WordPress on average pushes out between 15-20 updates every year, this averages out to at least one update a month. Every time a new WordPress update comes out we get emails from our clients asking if it’s safe to update their site. We always give the same answer which is, in most situations a small update will not break your website, but there are a lot of factors. How many plugins do you have on your website, how long has it been since your last update, what kind of server is the site running on? All these variables can make a small monthly update pretty stressful and in some cases even catastrophic.
Coming up with a consistent monthly website maintenance process is the key to making sure your website does not crash during these updates and most importantly preventing malware and other vulnerabilities. Taking a proactive approach to maintaining your website saves you a lot of time down the road and prevents larger issues from sneaking up on you.
WordPress Maintenance Checklist
Gravitate has been handling WordPress maintenance for hundreds of clients for years now. Below is a list of what we believe to be the most reasonable checklist for monthly WordPress updates and maintenance.
1. Create Website Backups
The first and most important aspect of any WordPress maintenance checklist is ensuring you have a consistent backup schedule. This is especially important to do before you update WordPress or any plugins on your website.
For the last five years, we have used BackWPup. This plugin gets bonus points for its ability to segment out updates by database and files.
2. Check Website Speed
Checking your website speed score monthly is an easy way to see if anything drastic has happened to your site performance. Logging your speed scores each month allows you to narrow down changes that had a negative effect on your site speed or your overall performance score.
3. Review Search Console
Reviewing your Google Search Console monthly is a guaranteed way to stay on top of your website’s health. Search console provides useful information about broken links, site errors and excluded URLs – things that could be detrimental to your search rankings will usually be shown here first.
Check your coverage report and mobile usability report in Google Search Console. You should be checking Google Analytics more frequently than search console.
4. Update WordPress
Following our 1st checklist item is super important to do before tackling this part of the monthly website maintenance in case anything goes wrong. It’s also important to feel confident in your ability to restore your site from a backup. Being capable of restoring an older version of your website is important before doing a WordPress update. If that’s outside of your comfort zone, you might want to leave these updates to a developer or digital agency.
Backup your site and review a few pages as a refresher to how things should look before doing an update. Once completed check over several pages to ensure nothing broke as a result of the update.
5. Update Plugins
Just like WordPress updates, make sure you have a backup of your website before doing this step. For website critical items such as eCommerce plugins, it may be a good idea to use the changelog and make a note of your plugin version.
Backup your site and review critical functionality before and after updating.
6. Check Spam Comments
If you run a website that has commenting functionality its essential to check for comment spam that links to bad websites. This kind of spam can slowly bring down your domain authority.
Check links from any new comments and review your pending, spam and deleted comments.
7. Security Check
At this point, you have updated your site and plugins and deleted spam comments and checked your website health via Google Search Console. However, ensuring no security issues are present on your site is still really important. You can use a security plugin and perform a quick check of the logs/alerts to ensure everything looks good.
We recommend using WordFence WordPress plugin, the logging and alert system the plugin uses is great.
WordPress Maintenance Cost
The cost of leaving a WordPress site unchecked could end up being extremely costly to your business, so while the cheapest option is not to perform any maintenance you should consider the following scenarios:
Website Performance drops: the most common issue when not keeping up with WordPress maintenance is the overall performance of your site decreasing. This is usually the speed of the website but this can also include things like broken links and errors on contact forms. This will typically affect your Google search ranking and your overall bounce rate.
Website gets hacked: another pretty common occurrence depending on how long you go without any security updates or checks. Typically website owners never know when a website is hacked, the main goal is to push malicious or adult-themed links to your website visitors. Finding out you have been advertising for medications or adult products can be catastrophic to your business.
Website goes down: without monthly maintenance, a big update can bring your site down completely. This can be an easy fix or something that takes a developer days to figure out. However long this ends up being having a website that is down is the worst-case scenario.
All of the above scenarios will be far more costly than either dedicating the resources to monthly maintenance or paying an agency for professional website maintenance. If you’re going to chat with a few companies, here are six key questions to ask before signing on for maintenance.
Paying for WordPress Maintenance
Looking for a team who can take care of your WordPress maintenance needs? Get in touch!