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How to Maintain WordPress Website: Tasks You Should Perform Regularly

How to Maintain WordPress Website Tasks You Should Perform Regularly

Have you ever given any thought about WordPress maintenance? What the entire process involves, and how often you should perform specific tasks?

In many cases, businesses don’t even bother thinking about maintenance until a serious outage happens. And the truth is, running a website is much like running a company. There’s a lot of behind the scenes work that needs to be done to keep everything running perfectly. Without routine maintenance, your website won’t be able to reach your target audience and the desired KPIs.

That is why in this article, we’ll talk about why web maintenance is so important. We’ll discuss how to maintain a WordPress website and the tasks that you should regularly perform to keep everything running smoothly.

Why WordPress Maintenance Is Important

laptop showing html codes

WordPress is the most popular, globally used CMS (Content Management System) nowadays. Currently, it is used by 61.6% of all the websites that utilize some form of a content management platform. That is 35% of the top Internet sites.

A powerful CMS such as WordPress needs to be regularly maintained for a guaranteed high-end performance. Every new version of WordPress includes performance improvements and security fixes.

If you don’t update and maintain your WordPress site, its performance might suffer, and consequently, you might lose web visitors.

The following are the additional reasons why WordPress maintenance is important:

  • Enhanced Security: Having your website hacked is terrible. There are poorly coded plugins and themes that leave your site vulnerable.A professional maintenance plan will ensure that your WordPress website remains unharmed. Furthermore, you can rest assured that your CMS is safe because new patches and security improvements from the community are done with every new version.
  • Better UX: People often bounce from a website with a bad UX which leads to fewer sales and depreciated brand identity. Proper maintenance will ensure that UX issues are resolved and your users aren’t inconvenienced.
  • Improved Conversion Rate: People won’t waste time on a slow-loading and poorly maintained WordPress website. Therefore, maintenance is key if you want to increase retention and convert more visitors into clients.
  • Guarding Your Investment: Imagine buying a brand new car. It’s a long-term investment. You’ll need to maintain it regularly, and you don’t want your car to be scratched, broken, or stolen. The same goes for WordPress websites too. It’s a long-term investment that needs to be protected.

The WordPress Maintenance Tasks That You Should Perform Regularly

There are several routine maintenance checks that you should do regularly to ensure peak performance. Let’s look at each of these tasks individually and tell you how to perform them.

Analytics Check

apple computer books and coffee

Always start by keeping an eye on how your WordPress website performs. Analytics will provide you with an overview of your site’s health and let you know if there are any issues that need resolving.

Through Google Analytics, you will get valuable information regarding browser usage, demographics, load times, bounce rate, most viewed pages, etc.

Using the Search Console, you’ll gain more knowledge about the success of your SEO campaigns, and information regarding backlinks, keyword usage, and how your site fares in SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages) and queries.

Changing Passwords

hand typing on a keyboard

Most WordPress site attacks happen due to weak passwords. When your login credentials are not safe, one can fall victim to phishing, and brute-force attacks. Passwords must be the toughest barrier that hackers need to cross.

Of course, having strong passwords is mandatory. But, in some cases, even with a hard-to-guess password, your website can get undermined. That is why your site admins should update their passwords frequently. When you enter a new password, keep in mind the following:

  • Longer Passwords: To play it safe, have a minimum password length of at least ten characters. In most of the cases, passwords that are composed of 10 to 50 characters are reliable.
  • Be Random: Don’t use familiar words or phrases. Never use words such as pets’ names, a city, or one of your friends. Be unpredictable.
  • Keep It Fresh: Even if you use pretty powerful passwords, you need to change them every two or three months. Also, the same password shouldn’t be used more than once.
  • Enable Two-Factor Authentication: Stay safe by enabling two-factor authentication on your WordPress website. You can implement this with a plugin, within minutes. However, in the case of this falling through, you will need to have a backup option to be able to log in again.

Backups and Updates

office servers

Frequent backups are of enormous importance. However, there are lots of WordPress website owners that are not serious enough about it. Backing up your website doesn’t have to be time-consuming, and of course, it’s not expensive at all. If you ignore it, you risk losing your data and your customers.

Backing up your WordPress website is important for the following reasons:

Server Interruptions – When there’s a server outage, in most cases, your hosting company can retrieve your data. However, if the data can’t be retrieved, you might have to use a version of your website that is several days, even weeks old. That is why you must use the best possible hosting service, or instead, you could potentially lose a significant period of your work.

Vulnerabilities – According to a Sucuri report, 39% of hacked websites were not maintained and used an outdated version of WordPress. Hackers can overwrite files on an outdated site, which can lead to your server being blacklisted and your emails marked as spam.

