WordPress Maintenance

WordPress Maintenance

WordPress MaintenanceIf your website runs on WordPress, it’s vitally important to keep it regularly updated, secure, and protected.

This lesson covers why WordPress site maintenance is important and provides an overview of the WordPress site maintenance process, including what WordPress maintenance involves, and links to detailed step-by-step tutorials for all tasks involved in the maintenance process.

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Tutorial Contents

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The tutorials linked from this section are designed to help non-technical users maintain their own WordPress sites regularly updated, completely backed up, and fully protected.

This process can initially be time-consuming, as it involves learning technical concepts, setting up accounts with various services (e.g. Google Search Console) and figuring out how to use various plugins and tools. It also requires a commitment to performing all of the regular maintenance tasks required.

If maintaining your WordPress site is not something that you are willing to do, then we recommend that you:

  1. Go through this lesson to understand why WordPress site maintenance is important and what is involved, and
  2. Contact a WordPress site developer or WordPress agency that offers website care plans and consider engaging their services.

Regardless of the size of your business, if your website runs on WordPress, DO NOT neglect WordPress site maintenance … continue reading to learn why!

WordPress Site Maintenance – Overview

WordPress Site Maintenance Process
WordPress maintenance involves working with your server, software, and site components.

WordPress maintenance is a vitally important aspect of using your WordPress site effectively.

WordPress sites need regularly maintenance to prevent website errors and loss of valuable data, and to protect against hackers and malicious users.

There are great tools and solutions available that can save you time and automate various WordPress maintenance tasks. However, there is no single plugin or automated solution that can perform all the maintenance steps required to keep your WordPress site regularly updated, completely backed up, and fully protected.

WordPress maintenance is a process that involves coordinating various components of your website presence.

These components include:

  • The server hosting your WordPress files and database
  • Your WordPress software and add-ons (e.g. plugins and themes)
  • Your WordPress site (administration, settings, content, etc.)

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Creating and running an effective WordPress site maintenance routine not only involves understanding the processes discussed here, but also essential areas like WordPress Management, WordPress Optimization, and WordPress Security.

Why Is WordPress Site Maintenance Important?

Unlike static websites where nothing changes unless you actually modify the content on your site or the code in your files, WordPress websites and blogs are dynamic, which means that your content is continually being regenerated for users when they visit your site and click through to different sections, or use functionalities like search filters, interactive forms, etc.

Static vs Dynamic Websites – Key Differences

Briefly, here are some of the key differences between a static and a dynamic website:

  • Content Delivery –  With a static website, the content remains the same for every user. Each page is a separate HTML file that doesn’t change unless manually updated. With a dynamic website, content can change based on user interactions, preferences, and other variables. WordPress uses PHP and a database to generate content dynamically.
  • Maintenance Complexity – Static websites are simpler to maintain since their content is fixed. Updates involve editing HTML files. Security risks are lower as there are no databases or server-side scripts. Dynamic websites, on the other hand, require regular maintenance. This includes updating WordPress core, themes, and plugins to prevent security vulnerabilities, as well as database optimization and regular backups.
  • Interactivity – Static website provide limited interactivity. These are good for informational sites where content doesn’t need frequent changes. Dynamic websites are highly interactive, supporting features like user accounts, e-commerce, and content management systems (CMS). WordPress allows for easy content updates and management through its admin panel.
  • Scalability – Static websites are less scalable due to the manual effort required to update each page. Adding new content to a static website can be time-consuming. Dynamic websites are more scalable. Content can be added, modified, or removed easily through the CMS, making it suitable for blogs, news sites, and e-commerce.
  • Performance – Static websites generally offer faster loading times since pages are pre-rendered and served directly from the server. Dynamic websites may have slower loading times due to the need to process scripts and retrieve data from the database, but their performance can be optimized with performance plugins that offer caching and other techniques.
  • Security: Static websites have fewer security risks as there is no backend database or server-side processing. Dynamic website have higher security risks due to the complexity of the system. Regular updates and security measures are necessary to protect against vulnerabilities.

The bottom line: Having a dynamic web presence means having more things that can go wrong more often. Therefore, more things need to be maintained and checked for more often.

WordPress is used to power millions of websites worldwide and is constantly evolving. As WordPress continually evolves, it must update its core software application regularly in order to:

  • Prevent malicious users from exploiting vulnerabilities that would enable them to hack into millions of WordPress sites,
  • Fix bugs discovered in previous versions, and
  • Provide new enhancements and improved features to users

Because of this, WordPress versions frequently become outdated and are regularly updated.

New WordPress version available message in WordPress dashboard.
WordPress sites need to be regularly updated to the latest version.

Updating your WordPress site to the latest version creates a number of maintenance flow-ons, each with their own potential issues and challenges.

For example:

Maintenance Issue #1 – Keeping Your WordPress Site Regularly Updated

WordPress releases new software versions around every 3 months or so to provide users with new features, bug fixes, and improved site security.

WordPress version release history.
WordPress releases new version updates on a regular basis to add new features, fix bugs, and improve software security. Source: WordPress.org

WordPress releases both major version updates (often with new features) and minor version updates to address bug fixes and security vulnerabilities found in previous versions.

