Notes from the Studio

Monthly WordPress Maintenance: What is it and can I do it myself?

Monthly Wordpress Maintenance Checklist

The answer to this question is: it depends. Many website designers and marketing shops offer monthly WordPress maintenance packages that range between $200-$400 per month. I do as well. 

The reality is, many of these clients have their own jobs within their business that they need to attend to. So many times, I will come back after a certain period of time because I’ve been called to perform additional work on the website, only to find out the site has not been periodically maintained at all since it was originally launched.

I’ve put together the ultimate monthly WordPress maintenance checklist, that you can use as a guide to do it yourself, have someone in your team add it to their monthly obligations, or to hire someone to do it for you.

Updating your plugins should be a top priority item in your WordPress maintenance checklist.

Task 1: Create and download a backup before you get started on your WordPress maintenance

Even if your hosting provider offers daily backups as part of their coverage, it is a recommended practice to download an offline backup that can help your website come back online in case of emergency.

To create and download a backup of your website, I recommend a free plugin called All in One WP Migration that makes it really easy to create and download a full backup of your existing site. 

You want to download a backup at the top of your monthly maintenance checklist because this constitutes a checkpoint where the site was functioning properly — which might change once you perform task 2 on this list.

You can save this download on a cloud like Google Drive or Dropbox, or off into an external hard drive so it’s not clogging up storage in your main computer.

Task 2: Check for Core Updates

Once every few months, there will be a flag displayed on your site about a WordPress updates. You can launch a WordPress update right from the link displayed on that flag. The one-click update method works for most WordPress clients and is the easiest one to deploy. Before you get started make sure you’ve completed a full backup of the site, in case anything goes wrong while updating (this is not common, but not unheard of either).

Task 3: Check for Theme Updates

Your theme is the framework on which your website runs. Most themes are released with automatic updates, but sometimes theme developers push their updates as manual only. To check if your theme needs updating, navigate to Appearance > Themes and click UPDATE NOW on your current theme. Make sure you’ve completed a full backup of the site before you update. If you’ve made code-level changes to your theme without creating a child theme, the changes you made to the theme will be lost with the theme updates.

Task 4: Update Plugins

Log in to your WordPress dashboard, and navigate on the left hand side to the Plugins area of the website. Look for the plugins that are highlighted in yellow, that indicates a plugin requires an update. Then click on the Update Plugin link and wait for the update to download and install before moving to the next one. 

You always have the alternative, in later versions of WordPress, to turn on auto-update for your website. For websites I build for clients, this should not cause any problems; but websites that depend on child themes and multiple large plugins to operate should only be updated manually to ensure nothing breaks when the plugin updates.

After updating the site, open the site in an incognito browser tab and make sure the site is loading properly. Navigate to different pages and make sure nothing is broken or loading up with error messages.

Task 5: Clear Website Cache

After your plugins have been updated, clearing your website cache ensures that every visitor to your website is using the latest version of the site. 

Different hosting platforms may offer caching plugins that come pre-installed with your WordPress website. If one is not installed, I recommend you download a free caching plugin like WP Super Cache that makes it easy to clear the server-side cache of your website with one click.

Task 6: Monitor Security

Next, you want to navigate on the left hand side of your WordPress dashboard to the Users area of the website and determine if any users need to be deleted off the website. 

You want to make sure you keep an updated list of users, and remove anybody who is no longer your employee, no longer a service provider or no longer involved with your business while at the same time ensuring that there are at least 2 current employees in your company with access to the site. You also want to ensure there are at least 2 users tagged as administrators in case there are issues with one of the administrators, there’s always a backup.

Task 7: Pull analytics reports

When I build a website, I always install Google Analytics and Google Site Kit into the WordPress dashboard. Navigating to the Google Site Kit on the left hand side of the dashboard will give you access to the latest set of activity, traffic and analytics for your site. 

Pull traffic information, lists of keywords and determine if any errors are displaying on the Site Kit panel. Remember that if Google Analytics has errors, it cannot track the performance of your website. 

You should focus on traffic, amount of pages per session and bounce rate to determine the health of your traffic. You should also look at where the bulk of the traffic is landing (hint: not all the traffic of the website comes in through the homepage) and determine how that content can be elaborated upon in order for people to visit more pages of your site. 

In this panel, you can also find the searches that are leading people to come into your site. Take note of those searches, and make sure that you’re writing content into your blog post around related keywords to help bring additional traffic. Also make sure that every page has a call to action that tells your site visitor what to do next in order to get in touch with you.

Key Word: This is Monthly Maintenance. 

Once you’ve completed these steps, you’re done performing monthly wordpress maintenance on your own. Congratulations! Now, set an alert to do it again in 30 days. 

Have questions about having a new WordPress website designed for you? Read more about my web design services here, or contact me for a free consultation.

Astrid M. Storey

Astrid M. Storey

Astrid Storey is originally from Panama and arrived in Denver in 2003. During the next decade-and-a-half, she’s juggled a career in a variety of creative and marketing roles while building her own studio, Storey Creative, with clients in real estate, health care, publishing, and tech.

Astrid M. Storey

Astrid M. Storey

Astrid Storey is originally from Panama and arrived in Denver in 2003. During the next two decades, she’s juggled a career in a variety of creative and marketing roles while building her own studio, Storey Creative, with clients in real estate, health care, publishing, and tech.

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