A Complete To-Do List & Plugins for WordPress Maintenance

If you own a WordPress site, it will probably be operational 24/7. As time passes, the number of different site operations will cause your WordPress site to slow down. Just like your computer or house, your WordPress site requires scheduled maintenance checks in order to keep it running in its prime condition.

WordPress Site Maintenance
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When it comes to WordPress site maintenance, it can be as easy as doing your housekeeping tasks through the WordPress Admin, to the extent of technical tweaks at the back of your WordPress site. It can also be tedious for less tech-savvy blog owners to complete the technical tweaks for your WordPress site. Hence, today I would like to share with you a to-do list of maintenance checks, tips, as well as plugins that can help enhance your maintenance tasks.

Take Down Your WordPress Site For Maintenance

Some of the maintenance tasks do not require you to bring down your WordPress site entirely. However, if you need to do some major upgrades like a version update, modify the design or features, then you should deploy a maintenance page to notify visitors that your website is undergoing a scheduled maintenance and will be back soon.

Here are some ways you can use to temporarily take down your WordPress site for maintenance.

.htaccess

Replace /maintenance.html with whatever the URL of your maintenance page is and put in your own IP address on line 3.

RewriteEngine on
RewriteCond %{REQUEST_URI} !/maintenance.html$
RewriteCond %{REMOTE_ADDR} !^123\.123\.123\.123
RewriteRule $ /maintenance.html [R=302,L]

Source from: CatsWhoCode

WordPress Maintenance Mode Without a Plugin

When you are using the WordPress automatic upgrade feature, a Website Under Maintenance message will be displayed during the upgrade. Once the upgrade is done, the website will revert back to normal. This WordPress Maintenance Mode Without a Plugin article guides you through using the WordPress core maintenance mode functionality when you need to bring down your site for maintenance.

WordPress Maintenance Mode Without a Plugin

Maintenance Mode Plugin

Maintenance Mode adds a splash page to your blog that lets visitors know your blog is down for maintenance. Logged in administrators get full access to the website including the front-end. Visitors will see the following message "Maintenance Mode - Site is currently undergoing scheduled maintenance".

Maintenance Mode Plugin

Standard Maintenance

A standard maintenance procedure is necessary if you own a blog. It's simple to execute and does not require any technical knowledge. What you need to do is to log in to your WordPress Admin, and you are able to complete standard WordPress routine maintenance. Below is a list of key tasks for standard maintenance.

Standard Maintenance
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Approve Comments & Trackbacks

This only applies if you hold comments for moderation. You will need to check this daily to ensure that the new comments are published daily.

Reply to Comments

Replying to comments, helps you interact with your visitors. They will know that the blog is alive and will be likely to comment often in future.

Clearing the Spam

Even if you have all your anti-spam plugins in place, some of the spam comments are still smart enough to pass through the filters. Clean up the spam under your comments’ spam section and mark comments that seem to be a manual spam.

Empty Your Trash

From WordPress 2.9 onwards, there is a new feature that will store all your deleted posts and comments in the trash. This helps you to restore any posts or comments that you have accidentally deleted. By default, the trash will empty itself every 30 days, but if you are very sure that you do not need the data anymore, you can go to your trash and permanently remove them.

Reply Emails

If you have a contact us form or email address display somewhere on your blog that allow your visitors to contact you. Often, you will be bound to receive emails from your visitors, it will be good that you can reply to them if they are valid. This can help to build good relationship with your readers.

Advanced Maintenance

As you can see, standard maintenance is easy to accomplish. What about advanced (behind-the-scenes) maintenance that requires you to have some knowledge of web servers, programming and analysis. If you plan to do the advance maintenance yourself, below are a few tasks you can follow.

Advanced Maintenance
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Backup

Backing up your WordPress site is a very important maintenance task. It's important to have a backup copy of your WordPress website in case unexpected issues occur. With that, you will be able to restore your website.

There are quite a few WordPress backup plugins that can help you automatically backup your entire WordPress site. With these plugins, you will be able to schedule automatic backup and save yourself the hassle of doing it manually.

Automatic WordPress Backup
This plugin automatically backups your entire site - WordPress database, themes, plugins, uploaded files and settings files to the Amazon S3 servers.

Automatic WordPress Backup

Vaultpress
VaultPress is a new backup service powered by Automattic - The company behind WordPress.com. It’s an all-in-one package that helps you backup all your WordPress files and database which is stored on no fewer than 2 cloud services.

Vaultpress

WordPress Database Backup
If you intend to backup your WordPress database only, this plugin helps to create backups of your core WordPress tables as well as other tables of your choice in the same database.

