Just like computer maintenance, webmasters forget that they need to perform WordPress website maintenance in order to keep their blog or website running smoothly, therefore I would like to share my checklist for website updating and maintenance.
Precautions Before Using this WordPress Website Maintenance Checklist
You are the webmaster so you will need to take responsibility for your website files. Before installing, deleting, optimizing, updating anything on your blog make sure you do the right thing!
- Backup your database: You can install a plugin to do this or do it manually. See the links below for more information.
- Backup your posts and pages: You can do this by entering your WordPress Dashboard, clicking on Tools in the left menu, then choosing export. This will take all your pages and posts, but does not always get your special settings or all of your images. This is why we also need to backup files as well. I have used this option to move a website into WordPress but just had to bring the images over manually.
- Backup your server files: You can access your WordPress website files through FTP. You will see all of your files in the installation directory where you first installed WordPress. For example if you install WordPress into the root of your domain then the files will be there. If you installed WordPress into a directory on your domain then they will be in that folder, looking something like this www.yourdomain/blog. Browsing your server is a lot like browsing through a computer.
- Backup your theme files: If I am upgrading my theme or moving my website I like to copy any customizations that I have made. For example I might have changed the CSS file or maybe I added some code to the header.PHP file. Either way I like to backup these files if I am changing something with my theme. If I am doing a full backup of my website or backing up all the files on the server, then it is not necessary for me to perform this step also.
- Use A script or software to backup the entire Website: You can clone your entire installation including images, users, comments, in fact an exact replica of what you have on your website.
Cool Resources for Backing up your WordPress Installation
http://codex.wordpress.org/Backing_Up_Your_WordPress_Files Backup your files
http://codex.wordpress.org/Backing_Up_Your_Database Backup your Database
http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/wp-db-backup/ WP database backup plugin
#1. Website Maintenance Checklist - Visit Your Website
This is my number one rule on my website maintenance chekclist! Visit your own website as a visitor, not just in the dashboard! If you have your blinkers on and just go into your WordPress dashboard you will be missing out and the whole website functioning. This is just so simple but webmasters forget about the outside functioning website.
I visit my website every day. Sometimes I find errors myself, and sometimes people e-mail me and tell me. For example one time I went to my blog and clicked on a link on the homepage. It came up with a 404 error. If I did not visit the blog I would not know that there was an error. It turned out to be a plug-in I had installed, messed with the permalink structure, therefore making every link on my blog broken. Luckily I had seen this error before and picked it up straight away.
#2. Update Your Blog
WordPress makes it easy to update or blog. You will see a link to your updates in your WordPress dashboard and when there are updates, there will be a number next to the link.
When you see a number next to the updates link in the menu, all you have to do is click on the update link. This will take you to the WordPress updates page and you will be able to see all of the updates that your blog needs. This could be a plug-in or a WordPress theme, or even WordPress itself. Again, before doing any of this, I like to backup my website just in case.
#3. Check Loading Times
The loading times of your WordPress website are very important. It is like working on a slow computer. You simply get less work done, and when it comes to website visitors, they visit less pages on a slow blog. You want your website visitors to feel good about visiting many pages on your website so you need to make it load up quickly. Speeding up your website loading time has proven to not only bring in more income, but give your users a fantastic experience on your website.
#4. Check for Broken Links
Years ago one of my websites suddenly dropped out of the search engines and I had no idea why. I discovered it was because I had too many broken links on my website. At the time, I had never heard of this. Anyway I have repaired the links and my website went back to the previous rankings in the search engines. This was when I decided to add checking broken links to my maintenance schedule for my website.
Now in WordPress I use a plugin called broken link checker and it is free. I do not leave it enabled full time because I believe it slows down the blog. I simply activate it when I am performing the tasks on my website maintenance checklist.
#5. Delete Unwanted Plug-ins
Everyone has plug-ins that they have installed into their WordPress website and either have deactivated them or have activated ones but are not really using them. these plug-ins are just taking up space and should be deleted. Of course, before doing so, you should backup your files just to be on the safe side. I also suggest that you deactivate the plug-in before actually deleting any files.
See this screenshot below. As you can see there is an inactive section for plug-ins. There is no real reason why there should be inactive plug-ins on your website.
#6. Delete Unwanted Themes
Many webmasters install new WordPress themes and always forget to actually delete them afterwards. You only really need to keep the one that you are using, and also the default WordPress theme. This is usually used for when your theme crashes, as you can always switch to the default theme.
