by Erik Petersen All websites, including WordPress (WP) sites require ongoing maintenance. This is due to code developments/updates and bug fixes that result in adds to functionality, performance, security and integration. Maintenance is important for functionality, but critical to security. Maintenance products/services are not always included in basic web hosting packages; they may be considered value added extras that may be added any time during a website lifecycle. While important to ongoing web operations, they are not required to simply get a website up and going. However, once a site is established, maintenance is vital. Maintenance would not necessarily be part of an initial site build unless included in bid specs. WordPress websites are advanced, powerful and the most widely deployed and supported content management systems in website use today. They are a wise choice in terms of practical web design and SEO. WordPress websites should be maintained. Below are examples of essential site maintenance.
1.) Code Maintenance: WordPress versions, plugin versions, theme versions, hosting versions- All of these codes-programs are updated independently of one another by their developers. It is up to developers to code and update for optimum function, security and tie-in with the current WP version.
There is no hard/fast schedule for when these programs update. Dedicated maintenance checks are a prudent way to monitor and update them. This best practice is done by visiting the Admin side of one’s website and determining if plugin’s or the WP core may require updating. There is a recommended procedure for updating to minimize compatibility problems with the worst case scenario being total site crash. Plugin’s may conflict with one another, WordPress or PHP version. At face value, updating appears to be a simple process but if it goes wrong, it can go very wrong and for that reason, it is recommended to have a WordPress/web trained operator perform this key maintenance; and to do it manually. Maintenance has recently become increasingly more important due to profound increases in cyber-terrorism/hacking. Whether at the pro or amateur level, hackers do what they do because they can. Hackers are indiscriminate and do not care whether a site is high-profile, governmental or a ‘Mom & Pop’ store. Hackers troll the web for vulnerabilities (particularly out of date code) and then attempt to exploit them. No one can fully guard against a top level hacker, but prudent steps such as keeping code-programs up to date can be taken to provide reasonable protection and peace of mind.
2.) Other Prudent Website Deployments a.) Security– Along with monthly maintenance there are some helpful features to have installed on your WordPress website. Among them is having a security plugin that blocks known types of brute force/common login type attempts to gain Admin level entry to your website. There are acceptable plugin’s available for this. It is recommended that they be installed and maintained by a knowledgeable WordPress operator. b.) Https (Secure Socket)- the web uses a communication protocol between browsers and servers (where your website is hosted) called, “HTTP” or Hyper Text Transfer Protocol. Hyper Text Transfer Protocol Secure (HTTPS) is the secure version of HTTP. The ‘S’ at the end of HTTPS stands for ‘Secure’. It means all communications between your browser and the website are encrypted. This creates another layer of security for your website. It is recommended for websites requiring login of any type. It is becoming recommended for “regular” websites also. The imperative of https has up-ticked recently due to the increases of cyber hacking. Some hosting companies have been offering this upgrade for free; some are paid. This modification may require specialized plugin’s to be viable with your WordPress website. The HTTPS upgrade can be done by either your hosting provider (if provided) or your Web Master with access to your hosting account. The plugin’s should be installed and set up by a WordPress proficient operator.
c.) PHP Version- “php?” is the core code that that drives WordPress. This code updates periodically. WordPress and plugin’s tie-in with it. It is the basis of your WordPress core along with plugin’s you may use. This code must be updated. As with other code, hackers attempt to gain access to, derail or bring your website down via old code. PHP is updated by your hosting provider. Up to date PHP may be required by latest WordPress and plugin versions.
d.) Database Backup-this is a prudent safety/security practice. In the event your site may become damaged, derailed, hacked or experiences errors-if you have a backup, you have a solve. With a database backup, your site can be restored to a pre-fail state. Without it, you could face rebuilding your website from scratch or have to do extensive rebuilding. Full-site and/or database backups may be available from your hosting provider free depending on the hosting package you have or may be a paid service. This may also be done through using a plugin. It is advisable to have a WordPress qualified operator perform the install, downloads and updates.
3.) SEO Tuning-top of the list for creating and maintaining a top performing website is the science of Search Engine Optimization. SEO is a measured, informed approach to site development and involves various elements including keyword study, content development and coordination, image handling, code tweaking and monitoring/reporting. SEO is not done in a day. It is an active loop of cause and effect. Without powerful SEO, a website may become adrift; lost at sea in the web.
4.) Theme Tuning-Your website is a work in progress. Power websites aren’t just built and left to their own devices: they are created, reviewed, measured, maintained and updated on an ongoing basis. Elements of websites are not just pretty pictures and words but are target-driven SEO strongholds. Everything counts in effective web design. Sometimes what looks right, isn’t SEO sound or user friendly as it should be. The right words, the right number of words, targeted graphics and effective information and un-bloated content matter in both user/customer engagement, search engine crawling and site owners goals. Original design elements after time may require changes/tweaks and redesign to optimize user experience, SEO or owners goals.