website to Google for getting crawled, indexed and show up in Google search results (which are the most used, by the way). While someone specifically looking for you on Google will still be able to find you without all these efforts on your part, Google Search Console brings you the advantage of some great features while submitting the website to Google for crawling.
So what are these great features that Google Search Console brings to you? The SEO plugin with its 404 feature has the ability to show up a 404 result. If a user is trying to find a particular URL on your website which does not really exist, a 404 will automatically show up if your website was previously indexed on Google. One way to resolve this issue is to choose a 301 redirect option using the Redirection plugin. This is a feature which allows Google to find the page closest to the searched URL(which does not exist) in terms of content. In most cases, this can be the homepage itself.
9. Maintaining the Content
Now, this is something which will require your own careful vigilance. And you do not have to always rely on paid plugin options for the same. Proactively planning the content on your web pages and checking for its relevance is important. Old and outdated content or blog posts that are not needed any more should simply be deleted.
Just the way you plan keeping your home clutter free and disposing of things that are not needed anymore or will not be missed!
However, deleting is not the only thing you need to work upon when it comes to content maintenance.
Updating outdated content with newer versions can sometimes be very important for websites. A technology based website, for example, needs to regularly clean up its content that was posted two years back but is totally irrelevant today and even better, update the same in today’s context. Be a regular visitor to your own website, keep going back to some old content pieces and give a makeover where needed.
Check out for stuff on your website which beats the test of time and stays important irrespective of the year. Make sure you that you do keep them placed on the top and freshen them (use some SEO techniques) a little to keep them in the eyes of your viewers now and forever.
10 Maintaining Speed
A slow website, even with excellent content and information is a complete deal breaker. Keeping the website’s loading speed optimized is hence critical and the same calls for running regular speed tests. People often tend to run various speed tests when they first launch a website and then neglect the same while they go on adding content, infographics, plugins and other similar elements to the WordPress website making the database heavy and the speeds slower. And this is what leads to a slow death for a website.
Most speed test programs will point out the areas which need to be maintained in order to optimize the loading speed. For a particularly busy and a heavy database website, it is best to hire professional services for the same. That said, some available tools like Google Page Speed Insights, YSlow, Pingdom that can help you run speed tests yourself. Most speed tests give results as grades along with suggestions for improvement. Your speed test can bring forth various recommendations like minimizing HTTP request, using the content delivery network (CDN), minimizing CSS using plugins etc.
Irrespective of the speed tests you choose for your WordPress website, it is recommended to run them once every few months. Remember that there is nothing as unattractive for the visitors as a slow loading website.
Centralized WordPress Management
Various users face issues when running more than and managing more than one WordPress website. For website owners struggling with management of more than one website, setting up a centralized management tool is definitely a good option.
Various centralized WordPress management options that are popular with users include ManageWP, InfineWP, WP Remote, and WPDASH.
Irrespective of the management option you choose to go with, WordPress maintenance is extremely important. A poorly maintained site can actually be a liability instead of earning you the revenues that you always dreamt of. We’ve already listed the issues that can come over as a result of a poorly maintained WordPress website. From low search engine rankings to security flaws which enable hackers to attack your websites, you could constantly be facing issues with your website.
Hiring the services of a reputed WordPress site management company can ensure that you get a centralized management option, whether you’re looking at managing two or twenty websites at a go.
Why choose Webcenture?
We at Webcenture understand how important it is for your website to run smoothly without hassles or security threats. We realize how much your website’s functionality means for your business and revenues. We at Webcenture offer end to end WordPress management services for website owners as well as freelancers. Choosing Webcenture means that your website gets all the due care that it needs. Here’s what we offer:
- 24/7 support offered by our highly qualified staff sitting at various remote locations across the globe
- Plans that give our clients access to premium plugins at prices that will be hard to ignore.
- Our team of professionals engages with the clients on a day to day bases understanding their issues and keeping them updated on the maintenance aspects of their website. Our wonderful client reviews are a testimony to our work quality.
- We at Webcenture have long standing partnership with various design agencies as well as professionals who offer effective white label solutions offering clients website edits, speed checks, performance improvements, security plugins, and backup options.
Some Final Words
Website maintenance is an often forgotten but completely essential chore. While you don’t really need to be a tech expert to self-maintain your website, there are some components within the same that need an expert touch. Various plugin options have been invented with the intent of making the maintenance job easy for WordPress website users.
Giving due attention to the overall health and security of your website is important to get the right kind of traffic flow for your site. Various aspects like software updates, security plugin installations, speed checks, backups, database optimization etc are all important aspects of website maintenance that need careful consideration.
Intentions are often not enough. Taking proactive action is required when it comes to maintaining your WordPress website. And what better way to do so than to create a detailed maintenance plan for the same? This will help you stay on top of things while taking proactive steps to manage any threats to your website. That said, it is also a smart choice to trust a professional organization for the entire package and choose a plan that gives you everything you need while managing your website on a regular basis.
Most web hosts offer options for keeping regular backups for your website. Ensure that you look up your hosting agreement for the kind and schedule of backups that is provided for within your plan. If you’re about to sign a new deal, make sure that you get the same included.
A running website may encounter various problems like slow loading of the pages, inaccessible links, excessive site downloading time, excessive junk accumulation etc.
A good maintenance plan will cater to all these issues.
Further, with hacking technology getting stronger, the security threats from potential hackers is a serious concern for website owners these days. While is a smart choice to hire the services of a professional expert, self management using free plugin options like Wordfence or paid plugins like Sucuri premium or iThemes Security Pro Premium is available as well.
You could ask your web host to include the security management within your plan which can save you the trouble of getting additional services or paying extra for security plugins.
A healthy website will prevent potential attacks by hackers or unethical elements as well as ensure that your site performs at its optimal level. There are specialized tools available which can give you regular information on the performance levels of your website. Tools like Google Webmaster, Google Analytics etc are good to use. Installing the same will give show you a regular, day to day status of your website performance as well as point out the issues that need to be tackled.
It is also suggested to keep well informed on various WordPress updates including those for plugins, themes, and core and keep yourself on top of any potential security flaws and take proactive steps towards managing the same.
Investing in as less as an hour per month or hiring a professional company like Webcenture at super competitive prices can keep your website clean and smooth functioning for years to come.
Website maintenance can be very overwhelming and seeing your carefully structured website not performing as it should is a particularly painful experience. However, choosing some of the aforementioned maintenance options, some reliable backup options, plugins and tools can get you sorted. And then, there is always the super smart option of trusting the services of market leading companies like Webcenture and get all your WordPress website maintenance issues taken care of on a regular basis.