It is vitally important, then, to keep your WordPress site up-to-date and make sure that all major releases and minor maintenance and security releases are installed.

New WordPress version maintenance and security release.
WordPress regularly provides minor version updates to address bugs and security issues found in its previous version.

So, the first thing to keep in mind is that you will need to regularly update your WordPress core software installation to ensure optimal performance and the maximum security of your site.

WordPress Performance updates
New WordPress version releases improve your site’s performance.

Neglect this very important step and you will expose your site to hackers looking to exploit and security vulnerabilities from previous versions.

WordPress Forum - Site hacked post.
Don’t neglect updating your WordPress core software! (Source: WordPress Support Forums)

Maintenance Issue #2 – Keeping Your WordPress Plugins & Themes Regularly Updated

When WordPress releases a new update to its core software, this can have a flow-on effect on the WordPress plugins and/or themes installed on your site.

Your plugins and themes may become outdated and need to be updated as well to prevent conflicts with the new WordPress version release and create errors on your site.

WordPress Plugins screen showing many outdated plugins.
Your WordPress plugins and themes also need to be regularly updated.

As plugins and themes are developed and maintained by 3rd-party developers, updates can happen at various different times. Some developers are highly responsive and will update their plugins or themes almost immediately, and some will take longer to respond.

In addition to updating plugins and themes to address incompatibility issues with older WordPress versions, many plugin and theme developers also add new features and improvements and address bug fixes and security issues in their own products, so they are also putting out new version releases all the time.

What this means is that you will have to implement a regular schedule of checking your plugins and themes for new updates (e.g. weekly), or set up processes and tools to automatically update these.

This is not uncommon. As you add more plugins to your WordPress site, your site maintenance needs will also grow.

The lack of good maintenance habits by website owners in keeping WordPress core software, plugins, and themes updated posts such a significant threat to online security, that at one point even Google started sending out reminder notifications to WordPress users to keep their sites updated … and Google doesn’t even own WordPress!

Google Search Central blog post - New software version notifications for your site.
Even Google recognizes the importance of keeping all WordPress sites updated.

Maintenance Issue #3 – Protecting Your Site From Security Vulnerabilities

Performing regular maintenance is vitally important to protect your WordPress site from hackers and malicious users.

If you are a small business owner, you may think that WordPress maintenance doesn’t apply to you.

You are wrong!

Why would hackers care about your little business site?

WordPress is the world’s leading CMS platform and is used by millions of businesses and individual users worldwide.

Forget the commonly depicted lone individual sitting in a dark room wearing a hoodie scanning the web on their laptop for careless prey.

WordPress user forums - site hacked posting by WordPress user
This site could have been hacked by a lone individual wearing a hoodie … or a sophisticated bot from a major criminal syndicate. The result is still bad news! (Source: WordPress Support Forums)

Modern hacking today is done by sophisticated syndicates developing powerful new malicious bots and software that cast a wide net and automatically search the web to find sites with older software installations to exploit known security vulnerabilities and weaknesses … and wreak unimaginable havoc on those sites.

WordPress user forums - site hacked posting by WordPress user
No matter what the size of your business, any disruption can be costly and unwelcome. (Source: WordPress Support Forums)

Hackers love a challenge. They love the opportunity of being able to brag to their peers about their skills and exploits.

Unless you are actively maintaining and monitoring your site, you may not be aware that these automated bots are currently trying to break into your WordPress site right now, at this very moment.

Login lockout alerts in mailbox
Hackers deploy automated bots to find and attack vulnerable WordPress sites around the clock.

Effective WordPress site maintenance involves using tools and performing security scans that help to keep your site protected 24/7 against malicious attacks.

WordPress security scan results.
WordPress maintenance involves performing security scans for vulnerabilities in your site.

Thankfully, the WordPress community comprises of thousands of developers and users who are actively monitoring the software for bugs and reporting security issues and vulnerabilities in plugins, themes, and in the WordPress core software itself.

WordPress security scan results showing a vulnerability in the WordPress core software.
This vulnerability will be addressed in a newer version of WordPress.

All of this effort, however, is no good to you, unless you are regularly keeping your WordPress installation software, plugins, and themes updated to protect your site from having these vulnerabilities be exploited by hackers.

Maintenance Issue #4 – Troubleshooting Common WordPress Problems & Errors

WordPress security is not the only area addressed by implementing a regular WordPress site maintenance routine.

You can also expect for your site to run into issues and problems that will need troubleshooting if updates or software installations go wrong.

WordPress user forum posts about experiencing WordPress problems after updates.
Troubleshooting WordPress errors is all part of using WordPress sites. (Source: WordPress Support Forums)

Like with all software, you should expect to run into occasional problems. WordPress Troubleshooting should also be an important part of your regular WordPress site maintenance.

Some issues are easy and quick to fix, while others may require technical skills, knowledge, and experience to identify and resolve.

See these tutorials if you need help troubleshooting and fixing problems on your WordPress site (or consult your WordPress developer): WordPress Troubleshooting

Maintenance Issue #5 – Restoring Your Website Files / Reinstalling Your WordPress Site

Earlier we talked about static vs dynamic websites. The WordPress platform generates dynamic websites using PHP and a database.

