Most of these suggestions can be applied to any type of website, but some of the suggestions only apply to WordPress websites.
Ideally, you’ll have an overall growth plan for specific metrics on your site, but you still need to keep the entire site running smoothly or you won’t be able to use your site as your foundation of growth. If you’re unsure about what goals to strive for with your site, we can help you figure that out with Solid’s Digital Growth service.
It’s helpful to divide maintenance tasks into weekly, monthly, and quarterly tasks. Below is a general guide, so your needs might vary. Feel free to customize the list. It’s going to be a good idea to track the maintenance tasks for your website. You could schedule the tasks below as recurring events on your calendar, or maybe you could track website maintenance in a spreadsheet. Even though the list below might seem long, you really don’t need to spend a lot of time on website maintenance. If you plan out your time and maintain your site at regular intervals, then you’ll be surprised at how many good effects a small but steady effort will create.
Let’s start reviewing the checks you should be doing most frequently.
Frequent Checks (weekly or more frequently)
1: Backup your site
Taking regular backups of your site is extremely important. Should anything happen to your site, you can use a backup to restore to a previously working state. Sometimes websites get hacked, and sometimes you accidentally delete content or make changes to your website you wish you hadn’t. In these having backups is essential. Most hosting providers, for example, WordPress Engine, have automated daily backups and a simple way to revert to old backups. Once you have backups running on a daily basis, on a monthly basis you can take a look at the file sizes of the backups and make sure they look reasonable. Peak into the SQL file every now and then.
2: Uptime checks
Uptime checks are something you should automate. There are many services that will ping your site once a minute or so to see if your site responds normally. “Normally” generally means a 200 HTTP status. In addition to checking the status code of the response, some services allow you to verify certain keywords are in the response text.
Some of our favorite monitoring services include UptimeRobot, Pingdom, and Wormly. You can test things out for free with UptimeRobot. I would suggest using a service that monitors both uptime and SSL expiration.
For uptime monitoring, and all other automated verifications, it’s a good idea to occasionally check things out for yourself manually. So even if your site shows as up, do visit your site occasionally without being logged in to the WP-Admin. This allows you to see how end users see your site. A good trick is to visit your site in incognito mode. Browse around and make sure things look like you expect. You’ll be surprised how many little (or big) things you catch by regularly visiting and interacting with your site.
3: Deal with comments
If you have comments turned on, you’ll want to check in regularly and approve or trash comments. You’ll also want to respond to comments if that’s your thing. If you have comments turned off, you’ll want to check in regularly to make sure no comments snuck through.
4: Check on 404s and broken links
It’s a good idea to often check if users are encountering page not found errors. The HTTP code for page not found is 404. If you notice that users are landing on a 404, you have two choices. If you think you know where everyone’s trying to get to, then redirect them there. For example, if you put out a hugely successful newsletter, and you added a link to your site that has a typo in the url, then you want to add a redirect on your site from the mistyped URL to the correct URL. Sometimes you might notice that people are looking for something you don’t have. For example, if you notice a bunch of 404s for /about when you don’t have an about page, then it’s time to create an about page.
You can check for 404s in Google Analytics and the Google Search Console. Additionally, there are some WordPress plugins that can log 404s for you. For example, SEOPress Pro can log 404s. Use the method that you are most likely to look at.
You can check on broken links with SEMrush, Screaming Frog, or some other service.
5: Critical pages and features
Run through your critical pages and ensure they are appearing as they should. Make sure any critical functionality is doing what it should. It’s good to do these checks manually every now and then, but ideally, you’ll have the check of the critical aspects of your site automated with a tool like testim.io.
Monthly Checks and Tasks
6: WordPress updates
Make sure you upgrade your plugins, themes, and WordPress core on at least a monthly basis. Out-of-date code leads to security vulnerabilities. Additionally, it’s much easier to do a series of small monthly updates than it is to wait for longer periods of time and try to update everything all at once.
7: Hosting check-In
Once a month is a good frequency to check in on your hosting. You should check disk space used vs available, bandwidth used vs available, and do a quick scan of the users with access to your hosting panel and/or server(s). Ideally, you should have alerts set up for your free disk space. If space starts running low, you should get an email or text before the situation becomes dire.