WordPress Database Backup

Besides having automatic WordPress backup in place, it will be safer to keep a copy on your local computer. Download the latest backup copy monthly and keep it on your computer. This acts as a safeguard in case you lose access to your online backup copy, so add both online website backups and local computer backups as part of your regular scheduled maintenance.

Upgrade Your WordPress

When WordPress has a major release, e.g. from version 2.9 to 3.0, this release will usually be packed with new features and enhancements. Some of the functions will be deprecated or enhanced. In order to prevent your website from breaking, it's advisable to test it on your development server before upgrading it on your live server.

Upgrade your WordPress

For small version release upgrades from 2.9.1 to 2.9.2. It usually consists of bug fixes and security patches that require immediate upgrade. It should be fine if you upgrade directly on your live server through the WordPress automatic upgrade. However, to be safe and prevent arising issues on your live server, it's always important to backup before you proceed.

Upgrade WordPress Functions

WordPress has become more powerful and easier to use with each major release. The hack or walk-around you used to obtain specific features in previous versions, might have made it into the WordPress core. Here are some of the enhancements you can use to upgrade your old WordPress functions to the new ones.

Upgrade WordPress Functions
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Custom Field to Post-Thumbnail

In older versions of WordPress, if we want to have a thumbnail image for your post, we will need to leverage on the custom field. As of WordPress 2.9, the new Post-Thumbnail features can be used to replace the old use of custom field for post thumbnail. Find out more on the Practical Uses for Post-Thumbnail Function in WordPress 2.9.

WP Custom Comment Loop to WP Thread Comment

In WordPress version 2.7, new thread comments were integrated into the WordPress core. It enabled users to respond directly to specific comments, which are then "nested" within the area beneath the original comment. This new thread comment wp_list_comments is also packed with a lot of features like:

  • Built-in threaded comments
  • Built-in comment pagination
  • Many CSS classes for comment properties
Normal Post Type to Custom Post Type

WordPress 3.0 has one very exciting feature that allows the customizing of different post types. If you are using custom field to organize your posts in various special categories or content types, you can now use the new custom post type to reorganize your post data. Find out more about the Custom Post Types in WordPress 3.0.

Manage your WordPress Plugins

As some features do not come with the WordPress core, plugins are scripts that you can install into your WordPress site to extend its functionality with features that you need. WordPress plugins need to be taken care of seriously in order to keep up with the compatibility, security and performance issues.

Manage your WordPress Plugins

Stay Up-to-date

Besides upgrading WordPress, you will also need to keep your plugins updated. By doing so, it helps to improve the plugins’ functionality, security and compatibility with the latest WordPress release. Before you do so, it's advisable to read their change log and try the plugin on your development server before upgrading in case it does not work on your site.

Disable and Uninstall

For plugins that are not in use, disabling and uninstalling them help to keep your system neat and easy to manage. This will help you speed up your installed plugins section in the WordPress admin and also help to keep your WordPress database clean from redundant data settings.

Search for New Plugins

New plugins are always released constantly and you can try finding some that can help you to improve your website. Maybe you might even find a plugin that can do an even better job than your current plugin is doing.

Manage your Themes

After you’ve tested out many themes and found a suitable one for your website, don't just leave those unused themes in your directory. Delete them to help keep your web space usage to a minimum and also speed up the loading time on the Manage Themes section in the admin panel.

Manage your Themes

Once you have selected your theme for your WordPress site, it's unlikely that you are going to change your theme soon. Whether or not you are using a free WordPress theme or your own coded theme, try to optimize them to achieve better website performance.

As you move on with your WordPress site, you will be likely to make significant modifications to your website based on your traffic statistics, new features or visitor requirements. Each time you make amendments or upgrades to your WordPress site, there is a possibility that you will need to validate your HTML/CSS and optimize your CSS or JavaScript files again in order keep your website running at its best performance.

Database Optimization

Database optimization is also part of the maintenance tasks for your WordPress site. Because WordPress is running on a MySQL database, and when there are a lot of insert, update or delete activities going on, after a period of time, you will need to optimize your database in order for it to maintain its performance.

Database Optimization

You can read more in our previous article - A Detailed Look Into WordPress Database Optimization that gives you a detailed guide on how to optimize your database, together with what plugins to use.

Another of our articles; 13 Useful WordPress SQL Queries You Wish You Knew Earlier has also covered several SQL queries that can help you quickly trim down your WordPress database.

Before you start optimizing your database, I suggest backing up your entire WordPress database before you proceed, in case something bad happens.

Remove Unwanted Images

Many users will upload a lot of images for their articles and end up not using all of them. If you find your website having a lot of images, it's advisable to delete the unused images to save your server disk space as well as keeping the disk space to a minimum for faster backup processes.