This means that WordPress not only requires you to back up all of your site’s installation and core files in case you ever need to restore or reinstall your site…

File manager screen displaying a list of WordPress installation files
Your WordPress installation and core files need to be regularly backed up…

But since WordPress stores all of your site’s data in a database, your site’s database also needs to be regularly backed up, sometimes on a daily or even hourly basis, as it includes all of your site’s content (i.e. all the information in your posts, pages, comments, categories, settings, etc.).

phpMyAdmin displaying WordPress database.
WordPress stores all of your site’s data in a MySQL database.

This area is covered in more detail further below.

Maintenance Issue #6 – Preventing Loss Of Valuable Data

Last, but not least, you should keep in mind that MySQL databases can and often do fail

WordPress user forum posts about experiencing WordPress database errors.
WordPress sites occasionally experience database errors, which can affect your content and cause your site to become unreachable. (Source: WordPress Support Forums)

These issues these need to be resolved quickly, as WordPress database errors can affect your content and cause your site to become unreachable.

As you can see, maintaining a WordPress site regularly updated, backed up, and fully protected requires a lot more work than maintaining a regular static website.

Why Is WordPress Maintenance Important? Video Summary

The video below provides a summary of the importance of performing WordPress maintenance on a regular basis covered above.

The WordPress Maintenance Process – Overview

A WordPress site maintenance routine should follow a specific sequence of steps to save time and help you avoid problems.

For example …

If you update your WordPress plugins before updating your WordPress installation, your new plugin versions may conflict and cause problems with the older WordPress installation.

But …

If you update your WordPress installation before backing up your WordPress database and something goes wrong, you may have to restore your data or completely reinstall your site.

However …

You should not back up your WordPress database before cleaning up and optimizing your WordPress data, as unnecessary data not only increases your database size, but it can also cause errors when re-importing data.

As you can see, it’s important to have a well thought out and effective system in place for performing regular WordPress maintenance tasks to avoid problems.

This also applies to other areas of WordPress site maintenance. For example, you will want to create an organized system for storing backups and retrieving older plugins or previous installation files in case you experience problems and need to troubleshoot errors on your site.

WordPress Maintenance Process – Flowchart

To complete your WordPress site maintenance routine as efficient and effectively as possible, we recommend designing a maintenance workflow for your organization similar to the process shown below.

WordPress Site Maintenance Process
An effective WordPress site maintenance process.

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The above may look complicated and time-consuming, but it’s not!

Keep in mind this:

  • The overall site maintenance system only needs to be set up once.
  • Many aspects of the WordPress maintenance process can be automated using inexpensive plugins and/or services.

After performing the maintenance routine a few times (follow the WordPress Maintenance Checklist provided in the resources section and further below), keeping your WordPress site fully maintained, up-to-date, secure, and protected should take you very little time … usually no more than 30 – 60 minutes each month.

WordPress Site Maintenance Process – Main Components

As shown in the flowchart above, here are the main areas your effective WordPress Site Maintenance process should include:

  1. Removing/deleting unnecessary data from your site (e.g. comment SPAM)
  2. Backing up all data and files before performing any updates
  3. Checking to see if any updates are required
  4. Updating WordPress core software, plugins and themes to their latest versions
  5. Restoring / reinstalling data if required

Additional maintenance tasks may include:

  • Updating content
  • Fixing broken links in the content
  • Optimizing the site to improve page loading speed
  • Addressing security issues
  • Troubleshooting errors

Let’s go briefly over each of these areas. For additional tutorials, refer to the links in the WordPress Maintenance Checklist provided further below:

1) Remove Unnecessary Data From Your WordPress Site

Before backing up your WordPress data, it’s a good idea to first delete anything that is unnecessary on your site. This could include Comment Spam, inactive plugins, obsolete posts, etc …

Deleting unnecessary data from your site before backing up your MySQL database not only helps to reduce your backup file size but more importantly, if you have to restore your data later, you won’t be re-importing things like spam and other unwanted data into your site.

2) Back Up All Data And Files

After removing all unwanted data from your site, the next step is to back up both your MySQL database and your WordPress files before performing upgrades. This step is important, as it will allow you to restore your data or reinstall your site if any errors occur after upgrading your site or plugins.

Even if no components of your site need to be updated or upgraded, it is still important to complete this step. Performing regular file and data backups is all part of having an effective site maintenance program.

There are automated methods you can use to perform WordPress site backups. There are also ways to perform manual backups if your server or hosting configuration doesn’t allow you to automate these tasks or if you need to be absolutely sure that your data and files have been properly backed up (automation can fail).

3) Check To See If Updates Are Required

After completing Step 2, the next step is to go through your site and check if you need to upgrade your WordPress site, plugins, or themes to the latest version.

Part of this process may involve making a decision not to upgrade your site or a particular plugin or theme to their latest version just yet. Sometimes, its good to wait for a day or a week before updating to allow any new bugs, conflicts, or vulnerabilities in the newer versions to be discovered, addressed, and fixed.

4) Update Site Components

After establishing that your site and/or plugins and themes need to be updated, the next step is to then go ahead and perform the actual updates.

