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How to Properly Maintain and Update Your WordPress Site? Having a WordPress site is great, but like anything, it requires regular maintenance and updates to keep it running smoothly and securely. Many site owners neglect this critical aspect of website management, only to regret it later when their site gets hacked, breaks, or stops working properly.
Don’t let that happen to you! By following the tips in this comprehensive guide, you’ll learn the one thing you must do regularly to maintain your WordPress site properly and keep it updated. We’ll cover backing up your site, updating WordPress and plugins, managing media, cleaning up your database, optimizing performance, and more.
Whether you’re a total beginner or a seasoned pro, you’re sure to pick up some valuable nuggets to help keep your WordPress site in tip-top shape. Let’s dive in!
Back Up Your Site Regularly
The number one most important thing you need to do regularly is back up your WordPress site. Backups are your insurance policy against disaster. If something goes wrong or your site gets hacked or corrupted, a backup gives you a way to restore it.
You should be creating backups regularly and storing them in a safe off-site location, not just on your web server. This protects you in case your host has an outage or data loss.
There are a few different ways to back up a WordPress site:
- Use a backup plugin like UpdraftPlus or BackupBuddy. This lets you backup to the cloud or download backups to your computer.
- Use your web host’s backup features. Many hosts like Bluehost offer automated backups.
- Manually back up your WordPress database and files. You can export the database via phpMyAdmin and download your wp-content folder.
- Use a managed WordPress host that handles backups for you automatically. Hosts like WP Engine and Kinsta do daily cloud backups.
I recommend automating your WordPress backups so they run routinely. Monthly full backups plus weekly incremental backups give you good protection. Always download backups to your computer or an off-site location too.
Make Sure WordPress and Plugins Are Up to Date
Another crucial maintenance task is keeping WordPress and your plugins updated. Core WordPress, themes, and plugins frequently receive security patches, bug fixes, and new features.
Failing to update promptly leaves your site vulnerable and can cause compatibility issues. That’s why you should have a system to update WordPress, themes, and plugins regularly.
WordPress makes it easy to update core software and most plugins right from your dashboard. For themes, you’ll need to manually check for updates and re-upload files.
Here are some best practices for managing updates:
- Update WordPress core whenever a new version is released. Turn on auto-updates if your host allows it for hassle-free updates.
- Enable auto-updates for trusted plugins whenever possible. Manually update plugins that don’t support auto-updates.
- Check themes for updates at least monthly and upload new versions when needed. Don’t edit theme files directly or your changes may be lost.
- Test updates on a staging site first to make sure they don’t break anything.
- Back up your site before updating in case you need to rollback.
- Stagger plugin updates instead of updating everything at once, which can cause conflicts.
Staying on top of updates takes a bit of work but is essential for any WordPress site owner. It keeps your site stable, secure, and loaded with all the latest features.
Clean Up Your Media Library Periodically
As time goes on, your WordPress media library can get bloated with unused and outdated images, videos, PDFs, and other files. Not only does this use up unnecessary storage space on your hosting account, but it also slows down your media operations.
That’s why it’s important to periodically clean up your media library by:
- Deleting unused media files – Download a plugin like WP Sweep that scans and lets you delete unused images and files.
- Deleting edited versions of images – When you edit images in WordPress it creates multiple sizes. You can safely delete unused sizes to recover space.
- Removing stale media content – Delete old images, videos, PDFs, etc. that are outdated and no longer referenced in posts and pages.
- Performing bulk actions – Use media library filtering and bulk select options to selectively delete old media or media not attached to content.
Optimizing your media library improves site performance and keeps your hosting storage clean. Having thousands of unused or irrelevant media files will just drag down your site.
Some other tips for managing your media include:
- Enable lazy loading to only load images in the viewport.
- Compress oversized images to make them more web-friendly.
- Add expiration headers so images get deleted automatically after a period of time.
Taking the time to declutter your media library should be part of your regular WordPress site maintenance routine.
Optimize Your Database for Maximum Performance
Your MySQL database stores all the content, settings, and other data for your WordPress site. When it gets overloaded, your site’s performance can suffer.
Some common symptoms of a bloated database are:
- Increased load times for site pages.
- Timeouts and 500 errors when accessing admin or public pages.
- Difficulty editing content in the dashboard.
- General site sluggishness and slowness.
Luckily, there are some steps you can take to trim and optimize your WordPress database for better efficiency:
- Delete stale data like outdated post revisions and stale plugin transients. Use a cleanup plugin like WP-Optimize.
- Archive or delete content that’s no longer needed like old posts and unused media files. Less data makes queries faster.
- Add caching mechanisms like Redis or Memcached to reduce database queries. Static caching stores data in memory.
- Switch to InnoDB table structure for more indexing and performance benefits.
- Split up bloated tables into smaller partitions if they have gotten huge.
- Add an object cache like W3 Total Cache to store database queries in memory.
- Switch to a managed host that optimizes databases like Kinsta or Pagely.
A optimized database keeps your site running smooth even at scale. Tune and clean yours up regularly.
Review Plugins and Remove Ones You Don’t Need
It’s easy to install plugins on impulse that promise to solve a particular need. Over time most WordPress sites accumulate lots of plugins, many of which go unused. Too many plugins can negatively impact performance and create security vulnerabilities.
That’s why it pays to audit your plugins periodically and remove any that you don’t really need.
When reviewing plugins, look for ones that are:
- Not being utilized anymore – If it’s not doing anything useful, get rid of it.
- Causing conflicts or bugs – Incompatible or problematic plugins should be removed.
- Abandoned or outdated – Plugins no longer supported should be deleted for safety.
- Redundant – If two plugins accomplish the same thing, keep the better maintained one.
- Resource intensive – Bloated plugins may be dragging down performance.
