Learn how to care for and maintain your WordPress website and ensure it’s security and long-term success for your business.
DIY Website Care and Maintenance
While most of my clients opt for a Website Care Plan to ensure continued success of their website, it’s not for everyone. If you’re considering handling the upkeep of your website, it’s important to know what things you’ll need to be on top of to ensure the investment you made on your website continues to provide a return.
I’ve heard far too many stories of website owners who ran into problems with their website when it wasn’t being properly maintained… Their entire investment hanging in the balance— it’s not what I want for my clients, past or present.
I know the clients on my maintenance plan are covered, but what about the ones (like you) who are handling the website maintenance themselves? Hopefully, this article helps.
In this article we’ll be going over things that need to be monitored 24/7, daily tasks, weekly tasks, monthly tasks, as well as things you’ll need to be aware of and handle on an as-needed basis. Let’s dive in!
The items on this list need to be monitored around the clock. Don’t worry— you won’t have to pin your eyelids open and sit in front of a computer screen all day— but you’ll want to set up some alerts and automation that will get your attention as soon as a problem arises.
Things in this category can be critical to your website’s health and failure to fix these issues as they arrive could lead to costly repairs or lost visitors and sales.
Your website is only valuable if your ideal customers can load it up and view it. Unfortunately, website hosting is never 100% reliable. Choosing a good host is crucial, but no matter who you choose, your website could still go down from time to time.
You can use a service like Uptime Robot which will check your website (up to every 5 minutes on the free plan, or every minute on a paid plan) to make sure it is online.
Visit the Uptime Robot website, sign up for an account, and setup an alert for your website’s URL. I suggest having the alerts come to an email address you monitor regularly— as you don’t want to go very long with your website offline.
Just like any piece of software, your website can be vulnerable to website hackers or viruses that seek to use your resources for their own benefit.
This can often be things like redirecting your traffic to their site, placing ads on your site, or even infecting visitors with a virus if they visit your site (you don’t want your customers angry about this happening to them on your site!).
There are many ways you can implement website security. I deploy a few methods for websites covered by my Website Care Plans that I’ll suggest here.
Good hosting— Security starts with your host. Make sure you choose a host that has a secure setup and will protect your site. As a rule of thumb, if your hosting seems “cheap” then they probably aren’t doing much in the way of security. You want to avoid any “shared hosting” options as these are more vulnerable to attacks.
WebARX Security— WebARX provides a website firewall that helps prevent you from attacks. Not only will their software help protect your website, they will also alert you if any of your website software becomes vulnerable. Their plans start at around $15 per month.
iThemes Security— iThemes features both a free and paid plan that comes in the form of a plugin for your website. One of the biggest benefits here is a “Brute Force Network” which helps ward off bots trying to get into the backend of your website.
You don’t have to have WebARX and iThemes (with WebARX, iThemes isn’t necessary) but you do want to combine one of the two with good hosting.
5 Essentials for Keeping Your Website Safe
Do you know what it takes to maintain your website? Download our free guide to understand how to keep your WordPress website safe and learn about the regular maintenance that your website needs to stay secure.
Get Your Copy
An SSL Certificate is crucial for your website visitors security as well as your rankings in search engines (Google pretty much demands it today). The SSL ensures that the information transmitted over your website (like customer details from a form, payment information, or login information) is encrypted.
While these certificates are free (from Let’s Encrypt or from your website host), they do have to be renewed often and updates to your website could affect their validity.
Why No Padlock
You’ll want to ensure that you install the SSL certificate, monitor frequently if it’s working properly, and fix any issues that are causing your SSL to be invalid.
Errors Search Console
Google’s Search Console allows website owners to gain insight on how their website is performing in their search engine. While it does more than this article will go through, one thing you need to make sure to be monitoring around the clock are notifications of errors from Search Console.
They will let you know if their bot found any errors on your site and give you instructions (albeit not that clear) on how to fix the problem.
If these problems are left unresolved, Google may decide to lower your rankings in search results (which for many businesses is a scary thing!).
Next we’ll discuss the most important task you need to take care of on a daily basis. Similar to the 24/7 tasks, these have some levels of automation to help free up your time— but you’ll still want to be checking in to make sure things are working properly.
