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18 Essential Steps to Ensure Your WordPress Website is in Optimal Condition

Your website can be the most powerful marketing tool in your toolbelt for growing your business online. You can use it to grow an audience, sell products, generate leads, spread awareness, and so much more. Like any reliable tool, general maintenance is required to keep it working in tip-top shape and ready to take on the world. 

The Basics for Maintaining WordPress Websites

It’s important to keep your website maintained for many reasons. You’ve invested time and money into your website and should protect it the same way you’d protect any other business asset. Properly maintaining your WordPress website is a must!

It’s not as complicated as you may think and we’ll share our advice on how to maintain your WordPress website from both a content perspective and a technical standpoint.

ROUTINE OR REGULAR WORDPRESS MAINTENANCE TASKS

We recommend performing these website maintenance tasks every week, even if you don’t change your website often. For most websites, these upcoming maintenance tasks should only take you about 10 minutes each week to complete.

1. Take Backups of Your Website – Regularly and Automatically

Taking a backup of your website is important because it helps to protect against data loss. It provides a way to recover from any accidental deletion or corruption of data. It also allows you to quickly restore the website if it ever needs to be moved to a new server or hosting provider. Backups also provide a way to quickly undo any changes that have been made to the website, such as updating content or modifying settings.

You can even upload a backup of your website to the cloud, like Dropbox or Google Drive. Most popular cloud hosting providers offer a service that allows you to back up your website and store it in the cloud. Depending on the provider, you may also be able to restore your website from the cloud or access it from anywhere on the Internet.

2. Optimize Your WordPress Database

There are a few reasons why you should optimize your WordPress database.

  • WordPress Speed – By optimizing your database, you can speed up your website’s loading times.
  • WordPress Security – By optimizing your database, you can ensure that your website is more secure. 
  • Web Hosting Efficiency – By optimizing your database, you can maximize the efficiency of your WordPress website.

You can use a plugin like WP Optimize (free) to handle database optimization for you.

3. Check Search Engines for Your Website

Indexing is an essential part of improving your website’s visibility in search engines. A website is considered indexed once you can find it by searching for your domain on Google, Bing, DuckDuckGo, Yahoo, etc.

You shouldn’t have to do this often, but if you publish new content regularly, it is always a good thing to check to make sure that your newest pages, products, and blog posts are being indexed promptly by search engines.

4. Review and Respond to Security Alerts

Being proactive and doing regular scans, even when you don’t have any immediate concerns is a great habit to get into.

You can run security tests using WordPress plugins, like Wordfence or All in One Security. These plugins can be set up to automatically look for suspicious file edits or site activity. It’s recommended to have a WordPress security professional configure Wordfence for you so it matches your needs closely. An Improperly configured Wordfence might block real people, or even lock your site admins out. 

If there are security concerns with your website, you can go further with a vulnerability scan or even hire a pen tester to do a deeper security audit.

5. Check and Monitor Your Website Speed and Page Load Times

There are several website speed testing tools you can use to check the loading times on your web pages. The most popular website testing tools include Google Speed TestGTmetrixPingdom Tools, and Google Lighthouse (built into Chrome and Chrome-based web browsers)

All of these speed tools work differently, so expect to see scores and speeds varying from test to test. Once the speed tests are complete, look at their suggestions for improvements and have your web designer or developers implement any of the suggestions that are compatible with your website.

6. Test Your Website Contact Forms, Often

Your website contact forms are one of the primary ways your website generates leads for your business. It is critical that the form works and that you’re receiving your messages. Luckily, testing your website contact form is one of the easiest checks to make.

All you need to do is visit your contact page(s) and complete the form, just like a person on your website might do. Afterward, check that…

  • After filling out the form, the person receives a visual confirmation that it was successful. This can be a quick message or redirecting them to a confirmation page.
  • Verify that your site admin or whoever should be receiving the emails gets the message in a timely fashion. It should only take a few seconds, to upwards of a couple of minutes to receive your messages.

OCCASIONAL WEBSITE AUDIT TASKS

Do these tasks every 3 to 6 months, depending on how your website plays a role in your business.

7. Audit Your Website Photos and Content

What benefits are there of doing a content audit on a website?

  1. Make sure your website accurately showcases your work, products, and services. If you have a Team section, it’s good to check if the list is up to date. You don’t want to leave any old employees or exclude people who recently joined your team.
  2. Identify gaps: A content audit allows you to identify gaps in your content, such as missing topics, outdated information, and irrelevant content. 
  3. Improve search engine rankings: By assessing the quality of your content and removing any low-quality or outdated content, you can improve your search engine rankings. 
  4. Improve user experience: By understanding the needs of your target audience, you can create content that is more tailored to their needs, thereby improving their user experience. 
  5. Optimize website structure: A content audit also allows you to assess the structure of your website, including the navigation and other features, and make changes to optimize its ability to guide people to your top-performing pages. 
  6. Track content performance: Content audits allow you to track the performance of your content, such as page views, click-through rates, and other metrics so that you can focus on creating more effective content. You will want to do this part of your website content audit within your Google Analytics or similar website traffic reporting tool.

8. Scan for Broken Internal or External Web Links

Broken links can appear on your website if you’ve cited an article on a third-party website, and then that third-party website either takes the article offline, changes its URL, or otherwise no longer exists. Sometimes, broken links exist on a website due to human error, like typing the wrong URL in a box somewhere.  

Either way, broken links are bad for the user experience, and therefore, bad for search engine optimization. Search engines want to rank the highest-quality web pages possible, so being free of as many errors as possible is important.

You can run a broken link check with a plugin, a third-party website, or Screaming Frog (SEO software for your computer).

