L’Shana Tova Guide to Cleaning Up Your WordPress Website

I’m back in the office after a two-month hiatus that found me cleaning gutters and rebuilding fences from the West coast to the Midwest. Did you miss me?

You know how I often compare a WordPress website to a house, or any solid structure to put all your stuff in? With all my focus on home maintenance lately I can’t stop thinking about the cleaning and maintenance of WordPress, and I think you should too. After all, with growth comes clutter, and clutter is like grime. It slows down the whole works and a slow site is appreciated by no users ever.

So, with summer officially over and a new year (according to the Judaic calendar) upon us, I think this is an excellent time to be cleaning up your WordPress website. It shouldn’t take too long and your site will be lighter and faster than before.

Start by making a backup of your site. It may sound antithetical to backup all the dust bunnies in your web files, but what if you completely screw up and delete something you actually need! Uploading an old version is better than dumpster diving for that little piece of data you accidentally threw out. Once you’re done housecleaning you can make a new backup and throw this one out anyway.

Let’s do it, let’s scrub this site until it shines like a brand new DVD.

How to Clean Up Your WordPress Website

Update Everything

While this may sound de rigueur, updating is often an overlooked process, to the detriment of the entire system. You made a backup so have no fear. Just update it!

Go to the Updates page and start by updating WordPress, then Plugins, then Themes. My only caveat is to slow down with plugins that hold data and page builders like Visual Composer, which have their own update regimens to follow.

Delete Unused Themes and Plugins

Keeping unused themes and plugins not only takes up server space, it leaves you open to hacking, especially if you don’t keep up with updates. Go through your plugins and deactivate the ones you think are superfluous. If, over time, you find your site doesn’t miss them, delete any that are deactivated.

Same story with Themes. You only need one at a time, plus one or two Twenty-somethings for troubleshooting, so get rid of the themes you auditioned before settling on your current theme. Who needs ‘em?

WP Optimize

Tidy up the Database

WordPress is composed of two parts: the Directory that contains the Core and Theme files, and the Database that contains all the information your site holds. Databases too can become a hot mess.

I can think of nothing more tedious than cleaning up a database and it seems easy to make mistakes. Better to use a plugin like WP Optimize to do that job.

Optimize Database after Deleting Revisions.

Dump Old Post Revisions

If your backup plugin didn’t already do this, be sure to delete all the old revisions you’ve made for each post and page. Talk about dust bunnies! After a post is published, that data is just useless wastes of space, helpful for nothing.

If you need assistance, use a plugin like Optimize Database after Deleting Revisions. Just get rid of ‘em!

Delete Spam

Even if you’re using the spam-killing plugin Akismet, spam always seems to find its way onto your site. It shows up in Comments, Feedback and in Users. Spam not only takes up space, it can be dangerous if the links contain malware. You can mark messages as Spam and hope that WordPress remembers it for the future, but best to just Delete Permanently and be rid of the junk.

Media Cleaner

Sweep Out Media Library

It’s not uncommon to upload more images than you use, especially while experimenting with different sizes and crops. But keeping those files around long after you’ve moved on can occupy space and add confusion. You don’t want to inadvertently choose the less-than-perfect image later.

The list view in the Media Library shows you which images are Unattached, so you can start by moving those to the Trash. Or, use a plugin like Media Cleaner. Before you hit Delete Permanently, go around the site to spot any empty image icons, just in case.

Going forward, there are a number of plugins that will optimize your image from the get go. I generally use Smush to reduce the size of images, but care must be taken not to smush images that you want to look their best, like your logo.

Clear Useless Categories and Tags

Sometimes your eyes are bigger than your posts and you create tags and categories that get used once and never again. Yet, there they sit, taking up space.

Cleaning up your Categories and Tags has to be done manually. In list mode, sort them by Count and click to edit the ones that have zero, one or two uses. Edit those posts by choosing more commonly used tags. Then delete the zeroed out tags.

Ah, doesn’t that feel good?

Dump Non Users

If your site has many users contributing content, you might want to review the list and delete the people who are inactive. Also, sometime hackers sneak in and set up profiles so they can create mischief on your site. Get rid of them!

Fix Broken Links

Nothing is more annoying than to click on a broken link. Users hate that. Broken links don’t take up space, they just waste time. Fix ‘em!

I use Broken Link Checker to show me the links that are busted and why. Sometimes, it can be wrong and the link is good and you have to tell it to Ignore. Other times you just have to go down the list and click Unlink. Too bad for those backlinks, but better for your users.

Broken Link Checker

Redirect Moldy Content

While it may be tempting to simply delete old and moldy content from way back when, don’t do it! Google has indexed it by now and if you delete the page, post, or product it will produce a 404 Not Found error. You don’t want that to happen. Better to set that old page to redirect to a newer page using a plugin like SEO Redirection. Or if you have Yoast Premium, use that!

Start the New Year Right

With a spiffed up website you’ll be ready to face the new year with greater confidence and ease. And your users will be happy that site is running faster and lighter than ever.

And if you want to wish a Jewish friend happy new year, say L’Shana Tova!

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