Turning Your Website into a Well-Oiled Machine. Now that my WordPress website is developed, I can just sit back and reap the benefits! If that’s what you think — much like I did — you’d be mistaken. Regardless of the technologies your website utilizes, maintenance is a necessity. That statement holds true even if you buy the best WordPress themes and plugins in existence. Website maintenance has many aspects — keeping things fast and responsive, maintaining compatibility with new technologies, preventing security breaches, and so on. Does that mean skipping out on maintenance could even put your website at risk? Well, it sure can. But don’t fret if this massive burden seems overwhelming. This article will provide you with a WordPress maintenance service checklist to keep that website smooth and secure! Moreover, you’ll find a recommended course of action to accomplish things efficiently. Let’s get going, shall we?

Is Website Maintenance Necessary?

“Does my website need maintenance?” Now, this is a question I’ve had numerous people ask me, and it’s not hard to see why. Maintenance requires a decent amount of work, and in many cases — cash! However, I’d argue that it’s worth every bit of effort and money due to the long-term benefits. Let me show you an example. According to a study by Wordfence, more than 50% of WordPress website breaches were caused by plugin vulnerabilities. And surprise — most of those vulnerabilities could’ve been fixed by a simple update, which the site owners did not do. There’s more! Many websites become sluggish due to the lack of proper maintenance, resulting in higher bounce rates. What’s worse is that you might even face compatibility issues if you go long enough without updates. I could go on, but you get the idea. Due to all these reasons and more, maintaining your website is of utmost importance.

Getting Started with Website Maintenance Services

Now that I’ve convinced you of website maintenance’s necessity (or so I hope), let’s hit the brass tacks. Since WordPress is the most popular CMS, I will explain the checklists specifically for WordPress websites. I’ll divide the aspects of maintenance into a few categories.

1. WordPress Backups

The first category we’re going to look at is backups. A lot of work goes into building a website and creating the content in it, and it’s necessary to safeguard them. However, the frequency of such backups will depend on your website. For instance, you may require daily updates if you post new content every day. On the other hand, static sites (a portfolio, for example) don’t require such frequent backups. The reason backups are necessary is that they guarantee your site’s safety. In the event of a security breach, plugin error, or faults of your own — it’s not impossible to turn the website upside down. Having a backup essentially allows you to go back in time and fix everything! Even if you have a static website, I recommend backing things up at least once a month. For websites with frequent updates, scale the frequency accordingly. It’s also a good idea to periodically store the backups offsite. That means if the backups stored online are corrupt, you could still restore the site without any hiccups. There are reputed services such as UpdraftPlus or BackupBuddy, which are tried and tested. Most of these support automatic backups as well, making things user-friendly. Many hosting services offer their own backup systems too, which can be worth considering.

2. Keeping Your WordPress Site Updated

WordPress Site Updated
Now that we have the assurance of backups, the next step is to get things up to date. I would divide this aspect into two categories — core updates and miscellaneous updates.
  • WordPress Core Updates
This refers to updating the core element of your website, namely WordPress itself. It’s essential that you make these updates as soon as they’re available, as they often fix vulnerabilities or improve the site’s performance. If there are any updates for the WordPress core, I recommend taking a backup of your site before going ahead. Doing so ensures that you won’t face any downtime in the event of a minor disaster (although unlikely). The good news is that this process is as effortless as it gets. All you need to do is click the update button, and that’s it!
  • Miscellaneous Updates
These updates include everything from plugins to themes. As you know, WordPress heavily relies on plugins to provide various functionalities. And in most cases, vulnerabilities are introduced by these plugins, not WordPress itself. Once an issue surfaces, your website is unguarded against it as long as you don’t update it. This is the very reason why plugin vulnerabilities are one of the biggest reasons behind security breaches. But that’s not all that these updates offer. They can also make the website faster, and ensure compatibility with other plugins and the latest WordPress versions — you get the idea. When you find a website being unbelievably sluggish, the chances are that it’s running outdated plugins. Therefore, hitting that update button right away is always a good idea. I prefer taking a look at the changelog (the section where developers list the changes made) to get an idea about things, but that’s optional. Regardless, try to make a backup of your website before updating any major plugins to stay on the safe side. One last point of caution — create child themes instead of making massive changes to the parent theme. Otherwise, it might result in you having to fix things again.