Before you proceed to delete those unused images, please make sure you backup your images upload folder /wp-content/uploads and your database in case you delete the wrong images, or images that you might need in the future.

If you have way too many images on your WordPress site, it will be tedious to go through every article to check for unused images. In order to save the time and hassle, you can try out the following plugin to automate the task.

Delete Unused Image
This WordPress plugin may take a long time while searching for unused image files especially if you have a large database. I will advise you to download all your WordPress files and database to your localhost before you proceed on checking for unused images. If you have tons of images and you execute this plugin through your live server, you will receive a timeout error message.

Remove Unwanted Images

Check your Links

Checking your site links helps to increase the quality of up to date information on your website. As you will need to find out where the dead links are, it will be tedious to do a manual check if you have tons of links linking to other websites in your articles. Luckily, there are plugins and web services that can help you automate this task.

Broken Link Checker
This broken link checker plugin will monitor your blog looking for broken links and let you know if any are found.

Broken Link Checker

Other Online Link Checkers

Clear your System Error Log

Generally, PHP errors are good way to track unexpected issues caused by WordPress plugins or themes. The error log can usually be found at /home/path/public_html/domain/error_log or at the specific plugin folder that the bug occurs. You can read more about how you can log your PHP errors via .htaccess. If you prefer to use a plugin instead, you can try the following.

Error Reporting
The Error Reporting WordPress plugin helps you to log errors to files and sends error notification emails to you. It also records ping errors and displays them on a dashboard widget.

Error Reporting

Once you discover that there is an error log, look into it to identify the issue. It will often show you which plugin, which file in the plugin and which line of code is causing the problem. It really depends on what the problem is. If it affects the front-end of your WordPress site, deactivate the plugin immediately.

After which, you will have to figure out how to fix the problem. A good way is to copy the error message into Google to search for the solution. Most of the time, you will be able to find a solution to your error because other people might have experienced the same problem before and there is likely to be a fix.

If your search proves fruitless and you are unable to solve the problem, you can try to contact the plugin developer or post your issue on the WordPress Forum for help. The WordPress forum is very active and people there will be able to give you suggestions to help fix your problem.

Web Hosting

Shared web hosting is sufficient for most of you to start your blog. As time passes, your blog will become popular and receive a high volume of traffic. That would be the time for you to check your website consumption, to see how much bandwidth and disk space is being consumed and re-evaluate your hosting plan.

Web Hosting
Image credit: Paul Milson

If you keep experiencing slow loading time on your site, it is possible be that the server is running out of computing power or memory (RAM) due to the high traffic received. If this incident happens regularly, it's really time for you to consider upgrading to a virtual private server (VPS) or dedicated server.

Content Delivery Network (CDN)

You can also consider using a Content Delivery Network (CDN) to help you offload your static content and increase the speed of your site. If you are using a CDN pay-as-you-go service, make sure to check how much bandwidth is left at the end of every month before it runs out.

Content Delivery Network (CDN)

Next is to check the statistics report in your CDN. It will probably show you which are the popular files and the file size for the total transfer. From the report, look at those files with a high download volume and try to bring down the size of the files to cut down on the bandwidth.

Site Statistics

Checking your site statistics is a way for you to know what is happening on your site. This information can help you better fine tune your site to meet the needs of your users and increase your web visibility. Information like browsers used by visitors can help you determine whether you should support Internet Explorer 6 or have a mobile version for your site.

Site Statistics
Image credit: 10ch

There are a lot of enhancements and tweaks you can do to your website based on the site statistics. Based on the website statistics and a regular website maintenance plan, you will be able to know how to improve your WordPress site progressively.

Google Webmaster Tools

Google Webmaster Tools help you identify some of the important issues like which pages of your website have crawl errors while Google is crawling your website, if any malware on your website is preventing visitors from accessing, and many more. All this information can help you provide a better website experience for your visitors.

Google Webmaster Tools

Note that updates on Google Webmaster Tools do not happen instantly and you will need to schedule it into your maintenance plan to check it on a monthly basis.

Advertising

If you run advertisements on your blog, split test your site to help your advertiser increase the Click Through Rate (CTR). If you are using BuySellAds, review and adjust the pricing for your ads accordingly. You can take a look at BuySellAds Buying Ads Page to determine how much to adjust for your ads’ pricing.

WordPress Advertising
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If you are using Google AdSense, try out different colours and sizes to optimize for the best performance. Read more on How to Optimize Google Adsense.

Schedule Your Maintenance Now!

To keep your WordPress site running in it's prime condition, I recommend you do regular website maintenance. Once a month is good enough for advanced WordPress maintenance. As for standard WordPress maintenance, it’s best to do it as often as possible. Now that you have the idea on what to do for your WordPress maintenance, what are you waiting for? Schedule your calendar now!