As an entrepreneur or marketer, the chances are that you work with WordPress, the most popular CMS system in the world for developing websites. Every day you are busy acquiring new customers through your website and generating more sales, but do you also invest enough time in maintaining your website?
Why is website maintenance necessary?
Unfortunately, maintaining a WordPress website is often placed at the bottom of the priority list and, therefore, repeatedly postponed or even neglected. Nevertheless, it is an important action to maintain and improve Google’s financial and organic position.
Unfortunately, you only really feel the consequences of not maintaining your WordPress website when it is already too late: a white screen, buttons that do not function properly or worse, a website that goes offline, or is hacked. Then there is panic and stress, emotions that usually do not function ideally.
That is why I will give you several tips to ensure that your WordPress website gets enough attention and runs fewer risks.
Make multiple backups
My biggest tip is always to make backups before you start maintaining your website. In general, it is wise to make a backup at least once a month. If you work on your website daily, it is wise to increase the backup frequency to weekly or even daily.
Even though WordPress is very user-friendly, something can always go wrong during maintenance work on the website. If something goes wrong, it is nice to go back to an earlier version of the website with a few simple actions.
You can make backups in several ways. There are various WordPress plugins to make backups with, such as UpDraftPlus, Duplicator, and Backup Guard.
It can happen that you can no longer access the WordPress admin due to an error or hack. In that case, it is also not possible to use the plugin. So always make backups manually.
You can back up your WordPress files via an FTP program. To download the database, you need access to the Direct Admin environment. Save these files locally, but also on an external hard drive. This way, you have the certainty of access to your WordPress files.
Perform WordPress updates
After making the backups, you will start performing several updates. Make sure the plugins, themes, and core are always running on the latest version. I, therefore, advise you to check all available updates at least monthly. Updating to the latest versions ensures that your WordPress website can function fully, and you also reduce the chance of a burglary.
It is always wise to check for updates as a check. If you discover an error, you can immediately undo the update with a backup.
Remove outdated plugins and themes.
Old plugins and themes can degrade the performance and security of your WordPress website. So check which plugins and themes you have installed and remove anything that is no longer in use.
Side note: it is not enough just to deactivate the plugin or a theme. You really should obliterate the outdated plugins and themes. Always check the reviews, popularity, and update frequency when you download a new plugin or theme. This gives you more insight into security risks.
Manage WordPress users
Some entrepreneurs and companies work with several people on a WordPress website. Unfortunately, in this situation, the more people have access to the admin environment, the greater the chance that the website will be damaged.
Therefore, make sure that every user is aware of the safest working method. Don’t just let everyone download plugins or do updates. You can also limit user rights. For example, an ‘editor’ can do less than an ‘administrator’. Also, don’t forget to remove users who are no longer working on the website.
Clean up the WordPress database
A WordPress database is an archive of all media files, revisions, downloads, posts and configurations. Due to regular updates and new content, the database of the website grows very fast and can be overrun. This, in turn, can really slow down the performance of the WordPress website.
Therefore, optimize your database once in a while. All unnecessary information, such as revisions, spam and deleted items will be permanently deleted. You can clean the WordPress database with, for example, ‘WP-Optimize’ or via the ‘PHPMyAdmin’.
It is a myth that only large, popular websites are of interest to hackers. Small websites with few visitors are often the target, because hackers are looking for websites with security holes to easily penetrate.
Your WordPress website is therefore also at risk if you do not secure properly. Fortunately, WordPress itself offers good security plugins, such as ‘Wordfence’ and ‘iThemes Security’.
Do not install multiple security plugins at the same time, as this can cause problems. Don’t choose random plugins either, as there are plenty of plugins that are not yet proven status, are poorly rated, or are minimally updated.
As a rule of thumb, you can only install plugins that are widely used, have a high rating and are regularly updated.
As I wrote before, the maintenance of your WordPress website affects the speed of your website. Web pages that load quickly have a positive effect on the user experience, which is beneficial for search engine optimization.
There are several ways to speed up your website, but it already makes a big difference if you consider the following:
Good hosting company
Choose a good hosting company with a fast server. This may seem like a major expense, but a slow website will ultimately cost you more customers (and thus revenue).
I recommend using caching. There are several plugins for this, such as ‘WP Fastest Cache’ and the premium version of ‘WP Rocket’. Caching is the temporary storage of files for quick access, whereby additional loaded files are temporarily stored locally.
There is then no need to download relevant files from the server again, which in turn reduces the load on the server and increases the page load time.