If you frequently update your WordPress website and its content, you may have to backup your database at least once per day. A quality hosting provider will keep backups automated, so that a user is not inconvenienced by the outage.

Managing Spam Comments

no junk mail door

Spam comments are a common concern for WordPress owners. As your site gains popularity, spam will become an even bigger problem for you because:

  • When your comment section is filled with spam messages, it’s more difficult for visitors to provide genuine feedback.
  • Spam comments on your pages make your website look non-professional.
  • Most spammy comments that include dangerous links, intend to fool visitors into giving away personal data.

Luckily, managing these types of comments is not that hard once you use the following methods:

Don’t Allow too Many Links – One of the ways to fight off spam is to allow fewer links in your blog post comment section.

To do this: Open your Dashboard, go to Settings → Discussion and look for the Comment Moderation area. There, you can decide how many links will be allowed in a comment before it gets flagged as spam.

Have a ‘Blacklist’ – Many spam comments include a lot of recognizable words. For that reason, you’ll need to create a ‘blacklist’ of words that your site can flag when a spam comment contains one of them.

To activate this: Open your Dashboard, go to Settings → Discussion, and look for the Comment Blacklist section:

comment moderation

Image Source: Support WordPress

When a comment contains one of the blacklisted words, it will be sent directly in the Trash.

Have a Content Moderation Strategy – To prevent spam, it’s always a good tactic to have someone approve a comment before it appears on your site. In WordPress, you can enable this by going to Settings → Discussion, and open Before a comment appears section:

before-a-comment-appears

If you select that the comments must be manually approved, each comment will be retained until it’s reviewed and approved.

Use a Plugin – Plugins can be an excellent way to prevent and moderate spam. Most of the WordPress installations come with Akismet. The plugin is able to recognize spam comments and remove them. It also allows you to see the comments that are being flagged.

Akismet plugin

Besides the above, there are also other reliable options for battling spam comments, such as:

Database Optimization

Your WordPress database contains all of your content, comments, users, and settings. But, after a while, your database may become clogged up with data that is redundant and occupies memory which can cause performance issues.

Optimizing your WordPress database will help you declutter and defragment tables, improve performance, and enhance the user experience of your site.

The following are the best practices to optimize your WordPress database:

Delete What You Don’t Need – Every post, page, and comment represents an entry into your database. Much space can be gained back by erasing obsolete or duplicate content. Empty the Trash folder of your Posts and Pages, if that’s not automatically done for you.

Go through your Drafts and Pending posts and assess if some of them need to be deleted. Furthermore, check if you need each of your taxonomies and remove the duplicate ones to enhance the findability of your posts.

Remove Unused Themes and Plugins – Many unused themes and plugins create additional tables in your database. Deactivate them, and click the Delete button.

Use the WordPress Database Optimization Tool – This tool is disabled as a standard, but you can enable it by modifying the wp-config.php file.

First, you need to use your code editor to open the wp-config.php file and insert the following option at the beginning of the file:

define( 'WP_ALLOW_REPAIR', true );

Afterward, locate the optimization script by using the following URL where you will need to replace yoursite with your current domain:

http://yoursite.com/wp-admin/maint/repair.php

wordpress database repair

You’ll get two options: Repair Database and Repair and Optimize Database. The first option might be enough. However, if you want to clean up your database thoroughly, you will need to pick the Repair and Optimize one.

After the database cleanup is over, don’t forget to remove the define( ‘WP_ALLOW_REPAIR’, true ); option so that nobody uncovers sensitive database information.

Use a Plugin – If you don’t want to fiddle around with your raw database and the wp-config.php file, you can use a plugin do to the database optimization for you. The following plugins can all similarly perform a database cleanup: WP-Optimize, Advanced Database Cleaner, WP Clean Up, WPDBSpringClean.

Database optimization is a critical maintenance task that you need to perform regularly if you want to keep your WordPress site healthy. You can either optimize it manually or use a plugin that allows you to automate the process.

Performance Testing

A fast website is beneficial to the UX of your site and its search ranking. That is why regular performance tests are a must!

Numerous factors can cause bad website performance. For a WordPress website, the usual suspects of slow loading pages are:

  • Bloated/poorly coded plugins
  • Poorly coded themes
  • Huge media files
  • Weak hosting

Before you start optimizing the speed of your site, you need to test it first. The easiest and most effective way to test web performance is with one of the following tools:

Google PageSpeed Insights – PageSpeed Insights is a website testing tool developed by Google. It tests the performance of the site over multiple devices, and desktop and mobile browsers. It tells you all about the aspects that need improvements and provides you with advice on what to do next.

