An impeccable business website can be an incredible asset. It can be an excellent marketing tool and is often the first touchpoint that initiates customer journeys. By the same token, an underperforming website may drive visitors away and cost you leads and sales. For this key reason, website maintenance should always warrant your attention, as it ensures its efficiency. Should you be using WordPress, as the majority of webmasters are, let us devote this article to things your WordPress maintenance plan should include.
First, in case you’re not using WordPress, let us briefly introduce it and highlight its merits.
WordPress is by far the most prominent Content Management System (CMS) in the world today. Leaps and bounds ahead of its humble beginnings as a blog-publishing system, it’s now nothing short of a digital phenomenon. To quantify this with some numbers, consider the following:
- WordPress now powers approximately 40% of the entire internet. Some 46% of all websites don’t use a CMS; among ones that do, WordPress powers 64% of them. Its eCommerce platform, WooCommerce, also has a growing market share of 28% among its peers.
- As regards growth, WordPress has continued to grow consistently over the years. It started with a modest market share of 13% in 2011, and has grown it by 1-4% every following year. Today, over 500 websites are built on WordPress every day, and that number doesn’t show signs of slowing down.
- Finally, WordPress remains decidedly affordable, despite its growth and benefits – which we will cover next. It can take as little as 60$ a year to host a quality, effective website. Add the typical .com domain name cost of ~10$, and your website may come with a 70$ yearly price tag.
For more digestible WordPress statistics, we may also cite the following infographic by FinancesOnline:
The benefits of WordPress
Finally, before delving into things your WordPress maintenance plan should include, let us briefly highlight WordPress’s benefits. Among many, its primary ones are:
- Platform availability. WordPress has native applications for all common platforms, from iOS and Android to Blackberry, massively expanding its availability.
- SEO-friendliness. Between its core and plugins, WordPress is extremely SEO-friendly – allowing new users to establish an online presence with ease.
- At its core, WordPress is a very powerful CMS with immense capabilities, ranging from security to SEO and everyday functionalities.
- WordPress is also extremely flexible, as its plugin library offers almost 60,000 plugins to meet every user’s needs.
- User-friendliness. Finally, despite its power, WordPress is distinctly user-friendly due to its intuitive interface and robust dashboard.
That said, however, and despite its robust security core, WordPress is also a very frequent attack target. WordFence finds attacks have actually increased during the pandemic, and many of them were due to outdated websites and plugins. Thus, even disregarding website performance, security alone should warrant a thorough maintenance plan to keep your mind at ease.
Things your WordPress maintenance plan should include
With this context in mind, then, what should your WordPress maintenance plan include? In no particular order, our picks are the following.
#1 WordPress core version updates
The primary feature any WordPress maintenance plan should include is, of course, core WordPress updates. The aforelinked article puts the significance of this into perspective, along with Kinsta’s findings; “41% of WordPress attacks are caused by a vulnerability on the WordPress hosting platform”. What’s more, “44% of hacking was caused by outdated WordPress sites”. So, updating your WordPress core files to the latest versions is absolutely imperative.
Your maintenance plan aside, you may take proactive security measures yourself, such as password-protecting your admin directory. Should you need a deeper dive into such options, our article on WordPress tips and tricks should be of use.
#2 WordPress plugins and themes updates
Second, your WordPress maintenance plan should include plugins and themes updates. These may seem less significant by comparison, but the above article continues; “52% of WordPress vulnerabilities relate to WordPress plugins”. What’s more, outdated plugins and themes may also cost your website valuable performance.
That said, not every theme or plugin may retain its value over time. If your plan includes performance optimizations, which we’ll argue it should, you may periodically gauge your choices. If any such assets no longer serve you well, you may cull and replace them altogether.
Third, few things your WordPress maintenance plan should include are as crucial as backups. Backups do far more than offer webmasters peace of mind; they can be invaluable fallback options.
Consider such cases as:
- Data losses
- Unforeseen compatibility issues
- Hosting issues
- Inconclusive A/B testing
In addition, as regards data losses in particular, data suggests such concerns are well justified:
In any and all such cases, a website backup will offer a quick solution to allow your website to remain operational. Ideally, your maintenance plan should include incremental backups across multiple online and offline locations.
To detect such issues early, your maintenance plan should understandably also include consistent monitoring. Daily maintenance is ideally preferable, although smaller websites on a tighter budget may safely settle for less.
Naturally, you may also monitor your website’s performance and security yourself. Both are invaluable, so one can never be excessive in striving to secure them. Thankfully, an array of security plugins and third-party monitoring tools exist, and most now include automatic notifications for swift responses.
#5 Performance optimizations
Fifth, your maintenance plan should ideally also include performance optimizations. Yes, the primary benefit of consistent maintenance arguably lies in security, but performance too carries much significance.
In this regard, your provider should adhere to web design trends, SEO developments, and more, and offer such optimizations as:
- Page caching
- Image compression
- Loading speeds and responsiveness
Remember, Google’s own research strongly stresses the need for fast website speeds to attract and retain visitors:
#6 Security layers
In addition to the above, among the most crucial things your WordPress maintenance plan should include are security layers. We’ve highlighted the need for such assets manifold, so let us assert this without much elaboration.
Consider such security features as:
- Secure and up-to-date versions of Apache, PHP, and MySQL
- Robust and properly configured SSL certificates
- Strong security firewalls
In addition to the aforementioned, you may also adopt such measures as 2-Factor Authentication (2FA) on your end. Unlike performance-focused additions like heavy themes, security measures won’t typically hamper your website’s performance.
#7 Ongoing support
Finally, you will certainly want to ensure that your provider offers consistent, ongoing support. Despite all your measures, dire circumstances may still emerge. In such cases, swift, effective support may significantly reduce your potential losses.
As you research your provider’s support offerings, examine such factors as:
- Availability; are they available 24/7, and for how long do they offer support?
- Pricing; how much does their support cost, and does its quality justify the price tag?
- Development work; beyond troubleshooting support, do they offer development work you may need?
Of course, each website’s needs will differ – and so will webmasters’ criteria. Still, a guarantee of consistent, effective support should not be overlooked.
To summarize, our picks for the top 7 things your WordPress maintenance plan should include are core updates, plugin and theme updates, backups, monitoring, performance optimizations, security layers, and ongoing support. You may, by all means, prioritize according to your own needs and budget, but all seven should offer tremendous value toward ensuring your website’s performance and security.