Now that your WordPress website is a going concern – with updated content, monetization and search engine reporting – the last thing you must do, here and forever, is website maintenance.
Website maintenance is like housework. You have to do it sometime. Better to clean up small messes than huge disasters. Make yourself a schedule. Every week go through the backend to make sure everything is running properly.
Call it zen and the art of website maintenance.
The keyword for website maintenance is backup. Backup, backup, backup and then, backup again. You’ll never be sorry.
Plugins will backup data to your server, or to the Cloud where it’s safe from computer breakdown. Still, it’s not a bad idea to use a plugin to export your content and data to your hard drive(s).
How often you backup depends on how much activity your site has. Monthly, weekly, or if there’s e-commerce involved, do it daily.
Plugins need constant updating as developers are constantly fixing security hacks.
Visit your Installed Plugins page often. Update cautiously as plugin updates can pose unforeseen problems with your theme, or with other plugins. Check the plugins and deactivate errant ones to isolate any problems, and maybe rethink and delete.
Plugins can be updated automatically through the WordPress Dashboard, but it is more secure to FTP them to the server. One is quick and easy, the other long and tedious.
WordPress itself needs updating about twice per year, or at every major version. Always backup before updating and check with your theme developer about compatibility issues.
WordPress versions can be easily updated through the dashboard, either automatically or by uploading a zip file. But for more delicate maneuvers, two of the main files, Admin and Includes, can be FTPed to the server.
Your theme should be updated whenever the developer updates it. It’s a good idea since there might be security or bug fixes. Or, there might be a leap into new technology, like Responsive or Retina display.
If you have customized your site’s CSS or any php files, you must make a child theme to save your customizations from being overwritten by the new theme. So make a child before updating your theme!
Check your traffic stats at Google Analytics and see what you are doing right and wrong. There is a whole science on analytics and with a little research you will get the gist.
Jetpack Stats are a lot simpler to read (since they provide less info) and I’ve heard Jetpack can be more accurate than Google, which undershoots the numbers, as well as your server, which overshoots them.
Check the stats keywords to see what topics are bringing in the most traffic and write more about that.
Make sure your site is loading fast. Anything over 4 seconds and you loose people. Go to Google PageSpeed and find out how fast the site is loading and what you can do about it.
After I upgraded to 3.6 and this site ran super slow, I deactivated about half of my plugins and cut the load time by 90%! Goodbye Zemanta links, Flickr Gallery, Inbound Writer, and Contact Form 7. I can do without you all.
In Webmaster Tools, check for messages that say you have errors.
If you have “404 Not Found” errors, try to fix them. Or, install a 301 Redirect plugin to point offending pages at a current page. Yoast SEO has a 301 Redirect tool on each page.
For a “Googlebot Can’t Access Your Site “error, Google offers a list of fixes. Then go to Fetch as Google to check your fixes.
Sometimes, spam slips past Akismet. You can spot Spam a mile away from spelling errors, business links, words like “penis”, or vague praise that doesn’t relate to your post.
Repeat offenders can be labeled as Spam in the Comments Dashboard so Akismet will remember that address. If you trash the spam, there’s no memory of it. Or, you can blacklist anyone in General>Discussion.
Bad Site, No Ranking
If your site’s traffic is down and you can’t think why, you might be banned by Google. Here’s a tool to check to make sure you are not banned.
That’s All Folks!
Thanks for reading this 10-part series, Create a WordPress Website, written to help bloggers and business owners take charge of their web presence using WordPress.
Did it help you? Please let me know.