It’s important to keep your WordPress software, plugins, and themes updated to their latest version. This helps to ensure a conflict-free and error-free site and that everything keeps running smoothly.

There are are various automated methods you can use to perform WordPress updates, including using WordPress plugins and third-party services. It’s also important to know how to perform manual updates if your server or hosting configuration doesn’t allow you to automate certain tasks, or if you prefer to do things manually.

5) Restore / Reinstall Site Data (If Required)

Sometimes things go wrong and you may need to restore some or all of your data, or even reinstall your site completely.

Knowing how to restore or reinstall your site is also useful if you are migrating your site to another location, domain or web server (e.g. changing web hosting providers).

WordPress Maintenance Process Overview – Video Summary

The video below provides a summary of the WordPress Maintenance process described above.

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Additional WordPress Site Maintenance Tasks

In addition to performing the essential maintenance tasks described above, there are some other tasks you may want to include in your site maintenance routine.

For example:

Monitor uptime and performance

Monitoring uptime ensures that your website remains accessible to users at all times, and helps to identify and resolve slow loading times.

Check for security issues

Regularly checking for security issues helps protect your site from hacks, malware, and vulnerabilities. Keeping your site secure is crucial to maintaining user trust and preventing data breaches.

WordPress plugins with security issue warning
Perform regular WordPress security scans to keep your site safe and protected.

Scan for broken links

Broken links can frustrate users and harm your site’s SEO. Regularly scanning for and fixing broken links ensures a smooth user experience and helps maintain your website’s credibility and search engine rankings.

Update content

Updating content keeps your website relevant and engaging for visitors. Fresh, accurate content can improve your SEO rankings and provide value to your audience, encouraging them to return to your site.

Outdated content
Outdated  content can affect your site’s reputation and search rankings.

Check and renew licenses

Ensuring that all your plugins, themes, and other software licenses are current helps maintain vital functionality and security.

Expired licenses can lead to missing functionalities, vulnerabilities, and compatibility issues.

License Information screen
Check the status of your licenses to avoid losing important functionality.

This also applies to domain registrations, memberships, and other important subscription services.

Domain expired noticed.
Keep on top of service and subscription renewals to avoid losing access to valuable digital assets or services.

Review site analytics

Reviewing site analytics on a regular basis as part of your site maintenance process can provide valuable insights into user behavior, traffic sources, and content performance.

This data can help you make informed decisions to improve your website’s effectiveness and user engagement.

Google Analytics report
Reviewing analytics reports can tell you a lot about what aspects of your site can be improved.

For example, some of the metrics you can use and areas of improvement you can address by reviewing analytics reports include:

  • User Engagement
    • Metrics: Bounce Rate, Average Session Duration, Pages per Session
    • Improvement Areas: Identify pages with high bounce rates and low session durations to improve content and design for better user retention and engagement.
  • Traffic Sources
    • Metrics: Source/Medium Report, Referral Report
    • Improvement Areas: Determine which channels drive the most traffic and focus marketing efforts on the most effective ones. Optimize underperforming channels to increase traffic.
  • Content Performance
    • Metrics: Top Pages Report, Landing Pages Report
    • Improvement Areas: Analyze which content is most popular and engaging. Create more of what works and update or remove underperforming content.
  • SEO and Search Performance
    • Metrics: Search Console Report, Organic Search Report
    • Improvement Areas: Identify keywords driving traffic and optimize content for those keywords. Address issues like low click-through rates and high impressions with low clicks.
  • User Demographics and Behavior
    • Metrics: Audience Demographics Report, User Flow Report
    • Improvement Areas: Understand the demographics of your audience and how they navigate your site. Tailor content and marketing strategies to better meet the needs and interests of your target audience.
  • Site Speed and Performance
    • Metrics: Site Speed Report
    • Improvement Areas: Identify slow-loading pages and work on optimizing their load times to improve user experience and SEO rankings.
  • Conversions and Goals
    • Metrics: Goal Completions, Conversion Rates
    • Improvement Areas: Track how well your site is achieving its objectives (e.g., sales, sign-ups). Optimize call-to-actions and conversion funnels to improve conversion.
  • Device Performance
    • Metrics: Device Breakdown Report
    • Improvement Areas: Ensure your site is performing well across different devices (desktop, mobile, tablet). Optimize for the most used devices and address any issues specific to certain device types.

WordPress Maintenance Mode

WordPress Maintenance Mode is a valuable feature that temporarily takes your site offline or displays a maintenance page to visitors while you perform updates or other essential tasks.

When to Use WordPress Maintenance Mode

Maintenance mode lets you make necessary changes to your site without disrupting the user experience or presenting incomplete content to your visitors.

Use WordPress Maintenance Mode for tasks such as:

  • Updating the WordPress Core
  • Updating Themes and Plugins
  • Redesigning or Overhauling Your Website
  • Fixing Technical Issues
  • Updating Content
  • Adding New Features

Enabling Maintenance Mode in WordPress

WordPress automatically goes into maintenance mode when you perform updates to the core software, plugins, and themes.

WordPress Update Themes screen with update process running.
WordPress automatically enables maintenance mode during the update process.