For more information on how to use this tool correctly, please open and read our PageSpeed Insights guide.

pagespeed insights

Pingdom Tools – It allows you to assess the performance of your website, including load time, page size, and detailed analysis of each page of your site. Additionally, it saves your previous tests, so you can track whether your loading time has improved.

pingdom website speed test tool

GTMetrix – It generates a comprehensive history of your website’s loading speed, along with a report that suggests where you need to improve.

gtmetrix

When you get a clear perspective of your WordPress site’s performance, you need to work on improving it. In most cases, you can resolve the performance issues with the following steps:

  • Use Proper Hosting: The cheapest hosting solution is not always the best choice. Low-cost hosts typically don’t have the right bandwidth to accommodate your site’s every need.If you’re looking for a dedicated WordPress hosting service that will cover all your website’s performance needs, then Pagely is the right choice!

Pagely-WordPress-hosting-solutions-page

  • Optimize Images: Images can augment the weight of your pages, which will result in slow-loading. Make sure you have the right image size and resolution. Before you insert images, compress them with a tool such as TinyPNG.

TinyPng-tool-use-to-compress-images

  • Eliminate Poor Plugins: A poorly-coded plugin that contains excessive JavaScript can increase the loading time of your website. Delete any unused plugins, as well as all plugins that add superfluous CSS, JavaScript, and HTML to your site.

Fixing 404 Errors

A 404 error message is a Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP) status code, indicating that the server was not able to locate the required website. Simply put, your web browser can connect to the server, but the page you’re trying to open can’t be found.

adobe error page

Image Source: Adobe

The most common ways you’ll see the 404 error displayed are:

  • 404 Error
  • 404 Not Found
  • Error 404
  • HTTP 404
  • Error 404 Not Found
  • 404 File or Directory Not Found
  • HTTP 404 Not Found
  • 404 Page Not Found

The main reasons why 404 error occurs on your WordPress website are:

  • Users mistype one of your URLs.
  • Users experience caching problems.
  • You’re using a plugin or a theme that is not compatible with your current WordPress version.
  • Older links that don’t work anymore (broken URLs).

Apart from hurting the UX of your website, too many 404 errors can also diminish your site’s SEO. People will leave your website if there are excessive 404 errors. Google will notice your high bounce rate, and consequently, will stop featuring you in search results.

So, what can you do to eliminate 404 errors from your WordPress site?

Uncover 404 Errors – You don’t have to open your website page by page to discover 404 pages. There are numerous tools available to help you discover broken pages. The most popular ones are:

  • Google Search Console: The tool identifies and displays 404 errors through Google’s crawler.
  • Dead Link Checker: Among the simplest tools for locating 404 pages. You can choose to scan a single web page or the entire website.
  • W3C Link Checker: A comprehensive tool created by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). It works similarly as the Dead Link Checker: you enter the URL, and the tool will scan your page/website for you.

Reset Permalinks – When you encounter a 404 error, the first step is to reset your permalinks. To do this, enter your Dashboard, go to Settings, and select the Permalinks tab. All you have to do is change your current option and click save. In most cases, this will resolve your 404 error.

Use the .htaccess File – If the 404 errors are not solved through the Permalink settings, you can use the .htaccess file. Use an sFTP editor to open the file and click on the following link https://wordpress.org/support/article/htaccess/.

Copy/paste the code that is appropriate for your website. After that, save the .htaccess file and upload it to the server again.

For example, for a Basic WP, you can use the following code:

# BEGIN WordPress

RewriteEngine On
RewriteBase /
RewriteRule ^index\.php$ - [L]
RewriteCond %{REQUEST_FILENAME} !-f
RewriteCond %{REQUEST_FILENAME} !-d
RewriteRule . /index.php [L]

# END WordPress

Deactivate Plugins – If the above doesn’t work, perhaps a mix of plugins and themes that don’t work well together is the source of the 404 error.

In this situation, you can’t tell which plugin causes the error. That is why you must deactivate each plugin one by one and reload your site to see if it still shows a 404 error.

When you find the plugin that’s causing the issue, you need to either update it, choose an alternative, or delete it permanently from your site.

The larger your WordPress website, the higher the chances are to spot a 404 error. You need to look for broken links regularly and correct them immediately.

Wrapping Up

Keeping your WordPress website functioning properly doesn’t have to be complicated or tiresome. You simply need a healthy maintenance workflow along with a regular website scanning process that can be conducted within minutes.

If you take the time to regularly perform the mentioned tasks above, your website’s performance will always be at its peak. This will attract and engage new prospects, and ultimately grow your business as a result.

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