Congratulations, you now find yourself the proud new owner of a WordPress website!
For all it’s many benefits, WordPress does require a fair bit of regular upkeep and unless you have a website maintenance contract in place, now is the time to make a plan for how you will manage your website.
In this blog post I’ll outline a checklist of steps you can take to keep your website up-to-date, secure against cyber threats, search engine-optimised and performing at it’s best.
If you opt to go down the DIY management route, it’s essential to get organised. Put a weekly reminder in your diary to run updates and schedule in 15-30 minutes (at least) a month for everything else on this list.
Work with your team to plan out what needs to be done and how often, and who is in charge of each task. Dealing with these tasks in small, manageable chunks is the best way to make managing your WordPress website a breeze.
Your post-launch checklist for managing a WordPress website
1. Run regular updates
It’s essential for the security and performance of your WordPress website that you run updates. There are three main types of update to be aware of:
- WordPress core updates – this refers to the core framework of your site, which is updated several times a year by the team behind WordPress. Running core updates can break your site however, so make sure to do a full backup first (more on that later) and check the website thoroughly afterwards.
- Theme updates – depending on which theme your website uses, and whether it’s premium or free, you may need to update it regularly. The theme author will release updates on an ad hoc basis.
- Plugin updates – plugins that haven’t been updated can be a security risk, so make sure to keep them up to date too.
You can check if any updates are available by logging in to the WordPress admin area. Once you’ve logged in, you’ll see a notification bubble beside Updates in the left hand menu bar. Click on Updates to view a list of the plugins, themes and core updates that are available, then select ‘Update Now’ next to each item.
Ideally you should log in to your website every week and run any updates that are available, so put a reminder in your calendar for the same time each week.
2. Check the security setup
If your web designer hasn’t done so already, you’ll want to install and configure a security plugin to notify you of any potential flaws and threats. You can find a number of free options, such as WordFence or Sucuri, with premium options offering even more features.
You could even go one step further and work with a hosting company, such as Flywheel, that will take care of this for you.
I highly recommend these three simple tips to further boost your security:
- Change your WordPress login URL (usually ending in /wp-admin) using a plugin such as WPS Hide Login
- Set up two-factor authentication to your admin area login, using a plugin such as WordFence
- Make sure your passwords are something bizarre and hard to guess – the National Cyber Security Centre recommends choosing ‘three random words’
3. Schedule regular backups
Even if you’ve got all your security bases covered, there’s still a chance your site could get hacked or broken by an update. That’s why having regular backups is so vital, as whatever happens, you’ll be able to get the site up and running again in no time.
There are several plugins that can do this for you at the click of the button – I personally use and recommend BackWPUp or UpdraftPlus.
How often you need to back up does depend on how often you update the site, but monthly should be the minimum. If you’re updating the site several times a week, then daily backups is probably a safe bet. Many plugins provide the option to schedule backups on a daily, weekly or monthly basis, so you can set it and forget it.
It’s wise to store the backup files somewhere safe and in multiple locations, such as in cloud storage and on an external hard drive.
4. Check your content is up to date
Your website content can become out of date quicker than you may realise. It’s worth scheduling monthly or quarterly reminders to go through the site, paying special attention to your key pages.
If nothing else, it’s good for your SEO to keep your content up to date. Even if the content is still relevant and accurate, it’s worth considering how you can refresh it to give your SEO a boost.
If your business is doing content marketing then publishing regular blog posts on the website is a great way to keep the website updated. Otherwise, you might like to consider adding customer testimonials or case studies.
5. Keep an eye on the analytics
If you haven’t already got Google Analytics set up on your site, do it now. You can set it up to send you monthly reports on key performance indicators such as new users, bounce rate and popular content. But don’t just cast your eye over the report and call it a day – if your monthly site visitors have gone down (for example), consider what you need to do to drive more traffic to the website.
Work out what metrics are important and relevant to your business, then monitor them regularly and make adjustments to your website where needed.
6. Optimise your performance
Your site’s loading speed is important for usability, but it can now also impact your SEO ranking. Check the site using tools such as Google Page Speed and Pingdom, and do it often. Sometimes just uploading one large image to a page can dramatically slow down its loading time.
If your website is performing badly, there’s a couple of things you can do. Some of these may require help from your web developer and/or hosting company, but some you can do yourself, such as install a caching plugin or optimise your images. Don’t forget to do a backup first though!
7. Ask someone else to manage the website for you
If that all sounds too much like hard work, ask your website designer if they offer ongoing maintenance and support packages.
For a small monthly fee, they’ll take care of the boring bits (such as plugin updates, yawn) as well as ad hoc support requests. This might include publishing a new blog post you’ve written, or making changes to the content. Depending on the provider, they may also take care of your security and provide performance optimisations where needed.