When it comes to WordPress, website maintenance is essential for continued functionality, security, and performance. There are 10 essential technical elements of WordPress Maintenance including: backups, updates, uptime monitoring, security monitoring, user & password management, comment management, form deliverability, caching, and 404 error monitoring.
Components of a WordPress Website
A WordPress website is made of various components that need to be updated and maintained. As updates are made, you also need to make sure all these components continue to function and play together nicely.
A WordPress website consists of the following components:
- Hosting – Storage of the files and database.
- WordPress – The overall content management system.
- Theme – Determines the front-end styling of the website.
- Plugins – Software components that add features and extends functionality.
Over time, each of these components will be updated. On the server level, you may need to update the PHP version from time to time. On the WordPress level, you will have to keep your WordPress version up to date. On the theme level, you will need to update your theme regularly (especially as WordPress updates). On the plugin level, you will need to continue to update the various software components that extend the functionality of your website.
Why WordPress Maintenance Matters
The web is not stagnant, rather it is constantly evolving. As the web evolves, your website needs to adapt and remain up to date. WordPress Maintenance is essential for continued functionality, security, & performance.
When you build your WordPress website, you will have to choose a theme and various plugins to extend the features of your website. As an example, say you need an events calendar. You do some research and find a few highly recommended event plugins. You install one only to discover it is incompatible with your theme. You uninstall it, start researching for compatible plugins, and install another one. Yay! That one works. Now you start building out your calendar.
A week… a month… or a year goes by…. and you need to update your theme and event plugin. After updating the event plugin, you notice the events are not displaying properly. Now, it’s time for troubleshooting. Is it a new setting that needs to be tweaked? Is the plugin no longer compatible with your theme? Can you reach out to the plugin support team to troubleshoot the issue together?
Perhaps, you can reach out to the support team. Best case scenario, it’s a small bug that slipped through the cracks and the next update will resolve the issue. What a relief! The plugin developer assures you it is just a feature update (no security fixes) and that it is safe to revert your website to a functioning backup until the plugin version with the fix is released.
The point of the story is that you must continue to update your website to avoid errors and as you update your website you must test to make sure everything is working as expected. In these scenarios, it is invaluable to have a professional who can diagnose, troubleshoot, work with other developers, and ultimately resolve the issue as quickly as possible.
Mistakes sometimes happen. Updraft is a highly recommended off-site backup plugin with more than three million active installations. In 2022, a vulnerability was discovered. An attacker could obtain website backups containing sensitive information. When this vulnerability was discovered, Updraft passed an update indicating there was a high-priority security update to be made as soon as possible
In this scenario, it is essential to have a professional who monitors these alerts and can implement the fix before the vulnerability is exploited (View WordFence’s analysis of the vulnerability). When it comes to website security, remember attacks are more likely to be opportunistic. Attackers will target known vulnerabilities and try to exploit them.
Website performance directly influences the user experience. Performance is all about how fast a website loads, how it displays on various devices and browsers, and how it responds to user interaction.
Google prioritizes speed more and more to provide users with a better experience. Your website speed and performance will directly influence your search engine optimization. Over the last year, significant updates have been made on the server-level, WordPress-level, theme-level, and plugin-level to speed up WordPress websites. If your website is out of date, it is missing out on these upgrades. An outdated website is not only missing out on the upgrades, but it is also using older versions that will run more slowly than the modern version. Run Google PageSpeed Insights and/or GTMetrix to test your website’s speed and to identify areas for improvement. Faster websites rank better in terms of SEO and provide a better user experience
10 Essential Elements of WordPress Maintenance
There are 10 essential elements of WordPress Maintenance including: backups, updates, uptime monitoring, security monitoring, caching, user management, comment management, form deliverability, optimization, and 404 error monitoring.
Backups of your website should be made on a regular basis. Daily backups are appropriate for most websites. In the worst-case scenario, a website backup can be restored. Before making any significant changes to your website or running updates, you always want to make a backup just in case.
First and foremost, test your backups! Make sure your backup process works and can be depended upon when needed. Second, it is also a wise decision to have both on-server and off-server backups. In the event of an issue on the server level, an off-server backup can be restored.
#2 Updating WordPress, the Theme, & Plugins
WordPress, theme, and plugin files should be updated regularly. Within your website, you setup a way to get notified of when an update becomes available and needs to be updated. You will want to monitor all files for anything suspicious. As an extra layer of protection, it is a good idea to always check the WordPress Updates just in case you missed a notification, or one was not sent.
Make sure to delete any unused themes or plugins. Keep your website clean and running as optimally as possible. Also, always monitor your plugins and make sure the developers are keeping them up to date. If a plugin has not been updated recently, look into it to make sure it has not been abandoned. If the plugin has been abandoned, remove it immediately and switch to a different one.
Once updates are made, carefully review and test the functionality of the website to ensure everything is working as expected. If you update the contact form, send a test message to ensure the form is still sending as expected. If you updated a caching plugin, make sure your website looks and behaves properly.
#3 Uptime Monitoring
Uptime Monitoring tracks the availability and response time of your website in real-time. Uptime Monitoring tools will monitor your website and alert you of any issues as soon as they occur. ManageWP, MainWP, InfiniteWP, and other WordPRess Admin Panels offer such services. There are other providers, such as Pingdom, as well. You want to know if there is an issue with your website before a customers notice it.
#4 Security Monitoring
It is important to protect your website from known attacks and vulnerabilities. Your website host may include or offer add-on security options. For example, WP Engine is a secure managed WordPress host and offers a free SSL and platform-level protection.
