WordPress Maintenance Tasks You Should Perform and When

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posted on: January 2, 2018

I’m a firm believer that bloggers need to feel comfortable and empowered with WordPress to run a successful blog. If your professional life is your website, you need to know how it works –  not as a developer but as a user. WordPress is a content management system – i.e., you put in the content (text, images, links, videos, etc.). Most maintenance programs offer to perform a fundamental level of these tasks (weekly and monthly). You end up paying a lot for something you can do yourself, and you feel more empowered about the capabilities of yourself and your site. I recommend that my clients complete these tasks on this schedule. In most cases, it only takes a few minutes. For me, I try to take care of these functions every Friday.

Weekly Maintenance Tasks (Must Dos)

Weekly maintenance tasks help prevent any security issues. Perform these tasks after you’ve finished writing your blog posts since you are already on your site. If you don’t blog regularly, make a note on your schedule to do these weekly. I always do mine when I edit a blog post.

  • Update all WordPress files, themes, and plugins: Last week, I mentioned how these updates often address security concerns. You want to make sure you update as soon as possible. Lately, I’ve received a few tech support requests where clients experienced issues, and they had not updated their themes and plugins. A simple update fixed all of those problems.
  • Review and delete all spam comments: Akismet can sometimes mark legitimate comments as spam. Before your spam comments number in the thousands, go through them weekly to make sure all spam comments are spam. Delete them weekly.
  • Respond to all comments: If you blog is struggling with engagement, respond to the comments. Even if it is just a simple, “thank you for your feedback!” Comment Reply Notification plugin will email the commenter to let them know you responded.
  • Backup Your Site: Your host likely has a backup, but you should always use a third-party backup tool like Vaultpress. With Vaultpress, backups happen automatically and daily, so you never have consciously backup your site. If you don’t have a backup plugin, you should look into one.

Monthly Tasks

At the beginning of each month, I complete these monthly tasks. I find that they help me understand what’s working in that short period (4-5 weeks). Plus, when I reflect on the year, I like to see my monthly notes. Some things at the beginning of the year were forgotten.

  • Optimize your WordPress database: WordPress stores your data in its database. If you have a site with lots of content, posts, pages, users, and settings, your database can get quite big. Over time, it might accrue lots of unnecessary data, which could impact your backups and site speed. Optimizing your WordPress database allows you to clean up the clutter. I like using WP-Optimize to clean up my database!
  • Track web and social media data: I find that clients struggle to understand what their most successful content is. They typically have not reviewed their Google Analytics. In a Google document, I keep track of the following information about my website: overall income and expenses, website traffic, social media followers, and newsletter growth. I compare the numbers along with the percentage of growth. In this spreadsheet, I also note the number of posts and emails I published.
  • Identify your top performing posts: If you only publish once a week, identify your top post. However, if you post more than twenty times a month, identify your top three posts. Make a note of why these posts where successful – was it a viral pin? from what board? Did you promote it on Facebook? I also include this information in my spreadsheet.
  • Double check your analytics: I recommend cross-checking your Google Analytics with Jetpack’s Stat counter. The numbers should be relatively close to each other! If not, one of your stat counters is offer. Maybe you don’t have Google Analytics installed correctly?

Quarterly Tasks

Once a quarter, you should complete these maintenance tasks. They are a little more intensive than the weekly and monthly ones. I prefer to set aside half a day to go through everything. I find Saturdays work best for me since I’m not working on client work. For me, these can be a slippery slope where I tend to want to make changes to my site!

  • Test all forms: With plugin updates, sometimes things can go break. When was the last time you tested your contact form? Or your subscribe boxes! Give them each a test!
  • Run performance tests: As you add new content to your blog, it is essential to check out how your site is performing. Using Google SiteSpeed, test your home page and most popular URLs for site speed.
  • Find and fix 404 errors: Do you have links to broken URLs on your website? If so, readers get a 404 error page. They can occur because a user mistypes an address or a page no longer are available. You want to minimize these. Using the Redirection plugin, you can track 404 error pages and redirect them!
  • Find and fix broken links: Similar to 404 errors; your site can have broken links (your links and other links). Often, broken links occur in comments when users have not completed them correctly. While this plugin should only be run selectively, it can help you eliminate broken links.
  • Review WordPress security logs: Review your site’s access and error logs to make sure no unusual activity has occurred. You could use Sucuri or Wordfence to perform this action.
  • Change passwords: Passwords are your primary defense against unauthorized access and hackers. You should always use a secure password, but passwords should be updated quarterly to ensure security.

Yearly Maintenance Tasks

Once a year, you should set aside a day or two to do a thorough analysis of your brand. If you are thinking of redesigning your site, then I would strongly recommend that you do all of these tasks before you start talking with a designer. For me, I like to do the content audit and users in November, before the holidays.

  • Perform a thorough content and SEO audit: What was your most successful content this year? What type of posts had lots of reader engagement? What kind of material helped you monetize your brand? Review your posts, pages, categories, and tags. Look for trends that you want to continue in the following year, and identify your weaknesses.
  • Review users and delete any unnecessary users: Did you hire a virtual assistant for a few months this year? Did you have a contributor for Q1? Review your users and remove any users who no longer need access to your site. For more information, check out this post on WordPress users and how to give/delete access.
  • Conduct a reader survey: Your content can evolve dramatically over the course of the year, and trends within your blogging niche can develop too! A yearly reader survey is an excellent way for you to gain some qualitative data about your brand. Compare it with the quantitative data of your Google Analytics. I typically schedule my reader survey in November, so that I can gather data before the holidays.

While it might seem a lot to add to your plate, once you start completing these tasks, they will quickly become part of your routine. Most are relatively easy to perform. Plus, you’ll become more informed about your website and how it works.

You might also like WordPress Blog Security Mistakes (And How to Fix Them) and WordPress Quick Edit to Manage Pages and Posts. Want more WordPress tutorials? Check out these posts! If you have a question, leave a comment below!

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Discussion

Cara says:

Hello Lindsay! I have a WordPress site/blog that I has been sitting for almost 2 years. Life happened, a crazy 2018, and I had to set my side hustle aside for a while. That being said, I am ready to dive back into it, and I need to make updates. I am afraid to break my site when I perform all the updates it needs. Any suggestions? How do I make sure its backed up? Is that something I should add to my Bluehost subscription? Any insight you can provide would be so helpful.

Also, do any of your services include updates to a current WordPress blog/site? I have a theme I currently really like, but if I do the updates, and some areas break, I dont know where to begin making fixes.

    Lindsay Humes says:

    Great questions, Cara! First, double-check with Bluehost to see what backups they have with your site. Every hosting package is different. But, I also recommend using a third-party to backup your site. I like Vaultpress, which is from the makers of WordPress. I use it on my own site and my clients use it. I believe the personal version is like $37/year. Once you have a complete backup, you can then make changes. I would also check to see if Bluehost offers free staging sites. Most hosts offer free staging, but I’m not familiar with Bluehost. To be up front, you might want to look into using SiteGround. They have free staging and great support. Around 2016, I moved hundreds of clients from Bluehost to SiteGround because of issues with Bluehost.

    As for updates, I only provide those services to custom sites that I have built to my clients. You might want to check out a service like WP SiteCare. However, it might be cheaper for you change your theme. There have been lots of changes with WordPress recently, and getting an up-to-date theme might be more beneficial.

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