The most crucial things you can do to ensure the health of your website is to keep regular backups in place. At a minimum you’ll want to have daily backups of your website (though some sites with lots of traffic, or eCommerce stores will want to do this more frequently).
If your website is hacked, gets a virus, or a software update (more on this later) causes an issue, you can restore a backup copy of your website and having things working again in no time.
I cannot stress the importance of this enough— absolutely mission critical.
Your host may provide daily backups for you, which is great (and you’ll want to select a host that does) but they aren’t always reliable. In fact, I don’t recommend having one form of backup no matter what it is.
On top of having your host backing up your website daily, you’ll want a 3rd party service that stores your backups off-site. UpdraftPlus is a nice little plugin that will do this for you (for free) on a schedule— but they will not provide the storage for the backups. You’ll need something like Google Drive or Dropbox to store all the files.
Updraft’s WordPress plugin will walk you through the steps to connect the backups they generate with a storage solution of your choice.
While this setup is helpful, there are situations that could cause the backups to not be easily restored. In this case you’ll likely need to hire a professional get into your server and manually deploy the backups.
Next we’ll look at some of the tasks you want to perform on a weekly basis. I like to setup a calendar appointment so I can go through all of these each week without fail. While it can feel cumbersome to take these things on each week (as these tasks are less automated), skipping them is a big mistake.
This will often lead to bigger headaches as things are more likely to breakdown when they are not being routinely monitored and updated.
Your WordPress website has small pieces of software that produce different parts of the design and functionality of your website— these are called plugins.
Just like any piece of software, these are regularly updated for both functionality and security purposes.
It’s important (especially for security reasons) to keep your plugins updated, however along with updates you can have some unexpected consequences.
Some of these updates could cause things to break on your site or cause conflicts with other plugins. While updating a plugin is easy, you’ll want to first make sure you understand what the update is doing (so you can be aware of any conflicts that may arise) and give your site a visual inspection after your update the software.
If updating your plugin causes a problem, your backups will be here to save the day! You can always revert to a backup and contact the plugin author to tell them about the trouble your experienced with the update and they will (should) help you find a solution.
Just like plugins, every WordPress website has a Theme— and these need to be updated from time to time too. The same precautions exist and you’ll want to give your site a visual inspection after an update to ensure that everything is still working properly.
I do recommend having at least 2 themes installed on your website at all times (and you need to keep them both up-to-date). This way you can debug issues that may be being caused by your theme (by trying the secondary theme you have installed).
While your security system and host should be monitoring this too— I would rather be safe than sorry. You can visit Securi’s malware scanner to check for any malware on your website.
Just pop over to the link above and put in your website address. Their system will scan your website for any known malware, viruses, blacklisting status, website errors, out-of-date software, and malicious code.
The monthly tasks you’ll want to look at have more to do with optimization of your site and ensuring that it is operating at peak performance. Just like the weekly tasks, you can setup a recurring appointment on your calendar to make time to go through all of these.
Traffic & Analytics
Using Google Analytics and Search Console you can monitor the traffic of your website. This is important to see how your website is being found and what people are doing once they get there. You can extract valuable insight that will help you make better decisions on how to improve your website in the future to increase conversions or provide better user experience.
Clean Your Database
Your website’s database can become bloated with drafts and revisions. A plugin like Breeze (which I use for website caching) will help you safely clean up the database and rid your server of the unnecessary data.
It’s just a good habit to get into to clean these things out so they don’t build up over time. If you let this go, you might end up with a slow website or one that is harder to clean in the future.
Test Loading Times
When I hand your website over to you, I’ll ensure that it’s loading quickly— but as you do updates to your website and over time as software updates happen you might end up with issues causing your website to load slower.
Just about half of website visitors expect a page to load in less than 2 seconds— and if it doesn’t you’re likely losing traffic. Not good!
I like using the GTMetrix site to test my loading time. If you sign up for a free account you’ll have more ability to choose where you’re testing from and save old tests.
We don’t have the time or space in this article to cover everything you’ll need to consider if your website isn’t loading quickly— but your goal is always to be at 2 seconds or under. If you see that your website isn’t loading quick enough, you should reach out to a developer and ask for their recommendations.