9. Perform a Website Audit or Usability Test

A UX audit on a website can help identify areas for improvement and ensure the website is optimized for user experience. It can help identify any usability issues and highlight areas that need to be addressed to improve the overall user experience. 

Additionally, it can help improve the overall user journey, ensure the website is efficient and easy to use, and identify any potential opportunities to increase engagement and conversions.

The cost of a UX audit depends on the scope and complexity of the project. Generally, a standard UX audit can range from as little as $100 to $5,000, or even more for enterprise website auditing.

10. Perform a Mobile Responsiveness and Load Time Assessment

  • Use Mobile-First Web Design: Make sure your website is built using responsive design so that it automatically adjusts its layout and content based on the size of the device’s screen. 
  • Choose Your Images, Carefully: Choose images that are optimized for mobile viewing. Keep the file size small by reducing the dimensions for mobile screen sizes.
  • Keep the Design Simple: Keep the design of your website simple and easy to navigate on a mobile device. Avoid too many layers of navigation and long forms that are difficult to complete on a small screen. 
  • Improve Page Load Times: Make sure your page load times are as fast as possible. Use page caching, optimize your images, and use a content delivery network to help your pages load quickly. 
  • Test Your Website: Test your website on both mobile devices and desktop computers. Make sure it looks and functions the way you want it to on each device.

Order a website usability test to find out if you’re leaving money on the table with a subpar user experience. 

WEBSITE SECURITY MAINTENANCE 

11. Update WordPress Core

WordPress is software, like Windows or macOS, and will occasionally require system updates. It is important to keep your WordPress software up to date, as updates are generally made to improve security, and performance, and to bring new features or capabilities to your site.

To make sure WordPress is always up to date, the best option is to enable automatic updates. WordPress offers several different types of automatic updates, which are available on the General Settings page, under the General tab. Automatic updates can be enabled for minor updates and major releases, as well as for translations and plugins. 

Enabling automatic updates ensures that WordPress is always up to date, and helps to ensure that any security vulnerabilities are quickly patched. 

12. Check Your PHP Version and Update, If Needed

Keeping your PHP version up to date is important for security and overall web server stability. It ensures that your code is running on the most secure and stable version, which helps prevent malicious attacks and data loss. Additionally, newer versions of PHP often include bug fixes, performance improvements, and new features that can help you better manage your code and make it more efficient.

If you have cPanel hosting, you can update your PHP version by following these steps: 

  1. Log into your cPanel account. 
  2. Click on the “Select PHP Version” icon under the Software section. 
  3. Select the version of PHP you want to use from the drop-down list. 4. Click on the “Set as current” button. 
  4. Click on the “Save” button. 6. You should now see a message that your PHP version has been updated. 

What version of PHP should I be using with WordPress in 2023?

PHP 7.4.x or higher is recommended for WordPress in 2023. If your web host offers PHP 8.0, make sure to give your website a proper test on PHP 8.0. Not all WordPress themes or plugins are compatible currently.

Do you have SiteGround web hosting? You can follow these instructions for updating your PHP version in SiteGround’s Site Tools.

13. Remove Unnecessary Software: Extra Themes, Plugins, or Custom Functions

Removing unnecessary themes and plugins from WordPress helps improve the performance of your website, as well as improve security. Unused themes and plugins can be vulnerable to hackers and malicious code, so it’s important to keep your WordPress installation up-to-date and as clean as possible. Additionally, by removing unnecessary themes and plugins, you can improve page loading speeds, which can help boost SEO rankings and engagement.

14. Required Strong Passwords

WordPress lets people set their passwords, but doesn’t force strong passwords by default. You can use a tool like Wordfence to both enforce strong password requirements and scan for weak passwords. We suggest that any web user with elevated privileges have strong password requirements activated. On WordPress, this would include Administrators, Editors, Authors, Contributors, SEO Managers, Shop Managers, etc.

A long and secure password helps keep you safe by making it much harder for hackers or other malicious individuals to guess your password. 

A strong password is long, contains a combination of letters (upper and lower case), numbers, and symbols, and is not easily guessed or related to personal information. Learn more about strong passwords and better password management.

Improve password security further by enforcing two-factor authentication or multi-factor authentication. Learn more about adding 2FA or two-factor authentication to your WordPress website.

15. Require Routine Password Updates

Updating your passwords frequently is important for protecting your accounts from hackers. It’s important to use a different, secure password for each of your accounts to minimize the risk of a data breach. Additionally, regularly changing your passwords helps reduce the risk of someone figuring out your password and gaining access to your accounts

OTHER WAYS TO MAINTAIN YOUR WORDPRESS WEBSITE

16. Double-check Tracking and Marketing Codes

This website maintenance task will vary based on what marketing tools you’re using, but should not be ignored. If your website uses Google Analytics, Google Search Console, Facebook/Meta Pixel, LinkedIn Ads, HubSpot, or any other similar tools, it’s important to know if these codes are working as expected. Poorly configured tracking codes won’t let you properly track your ROI or the success of your marketing efforts.  

17. Re-Evaluate Your Website Hosting and Management Plans and Costs

It’s always a good idea to look at what you’re paying for, what you’re using, and what you’re actually getting from your web hosting or website management company.

What was a great deal a year or two ago, might not be worth renewing today, or maybe you’re starting to outgrow your existing hosting plan and look to look into a faster or more capable web hosting solution? Either way, re-assessing your hosting needs annually can save you thousands of dollars per year in some cases.

A Webmaster’s Work is Never Done

Taking the time to maintain your WordPress website is well worth the investment. Your web presence starts with your website. Make sure you’re sending the correct message to your customers while providing a great user experience.

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