WordPress is a versatile content management system (CMS) that is used by 37% of websites.
Being one of the most widely used platforms for modern websites, it’s important to know exactly what is required to keep it running smoothly.
Although some may assume that a website is “set and forget”, there is a lot that needs to be kept up with so you WordPress site can stay healthy and operable long-term.
In this article, we’ll cover the top 24 website maintenance tasks for WordPress that you should be paying attention to.
We’ll also include some additional tips and insights into WordPress maintenance, as well as our free downloadable WordPress maintenance checklist.
Table of Contents:
- Understanding WordPress Maintenance
- How to Know if Your WordPress Website Needs Maintenance
- 24 Maintenance Tasks: A Checklist to Keep Your WordPress Site Running Smoothly
- What Makes WordPress Sites Difficult to Maintain
- 4 Tips to Make WordPress Maintenance Easy
- Frequently Asked Questions About Maintaining WordPress Websites
Understanding WordPress Maintenance
WordPress maintenance is an aspect of website management that is often neglected by businesses, however it plays a crucial role in your site’s effectiveness.
WordPress maintenance includes various tasks that keep your website secure, functioning properly, and loading quickly. Doing so involves updating software, inspecting design and functionality, optimizing performance, reviewing security, etc.
Keep in mind that “maintenance” does not include content creation, designing, and other activities used to grow your website. Maintenance focuses on the required tasks to keep things running smoothly.
How to Know if Your WordPress Website Needs Maintenance
Although every WordPress site needs constant upkeep, there are a few signs that indicate your website maintenance is overdue.
Below we’ve listed 5 common warning signs that your website needs maintenance today.
Plugin and Theme Updates Are Available
Your WordPress website runs on plugins and themes. In general, your theme sets the base for your website design, and your plugins add the functionality.
Since plugins and themes are software, there will occasionally be updates available from developers. These updates are released to add new features, fix bugs, and patch security flaws; therefore they are quite important.
In fact, outdated software is one of the leading causes for hacked WordPress sites (source).
If you see updates available in your WordPress dashboard, this is a clear sign that your website needs some maintenance. You should perform these updates as soon as possible. Remember to back up your website and follow other best practices to prevent website errors during this process.
Functionality Is Not Working
If something on your site is not working properly, this is a definite sign that your website needs maintenance.
This could be anything such as a broken contact form, missing Google maps display, broken “add to cart” button, etc..
Broken functionality can have a major impact on your website’s effectiveness. That’s why we recommend inspecting your site on a regular basis so no issue is left undetected.
Random Errors and Warnings Are Appearing
When you open your WordPress dashboard, are you met with a plethora of warning messages? Or perhaps you’re even seeing PHP errors on your front-end?
This is a sign that your website needs some better care. There are plenty of reasons for these issues, but you should take care of them before the problem gets worse.
Proactive website maintenance will often prevent these errors from occurring in the first place!
Pages Are Slow to Load
Are your pages taking longer than usual to load? Something is bogging down your website and should be optimized.
Website maintenance can help improve your loading speed by optimizing your WordPress assets and their delivery.
If your website is abnormally slow, we’re confident that it can be improved with proper WordPress maintenance.
Website Backups Are Not Running
Another important aspect of WordPress maintenance are website backups. Backups provide a solid foundation for performing maintenance because it will keep your data safe if something goes wrong.
Before starting with your maintenance process, you should take a backup of your WordPress files and databases. We recommend doing this automatically so you don’t forget!
24 Maintenance Tasks: A Checklist to Keep Your WordPress Site Running Smoothly
Now that you’re ready to get started with website maintenance in WordPress, you’ll want some guidance on the tasks involved.
That’s why we’ve put together 24 maintenance tasks you can complete to keep your website in pristine operating condition.
- Backup your files and databases
- Update plugins, themes, and WordPress core
- Review website firewall and file scanning
- Review activity logs
- Check the WordPress “Site Health” tool
- Optimize databases
- Optimize images
- Test website functionality
- Test usability and design on desktop, tablet, and mobile devices
- Test usability and design on various web browsers
- Remove inactive plugins and themes
- Review and remove unneeded administrator accounts
- Review hosting disk, memory, and CPU usage
- Identify and fix broken links
- Identify and fix 404 errors
- Address errors or warnings in the WordPress dashboard
- Remove spam comments
- Identify and remove spam users
- Clear trashed content
- Review and delete unneeded drafts
- Replace expired software licenses
- Change your passwords
- Identify and repair technical SEO issues
- Test email deliverability
Want to download this checklist as a printable PDF? Click here (includes 2 bonus tips)
1. Backup your files and databases
Before starting any website maintenance tasks, you should take a full backup of your website to keep your data protected in case something goes wrong.
This can be done easily using a plugin called UpdraftPlus.
Most hosting providers offer website backups as well, usually on an automatic basis.
It usually takes anywhere from 15 minutes to 2 hours for a website backup to complete, depending on the size of your website. We recommend taking backups at least weekly.