Search for Broken Links
Sites you link to externally could change their URLs, or you might change a URL (or delete a page) and forget to change any links going to that page. Broken links mean you’ll leave your visitors without being able to find the information they were looking for (and unhappy with your site).
On top of that, Google really hates broken links. Too many broken links and you run the risk of losing your search engine rankings.
A tool like Dead Link Checker will analyze all the links on your site and give you a report of any failed tests. You can go relink these items to relevant content.
The rest of the tasks on this list weren’t quite to the “24/7 Monitoring” status, and don’t have a set schedule— but that doesn’t mean they are not important. Keep in mind these are things you’ll want to be on top of as the need arises.
Some of your plugins (and possibly your theme) require a paid license to use and receive updates. Most software work of yearly plans which you’ll need to pay for and renew as they expire.
I would suggest keeping a spreadsheet of all the premium (paid-for) software on your website along with the expiration date so that you can anticipate the upcoming expenses.
I have to mention here that this is one of the reasons so many customers love the Continued Success Program. Enrolled clients don’t have to pay for software licenses! As a developer, I have access to plans that allow me to keep multiple sites updated at a discounted rate. I pass along these savings to you by never charging you to keep your software updated. In some cases the software licenses alone make enrollment cheaper than paying for these things individually.
WordPress Core Updates
More updates? Yeah— just like the plugins and themes, WordPress itself has to update. You’ll get similar notifications and it’s a similar process to update the software, but the updates can be infrequent.
Go through the same precautions when updating WordPress itself and give your website a visual inspection (and make sure you have current backups before you hit the update button!).
Website Content Updates
Your website is not a static document— you’re likely going to want to make changes to it as time goes on and your business evolves. Make sure you understand how to effectively swap out content on your site (like text, photographs, videos, etc.) so that you can keep the information on your website up-to-date.
Both your visitors and Google demand that website be kept current with the times. Leaving stale and out of date content on your site is a sign that you aren’t serious about your business (even if it’s not true!).
Technology moves quickly. Very quickly! In fact, I’ll need to come back and edit this article frequently to keep up with the pace of technology.
It’s important you keep up too. Having a website that generates leads for your business is often crucial. What might be working well today, could cease to be effective just a few months down the road.
I’m not saying you have to become a full-time web developer— but you should invest in keeping up with what’s going on.
You could subscribe to blogs, listen to podcasts, or even join a Facebook group. By understanding what’s going on in this world you can have a more effective website that delivers better results.
Wahoo! You made it to the end!
I know this article was longer (and probably more boring!) than you hoped for it to be— but I hope you can understand how important it is.
You’ve made a big investment into your website, and to throw that all away due to poor maintenance is a shame. Imagine buying a brand new car and never filling it with gas or changing the oil— the same principle applies.
If this article left you feeling anxious, worried, nervous, or unsure if you are ready to take all these tasks on— then there is an alternative.
While some of my clients are unsure about the ongoing fees in my Continued Success Program (which I understand), I’ve worked very hard to ensure that it’s packed with value.
Everything you read in this article is covered for you if you enroll. In fact, it was specifically built with you in mind. Built to ensure that your investment is well taken care of and so that you don’t have to stop down each day, week, month, and year to take care of it yourself.
It’s peace of mind for you.
If you were to do all of the things I’ve suggested in this article, you’ll probably be spending 4 or 5 hours per month completing the tasks (you’ll get quicker as time goes on).
What is your time worth?
I can’t answer that for you, but I feel confident in assuming it’s worth a whole lot more than the enrollment fee for our program.
I’ve spent years perfecting my systems, and invested in (sometimes expensive) software to aid me. Because of this I’m able to more effectively carry out these tasks for you (and many other clients) for a price that I think is more than fair.
If you want to have a talk about how the Continued Success Program might work for you, or if you just have questions (or get stuck) on some of the tasks in this article, don’t hesitate to teach out to me and I’ll be more than happy to jump on a quick call and help you out.
I truly want to see you succeed— even if it’s not with me working with you on an ongoing basis. I do believe that your website has the power to transform your business and the only way it can live up to that potential is to give it the care, attention, and ongoing love it needs.