The importance of WordPress maintenance can easily be summed up in a few words: WordPress is software; software is vulnerable.
Websites are no longer a “set and forget” part of a business. As technology evolves, website software is constantly being updated to make it more secure, faster and more visible to search engines. Just like Microsoft Office and your smartphone, software needs updating, so too does your website. More importantly though, your website is a crucial part of your business and therefore requires extra care to make sure it continues to perform.
WordPress releases updates roughly every 2-3 months. Most are considered minor updates but during the course of a year you can expect to see at least 2 major updates and it’s not uncommon to see a series of follow up updates after each major update. Minor updates are typically bugs fixes and code tweaks to plug security holes. Major updates tend to introduce new features and added functionality.
A WordPress website is a symbiotic relationship and consists of three elements :-
- the core WordPress structure and file set,
- the theme; a set of files that provide the look and feel of your design and
- plugins; add-on elements that provide all kinds of extra functionality.
When the core files are updates there is often a waterfall effect because the code in themes and plugins can often rely on the core, so a small change in the core will often lead to a series of updates being needed for the theme and any plugins.
Caring for or maintaining a website is a lot like caring for or maintaining your car. It’s a lot less expensive and less time consuming to have a professional to look after it on a regular basis than to take it to your garage mechanics when something goes really wrong. So rather than paying a huge sum of money when your website goes down, you can have it looked after on a regular basis for a lot less. You leave it up to the experts, who do the heavy lifting, while you can focus on what really matters.
But there is more…
Security of your website includes more than software updates. At the very least a every WordPress website needs a backup regime, and by regime, we mean regular daily backups of the database, weekly backups of the entire website file set including your image content, and we mean off-site. There’s no point taking the time and effort to backup all your precious data only to lose it all because it’s been saved to the same location the website sits. If you’re hacked you can kiss good bye to your backups – if you created them. If your server has a meltdown that means your website is down and your backups melted too!
Then there is the question of malware; often added to websites through malicious bots (software that runs autonomously). Think in terms of a virus on your PC and consider the damage and upheaval that creates; then consider what happens when your website begins to server porn or redirects your hard won visitors to a totally unrelated website.
And then the cherry on top…
Maintaining a WordPress website should entail the process of optimising the pages and posts in such a way as to ensure they load on your visitor’s browser as fast as possible. The attention span of people in the 21st century is directly linked to the fast-food market and the memory of goldfish….you have less than three seconds to grab someone’s attention, so if you pages take 15 seconds to load, you are pretty much guaranteed to have lost that visitor.
It is not uncommon to find websites serving up 4000px wide images as 40px wide thumbnails, forcing the browser to resize images in real time. This delay in page load affects the visitor of course but it also affect you and your business because search engines, in particular Google, will penalise you and reduce your page rank as a result. Couple these unnecessarily large images with broken links, uncompressed code and poorly maintained structure you can expect that all your website efforts will result in your pages falling to the bottom of the stack of similar minded websites.
There is, of course, a solution!
You engage a professional to look after your WordPress website. Just as you would if it was your car; have it looked after on a daily basis, let them handle the intricate process of software updates, the all important regular backup regime, the malware and vulnerability checks, let them monitor the uptime of your website and clean up the spam and tweak the database for optimum delivery of your content and fine tune your pages for the fastest possible delivery to your visitors….while you get on with the important stuff!