You want to make sure that your WordPress website runs smoothly in the long run, doesn't slow down and doesn't cause you any worries? Then you need to take care of a regular WordPress maintenance. In this guide you will learn all the necessary steps to maintain your website completely by yourself.
Create regular backups
Before you get started with everything else, make sure that you make regular backups of your WordPress website. This is the only way to ensure that you can always return to a working state of your website should something go wrong.
Believe me, at least once in your career as a website owner, a backup will save your day! If your WordPress website or WooCommerce online store is hosted here at Raidboxes, you don't have to worry about backups. We take care of automatic daily backups for you, going back 30 days.
If your website is hosted by another host, then I recommend to create backups with the free plugin UpdraftPlus or a similar plugin. By setting up the backup plugin correctly once, it automatically creates backups, so you don't have to start them manually all the time.
I recommend you to check in the course of your workflow for WordPress maintenance whether the backups have been created correctly. This way you can sleep peacefully and be prepared for any eventuality.
Updates of WordPress, plugins and themes
The most important point in the maintenance of your WordPress website are the updates of WordPress itself, but also of the themes and plugins.
Outdated software is one of the most common reasons why WordPress websites get infected with malware or something similar. But that's not the only reason why the updates are so incredibly important, but also because of new features, fixing bugs or incompatibilities with other plugins.
Smaller WordPress updates are now done automatically (unless you have disabled this feature) and also for plugins and themes there is an automatic update function in WordPress. In the Raidboxes Dashboard you can specify in detail which components should be updated in the background and which not.
Personally, I prefer to update the plugins and themes myself. Simply because I can immediately check and fix any problems that may occur as a result of the update.
If your website is hosted by a host like Raidboxes, WordPress will be updated for you automatically. See the post Advantages of Managed WordPress Hosting.
After performing the WordPress updates, check your website. Look for display problems (most of them are very obvious, should any occur) and check important functions like newsletter signups, store purchases, customer logins and the like.
If you want to be on the safe side before an update, you can create a staging site and test the new versions there first. This way, your live site remains untouched and you can try out different updates at your leisure.
At Raidboxes there is also an integrated function, which allows you to create a 1:1 image of your website with just one click. Alternatively, this can also be done with the WP Staging plugin.
Update the PHP version
WordPress is based on the PHP scripting language. Since the technology is constantly evolving, you should always keep an eye on the PHP version of your WordPress hosting.
The balance here is always to use a current version, but also not the latest. Both with outdated versions, as well as the latest, it often happens that WordPress, plugins or themes are not compatible with it and cause errors.
Most people running a website completely forget about the PHP version. This leads to the fact that they create a WordPress website, but then the same (usually outdated) PHP version is active for many years. So errors can occur little by little.
Don't worry, you don't have to check for a new version every two days. In fact, the PHP version is not updated that often. We're talking more like several months and sometimes even years.
Most hosts will send you an email notification when a PHP version is so outdated that you definitely need to change it. However, in my eyes it is wiser to be active yourself.
Whether you use Google every six months to see if your PHP version is still up to date, subscribe to the newsletters of your favorite WordPress experts, or read along here in the Raidboxes magazine, there are many ways to catch a necessary switch to the newer PHP version.
Repair broken links
With a growing website, it is completely normal that links "break" from time to time. Both with internal linking and with outgoing links, it happens again and again that an existing link suddenly leads to a 404-site.
Not only does this give your website's visitors a bad user experience, but it's also not a good thing from an SEO perspective. Of course, you don't have to keep opening all your pages, clicking links and looking for broken links. There are much more efficient solutions for your WordPress maintenance.
If you use an SEO tool like ahrefs, Semrush, Sistrix or one of the many others, you will usually find a broken links report in the site audit module of the tool. Even in the free ahrefs webmaster tools you can see the broken links.
Alternatively, you can install the also free plugin Broken Link Checker on your website. It shows you broken links and lets you correct them directly from one interface. This saves you opening different pages and posts and is much faster.
Although you can specify how many resources it can use in the plugin's settings, I recommend that you enable plugin only when in use. Leaving it active all the time will eat into your server's resources. Moreover, it is not necessary to check for broken links all the time.
Another small tip: The Broken Link Checker has a setting active by default, with which broken links are marked visible for visitors. If you don't want this, you can disable it in the settings under "Link Settings".
Set up and check uptime monitoring
Strictly speaking, of course, this step is not something you need to do all the time. However, to ensure the smooth accessibility of your website, automatic monitoring of the website and the server is mandatory.
An uptime monitor tool monitors your website for you and informs you if it suddenly becomes unavailable. This is also a key component of ongoing WordPress maintenance.
In the screenshot you can see the accessibility of my website, checked by the Pulsetic tool. If for some reason my website is no longer accessible, the tool sends me an email and I can take care of the problem. Fortunately, this happens so incredibly rarely here at Raidboxes that it has only happened to me once in over five years.
Keeping an eye on website loading time
Again, you don't have to take action on a weekly basis, but I would recommend a regular check of your website load time. See also the article Making WordPress faster and the corresponding e-book from Raidboxes.
Installing new plugins, changing settings, changing your host and other actions on your website can affect the loading time. When was the last time you checked how fast your website actually loads and if it (still) meets the Google Core Web Vitals?
If your WordPress website performs well in these tests (for example, as in the screenshot above), then you don't need to worry about anything else. However, if you get significantly worse scores or see a downward trend compared to your last test, then look for the performance issues and fix them.
Check functionality of WordPress website
While I've recommended you before to check the functionality of your website after performing updates, I'd like to go into it separately here. I can well understand that you are happy with your WordPress maintenance when everything is done and you don't feel like clicking and checking any longer on your website.
Here's my appeal to you to do it anyway! To put it clearly in a nutshell: For most websites, functions like purchases in a store, signups to a newsletter, contact forms or bookings are the absolute most important goals. However, these very functions are also the most prone to errors.
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Therefore, my tip is to create a checklist in which you write down all the important functions. Get into the habit of going through this checklist regularly. Believe me, there's nothing worse than suddenly realizing that you haven't made any purchases in the last two weeks because the shopping cartsite was crashed during an update ...
My conclusion about WordPress maintenance
WordPress maintenance doesn't have to be costly and annoying. But it definitely needs to be done regularly to ensure the smooth functioning and security of your website.
For your roughly weekly or bi-weekly maintenance, simply stick to updating WordPress, plugins, and themes, and then checking the functionality of your site. Also, set up automated backups, as well as an uptime monitor that checks the availability of your website and notifies you when it is offline.
PHP version and load time I would, just like the broken links, about once a quarter go through and check. If you stick to this procedure, you will have less work in the long run and an always well maintained WordPress website!