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WordPress is a remarkably powerful platform that makes it easy for businesses to host websites and post content. As a content management platform it doesn’t get any better, WordPress is robust, sleek, and functional, at least as long as you keep it well-maintained that is.
Keeping your WordPress site well-maintained is key to keeping it at pique performance. Most people don’t do any maintenance on their WordPress site until something goes wrong which is a mistake. Here’s a guide to the most crucial maintenance tasks that should perform WP maintenance tasks each year and why you should do it.
Why You Should Perform WP Maintenance Tasks
In business, everyone knows the value of being proactive. Surprisingly, many businesses are a bit slow when it comes to performing maintenance tasks on their WordPress sites. There are two primary reasons why you should perform WP maintenance. Firstly, performing routine WP maintenance bolsters security, the second reason is that it will help optimize the performance of your site.
Now it’s time to dive into the most important WP maintenance tasks that you should complete once a year.
Switch Up Your Passwords
Switching your passwords at least once a year is critical to the security of your site. Certain websites and platforms actually make you choose a new password every year, and for good reason! The longer that a single password stays in place, the more vulnerable it becomes.
Not everyone thinks about the consequences of having the password to their WP site compromised, but they should. The effects of having your WP password compromised could be devastating. Imagine what would happen if an unscrupulous competitor or a politically motivated hacker gained access to your WP site. Exactly, it’s not pretty, is it? There’s no need to panic, all you need to do is change your password every year!
Next up on our checklist of critical yearly WP maintenance tasks we have backups. You should generate a complete backup of your entire website at least once a year. If a hacker gaining access to your WP site sounds bad, having the entire site and all of its content disappear due to some technical fluke sounds even worse!
When it comes to generating website backups, you have a number of options available. The most reliable platforms to backup website data are Dropbox and Google Drive.
Eradicate and Remove Spam Comments
One of the unfortunate truths of running a website or online business is that you’ll end up with a lot of spam comments on your content over time. Remember, you can’t please everybody and if you try, you’ll be wasting your time. Everyone will get spam comments, some sites will get more than others, but get them you will.
Many businesses use tools like Akismet to purge spam comments, however, like most tools, Akismet isn’t foolproof. Not only can Akismet miss spam comments, but it can also mistake legitimate comments as spam. Thusly, you should make an effort to run through all of the comments and the comments that have been marked as spam so you can make any necessary corrections.
Run diagnostics on WordPress Forms
WPForms is a remarkable tool that makes it easy to generate compelling and aesthetically pleasing forms. That said, like Akismet, WPForms is not foolproof, like all tools, it is fallible. While it doesn’t malfunction often, it’s entirely possible that the forms you generated will stop being sent due to a problem with either your WordPress hosting or your email service provider.
This is why you should check every year to make sure that all of those forms you made are actually being sent when you need them to be sent. Plugins like WP Mail SMTP make it easy to monitor everything and ensure that your forms are being sent on schedule according to plan. The plugin will notify you if a form fails to send.
Work on Your WordPress Database
All of your content, comments, settings, users, etc. are stored in one central location, your WordPress database. Like hard drives, your WordPress database can get cluttered with unnecessary information which can end up slowing it down and affecting the performance of your site.
No one likes it when it takes forever for a website to load. When your WordPress database is clogged up and cluttered, that’s exactly what happens. Your website will take longer to load as a result which will be off-putting to viewers and potential customers.
So what do you do when your WordPress database is cluttered? You can defragment the tables of your WordPress database to optimize it and keep it in check.
If you put this off and wait 3-5 years to do it, you’re just going to have more to clean up. The best strategy is to include this task on your yearly WP maintenance list and do it annually. By optimizing, decluttering, and defragmenting your WordPress database every year you’ll have a lot fewer problems and your website will load at lightning speed!
Do Performance Diagnostics
The next yearly WP maintenance task on your list should be running performance tests. One of the most common mistakes that people make with their WordPress site is to neglect performance tests. Most folks will run a performance test after they’ve first completed the website and never look back.
As it turns out, the performance of your website will change over time which means you won’t see the same score in terms of performance as you did after testing it when the site was launched. What does this mean for you? It means that while you’ve been whistling away adding new content and boatloads of plugins assuming that your website’s performance is as good as ever, it’s been secretly slipping and lagging behind.