While updates are processing, WordPress automatically makes your site briefly unavailable to visitors and displays a default maintenance message to your site visitors (“Briefly unavailable for scheduled maintenance. Check back in a minute.”).

Default WordPress maintenance message: Briefly unavailable for scheduled maintenance. Check back in a minute.
This is the message your visitors see while your site is processing updates or undergoing scheduled maintenance.

You can opt to use a maintenance mode plugin to inform users that updates are in progress and the site will be back soon.

WPMaintenance - WordPress maintenance mode plugin.
Use a maintenance mode plugin to enhance your visitors’ user experience while you are performing maintenance tasks on your site.

Using a WordPress maintenance mode plugin offers several key benefits, such as providing a better user experience for your visitors, maintaining professionalism by displaying a custom maintenance page with your branding, and limiting access to sensitive areas of your website while you perform essential maintenance tasks.

Most maintenance mode plugins can be activated with just a few clicks without needing to manually edit files or code and offer customizable options for the maintenance page, such as adding custom messages, background images, countdown timers to keep visitors informed and engaged, and even options to collect email addresses for notifications.

Laptop with Maintenance mode on message on splash screen.
Using a maintenance mode plugin lets you manage site updates effectively while maintaining a professional and secure online presence.

Activating WordPress maintenance mode is a crucial best practice to keep your site professional and user-friendly during updates.

For more information and a list of popular maintenance mode plugins, see this tutorial: How To Put Your WordPress Site On Maintenance Mode

Note: Sometimes, WordPress can get stuck in maintenance mode. To learn how to troubleshoot and fix this issue, refer to the list of troubleshooting tutorials further below.

Periodic WordPress Maintenance Schedule

Another important factor to consider when putting together an effective WordPress site maintenance process is how routinely you should be performing each task.

Every business will have different needs or preferences when it comes to creating a maintenance schedule.

Here is a suggested template you can follow to develop your own WordPress site maintenance plan:

Daily Maintenance Tasks

  • Monitor Uptime and Performance: Ensure your site is always accessible to users and loading quickly. Use automated tools to monitor uptime and receive alerts for any downtime.
  • Backup Website: Automate daily backups to prevent data loss and store these offsite to safeguard your data.
  • Vulnerability Scanning: Scan for malware, vulnerabilities and infected files using security plugins to prevent attacks.
  • Review site analytics: Monitor traffic and user behavior for any irregularities.

Weekly Maintenance Tasks

  • Update WordPress Core, Plugins, and Themes: Regularly update all components to the latest versions to maintain security and functionality.
  • Update Widgets: Ensure all widgets are current to keep your site functioning smoothly.
  • Empty Cache: Clear your site’s cache periodically to improve performance and load times.
  • Review and Address Security Alerts: Check for any security notifications and take necessary actions.

Monthly Maintenance Tasks

  • Moderate Comments: Review and delete comments to maintain site integrity and keep your site clean and spam-free.
  • Update Content: Refresh outdated content and add new content to keep your site relevant.
  • Test Website Functionality: Check links and interactive elements for proper operation.
  • Remove Broken Links: Use a plugin to identify and fix broken links to enhance user experience and SEO.
  • Replace Broken Images: Regularly check for and fix any broken image links to maintain visual integrity.
  • Remove Unused Themes and Plugins: Delete unnecessary themes and plugins to improve site security and performance.
  • Check Google PageSpeed Score: Use PageSpeed Insights to evaluate and optimize site performance. Use tools to assess and improve your site’s loading times.
  • Test for Browser and Device Compatibility: Ensure your site works well on various devices and browsers using Chrome’s Device Mode.
  • Fix 404 Errors: Identify and redirect 404 errors using Google Search Console to improve user experience.
  • Fix PHP Errors: Enable debug mode or use PHP monitoring tools to identify and resolve PHP errors.
  • Test Contact Forms: Regularly test forms to ensure they are functioning and sending emails correctly.
  • Perform a Full Site Backup: Ensure you have a complete and up-to-date backup of your site.

Quarterly Maintenance Tasks

  • Change WordPress Credentials: Update passwords for all WordPress accounts to enhance security.
  • Review User Roles and Permissions: Ensure that all user roles are assigned correctly and have appropriate permissions.
  • Remove Unnecessary WordPress Users: Delete inactive and unnecessary user accounts to maintain security.
  • Check Image Alt Texts: Ensure all images have alt texts for accessibility and SEO purposes.
  • Check Premium Licenses Expiry Date and Renew: Monitor the expiry dates of premium plugin and theme licenses to maintain functionality. Ensure all plugins and themes are properly licensed and up-to-date.
  • Review WordPress Security Logs: Keep track of significant changes and potential security breaches using security logs.
  • Optimize WordPress Database: Use plugins or phpMyAdmin to clean up and optimize your database for better performance.
  • Check Site’s RSS Feeds: Ensure RSS feeds are functioning correctly to keep subscribers updated.
  • Empty Media Library: Delete unused media files and optimize images to save space and improve performance.