In addition to server level protection, you may consider installing a security plugin such as WordFrence, iTheme Security, or Sucuri Security. Make sure your website has a firewall to protect against known threats. For example, Wordfence provides real-time notifications when updates are made available and when there are issues detected on your website. Wordfence also provides automated summaries of Top IP Blocked, 10 Countries Blocked, Top Failed Logins, Recently Blocked Attacks, Recently Modified Files, and Updates Needs.
Additionality, there are free security scanning tools available online as well as premium add-ons available through WordPress Admin Panels and certain hosting packages.
Caching helps speed up your website. By using a caching plugin, you can reduce the amount of resources required to load a page and in turn speed up the page loading. Whenever enhancements are made to the caching components, test and make sure everything continues to work as expected.
Every so often, clear the cache and test to ensure everything is working properly. If you don’t have caching set up, start with your website host to see if they include caching and/or recommend certain caching plugins.
#6 User Management
Strong passwords should be used for all aspects of a WordPress website including the WordPress login, SFTP accounts, and the database.
Password best practices should be followed. Keep the following in mind:
- Your website password should be a unique combination of uppercase and lower-case letters, symbols, and numbers.
- Use a minimum of 12 characters or more.
- Passwords should not be easy to guess (ex: your daughters name or your dog).
- Avoid dictionary words.
- Definitely, do not use a password that has been compromised with a different account.
- Invest in a password manager and always store passwords encrypted and securely.
Over time, passwords may become compromised. That’s why it is important to change your password regularly – say every quarter or at least every year.
Also, it is important to actively manage your users and passwords. If a user no longer needs to access, the users should be removed in a timely manner.
#7 Comment Management
If your blog allows comments, setup the settings to notify you of comments and have an approval process in place. Alternatively, you could consider installing the Akismet plugin that automatically removes spam from your comment moderation queue. Every so often check the spam comment section and delete the spam comments.
#8 Form Deliverability
Sending a form submission from your website to your email requires configuration between your WordPress hosting server and your email service provider. If one or the other gets misconfigured, the form submission will stop sending. WP Mail SMTP and other email delivery providers help ensure emails reach the inbox.
It is a good idea to have a monitoring system in place to make sure contact form submissions are being sent in place. WP Mail SMTP also offers an email log, email reports, weekly email summaries, etc.
You will also want to consider storing the form submission entries within your WordPress website. In case the recipient accidentally deletes an email, it is helpful to have a backup and somewhere where you can go to restore the deleted submission.
WordPress stores comments, content, users, settings, and other data in the database. Over time, the database may become bloated with unnecessary data. As the database bloats, the overall size increases which can slow down uploading, downloading, backups, and restorations. When you optimize your database, you clean up the clutter and improve its overall performance. For how to best optimize your database, see what your website host recommends. Your website host may offer some tips, how-tos, and plugin recommendations (ex: WP Optimize or SG Optimizer).
Image optimization is also important for maximizing speed and performance. High-quality images tend to be heavy and slow things down. Be mindful of the image file format, the file size, and the image dimensions. Consider how large you need the image to be and adjust the image dimensions accordingly. Do not upload the image directly from your smartphone to your website. Also, remember to delete old images from your media file that you no longer need. An image compression plugin can also be helpful.
#10 404 Error Monitoring
If a link is broken on your website, your website visitor will land a 404 page. A 404 error occurs when a page cannot be found. This may occur if there is a typo in the URL or when a page is no longer available.
Some plugins can help you monitor internal links within your website. For example, Redirection allows you to track all URL changes and implement redirects accordingly to prevent 404 errors. There are tools available online that you can use to test all the links on your website, including both internal and external links. For example, the WC3 free link checker is one option.
Determining Your Maintenance Plan
If you have a WordPress website, you need a maintenance plan. If you are up for the challenge, you can learn how to manage it yourself. Alternatively, you can hire a professional to manage it. There are automation tools that you can use to streamline and simplify things. However, if an issue arises, you may need a human being to troubleshoot, diagnose, and resolve the issue.
How Kreative Solutions Helps
Whenever Kreative Solutions builds a WordPress website, we quote two project phrases: (1) Website Design, and (2) Website Maintenance.
At a minimum, all our WordPress Maintenance plans include backups, updates, uptime monitoring, security monitoring, and caching. Some clients take a more hands-on approach to managing users, comments, forms, etc., while others don’t. User management, comment management, form deliverability monitoring, automated optimization, and automated link tracking/redirects are more client specific.
The above WordPress Maintenance components are essential for keeping your website secure, functional, and running at peak performance. In addition to these tasks, you will also want to consider add fresh, quality content on a regular basis and continuously improving your search engine optimization.
Kreative Solutions WordPress Maintenance Plans include three components:
- Routine Technical Maintenance: Backups, updates, uptime monitoring, security monitoring, and caching. Occur as needed at contractors’ discretion.
- Hourly Non-Routine Maintenance: Non-routine maintenance services include content updates, troubleshooting, and resolution of unforeseen problems (i.e., internal server error, database connection error, hacks, third-party errors, etc.).
- Consulting & Training: Project planning, how-to’s, and additional training sessions.
Routine technical maintenance services are billed at a fixed rate depending on the scope of services. Hourly non-routine maintenance, consulting, and training services are only rendered by client request or per contractor’s recommendation with client approval.
Request a consultation today to learn more about our WordPress Website Design & Maintenance Services.