Hosting Tutorial & Guide

A Beginners' Guide to WordPress Website Maintenance

updated on Apr 08, 2016
A Beginners' Guide to WordPress Website Maintenance WordPress website maintenance is a chore that is usually neglected by webmasters, especially those who run small or medium sized websites. However, the reality is that regular maintenance is crucial if you want to keep your WordPress site table and healthy.

As time goes by, many potential problems could arise on your site. For example, the unnecessary files can slow down your site and affect your search engine rankings. The unwanted content like spam comments makes the website management harder. And the unnoticed vulnerabilities leave your site open to hackers and attackers.

If you don't handle these issues with care, the value of your site then decreases eventually. A good maintenance, however, can help you optimize the performance and eliminate most of the security threats.

For an effective WordPress website maintenance, there are many things to take care of, including the website comments, database, updates, and site health. The following steps are recommended if you are planning a maintenance.

Step 1: Back up Your WordPress Site

The importance of backups cannot be emphasized more, but many WordPress users still neglect it when making changes to their sites. That's why we mention it again here.

There are different options for backing up a WordPress site, and you can easily make a choice from the following two.
  • Create a backup manually with phpMyAdmin and an FTP client/cPanel. For this method, you will have to make new backups regularly by yourself.
  • Set up automated backups with backup plugins. Plugins save your time and effort, but for the sake of security, you are suggested to check the backups occasionally to make sure they are complete and working.
For the backup files, you'd better keep several copies of them at different locations including the local computer and a USB drive, so that even if a backup is lost, there is always another one available. This adds an extra layer of security.

Step 2: Put WordPress in the Maintenance Mode

If you are going to conduct the maintenance on the live site, you have to take your WordPress site offline before making any change, or your visitors might experience instability or even worse problems. This can be done by putting the site into the maintenance mode.

The easiest way to enable the maintenance mode is to use the WP Maintenance Mode plugin. After installing the plugin, go to Settings > WP Maintenance Mode. Once you select "Activated" as the "Status", your WordPress site is put in the maintenance mode immediately.

Put WordPress in the Maintenance Mode

Visitors then cannot read your site content, and instead, they see a maintenance page on which you can display custom text message, add a subscription form, add social icons, etc. For the detailed usage of the plugin, read this tutorial.

WordPress Maintenance Page

Step 3: Deal with WordPress Updates

The updates of the WordPress core, themes and plugins are released regularly, and once an update is available, you will receive notifications in the WordPress dashboard. These updates usually come with bug fixes, performance optimization and some new features, so applying them is quite necessary if you want to keep your site optimal.

When taking care of the available updates on your WordPress site, there is an order to follow.
  1. Update the WordPress core.
  2. Update WordPress themes.
  3. Update WordPress plugins one by one in case that some would cause conflicts.
Sequencing the updates in this way helps much in avoiding the conflicts between themes and plugins. Besides, we strong suggest you check your site every time an update is applied. By doing so, you can quickly locate the problem if an unexpected issue happens to your site.

Step 4: Process Comments and Delete Spam

If you allow comments on your WordPress site and do not do the moderation regularly, then the maintenance is a good chance for you to handle all the remaining works. The most important task is to deal with the spam comments.

In the case that you have already got a number of comments to moderate, the best way is to browse through each comment, approve those with good content and relevance to your site, and then delete the low-quality and spam comments.

It is frustrating to deal with too many spam comments. If you are exactly in the situation, you need to take some measures to prevent more spam from appearing on your site. The widely adopted ways for doing it include:
  • Using an anti-spam plugin like Akismet. This plugin checks all comments and filters out the spam-like ones automatically. It can help to stop most spam comments.
  • Disabling comments after a number of days, for example, 30 days or 60 days.
  • Disabling all comments. This method can be adopted if your comment section is flooded with spam, or comments are not an important part of your WordPress site.

Step 5: Optimize the Database

As your WordPress site grows with more comments, posts, plugins and themes, the database grows fast, too. After some time, your database could include many unwanted things like post revisions, auto-saved drafts, spam comments, plugin tables and theme tables. A cleanup of these things can not only release the database storage but also make the response to database queries faster.

If you are not very familiar with database management, we'd suggest you clean up and optimize your database by using the WP-Optimize plugin which eliminates all the possible technical obstacles. This plugin is easy-to-use, and you can clean the things mentioned above with simple clicks. No coding and no touching of the backend of your database are required.

Optimize Database

Step 6: Improve the Site Health and Security

If you have been keeping a good habit of monitoring your website performance and health, you need to find out the health problems and then fix them properly during the website maintenance so that your users can gain a better experience when visiting your site.

The common website health problems include frequent downtimes, broken external or internal links, slow page loading speed, and security issues that are both minor and serious. Keeping a close eye on these problems could help you discover and resolve them before they become serious. And to collect the information you need, you can make use of an uptime monitoring tool, Google Webmaster Tools, and Google Analytics.

Get rid of downtime issues

If you are stuck with frequent downtimes, you have to contact the hosting provider to figure out the issue. In the case the problem is caused by unstable server or network, you'd better consider transferring your WordPress site to another web host that has a good fame in uptime.

Fix the broken links

Broken links can be found easily in Google Webmaster Tools. Once you go to Crawl > Crawl Errors, you will see a list of the invalid links on your site. As soon as you notice them, you need to take measures to eliminate them. You can repair the links containing mistakes, remove those links that no longer exist, or replace the broken links.

Fix the slow page loading speed

There are various possible reasons for a slow WordPress site, such as too many plugins, slow servers or network, and no caching enabled. You will have to find out where the problem lies and then work out effective solutions.

Fix the security issues

It is suggested to always monitor the security of your WordPress site with a security plugin. If you have already used a plugin, check the settings again to make sure they are working in the way you want. Once security threats like malware or malicious login attempts are detected, deal with them immediately.

Do the Maintenance Regularly

Maintenance should not be done only when problems are found. Instead, you'd better make a plan and schedule regular maintenances so that your site can always run optimally and deliver the best possible user experience. With enough real works, you are actually saving yourself from the headaches in the future.

If your site is fairly large, with frequent content uploads or under frequent changes, once a month would be a good frequency of the website maintenance. For small sites, the interval can be longer.