- Only used on a few pages – Niche purpose plugins can often be removed.
Also make sure any plugins you keep are updated regularly along with WordPress core. Don’t use plugins with known security issues.
The leaner your plugin stack, the better in most cases. Streamlining it improves security and speeds up your site.
Review Your Site’s SEO and Improve Where Needed
Search engine optimization is an ongoing process. You need to regularly review your website’s SEO and look for ways to improve things.
Here are some of the top SEO factors to examine on an ongoing basis:
- Page speed and mobile optimization – Google values fast loading pages optimized for all devices. Test yours regularly.
- Keyword targeting and optimization – Update target keywords and optimize content to match current search intent.
- Site architecture – Ensure your information architecture and internal linking facilitate SEO.
- Technical optimizations – Improve site crawlability by updating robots.txt, sitemaps, structured data, etc.
- UX enhancements – Eliminate friction points that increase bounce rate which Google dislikes.
- Link building – Build high-quality backlinks continuously to improve domain authority. Disavow bad links.
- Content improvements – Audit and refresh content to align with search trends and interests. Expand your content library.
- Local SEO – Optimize Google Business Profile, schema markup, citations and other local ranking factors.
SEO is a moving target so you can’t just set it and forget it. Regular tune-ups keep your site visible and climbing the SERPs. Master search engine optimization strategies that work long-term.
Clean Up Your Site Design for Usability
Over time most WordPress sites end up with a bit of cruft in the design and layout. Menus get crammed with too many items. Sidebars get overloaded with widgets and content. Headers and footers accumulate lots of links.
Excess visual clutter not only looks messy but it hurts site usability and conversion rates. That’s why it pays to periodically clean up your site’s design elements for better UX.
Here are some tips for tightening up your site visually:
- Simplify navigation menus – Remove rarely used pages, combine items, and streamline your IA.
- Reduce sidebar widgets – Audit which ones get engagement and 86 the rest. Consolidate similar widgets.
- Clean up headers/footers – Audit links for relevance and frequency of use. Remove ones users don’t seem to click.
- Ensure visual consistency – Use the same widgets, fonts, colors, and styling across all site pages.
- Improve readability – Use clear fonts, sufficient contrast between elements, and ample white space between sections.
- Optimize images – Compress and lazy load images to improve load times. Ensure proper sizing and composition.
- Eliminate popups/interstitials – These often annoy visitors more than they convert them.
By routinely decluttering and simplifying your site design, you create a more refined, professional look while boosting usability and conversions. Less is more!
Reassess Your Site Content Strategy
You can’t just create content once and expect it to keep working forever. Google’s algorithms and reader interests are always evolving. That’s why regularly reassessing and revamping your content is key.
Here are some smart ways to improve your WP content strategy over time:
- Expand your content library – Continuously add new blogs, videos, tools, and resources aligned to your goals.
- Audit and refresh old content – Update or replace outdated posts, remove irrelevant ones.
- Align topics to search volume – See what topics people are searching for now and target those, while phasing out ones with low search volume.
- Identify and fill content gaps – Find related subjects you should be targeting but aren’t yet. Produce content for those.
- Improve content quality – Boost the depth, accuracy, formatting, length, and multimedia usage in content over time.
- Personalize content – Use more conversational tone, relatable examples, humor, and unique perspectives vs. dry reference material.
- Optimize content for different platforms – Adapt blog posts for video scripts, social posts, and newsletter content repurposing.
Revisiting your content strategy ensures your site stays relevant, engaging, and aligned to the zeitgeist. Produce content people crave.
Improve Site Speed and Hosting Performance
Slow load times are a top reason people abandon websites. Even a one second delay causes damage. That’s why monitoring and improving your site speed is mission critical.
Here are some tips for optimizing WordPress site performance:
- Cache dynamic content using a caching plugin – Caching reduces database queries which speeds things up.
- Compress images and media – Smush and lazy load images to improve load times.
- Use a CDN to distribute resources – Content delivery networks speed up asset loading by caching them globally.
- Limit redirects – Eliminate unnecessary redirects which cause delays.
- Upgrade to more robust hosting – Switch to an optimized WordPress host for huge performance gains.
- Deactivate unused plugins/themes – Less code results in faster load times generally.
You can measure site speed using tools like Pingdom, WebPagetest and Google PageSpeed Insights. Use them regularly to catch any regressions.
Review User Feedback and Make Improvements
Your users provide the best insights into issues and opportunities for improving your WordPress site. That’s why regularly reviewing user feedback is invaluable for ongoing maintenance and refinement.
Here are some ways to monitor UX feedback:
- Check plugin/theme review ratings – Flag those with numerous complaints.
- Analyze negative app store reviews – These often point out real issues to address.
- Read comments on your blog content – Look for common complaints, questions, or requests.
- Monitor social media mentions – Pay attention to any friction points called out.
- Send polls and surveys – Proactively seek feedback from email subscribers and social followers.
- Check Google Analytics – Identify high bounce rate or exit pages that need improvement.
Then take action on the user feedback by:
- Fixing broken functionality that users report.
- Clarifying confusing aspects like navigation or content organization.
- Producing content on popular requests from your audience.
- Removing pain points in the conversion process.
Listening to your users allows you to continually refine your WP site in smart ways. Their feedback points the way.
Maintaining and updating your WordPress site doesn’t have to be painful if you follow smart management practices. Just dedicate some time each week or month to essential tasks like backups, updates, design cleanups, performance checks, and content improvements.
Staying on top of these areas will keep your site running smoothly for the long haul. It also ensures your content remains relevant and appealing for your audience over time. Don’t leave the care and feeding of your WordPress site to chance. With some consistent TLC, it will thrive for years to come!