8: Wp-admin review
Once a month you should review your WP-Admin users. Are there any users who are no longer active who can be deleted? Take a look through your site… are there any drafts ready to publish? Any drafts that can be deleted? Any plugins you no longer need?
Analytics can be a rabbit hole. So, it’s important to use your time efficiently when reviewing analytics. Make a checklist of the things to review and try to stick to it. Analytics has so much data, that’s it’s easy to get sidetracked or overwhelmed. Look only at the important and pertinent. Look at your funnels, look at your top visited pages, Are there any new traffic sources or changes in where people are spending their time on your site? You should probably set up some automated keyword monitoring too. If you’re using Monster Insights, you can get weekly analytics summaries sent to your inbox.
It’s a good idea to check in on-site performance once a month. Google Search Console can be used to review real user experience data collected in Chrome. If you want a good record of performance over time, consider a paid service like https://www.debugbear.com/.
You should have a publishing calendar. You can choose to publish new content every month or less or more frequently. The important point is to plan out your cadence ahead of time. Remember that content is still the main factor that’ll drive users to your site, so make sure to regularly create new, high-quality, original content.
12: Plugin licenses
Each quarter look ahead at the next quarter to see if there are any premium plugins whose license is going to expire. Do you want to renew these licenses? Shortly before a license renewal is a good time to consider if the license needs to be renewed.
13: Database cleanup
Once every three months you want to do a deeper check-in with your site. Delete all old revisions, so they don’t keep piling up. The Advanced Database Cleaner can do this. Take a look at what’s in the trash for your posts, pages, and custom post types, and ideally permanently delete your trashed items. If you have the Advanced Database Cleaner plugin active, clean out your orphaned metadata. You’ll accumulate a lot of orphaned metadata if you use Elementor.
14: Update staging
If you have a staging site, you’ll find that syncing production to staging is generally a good time frame to ensure things don’t get too out of date on staging. Staging has to be a relatively accurate reflection of the production environment in order for staging to be useful as a testing ground.
15: Site audit
Once a quarter, spend some time manually reviewing your site. Having keyword alerts, analytics, and Chrome User Experience reports is helpful, but you’ll be surprised at the depth and types of insights you often end up gaining by manually auditing your site. Look at a few pages, fill out a few forms, try various browsers and screen sizes, try finding pages on your site using various search engines, read a few of your own blogs posts, etc.
Do you have any deactivated plugins? If so, can they be deleted? Do you have any unused themes? Do you have any plugins that can be replaced by better ones? Is there any site content that can be deleted or should be updated? Check the PHP version of your site, can it be update?
Website Maintenance Costs
Each year, you’ll have to invest time and money into your website. It’s a good idea to budget for these expenditures ahead of time.
- Take a look at the list of maintenance items above. Customize the list to your needs, and you’ll be able to plan for roughly how much time you’ll be spending on your site each year.
- Hosting costs
- Hosting costs will largely depend on your website traffic. A lightly visited website (25K pageviews a month) can cost as little as about $300 a year from a solid WordPress focused hosting provider.
- A highly visited website with hundreds of thousands of pageviews a month can cost more than $7,000 a year
- Since you’ve been reviewing your analytics on a regular basis, you should have a good idea of the number of pageviews you get. We really like to user WordPress Engine for hosting WordPress websites.
- Premium plugin costs
- The plugins you choose to leverage will affect your annual expenditure
- Below is a fairly typical Elementor setup
- Elementor Pro: $50/year
- Crocoblock: $200/year
- WP Rocket: $50/year
- SEOPress Pro: $50/year
- Imagify: $100/year (this can vary depending on usage)
- Gravity Forms: $60/year
- Perfmatters: $25/year
- The above is $435 a year – without Crocoblock, for a simpler website it’s $235 a year
- Third party services costs – these can vary widely. CRM, Ads, Content, etc. The cost of these will vary greatly depending on your choices, so I won’t try to estimate this section.
Getting into the habit of checking on your site at regular intervals will guarantee that your site stays functioning well. You can use the preceding suggestions as a starting point for you website maintenance regime. Each site is different and everyone has their own points of focus. As long as you think ahead and decide what things are important for you to maintain your site, keep your site up to date, and backed up, you should be fine.