See the screenshot below. I investigated one of my websites and found eight extra themes installed. This also means that eight of these themes need to be kept up to date as having out of date themes and plug-ins can leave you open to hackers. Therefore it is better to only have the theme you are using, and the default WordPress theme.
#7. Optimize Your Database Tables
To optimize database tables, I use WP-DBManager. It is a free plugin available from the WordPress Plugin site and it lets you take control of your database. It also allows you to delete unwanted tables but you would have to be careful with this. Using this plugin to optimize your database does really speed up your website. I like to delete old database tables that have been created by plug-ins that are not using any more. If you are not experienced then you should get some help when doing this as you can crash your entire website by deleting the wrong database table.
#8. Delete Spam Comments
Many web-masters do not realize that most of us that own the new Premium Commentluv plug-in are using this to control spam comments on our websites as it includes G.A.S.P which ads in sneaky hidden fields that bots think they should fill out. Us humans can’t see these hidden fields so we cannot obviously use these input areas. Therefore my stress with spam has turned to almost ZERO because of this plugin.
Now my maintenance for spam simply includes visiting the spam section of the comments, and deleting them. The CommentLuv plug-in is so good that it does not even put the wrong comments in the spam sections either, like Akismet used to do.
In the screenshot above, you can see that the Commentluv plug-in picks up comments that are too short, have too many links in them, and comments where people have not stayed on the page long enough. For example, if you try to put a comment on my website before 60 seconds, obviously you haven’t read the post yet, so Commentluv warns you.
#9. Check on Your Security
A big part of your website maintenance is website security, especially as it is so easy to lose entire sites from entirely avoidable attacks. There are so many aspects to WordPress website security but here are a some quick tips:
- keep everything updated
- remove the default admin username
- do not allow just anyone to register
- do not make anyone admin
- move your htaccess file
- install a security plugin
- make a fantasticly difficult admin password (I know – no such word!)
I haven’t had a chance to write an article about this subject and I am not sure if I should as it might become another ebook! One of my favourite articles about security is from Smashing Magazine, Securing your WordPress website. This article is amazing and still only touches the surface.
Anyway, there are plugins to use but I am sure they will not do it all for you. I like to use a plugin bullet proof security. Please comment below and let us know what plugin you use?
#10. Posting Maintenance
Every time you post a new article you need to see what effect it will have on your blog. For example you might not have positioned the image correctly or even set it to show up as a thumbnail for the homepage. There are many things that can go wrong.
One good example is when people have added <div> Tags into the HTML section of your WordPress post. If the code is not added in correctly and the tag is unfinished, you might find that your sidebar of your WordPress website now appears at the bottom of the page. This is what an open <div> Tag can do.
This brings me to my next WordPress website maintenance check-list item.
#11. Validate Your Website
Oh no not another maintenance job. This job can be pretty big. You really should validate your RSS feed, your CSS, and maybe your HTML. Get the best validation tips from WordPress.org http://codex.wordpress.org/Validation
#12. Check Your Stats
Checking your stats should be a regular thing that you do. I often find problems that are occurring through searching through my website stats. For example there might be a high exit rate on a certain page or maybe you will notice that your feed isn’t working and you are not getting traffic from your RSS subscribers. There are 1 million things you might see when you check your stats to your website.
#13. Check Your Download Links
Don’t you just hate it when you go to download something and the link does not work? Hmm. Well this is why I like to check my download links as I like to deliver what I promise. Of course we are only human though, but making the effort is a step in the right direction.
Make a WordPress Website Maintenance Schedule
If you know me, you know I have loads of lists and schedules. I love them! Here is an example of a WordPress website maintenance schedule.
- Visit your website
- Backup Posts and Pages
- Check your stats
- Moderate comments
- Backup everything
- Plugin and theme updates
- Check broken links
- Check optin form is working
- Check website security
- Check all social media links
- Remove spam and trashed comments
- WordPress core updates
- Backup the backup
- Check your stats in detail
- Delete unwanted themes and plugins
So Why Do We Need this WordPress Website Maintenance Checklist?
All of this WordPress website maintenance will keep your blog running like a well oiled machine. Of course this should be your number one aim and after all, we want to give our website visitors the most pleasant experience we can, error free and smooth sailing.