With the new year comes the opportunity for a renewed and better you. So too is the opportunity for a new and better WordPress website. Use the following as a checklist for the new year (or anytime) to ensure your website is in tip-top shape.
If your site is not already on a regular WordPress maintenance plan, it can be easy to let slide the very important task of updating the WordPress core and plugins on your site. WordPress is constantly releasing security and compatibility updates, as are plugin authors for the many plugins providing the bells and whistles for WordPress. It’s wise to do regular maintenance (we recommend monthly) to prevent security or compatibility issues from occurring, as once things get too far behind, it can be a significant challenge to update as there are typically a host of compatibility issues that come up and need to be resolved. Also, malware attacks on sites with older versions of plugins and content management systems are becoming increasingly common.
Another common issue we see with older sites we inherit from others is that they are bloated with plugins that are unnecessary, unused, or worse, insecure. Performing a plugin audit at least once a year to take inventory of what is used and what can be removed is an excellent way to improve site performance and security.
We like to think of maintenance in the same way as changing the oil in your car. You can get away without it for a little while, but eventually bigger and more costly problems will occur if the regular maintenance isn’t done. It’s important to maintain your website as you would with any other important asset, like a car or house.
Perform a Full WordPress Security Audit
It’s unsettling how many sites we inherit from other developers and web hosts that come to us chock full of malware. If you aren’t already performing daily malware scans of your site, and employing a trusted security suite such as WordFence, you’d be well advised to run a full security audit of the site, and to put in place these important tools ASAP. Often a site will appear perfectly normal from the outside, yet lurking beneath the surface are spam links and other such unpleasantries which can make a site sluggish and lead to blacklisting from major search engines like Google as well as lead to triggering spam filters for email inboxes and desktop anti-virus programs.
Step on the Gas
A fast site is a site that will not only keep users engaged and prevent them from frustratingly navigating elsewhere, but will also rank higher on Google and other search engines. Even very simple sites can realize a noticeable performance gain from utilizing tools such as content delivery networks, and caching. Image optimization is another tool we use to speed up sites, and it’s surprising how many very popular themes do a relatively poor job of this task. There are a host of other techniques we use to boost performance. Contact us for a full performance audit of your WordPress site.
Perform an SEO Audit and Tune-up
Search engine optimization (SEO) is a process best handled in an ongoing collaborative manner between developer and client. However, there is a ‘baseline’ of best SEO practices which should be established to ensure that the hard recurring work of social media posting, blogging, keyword research, content optimization, competitive analysis, etc. does not go to waste. This includes optimization of code structure, title and meta tags, structured data, performance enhancement, mobile usability, and much more.
Commit to Regular Blogging and Social Media Posting
As mentioned above, social media and blogging are the workhorses of ongoing regular SEO work. We all find it easy to let these important user engagement activities fall by the wayside, but we shouldn’t, because they are critically important if you want your site to rank high and gain traffic. Google puts special emphasis on new content, and it especially likes content marked as a blog post, something WordPress does out of the box. Likewise, posting to social media and linking back to the site creates valuable ‘back links’ that search engines consider a positive when determining rankings, and just as importantly they drive traffic to the site and spread the word organically through social networks. Blog and social media posts do not have to be lengthy to be effective – anything is much better than nothing at all.
Review and Update your Site’s Content
Ever go to a website and see something like “Since 1996 and going strong for 10 years…”? Nothing is a bigger turn off to a potential new customer than website content that is clearly dated or inaccurate. This of course goes for less obvious things on the surface like pricing, policies, and product availability as even if the website helps get them in the door, it will be a frustrating experience for all if information on the website doesn’t match reality. As mentioned above, search engines love new content, so simply updating your content also provides an SEO boost.
Budget for a WordPress Website Redesign
Does the main content of your site take up about half the usable space on your screen? Does it require you to scroll horizontally on your phone, or zoom in a bunch in order to click the tiny menu button drop-down items? Does it feature something on the home page along the lines of: “Welcome to our Home Page!”. Business 2 Community recommends a redesign every 1.5-2.5 years, and from our experience that’s a pretty conservative timeline. The web changes so quickly you simply can’t afford to put this off. Web technology, desktop and mobile phone technology, and style all accelerate away from today’s baseline rapidly, so the best approach is to work this into your budget every couple of years. The good news is that web building tools and theme frameworks make this process more efficient than in days past, meaning you can expect to pay the same you may have 5-10 years ago and get a lot more.