Compress the images
For some of us it makes sense to compress images before uploading them to the media library, but I still regularly see people uploading the original files from their camera. These files are usually very heavy and large. Large images will slow down your WordPress website, so always make sure to resize such photos first.
Afterwards you can do this by downloading images via the FTP and then compressing them in bulk using Adobe Photoshop. Then you can upload the compressed images back to the FTP.
Avoid using plugins for this. Limit the use of plugins at all. They usually create more security risks and generate (unnecessary) scripts that slow down a website.
Time consuming, but necessary.
In short, the above points are the most important actions for maintaining a WordPress website. Although it is a very time consuming job, it is also necessary.
Apart from the full functionality and optimal speed of your WordPress website, you are also protected against hackers as well as possible. Keep updating regularly and be careful with themes and plugins.
The top 10 free WordPress plugins to kickstart your website
It is almost unthinkable to work as a starting entrepreneur without a website. Especially for all beginners getting started with a WordPress website, I list the top 10 free plugins to help your website’s construction. This way, you give your company a kickstart from the first moment.
WordPress as the undisputed market leader
Unfortunately, not everyone is a programmer, so a tool is needed to assemble your own website in many cases. The popular WordPress now provides the foundation for more than 60 percent of the websites, including 30 percent of the top 10 million sites. Building a custom website with WordPress is super simple, has excellent support on forums, and can be expanded with all kinds of plugins that take your work off your hands.
I advise every entrepreneur to install the ten free plugins from this article from the moment the website is created. The chosen combination of plugins is based on the automation of your own tasks, the stimulation of desired user behavior, and good online findability in combination with other technical SEO ( Search Engine Optimization ) considerations.
Really Simple SSL
You must have had a warning from your browser that the website you were about to visit is not safe. The idea that it is unsafe to visit your website is, of course, the last feeling you want to give visitors. The Really Simple SSL plugin is the ideal solution. In a few steps, you are easily guided through the application for a so-called SSL Certificate. Within a few hours of the request, your website will be accepted and considered ‘safe’, removing the notification as mentioned earlier.
Make sure to take this step first when creating your new website. The start of the URL of your website now changes from http: // to https: //. Before spreading your website’s link over the internet, make sure your URL starts with https: // so that all links on other websites link correctly from the start.
Google Analytics for WordPress by MonsterInsights
Measuring is knowing! By analyzing user behavior, you can optimize your website and optimize cornerstone content. Statistics such as number (or page) visitors, bounce rate, and time on page are important examples of this. Google Analytics is still by far the number one tool to track the behavior of your visitors. First, create an account with Google Analytics and then install a plugin to connect the account to your WordPress website. I recommend Google Analytics for WordPress by MonsterInsights for its ease of connection setup, but several plugins do the same.
While you’re at it, create a Google Search Console account immediately and connect it to your website and Google Analytics. You keep track of your visitor behavior via Google Analytics, but via Google Search Console, you keep track of the Google search behavior that leads to impressions of and clicks to your website.
Furthermore, likely, you will not have many visitors to your website from the first moment. To properly measure what those few visitors do, it is better to exclude your own IP address from the measurements of Google Analytics. You can easily do that step by step in this way.
An interesting and above all very nice addition to studying visitor behavior is Hotjar . Especially if your company has just started and the website has low visitor numbers, this is an interesting tool to see exactly what your users are doing by means of a heat map and screen recordings.
It is better to start backing up your website too soon than too late to be on the safe side. The biggest horror scenario is that something goes irretrievably wrong, and you have not made a backup. That gives the same nasty feeling of regret as you used to at school when you typed an entire piece of work and forgot to save it before going to bed. So make sure you install the UpdraftPlus plugin immediately and make regular backups never to lose your content, design, and other settings.
This plugin offers the possibility to set automatic backups. Do that! It is also smart to manually download your backup’s content to your computer via the plugin once in a while, in case you could no longer access it in extreme cases.
AMP for WP
The shorter your website’s loading time, the higher Google will place you in the search results. AMP is Google’s product that ensures that loading times are extremely short. Google stores some sort of copy of your web page (found as your URL extension with / amp) stripped of all kinds of content, leaving only a small amount to load when the page is clicked. Due to the short loading time, you will end up high in the Google search results faster. I recommend the plugin AMP for WP for this because it is easy to use and yet offers many options to design your own pages.
The difference between a normal page and an AMP version can be clearly seen. The custom design of your website disappears through the use of the AMP plugin, which leads to the choice not to use AMP for some websites. Because of the SEO technical advantages, I definitely recommend using the plugin. Only do this for articles that you mainly want to score high within Google and for which the page’s design is less important. The WordPress plugin offers the possibility to set this for types (posts, pages, categories, etc.) and individual posts.
