How to Maintain WordPress?
The magic of the WordPress platform gives you total control over your online presence. And with great power comes great responsibility.
An essential part of mastering WordPress involves maintaining WordPress, and in this article we show you how. (If you’re new to WordPress, we recommend that you first read, How to Master WordPress? Oh, and we promise. There won’t be any Yoda quotes or references to Star Wars in this article.)
How to Maintain WordPress?
In How to Master WordPress?, we looked at how to create Posts, Pages and Menus, and how to install Plugins. Now, maintaining your WordPress platform is the focus, and this includes four tasks: backing up your website, keeping your plugins updated, updating the WordPress platform when new versions are released, and optimising your site. Sounds overwhelmingly un-exciting? Yeah, but it has to be done, and you’ll be a WordPress super-geek once you’ve worked through this guide.
Backing Up Your Site
The importance of this task is obvious. If you’ve never experience the horror of losing all your work, you don’t ever want to buy that T-shirt.
There are two ways to back up your site and we recommend both.
Using Your Webhost
We highly recommend purchasing the security and backup features that your webhost offers. Most webhosts provide a backup service for around $20-$30 a year, and this usually includes regular automated backups and the ability to manually backup your site. Find out from your webhost how the backup service works and utilise it!
Using a Plugin
Why would you need another back up if your webhost has you covered? Well, let’s just say, you can never be too thorough when it comes to backing up your site. Why? Because the backup services of your webhost are not infallible. Say no more.
There are a number good plugins that you could use for this purpose. We recommend using the excellent UpdraftPlus Backup plugin that we install as an essential plugin for all our clients. With it, you can make manual or scheduled backups, and you can backup to a remote storage like Google Drive, Dropbox, FTP, email and others. (Follow the guidelines the plugin offers under the Settings tab).
One final word here about backups. You’d do well to keep a backed-up copy of your theme settings and any CSS customisation you’ve made, too.
Updating Your Plugins
The creators of the plugins you use regularly release updates. Why? To add new features, fix bugs and glitches, or simply to adjust to new WordPress platform releases.
If you’ve installed an app or five (hundred) on your mobile phone or tablet, you know the importance of keeping them updated. Failing to do so causes performance issues and could leave your mobile or tablet vulnerable. The same is true for plugins.
How do you know when a plugin needs updating? Simple.
WordPress notifies you the minute a plugin update becomes available, and does so through no less than three different notification markers in your WordPress dashboard.
The proocess of updating a plugin is simple enough. All you have to do is go to the plugin tab in the left-hand sidebar of your Dashboard, scroll down to the plugin that requires updating (clearly indicated by the coloured sidebar), and click “update now.”
Wait a few seconds and…
…and do the dance of joy when you see the Updated! green tick.
Voila! Easy as pie. If you have several plugins that need updating at one time, you can do a Bulk Action, but we recommend doing them one at a time.
Because, while the process is easy enough, you should check the details of the update before updating.
Each plugin update allows you to check what the new update entails. In some cases, you may need to ensure that your website’s theme is compatible with the plugin update. This is especially true for larger plugins like Woocommerce, and security and caching plugins.
Find this all a little time consuming?
(We even write SEO-strong articles for you!)
Updating Your WordPress Platform
Once in a while, you need to update the WordPress platform (also called a WordPress core update). This might not happen for several months, and then suddenly, you may find it necessary several times within a few weeks. If you’ve got a good webhost, many of these updates will be done automatically for you. Occasionally, you’ll need to do it manually. In this case, follow these instructions…
First, you’ll be notified that a WordPress core update is available in the back-end of your site.
Second, make a backup of your site, as discussed above.
Third, choose a time when you’ll have a little or no traffic to your site. In other words, crack of dawn 😛
Fourth, make sure all your themes and plugins are up to date.
Finally, navigate to Updates in the left-hand sidebar of your WordPress dashboard and update the WordPress platform by clicking on the Update Now button.
Breathe a sigh of relief when the task is complete.
Optimising Your Website
This is the quickest step of them all, if we’ve designed your website for you. Why? Because we install the clumsily named but phenomenal plugin Optimize Database After Deleting Revisions into all our websites. While the name tells you exactly what it does, it’s not an easy one to keep on instant recall.
What does it do? It does a thorough, deep cleansing of your site. Technically, it optimises your database table but first, it deletes unnecessary trashed items. spammed items, expired transients, and pingbacks and trackbacks, shedding the unnecessary “weight” of your site. Even if you don’t quite understand it, you have to admit, it at least sounds good.
Because all the setting are done for you, all you need to do is go to the plugin here: SETTINGS → OPTIMIZE DATABASE, and when this page appears, click the “Go to Optimizer” button.
You’ll be presented with a page confirming your settings. Simply click “Start Optimzation.”
In microseconds, your website will be optimised and a report delivered to you on screen. Unnecessary “weight” would have been shed from your site. Yay!
How often can you do this? As often as you fancy! How often should you do it? Before you make a backup, after you’ve updated a plugin, or if neither of these have been required, after you’ve added two or three new posts. It’s not a bad idea to do it every second week. And if you don’t post regularly, once a month is fine, too.
Yes, you can also optimise your website’s database through your webhost’s cPanel, but this is just as effective. And it’s easier.
You’re done! Wasn’t so bad was it?
If you’re not keen on getting a little techie…
(We manage your website for you and offer copywriting options, too)
For more advanced issues, see the following sources:
WordPress on FTP: Using FileZilla
WPbeginner: How to Use FTP to Upload Files to WordPress