We offer three basic maintenance packages to support your website. See the detailed descriptions below. Monthly maintenance is critical to the well-being of your website in the long term. Without it, your website will suffer, as will your web presence.
Keeping your WordPress website running like a well-oiled machine can feel overwhelming at times. There are a lot of moving parts and many different areas that we can keep on top of for you. Not everyone is as comfortable delving into some of the technical areas of WordPress. Unfortunately, that often means the tasks most important to a fast, smooth, well optimized and search engine friendly website are put on the back burner.
Here are the six tasks we will perform for you on a monthly basis, that we think are necessary to keep your website running smooth:
- Backup Your Website.
- Maintain multiple backups in different locations. This can include keeping copies locally and in the cloud.
- Keep a minimum of 3 backup version at all times spaced out over a reasonable period of time. Nothing is worse than backing up and overwriting a clean version of your website with a copy that was hacked yesterday.
- Make sure you are backing up all your files, not just the database.
- Keep Your Files Up to Date.
Keeping your WordPress core, theme and plugin files up to date is just as important as backing up your website.
WordPress Core Files
Keeping WordPress up to date is one of the most important things you can do to reduce your chances of being hacked. Thankfully, WordPress issues regular updates to address any security concerns. Hosting companies often allow for selecting a simple auto-update check-box when you first install WordPress and in most cases this is a good idea. If you are someone who likes to process updates manually, that’s fine too.
Plugins are the lifeblood of WordPress, adding functionality far beyond what the platform itself is capable of. With over 38,000 plugins, you can find one capable of accomplishing almost any task imaginable, short of cooking your breakfast.
There are also two rules when it comes to maintaining your plugins:
Keep them up to date once you’ve installed them.
Delete any plugins that you’re not currently using.
As part of your regular maintenance, review any plugins used on your website to make sure they meet all of the above criteria. Just because a plugin works fine today, doesn’t mean it’ll be fine in 30 days so make sure you periodically check.
Since you’re reading this post here on Elegant Themes, it’s safe to assume you understand the importance of selecting a theme that is well coded and secure. All of the rules listed above for plugins also apply to any themes that you are using or have installed.
As with the WordPress core files, any time your theme has an update available make sure you install it in a timely fashion. Make sure you backup your site first and if you’ve customized your theme make sure you’re not overwriting those changes with a new version.
- Maintain Your Database.
Akin to cleaning out your garage, your WordPress database can collect a lot of junk and cobwebs over time. Cleaning out your database every few months will keep it running smoothly and quickly.
The larger your website and the more frequently you add content, the bigger your database will become. In addition, plugins, themes and comments all add to the size and complexity of your database. As your database grows larger and accumulates what’s called “overhead”, it can slow down – sometimes significantly.
Think of it like this: Your database is very similar to a library. The Dewey-decimal system keeps things pretty well organized most of the time. But as books are borrowed and returned and new items are added to the shelves, the once organized system can quickly become muddled. Before you know it, the book that you could once could find in 2 seconds now takes 10 – or maybe its missing altogether.
- Review Functionality.
Checking and maintaining your website’s functionality is mostly about providing a good user experience. It seems simple enough, but you’d be surprised how often little details are overlooked. If you want people to return to your site, all of these items are worth reviewing from time to time.
Test Browser & Device Compatibility
Make sure your website is working properly on different browsers and devices. If you own multiple devices experiment with how your site functions on each of them – nothing beats manually testing. You can also use a site like browserstack.com to quickly test across multiple devices and browsers.
Test Your Forms
It’s common for plugins like Contact Form 7 or Ninja Forms to be updated on a regular basis. As such, it’s a good idea to quickly test your forms to make sure they are functioning the way they should, especially if you’re using them as a primary method of contact. Nothing is worse than missing out on business because you forgot to enter the correct forwarding address into a form setting.
Few things frustrate users more than navigation that does not work properly. Either clicking on a link that directs to the wrong location or worse yet, nowhere at all. Check every navigation link on your website and also check your mobile responsive navigation to make sure it’s working properly.
Find and Fix 404 Errors
A 404 error is returned when a browser or bot goes looking for a page and is unable to find it. While its not necessarily a bad thing from Google’s perspective, it does present a poor user experience, especially if someone has clicked on a link from within your site expecting to be directed to some specific information.
- Check Your On-Page-SEO.
As Google’s algorithms become smarter, the importance of perfect on-page SEO seems to be decreasing (you certainly want to avoid over optimization), however there are still some basic guidelines that you should adhere to.
WordPress makes it easy to keep your website SEO friendly so when you have some spare time on your hands, take a few minutes to run through 5-10 pages/posts making sure the following are in order:
Only your title is wrapped in an H1 tag (make sure for any headings or subheadings, you’re using H2, H3, H4).
Use your keyword in the URL if possible but above all, you’re URL should be human friendly.
If your page or post has a specific topic, make sure the keyword is used once in the first 75-100 words.
Add an appropriate meta description to each page and post.
Add outbound links to relevant sources or references.
Make sure you are using optimized images including both file size and titles.
- Review Your Security.
If there is any truth to the saying that an ounce of prevention was worth a pound of cure, it would apply right here. Few things will ruin you day as quickly as a hacked website so taking some time to review your basic safeguards should be part of a regular maintenance review.
Look for Anything Suspicious
A three point check is a good starting point and won’t take you more than a few minutes. Ideally, this should be a monthly task and should definitely be done before overwriting a previous version of a backup.
Head over to Sucuri and plug your URL in their free tool which will scan for malware as well as check blacklist status and make sure your WordPress version is current.
Perform a visual check of your website. You may not be able to review every page but cover a decent sample size. Look for anything unusual like injected text. Examine links to make sure they point where they are supposed to and that there are no unexpected redirects.
Plug your website URL into Google using “site:yourdomain.com” which will pull up most of your indexed pages. Pay close attention to the meta descriptions. Some of the more common hacks that occur, like the pharma hack, will inject a new meta description into your page or post. The image below presents a classic example.