2. Update plugins, themes, and WordPress core
Updating your plugins, themes, and WordPress core are important to keep your site secure and fully functional.
This can be done in the WordPress dashboard in the “Updates” section, or by clicking the icon in the top-left of the screen. We recommend doing this at least every two weeks and it typically takes less than 15 minutes.
3. Review website firewall and file scanning
Every WordPress site should use a firewall to protect against hackers and bots, along with file scanning to detect when a hack occurs.
As part of your maintenance process, you should review your firewall activity and file monitoring to look for any suspicious activity. This should be done at least every two weeks; however most monitoring systems will notify you immediately when a threat is detected.
4. Review activity logs
Reviewing user activity is an great way to keep an eye on your website while your performing maintenance.
Take some time to review recent changes made by users. If you see something suspicious, such as a deleted page or unfamiliar login, it should be investigated. Depending on your website usage, this could take anywhere from a couple minutes to a few hours. We recommend doing this at least monthly.
WP Activity Log is the leading plugin for monitoring WordPress activity.
5. Check the WordPress “Site Health” tool
The Site Health report can detect technical issues with your WordPress environment that need to be addressed. It will also give you a rating based on your current site health.
To use this, simply login to your WordPress dashboard and click “Tools” > “Site Health” in the left menu bar.
We recommend addressing your site health report at least monthly. It only takes a few minutes to check.
6. Optimize databases
As your databases grow, unnecessary data can collect and slow down the retrieval of information. Cleaning your databases will help improve your loading speed by removing unimportant data.
Your database can be cleaned in phpMyAdmin or similar tool. You can also use a plugin such as WP-DBManager. Some speed optimization plugins offer this feature as well.
We recommend doing this at least once per month. It usually takes 5-30 minutes for the process to complete.
7. Optimize images
Images are one of the biggest factors impacting page loading speed, therefore keeping them optimized is an important aspect of WordPress maintenance.
There are plenty of different optimization methods to take advantage of, such as lazy loading, data stripping, compression, and sizing. You can do this with any speed optimization plugin such as WP Rocket. We also love using Smush for image compression.
We recommend checking your image optimization on a monthly basis. It may take 15-60 minutes to optimize new images depending on how many you upload to your site.
8. Test website functionality
You already know that it’s bad to have a broken website. This will negatively affect user experience which can impact operations, acquisition, and other important business functions.
Make sure your website functioning properly by performing manual tests on the important aspects of your site, such as contact forms, social media links, and other special features of your site.
We recommend doing this at least every 2 weeks. It may take 15-30 minutes depending on the complexity of your website.
9. Test usability and design on desktop, tablet, and mobile devices
You’ll want to make sure your website is working properly on all devices and screen sizes. That’s why your WordPress maintenance process should include testing usability and design on desktop, tablet, and mobile devices. Although your site may look great on a laptop, perhaps it doesn’t on a mobile device (or vice versa).
You can use Chrome DevTools or physical devices to perform these tests.
We recommend doing this on a monthly basis. You can expect this to take anywhere from 30 minutes to several hours depending on the complexity of your site.
10. Test usability and design on various web browsers
Just like testing your website on multiple devices, it’s also important to test on multiple web browsers. Since every web browser interprets your site a bit differently, there could be issues or differences between browsers that you’ll want to correct so you can provide a great experience to all of your users.
We recommend testing this monthly, which can take you from 30 minutes to a few hours to perform.
11. Remove inactive plugins and themes
Inactive plugins or themes are likely unneeded and can be removed from your site. This will save resources on your web server and make your site easier to manage.
Simply navigate to the “Plugins” section of the WordPress dashboard and filter by “Inactive”. Be sure to back up your website before deleting these.
We recommend reviewing inactivate plugins monthly, as it only takes a few minutes to do.
12. Review and remove unneeded administrator accounts
Sometimes you may need to create new administrator accounts for tech support, employees, and other reasons. After a while, these accounts may no longer be used by the individual.
Visit the “Users” section of the WordPress dashboard and review any users designated as Administrator. If any of these accounts are not needed, they should be deleted. Be sure to attribute the user’s content to another user before deletion.
This should be done on a quarterly basis and may take 15-60 minutes for you to review and investigate.
13. Review hosting disk, memory, and CPU usage
It’s important to monitor your server resource usage, such as disk space, memory, and CPU. If any of these metrics are too high, you risk encountering problems with your site.
You can view this data in cPanel or with your hosting provider.
It only takes a few minutes to check and should be done quarterly.
14. Identify and fix broken links
Broken links lead your users to a missing pages or websites. This will confuse your users and provide a poor experience.
We recommend doing this monthly for most websites. This process could take minutes or hours depending on how many broken links are detected.
15. Identify and fix 404 errors
404 errors are caused when you link to a page on your site that is missing. This can interrupt the user’s journey which may cause them to leave your site.
16. Address errors or warnings in the WordPress dashboard
It’s common to see messages in your WordPress dashboard from your plugins or theme. These notifications may detail important updates, configuration issues, or other problems that you’ll want to address.