Plugins are great, people love them, but you need to use them sparingly because they can affect your SEO and bring you down a few notches in the search rankings. Having too many plugins can slow down your website and make it take longer to load which can affect your SEO ranking.
All of the content you’ve added over the past year can also affect your SEO, search ranking, and site performance which is why you should run a performance test at least once a year.
If you run a performance test on your WordPress site every day, the data won’t be as valuable because all you’re going to see is daily fluctuation. By testing your site performance annually, you’ll be able to tweak its average performance which will be much more useful in the long-term. This approach is also more practical and will save you a great deal of time.
Patch and Repair 404 Errors and Broken Links
One of the biggest no-nos for any website is to have a bunch of 404 errors and broken links. If a link is not working because someone made a mistake manually when creating the link, that’s fine, you can fix that. Likewise, when a customer accidentally misses a letter or two and enters the wrong address in their browser, that’s OK too. That said, legitimate 404 errors are not OK.
When any individual web page is deleted users will be directed to a 404 error page when they try to visit. Users don’t like 404 errors, especially when they were actually excited or even remotely interested in the content on the page they were trying to access.
If a website is littered with 404 errors on multiple pages, customers won’t just go to a competitor, they’ll run to them! Having a bunch of 404 errors looks shoddy and makes it look like something is wrong with the website, which would technically be true because it has pages missing!
Of course, cases in which particular web pages need to be deleted are inevitable and sometimes practically unavoidable. That said, you need to replace that page with something instead of resigning it to the ghosthood of a 404 error.
Whenever you have to delete a webpage, the best practice is to match it with a similar web page and create a redirect. For example, if you deleted a web page that featured a pair of high heels for sale, you can create a redirect that will send customers to a page showing another type of shoe that is still for sale on your website.
The takeaway here is that every web page is a resource, even if it’s been deleted. The link to it will still be out there on the internet and as long as you created a redirect, it can still help drive traffic to your website.
Run a Content and SEO Audit
Another task on your yearly WP maintenance list should include running an in-depth audit on your content and SEO. Tools like Google Search Console and Google Analytics will prove particularly helpful in auditing your site content and evaluating the efficacy of your SEO.
You can keep track of how many people visit your website, where they come from, and what they did while on your site. This kind of information can be incredibly useful as it will highlight which people you’re site is resonating with and which pages are the most popular and therefore effective.
Google Search Console can help you gain insight on which keywords you are ranking for which can help you create a more effective SEO strategy. It can even show you keywords that you can use to rank higher without putting in too much effort or creating new content. In many cases, all you would have to do is update some of your existing articles.
If your primary focus is auditing and optimizing your SEO, you’ll want to use a tool like All in One SEO which can provide you with an accurate SEO score and tips for improvement.
The best strategy of all is to use a combination of these tools. By using Google Analytics, Google Search Console, and All in One SEO, you will have a much more complete and subsequently more actionable picture of your SEO.
Nothing slows down a website like oversized images. The more oversized images that are on your website and in your content, the slower your website will be. It will take longer to load which will make the site less effective overall.
For those of you with a multi-author WordPress site, it’s easy to overlook the inclusion of oversized images that were chosen by other authors. You can stay on top of this and weed out any oversized images by looking through your media library once a year.
Examine WordPress Security Logs
Changing your passwords once a year is a smart and easy way to keep your WordPress site protected, but that’s not enough. You should also examine your WordPress security logs at least once a year and look for suspicious activity.
If you don’t want to do this manually, you can use a plugin to speed up the process. You should also invest in a firewall to keep your website protected.
When it comes to maintenance troubleshooting on a WordPress site, you’ll want to be careful about what time you do it. Doing a bunch of maintenance troubleshooting can slow your site down as you progress which can frustrate your customers.
Although maintenance troubleshooting can temporarily slow a website down, that doesn’t change the fact that it still has to be done annually. While you could put your site into maintenance mode, the savviest thing to do is to work on maintenance troubleshooting at the hours when you get the lowest amount of traffic.
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If all of these WP maintenance tasks still sound difficult and arcane to you, it’s OK. Just call in the cavalry by calling the SEO wizards at AlchemyLeads. We know the ins and outs of WP maintenance and SEO optimization like the backs of our hands. Better yet, we give each of our clients VIP treatment.
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