It’s Spring. Spring is finally, officially here in the US – yay! And with it, all the rain. But that’s okay – because I have an activity that you can do whethers its rainy or not in your part of the world.
I’m talking about Spring Cleaning for your Website. Really? Yes! Your website is a living, changing entity, and its important to make sure that it’s well maintained and continuing to meet your goals and the needs of your audience – especially if those goals or your audience may have changed since you started. I promise, it’s easy. And can be done from the comfort of your couch and favorite snuggly blanket if the weather is not so fun, or from your computer/tablet at your favorite cafe or coffee shop if its nicer outside. Okay, let’s get started.
Backup your site
Big surprise, right? Me, telling you to backup your site. It’s a really important part of being a good website owner. It’s like having car insurance – it won’t stop your site from getting broken or hacked, but it certainly does make it a lot easier to get back to the right place if something does happen. If you don’t have a preferred method to backup your WordPress site, check out this blog post on using BackupBuddy. (I’m working on a post about other backup methods – stay tuned)
Make sure you do a complete backup – your database and all your files. This is the easiest way to be ready to restore your site in the event of something not cool happening to your site.
Delete & remove unnecessary Themes & Plugins
Sometimes I feel like the Themes and Plugins folders are like our basements and attics – we leave unused things there and forget about them. Well, it’s time to clean them out.
It’s important to get rid of these because even if you’re not using the theme/plugin, security vulnerabilities in the code can be exploited.
For themes, I recommend keeping your current active theme, and it’s parent if you’re using a Child Theme, and maybe one of the Twenty-something themes to have as a backup in case something goes wonky with your active theme.
For plugins, check to make sure you don’t have any redundant plugins active. I’ve seen a lot of people that have two backup plugins active at the same time, two security plugins, two social media, etc. These can cause conflicts and affect the performance and usability of your site. So pick the one you like most, and deactivate the other one.
Once you’ve got any duplicates and unnecessary plugins deactivated, delete all of the ones you won’t be using anymore.
Whew. Doesn’t it feel nice to clean out the cobwebs and dust bunnies in the attic & basement? Let’s go to the next step.
Update All The Things!
The second part of keeping your website happy and functioning well is to keep it updated. If backups are like car insurance, then updates are like getting the oil changed and tires rotated – it keeps it running well.
Updating WordPress is pretty easy, and doesn’t typically require any special abilities, as long as you can read and click your mouse.
First step – make a complete backup! If you followed the first Spring Cleaning step above, you’re all set. If not, yes, I’m going to tell you again to backup your site. Pretty please?
Next, disable any caching that you have in place. This may be a plugin on your site, or caching enabled on your host. This will help to make sure that update notifications aren’t cached, and that nothing interferes with the update process.
Third, update your plugins and themes. Not what you expected? It’s recommended to update the plugins and themes before updating WordPress core because many times, older versions of plugins & themes may conflict or cause errors with the updated WordPress code, and the available updates for these plugins and themes should (hopefully) have the code updated to avoid conflicts and errors with updated WordPress code.
Lastly, update your WordPress core files. Just push the little button on the Updates page in your dashboard, and wait until it completes.
If you got impatient and clicked on something else and got stuck with a page that says “Briefly unavailable for scheduled maintenance,” don’t panic. Fixing this is pretty easy. Using either FTP or your cPanel File Manager, look for the file named “.maintenance” in the root folder for your site. If you see this .maintenance file, just delete it, and your site should be back to its former glory.
Once everything is updated and seems to be functioning as it should, activate your caching plugin/service again.
Review your site content
The last step on your Spring Cleaning checklist is to review your site’s content and make sure it’s all still valid.
- Check your contact page, try out your contact form and make sure it works as expected. Is the phone number/email/address/whatever listed on your contact page and/or footer still correct?
- Is your About page what you want it to be? Does your picture/experience/credentials/story need to be updated?
- Are the prices listed on your services/products still correct? If any service or product is listed in more than one place, do the prices and descriptions agree with each other?
- Are the links on your site still working? Use a plugin like Broken Link Checker plugin that will crawl the links on your site on a periodic basis to make sure they are working, so you’re not sending your visitors to dead ends and don’t have broken images on your site.
- Check out your blog posts. If any content is outdated, edit the post and put updated information at the end, or simply say “Edit: This content may be outdated.” and make a plan to update the information later, either in a new post, or by updating the original post.
- Does all of your content have the right voice for your audience? Does all of your content support your current goals? If not, adjust it so that it does.
I recommend doing a content cleanup like this at least once a year. It’s important to make sure you’re keeping the right voice to connect with your target audience and supporting your current goals. Spring, New Year, December, 2nd Tuesday in July – whenever fits your schedule, make sure you get it done.
Make a new backup
Once you’re done with all of this, I’d recommend making a new backup. This new backup will act as a new baseline for you so if something goes awry from this point forward, you won’t have to redo all the work you did as part of your Spring Cleaning.
That’s it – my compact Spring Cleaning list for your website. If you need help getting this done, get in touch with me and let’s talk about the WordPress maintenance plans that I offer to fit your needs.