After all the hard work you and your developers put into creating a website/blog on WordPress (it’s a pleasure actually), you finally sit down for some well-deserved time off.
Not so fast!
It’s the entropic principle: Your work is never done. Your responsibility as an admin of your website/blog doesn’t end once the theme/plugins are in place and you have begun to post on something akin to a schedule. There’s a whole lot of maintenance to do to keep your website running in top condition: without errors and complications.
But don’t sweat it. Everything you’ve heard about WordPress’ user-friendliness is true. Maintaining your website is one of the many ways you’ll come to realize that. So armed with nothing but good intentions and the thought of preventing a whole load of trouble later, here’s the beginner’s guide to running upkeep on your very own self-hosted WordPress website.
You have to complete every step in the given order, starting with:
1. Backing up
Before you make any changes in your website, build a safety net by creating a backup.
If anything goes wrong, you can restore your website from a backup fairly quickly and easily. I reiterate, it’s your first and strongest safety net in various situations (hacking, accidental lock-out, major code-breakage, etc.)
…by using a plugin of your choice.
There are amazing backup plugins (which have now become full-fledged services) with additional features like cloud storage, easy restore, etc. UpdraftPlus, VaultPress, BackupBuddy, etc. are great choices.
- Some hosting providers offer routine backup services, but it’s better not to rely completely on them. Check with your host for the same.
- Remember to backup your entire site, including the database. Or get a separate plugin for database backup (like WP-DB-Manager).
This is one of the most tedious/boring/complicated steps in your maintenance process, especially if you have a large website with loads of plugins.
Updates are necessary for security (older versions’ security flaws are now known to public), better performance, and new features.
There’s no plugin which will handle it for you. Tread carefully:
- WordPress Core: Minor version upgrades (from 4.3.1 to 4.3.2 etc…) take place automatically unless your developer switched it off. You need to manually upgrade to major versions (4.3 to 4.4).
- Themes: Make sure you have a backup in place. It’s also good to have your frontend code changes (minor theme adjustments made via code) saved in a child theme or plugin instead of actual theme files, otherwise they’ll get overwritten and you’ll lose them all.
- Plugins: Update plugins last! And do it one-by-one.
That’s an astounding amount of spam.
Comment spam, trackbacks, pingbacks, etc. get its own special mention in maintenance because they are bad when left to accumulate over long periods of time. Unapproved comments (spam or otherwise) will hog space in your database and make it slow, and trackbacks/pingbacks are spambots/idiots trying to push their irrelevant, spammy links into your comments section.
This is why moderation is necessary.
Plugins to the rescue!
There are some powerful anti-spam plugins in the repository, available for free (and some for a fee). WP SpamShield AntiSpam and Akismet are two of the best. Use them to moderate spam and keep it manageable.
You should also disable trackbacks and pingbacks by heading to go to “Settings > Discussion” and un-checking the “Allow link notifications from other blogs (pingbacks and trackbacks) ” box.
4. Beefing-up Security
This one is a no-brainer; we all know it’s a terrible world.
It’s not paranoia if it’s true. You can never do enough to harden WordPress security.
Always staying updated is good. Secure servers are better. Plugins like WordFence, Sucuri, etc. are necessary for regular scans and security checkups. But you can always do more.
Here’s a nice-sized list of WordPress security tips for your developers to take a look at (you can also work with it if you’re can handle some coding).
5. Database Optimization
Or oiling the gears… take your pick.
Over time, post iterations, unapproved comments, orphaned metadata (which is information about your data), etc. will simply sit around taking up space in your database. This is bad for query times (how fast your website responds) and can make a dent in your performance scores.
Simply use a plugin like WP Optimize or WP Sweep to shake out the cobwebs from your database and keep it squeaky clean.