We recommend addressing any warning notifications as soon as possible when you see them in your dashboard.
17. Remove spam comments
WordPress is notorious for attracting spam, especially with comments. If comments are turned on, it’s likely that you’ll receive spam comments on a daily basis.
These spam comments should be removed at least monthly, depending on the amount of spam you get.
Simply navigate to the “Comments” tab in the WordPress dashboard to delete them.
18. Identify and remove spam users
Just like spam comments, you may also experience spam user registrations. Although they are less common, they can be more frustrating to deal with. It might be difficult to tell the difference between spam accounts and normal users if you get a lot of valid registrations (for example, with an ecommerce store).
We recommend adding a captcha to reduce user registration spam, but in the meantime you can remove spam users by reviewing them in the “Users” section of the WordPress dashboard. You should do this once per quarter.
19. Clear trashed content
When you delete a page in WordPress it is moved to a trash folder. Over time these can build up and use server resources unnecessarily.
When you’re confident that you don’t need trashed pages anymore, you should completely delete them from WordPress. This can be done by filtering your pages or posts by “trash” and deleting them permanently. You should do this once per month.
20. Review and delete unneeded drafts
Sometimes you may create a page that you decide you no longer need. This may also be done by accident. When a page is left unpublished, it will be stored as a draft.
If you don’t need a draft anymore, it should be deleted so it doesn’t take up extra space. Simply filter your pages or posts by “drafts” to review these pages. We recommend doing this monthly.
21. Replace expired software licenses
Some plugins or themes required paid licenses to operate and receive updates. Occasionally the connection between your site and the software is disconnected or the license expires. This means you won’t receive new updates and could lose access to the plugin entirely.
Most plugins will notify you in the WordPress dashboard when your license is expired, or you’ll see a notification when you try to update it.
You should replace these software licenses as soon as they are expired to avoid service disruption.
22. Change your passwords
One of the simplest ways to improve your WordPress security is by changing your password.
This can be done in your user profile by clicking “Users” > “Profile” in the WordPress dashboard. We recommend doing this at least once per year.
23. Identify and repair technical SEO issues
Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of improving your website’s visibility in search engines such as Google. There are many technical factors involved in SEO which should be integrated into your website maintenance process.
You’ll want to scan for errors using a tool such as Yoast SEO, Ahrefs, or Semrush. We recommend doing this at least once per quarter, but should be done more often if SEO is an important component of your marketing strategy.
24. Test email deliverability
Your contact form is probably one of the most important parts of your website, but what if it stops working properly? Occasionally, email deliverability issues may cause you to miss out on contact notifications which could seriously impact your sales and/or customer support.
You should test your email deliverability at least quarterly using a plugin such as WP Mail SMTP.
What Makes WordPress Sites Difficult to Maintain?
We understand how complicated some of these tasks can be. Even organizing and planning all of these tasks can be a challenge.
Business leaders and marketing teams often get overwhelmed with website maintenance which distracts them from their primary duties and results in poor maintenance practices.
There are so many different tasks involved in WordPress maintenance, all of which vary depending on your website’s unique needs and complexities. Knowing exactly what needs to be done and how to appropriately execute it is quite the challenge.
4 Tips to Make WordPress Maintenance Easy
To help lighten your WordPress maintenance workload, we’ll list our top tips for making this process as easy as possible for your company.
1. Set a regular website maintenance schedule
A great way to get started with improving your WordPress maintenance practices is by setting a schedule in which maintenance is performed. This can be broken down into a weekly, monthly, quarterly, and annual schedule to meet the needs of your website.
You can use Google Calendar, Microsoft Excel, or a project management tool such as Trello to help out.
2. Use a WordPress maintenance plugin
There are solutions available on the market to help manage your WordPress maintenance processes. A WordPress maintenance plugin will help you execute plugin updates, monitor security, and take backups of your site.
3. Download our checklist and check off each task
If you’re looking to get started with website maintenance, we’ve put together our list of WordPress maintenance tasks in a downloadable PDF for your convenience.
This checklist breaks these tasks down into weekly, monthly, quarterly, and annual checklists. We also include 2 bonus tasks!
Fill out the form below to receive your download:
4. Get help from experts in WordPress maintenance
If you’re overwhelmed with these WordPress maintenance tasks and don’t have the resources to do it yourself, consider help from a professional.
At Buckley Web Services, our fully U.S.-based team specializes in WordPress maintenance for small and mid-size businesses. Your dedicated account manager will get to know the needs of your business so your website can thrive to the fullest extent.
Frequently Asked Questions About Maintaining WordPress Website
Ready to Get Started With WordPress Maintenance?
We hope this article helped you prepare for maintaining your own WordPress website.
Remember that proactive maintenance is important to keep your site healthy and operable long-term.
Unfortunately, many businesses don’t prioritize website maintenance because of a lack time, skills, or money. This ends up negatively effecting the business long-term as the website slowly begins to suffer and become ineffective.
If you’re struggling to find the resources necessary to keep up, explore our services specializing in website maintenance for WordPress sites.