Yearly Maintenance Tasks

  • Audit Content and Optimize for SEO: Review and update content using Google Search Console and Analytics data to improve SEO.
  • Disavow Toxic Links: Identify and disavow backlinks from toxic sites to protect SEO rankings.
  • Review About Us Page and Copyright: Update copyright information and review the About Us page for accuracy and trustworthiness.

WordPress Site Maintenance Checklist

Using a WordPress maintenance checklist is essential for ensuring the smooth and secure operation of your website.

Regular maintenance helps prevent security vulnerabilities, improves site performance, and ensures all plugins and themes are up-to-date.

By systematically following a checklist, you can proactively address potential issues before they escalate, enhance user experience, and maintain optimal functionality. Additionally, a structured maintenance routine supports SEO efforts by keeping your content fresh and your website running efficiently, ultimately contributing to higher search engine rankings and better user retention

What about website maintenance
If you’re not performing regular WordPress maintenance, then you may be seriously putting your online presence at risk.

Use the checklist below to ensure a complete and effective WordPress site maintenance routine.

Maintenance StepCommentsTutorials

Have access to all records and details (logins, passwords, registrant contact details, renewal dates, etc.):
  • Website
  • Domain(s), DNS records, Nameservers
  • Webhosting
  • Webmaster accounts
  • Plugins & Themes
  • Licenses, registrations, and subscriptions
  • 3rd-party services
  • Log into your WordPress site

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    Go to your dashboard

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    Check if WordPress version, plugins, or themes need updatingDon't do this until you backup your site!

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    Check & repair broken linksDon't do this until you backup your site!

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    Delete comment SPAMDon't add SPAM to your backup files

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    Delete unnecessary/unused media filesDo this regularly (e.g. every few months)

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    Log into your hosting accountIgnore this step if using automated backup tools.

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    Optimize and back up your WordPress databaseIgnore this step if using automated backup tools.

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    Backup your WordPress filesIf not using automated backup tools, zip the folder containing both the WordPress files and the SQL data file.

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    Upload backup files to secure offline storage accountIgnore this step if using automated backup tools.

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    Go back into your WordPress Admin

    Put your site in Maintenance ModeDisplay a maintenance page to visitors while you perform updates, changes, and other maintenance tasks

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    Update WordPress to latest versionOnly if update is required. If automated method doesn't work, use manual method instead.

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    Update your WordPress plugins (deactivate/remove unused plugins)Only if update is required. If automated method doesn't work, use manual method instead.

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    Update your WordPress theme(s) (remove unused themes)Only if update is required. If automated method doesn't work, use manual method instead.

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    Review site reports
  • Warning, expiration, or subscription renewal messages
  • Statistics (site, analytics, hosting)
  • Uptime reports
  • Logs
  • Perform any additional maitenance work required:
  • Content changes/updates
  • Fix broken links
  • Changes to design/layout
  • Install new plugins or themes
  • Integrations with 3rd-party services
  • Security fixes
  • Optimization tweaks
  • User data deletion requests
  • License and subscription renewals
  • Generate any required reports:
  • New installations
  • Site performance
  • SEO
  • Optimization reports
  • Security
  • Log out of your WordPress site.

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    Test and review site to make sure everything is working ok.

    Your WordPress site maintenance is done.
    Errors or Problems? Try this ...

    Troubleshoot WordPress Errors(If required)

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    Restore WordPress Data(If required)

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    Reinstall WordPress Site(If required)

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    WordPress Troubleshooting

    Performing regular troubleshooting as part of WordPress maintenance is crucial for ensuring your website’s reliability, security, and optimal performance.

    By systematically identifying and resolving issues, you can prevent minor problems from escalating into major disruptions that could impact user experience and business operations.

    Routine troubleshooting helps to maintain website uptime, protect against security vulnerabilities, and enhance overall functionality, which leads to higher user trust and engagement. Additionally, proactive troubleshooting supports consistent website performance, contributing to better SEO rankings and providing a seamless experience for visitors

    If you are experiencing issues with your WordPress site, use the tutorials below to troubleshoot and fix common WordPress errors.