The Yoast SEO plugin is the absolute SEO technical starting point when you start creating pages and posts on your website. As far as I am concerned, no alternative on the market works as simply and well as Yoast and offers the same amount of background information. For example, you can easily determine your pages’ meta-information and how they are displayed on social media. Furthermore, the plugin offers an XML sitemap of your website, so that Google can better map the content. This is beneficial for scoring your website in Google’s search results.
There are many extra plugins to link to Yoast that make your website even easier to find online. A good way to make sure that the plugin also helps for the AMP version of your pages is Glue for Yoast SEO & AMP. Furthermore, I recommend using Schema & Structured Data for WP & AMP to keep up with Google’s latest developments, such as the featured snippets on the so-called position zero.
Autoptimize & Smush
The loading time of your website is important for several reasons. First of all, it is simply annoying for your visitors when pages take a long time to load. For example, 57 percent of your visitors will leave the website if it takes longer than 3 seconds to load, and 80 percent of them will never return. Autoptimize is an all-encompassing plugin that optimizes your website to minimize loading time. Furthermore, the plugin Smush ensures that all photos you upload are compressed, which reduces the loading time of your pages with photos.
WP All Import (Import any XML or CSV File to WordPress)
From my own experience, my tip for all entrepreneurs is to always look for ways to automate. Everyone sometimes does endless manual work, after which it appears that everything could have been done in no time with a simple plugin. The plugin WP All Import ensures that you can easily create bulk messages or pages containing individual information from your database with a database in Excel. Also, link this to your Yoast plugin with Import Settings into WordPress SEO by Yoast to ensure that the pages are displayed perfectly in Google. An extra tip is to install the Quick Featured Images plugin here to avoid paying to include images with your bulk articles.
This plugin is ideal for creating bulk posts, but sometimes you just want to tweak a few details of an existing article and publish the result new. To avoid having to cut and paste everything, it is best to use the Duplicate Post plugin.
Open External Links in a New Window
As mentioned earlier, these recommended plugins often have several positive effects. Similarly, the plugin Open External Links in a New Window. This plugin gives all links that do not point to your own domain a target =”_ blank” tag, which sends the visitor to a new tab when he or she clicks on the link. This not only ensures that the visitor’s time on your pages is longer (which Google likes and pushes your overall score in search results up) but also improves the user experience on your website. For example, a visitor can choose when to leave your website, instead of being sent away when a link is clicked for additional information.
The target =”_ blank” tag is also easy to add to your links when writing articles by clicking the down arrow and selecting open in new tab. However, this is a setting that you must enable for each link individually, while the plugin ensures that this is automatically set for all external links on your website.
It is often interesting to have your visitors fill in the information to subscribe to your newsletter or to contact you. To receive information from your visitors, it is best to install a plugin that allows you to create a form with simple building blocks. WPForms is ideal for this. You can create your own forms using a simple drag & drop system, which you can then embed in pages and messages with a shortcode.
By making important fields in the forms mandatory, you ensure that you never miss data in the specified visitor information. A red asterisk next to a field’s title indicates that it is mandatory to fill in the information before the form can be submitted.
WP Social Comments
Interaction on your website ensures that visitors stay longer on your page, post comments, and read them. Furthermore, this increases your website’s legitimacy so that new visitors attach more value to the content that has been placed there. Visitors can respond simply via the plugin WP Social Comments, where users can log in with their Facebook account. Are you convinced that your visitors do not want or cannot log in via Facebook for their reactions? Then Disqus is a good alternative. The disadvantage is that to post comments, it is first necessary to create a Disqus account.
Don’t forget that the power of social media can be used in several ways. Make sure to install Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, LinkedIn, and email sharing buttons on your pages. For example, you can easily share this Lorelei Web article with your friends or colleagues using the buttons at the top of the page. Most WordPress templates have this option built-in, but you can use a plugin like Shared Counts.
Let’s get to work!
This combination of plugins is a good starter package for many entrepreneurs. Still, different plugins are desired in every niche. For example, you would like to have WooCommerce in your plugin package if you are building your own webshop, and Ad Inserter is ideal for anyone planning to implement a business model based on ads. Furthermore, a plugin like Polylang is the solution if you publish content in multiple languages.
I would also like to inform you that a high number of stars from a high number of reviews is a good indication of a useful plugin. Above all, the plugin must have many active installations. These three data are always displayed in the overview when searching for plugins.
The above 10 free plugins are recommended to give your company a kickstart, but the absolute top 10 is different for every entrepreneur and website. Which plugins can you recommend to everyone? Leave your tips in the comments!