3. Security Checkups

Security Checkups
Updating WordPress and its plugins is a necessary part of maintaining your website’s security. However, there’s more to it. While updating everything fixes any issues within the plugins and services, security issues from your end may still be there. Moreover, your site might not perform well if you developed it without following the correct methods.
  • Analytical Tools
These tools can find out any underlying vulnerabilities or security risks. There are free plugins like Wordfence and Sucuri, or paid ones like iThemes Security Pro. These can monitor your website, protect it from external attacks, and improve its overall performance.
  • Preventing Exploits from Your End
One of the steps I’d recommend for this is reducing the number of admin accounts. The more of these a website has, the higher the risk of loose ends. Moreover, try to set more challenging passwords and usernames on your site (unlike ilovegranny123 or 01234). It’s a good idea to use unique passwords everywhere; otherwise, breaches on other sites can put yours at risk.
  • Malware Check
Another step I recommend is scanning your website for any malware. While WordPress itself is pretty secure these days, there is still a possibility of such incidents through third-party plugins. Therefore, it’s a good idea to check your website for any malicious files regularly.
  • Moderation
Spams are one of the biggest annoyances a website faces. Moreover, they might turn out to be security threats in some cases. Hence, using comment moderation tools like Akismet can be a good idea. You could also opt for comment systems such as Disqus to make things simpler.

4. Optimizing Your WordPress Website

Website Optimization
With the security aspect out of the way, it’s time to optimize the website and its database.
  • Optimize the Database
If you have a decent amount of activity on your website, your maintenance checklist should include frequent database clean-up. You can do this by visiting the site’s backend. There are many ways of doing this. For instance, you could visit the PHPMyAdmin section on your CPanel and use the Optimize table feature. And don’t worry if it sounds too tedious. There are third-party plugins if you don’t want to do everything manually. For example, WP-Sweep, WP-Rocket, or WP-Optimize are two great tools to optimize your database. They can clean up revisions, spam, or trash posts and optimize the tables automatically.
  • Background Processes on WordPress 
Background processes are a vital part of WordPress websites. For example, backup plugins work in the background at specified intervals, and so do scheduled posts or updates. Having too many things going on can slow a website down. In case of updates, it’s better to schedule them for times when your website has less traffic. That way, the servers don’t get overburdened. Another common issue is frequent crawls by search engines. You can avoid such issues by adjusting the crawl rate yourself.
  • Fewer External HTTP Requests and Database Calls
Many plugins and services require data from external websites (e.g., using scripts from another site). While these play a crucial role, having too many of them results in a slower website. You can use tools like GTmetrix to find such issues and eliminate them. Next, too many database calls can slow things down as well. This becomes more apparent on poorly optimized themes (you can’t do much in that case other than opting for a better theme). However, you can reduce the number of database calls how for child themes. It does require a bit of know-how, though.
  • Check for Broken Links
Here’s the thing — you cannot avoid broken links throughout a website’s lifetime. You can, however, fix them. This is a crucial part of website maintenance regardless of its niche. There are various plugins and tools to check for dead links, fortunately. Broken Link Checker is a useful example of that.

Verify Your WordPress Forms

Depending on your website’s type, forms can make or break the experience (and your business). Unfortunately, these precious little things may lose their functionality with the change of a single variable. Hence, I suggest occasionally checking the forms to make sure that they’re all working well.

5. Giving Your Website One Last Check

Website Checking
All of the steps above are mainly done through the backend. However, the users won’t see it from that perspective, would they? We will check the website’s performance from another perspective on the last stage of our maintenance routine. This step helps us ensure that the visitors get the best experience possible. I like to do this in two stages:
  • Website Analytics Tools
There are many tools that can check your website’s performance and responsiveness. Google’s PageSpeed Insights or GTmetrix are two such instances of that. Performing a small check at the end of the maintenance session can help you filter problems that you may not find otherwise.
  • Looking from the User’s Perspective
This is straightforward — visit the website without logging into the dashboard. Doing this allows you to pinpoint any underlying problems with the user experience, which might not be related to performance or technicality. Since you don’t get the same view while editing the website, this can be rather helpful. These were the essential steps to maintaining your WordPress website. Now that you know the process, do you need a WordPress website maintenance service? Well, I did my part, and that’s a question only you can answer!

My Two Cents

Maintaining WordPress websites is a chore we cannot ignore. Not only does it keep everything secure, but it also ensures excellent performance, responsiveness, and compatibility. Regardless of whether you do it yourself, this WordPress maintenance service checklist should provide an idea of how things should go. Try to accomplish these tasks at regular intervals, and that website will be quick and smooth!