    WordPress IssueDescription
    How To Fix Can’t Change WordPress Website Address – Greyed Out URLsAre your WordPress Address (URL) and WordPress Site Address (URL) greyed out? This step-by-step tutorial shows you how to fix this issue.
    How To Fix The WordPress White Screen Of Death ErrorIs your WordPress screen blank? This tutorial explains how to troubleshoot and fix the WordPress white screen of death error.
    How To Fix WordPress Stuck On “Briefly Unavailable For Scheduled Maintenance” ErrorIs your WordPress site stuck with a "Briefly unavailable for scheduled maintenance" error message? This step-by-step tutorial shows you how to fix this.
    How To Fix WordPress 403 Forbidden ErrorAre you getting a 403 Forbidden error message on your WordPress site? This tutorial shows you how to troubleshoot and fix this issue.
    How To Fix The WordPress Posts Returning 404 Not Found ErrorAre you getting a 404 Not Found error message when clicking to an existing page on your site? Learn how to fix the WordPress 404 Not Found error.
    How To Fix A 500 Internal Server Error In WordPressIs your WordPress site displaying a "500 Internal Server" error? This tutorial shows you how to troubleshoot and fix this issue.
    How To Fix WordPress Fatal ErrorsAre you experiencing "Fatal Error" messages in WordPress? Here are some of the more common WordPress fatal errors you may come across and how to fix these.
    How To Fix The WordPress ‘Are You Sure You Want To Do This?’ Error
    Learn how to troubleshoot and fix the WordPress 'Are you sure you want to do this?' error in this tutorial.
    How To Fix WordPress Error Establishing A Database ConnectionAre you getting an "Error establishing a database connection" message on your site? This step-by-step tutorial will show you how to fix this WordPress issue.
    How To Fix A Corrupted .htaccess FileAre your experiencing an internal server error or Forbidden 403 error on your WordPress site? You may need to fix a corrupt .htaccess file. This tutorial shows you how.
    How To Fix The Page Isn’t Redirecting Properly Error In WordPressLearn how to fix 'The page isn't redirecting properly' error in WordPress in this tutorial.
    How To Fix WordPress Keeps Logging Out ProblemDo you keep getting logged out of WordPress? Learn how to fix the WordPress keeps logging out problem in this tutorial.
    WordPress Troubleshooting: Unable To Log Into WordPress AdministrationLearn what to do if you are unable to log into your WordPress Administration area.
    How To Fix Problems Accessing Your WordPress Admin AreaAre you locked out of your WordPress admin area? Learn how to troubleshoot, identify & fix problems or errors preventing access to your WordPress admin area.
    How To Fix WordPress Database Is Too Large To Back Up IssueIs your WordPress database too large to back up? Here is some useful information that can help you solve this issue.
    How To Increase WordPress File Upload SizeAre you having trouble uploading files to your WordPress Media Library? This tutorial explains how to increase your WordPress file upload size limit.
    How To Tell What PHP Version Your Server Is RunningLearn how to quickly tell what version of PHP your server is using.
    What Causes WordPress Errors?Learn about some of the most common causes of WordPress errors and how to address these.
    How To Detect And Repair Broken Links In WordPressManaging broken links is an important part of website maintenance. In this tutorial, we show you how to find and fix broken links in WordPress.
    How To Fix General WordPress ErrorsLearn how to troubleshoot and fix general WordPress errors.
    WordPress Plugin Troubleshooting GuideLearn how to fix common WordPress Plugin errors in our WordPress Plugin Troubleshooting Guide.
    WordPress Troubleshooting GuideLearn how to troubleshoot and fix common WordPress errors using our WordPress Troubleshooting Guide.
    Monitor Website Health From Your WordPress DashboardIn this tutorial, we explore free WordPress plugins that can help you monitor your website's health from your WordPress dashboard.
    WordPress Troubleshooting ToolsLearn about tools that can help you troubleshoot and fix problems, issues, and errors with your WordPress site.
    WordPress Troubleshooting Help ResourcesNeed additional help fixing errors on your WordPress site? Here is a list of helpful WordPress troubleshooting help resources.

    WordPress Maintenance: In-House vs Outsourced

    At this point, you should be thinking about things like:

    “Should we create an implement our own WordPress maintenance plan in-house or outsource this to a web developer or digital agency (e.g. subscribe to a website care plan)?”

    If you plan to do your website maintenance inhouse, asking these additional questions will help you to develop an effective maintenance plan for your organization:

    • What specific tasks should be included in a comprehensive WordPress maintenance plan?
    • How frequently should WordPress core, themes, and plugins be updated?
    • What security measures should be implemented to protect the site from hackers?
    • How often should backups be created, and where should they be stored?
    • What steps are involved in optimizing website performance and speed?
    • Who will monitor the site for uptime and security breaches?
    • How should site analytics be monitored and reported?
    • What procedures should be in place for regular content updates and SEO optimization?
    • Who will be responsible for troubleshooting and fixing site issues promptly?
    • What is the process for handling major updates or redesigns?
    • How will user roles and permissions be managed to ensure site security?
    • What is the protocol for regular database maintenance and optimization?
    • Who will ensure that all third-party integrations (e.g., payment gateways, marketing tools) are functioning correctly?
    • What key performance indicators (KPIs) will be use to measure the success of maintenance activities?
    • How can maintenance tasks be assigned and tracked within a team?
    • What tools and platforms are recommended for effective maintenance management?
    • How will we train the team to handle basic maintenance tasks?
    • What emergency procedures should be in place for site crashes or hacks?
    • How will we keep up with the latest WordPress updates and best practices?

    If you plan to outsource your site’s maintenance, asking these additional questions will help you to evaluate sourcing the help of an external web developer or agency’s website maintenance services or website care plan:

    • What are the benefits of outsourcing WordPress maintenance to a professional service?
    • How can we properly evaluate and select a reliable WordPress maintenance service provider?
    • What should be included in a WordPress maintenance contract?
    • How much should we expect to budget for WordPress maintenance services?
    • What are the potential risks of not maintaining our WordPress site properly?
    • How does outsourcing compare to in-house maintenance in terms of cost and efficiency?
    • What services are typically covered by outsourced WordPress maintenance providers?
    • How can outsourcing maintenance improve site security and performance?
    • What are the common challenges faced when outsourcing WordPress maintenance, and how can they be mitigated?
    • What level of communication and reporting should we expect from an outsourced maintenance provider?
    • How can we ensure that outsourced maintenance aligns with our business goals and requirements?
    • What steps should we take to transition my WordPress maintenance from in-house to an outsourced provider?
    • Can we partially outsource maintenance while keeping some tasks in-house?
    • What criteria should we use to determine whether to outsource or keep maintenance in-house?
    • How will our customer inquiries and support requests be handled?

    WordPress Maintenance – FAQs

    Here are frequently asked questions about WordPress maintenance:

    Why is it important to keep my WordPress site updated?

    Regular updates ensure your site has the latest security patches, new features, and performance improvements. Outdated software is vulnerable to hacking attempts and other security risks.

    How can I secure my WordPress site against hackers?

    Use strong passwords, enable two-factor authentication, regularly update themes and plugins, and install security plugins to monitor and protect your site from malicious activities.

    What is a full backup, and why do I need it?

    A full backup is a complete copy of your website, including all files and databases. It ensures that you can restore your site in case of data loss, hacking, or other emergencies.

    Why is my WordPress site slow?

    Common causes of slow performance include unoptimized images, excessive plugins, poor hosting, and lack of caching. Regular maintenance can identify and resolve these issues, improving site speed.

    How often should I back up my WordPress site?

    Back up your site at least weekly and before any major updates. Additionally, keep at least one backup offsite to prevent data loss due to hardware failure or theft.

    What are the benefits of using professional maintenance services?

    Professional services ensure your site is regularly updated, secure, and backed up. They provide expert support and can quickly resolve issues, saving you time and reducing the risk of prolonged downtime.

    I have multiple WordPress sites. How do I keep them all regularly maintained?

    If you own or manage multiple WordPress sites, use a WordPress site management tool that allows you to perform bulk updates and installations of WordPress core software, plugins and themes, repair broken links, and automate areas like uptime monitoring, backups, security, site optimization, analytics, SEO, reporting, etc.

    What can I do to protect my site’s data?

    Regularly update your site, use secure hosting, implement strong passwords, and back up your data frequently. Consider using security plugins and services to add extra layers of protection.

    How do I address my concerns about the cost of professional maintenance?

    While there is a cost, professional maintenance can prevent expensive issues down the line, such as data breaches or site downtime. Investing in a maintenance plan can save money and provide peace of mind in the long term.

    What should I do before updating my WordPress site?

    Before updating, back up your entire site, including the database and all files. This ensures you can restore your site if something goes wrong during the update process.

    How do I optimize my WordPress database?

    Use plugins to clean up your database by removing unnecessary data such as post revisions, spam comments, and transient options. This can improve your site’s performance.

    What are the signs that my WordPress site has been hacked?

    Common signs include unexpected changes to your website content, unusual traffic spikes, slow performance, and the presence of unknown users in your WordPress dashboard.

    How can I improve my site’s loading speed?

    Optimize images, use a caching plugin, enable Gzip compression, minimize CSS and JavaScript files, and choose a reliable hosting provider. Regularly test your site’s speed using tools like GTmetrix or Google PageSpeed Insights.

    Why should I disable unused plugins and themes?

    Unused plugins and themes can pose security risks and slow down your website. It’s best to delete them to reduce potential vulnerabilities and improve site performance.

    What is SSL, and why is it important for my WordPress site?

    SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) encrypts data transmitted between your website and its visitors, enhancing security and building trust. Google also gives a ranking boost to sites with SSL certificates.

    How often should I review and update my website content?

    Regularly updating content ensures it remains relevant and accurate, improving SEO and user engagement. Aim to review key pages and posts every few months.

    What is the importance of regular security scans?

    Regular security scans help detect vulnerabilities and malware early, allowing you to take corrective actions before significant damage occurs. Use security plugins for automated scans.

    How can I monitor my website’s uptime?

    Use uptime monitoring tools to receive alerts if your site goes down, allowing you to quickly address any issues and minimize downtime.

    What are the benefits of having a staging site?

    A staging site allows you to test updates, new plugins, and changes without affecting your live site. This helps prevent downtime and ensures that changes work correctly before going live.

    ***

    Hopefully, the above information has helped you gain a clear understanding of the WordPress site maintenance process and why it is important to perform regular maintenance on your website.

    Feel free to use this information to implement an effective WordPress site maintenance routine for your site that will ensure that:

    • Your WordPress site’s software, plugins, data, and files are kept regularly up-to-date and fully backed up, and
    • Your website is secure and protected from malicious attacks, security risks, vulnerable exploits, and other potential online threats.

    Additional Resources

    • Troubleshooting WordPress: Learn how to troubleshoot common WordPress issues.
    • WordPress Maintenance Process – Getting Organized: WordPress maintenance requires being organized in order to get repetitive tasks done quickly and effectively. If you need help creating a system for downloading, archiving and retrieving your WordPress data and files, see this tutorial.
    • WordPress Site Management: Do you manage multiple WordPress sites? Then you may need a tool to automate most of your essential management and maintenance tasks.

    ***

    Images: Pixabay, Mountains

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    Updated: May 27th, 2024

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