Hands on a keyboard
August 7, 2020

The Ultimate Guide to WordPress Maintenance and Support

Imagine having 455,000,000 of anything.

That’s a huge number. Believe it or not, in early 2020 it was estimated that around 455,000,000 active websites were using WordPress. In fact, 35% of the internet uses WordPress as a CMS (Content Management System). It’s used for everything, including personal websites, small businesses, enterprise corporations, non-profit organizations, educational institutions, entertainment providers, governments, and even the occasional site dedicated to someone’s pet hamster.

Hamsters aside, there’s a lot that goes into maintaining a WordPress site, especially if you’re looking for longevity, security, and the ability to grow. So we’ve put together a guide to help you sort out what you need to make your site last, stay safe, and continue to meet your needs down the road.

Hammy can’t wait — get in touch with Kanopi now!

What is WordPress Maintenance?

I am often asked about my career as a developer and what qualifications are needed. I always tell people, “The web changes every day. In three months I’ll be using techniques I’ve never heard of before. Three months after that, it’ll be something else that’s brand new. It’s always changing.”

It’s great because I enjoy the constant ‘upward and onward’ feeling of the job, but for site owners, it means a lot of upkeep. What’s standard today could be different in a month. To make sure your WordPress website stays healthy and up-to-date with the internet, you’ve got to commit to regular, ongoing website maintenance. While hosting companies will maintain your site’s server (the place that your website lives on the internet), most don’t offer the kinds of hands-on updates and support that your specific website needs.

Common WordPress Maintenance Tasks

Backups

You’re not really a web developer until you’ve deleted something you really needed and had to restore it (I’m pretty sure that’s on the entrance exam). Most hosts offer backup plans, or at the very least provide you with a method of downloading your own backups. At Kanopi Studios, we use hosts that provide daily backups and let us create manual backups, ensuring we have total control in the event a site needs to be restored. It’s the only reason I can sleep at night.

WordPress Core

WordPress is a growing, living thing. That’s what those little version numbers really mean. Version 5.4.2 is out as of this writing, and you can bet your hamster that 5.4.3 is currently being worked on. Core updates include security updates, as well as new or updated features that your developer can use to do cool stuff! 

The real linchpin though are the security updates; when a security problem is found and resolved by the team, they release an updated version of Core, along with an explanation of that flaw. That means that the same security bug is now public knowledge and available to nerdowells to take advantage of. That’s why it is so important to update in a timely manner after a new Core release.

Theme & Plugin Updates

Likewise, purchased themes or third party plugins are subject to change for similar reasons— plugging security holes or adding new and improved features. It’s good practice to update these elements at least once a quarter in order to stay on top of it. Plus, it’s almost always easier to jump between minor versions (eg. 6.4.2 to 6.4.5) than to wait and go from one major release to another (eg. 4.3.1 to 6.4.5). Although, it is a good way to get that adrenaline pumping, especially if you don’t have backups (please do not do this).

Transients & Caching

Both servers and browsers cache websites in order to deliver content faster. A cache essentially stores a “snapshot” of a website and then delivers that snapshot in order to reduce load time. Of course, as a website owner, you want this snapshot to update when new information is added. Sometimes caching can be too aggressive, or even non-existent. It’s valuable to address the needs of your specific website when determining what kinds of caching should be leveraged on your site. WordPress also uses something called transients, which allows developers to add additional caching for specific types of database queries. This is essential for large or complex sites.

Caching can be done in a number of ways: your website host will have caching, you may have a third party caching plugin or service, a developer could add caching specific code, or maybe a combination of all three.

Database Optimization

Over time new content is being added to your website database, with either new rows/columns of data or new database tables, or new connections between tables. It’s like your website’s filing cabinet, going back to the beginning of time. This growth can get messy if it’s not maintained and pruned regularly. Some hosts offer manual ‘one click’ database optimization solutions, though for a real thorough cleanup you need someone with the technical know-how and familiarity with your site. Also, backups. Always backups.

Why is WordPress Maintenance and Support So Important?

To answer this question, we have to consider another: what happens if you don’t do these things? What if you just pop a site up on a host somewhere and never touch it again?

Best case scenario, nothing. Your site exists, but that’s about it. As the rest of the web moves forward, your site will be left in the dust. Even search engines will ‘forget’ about it, so to speak, as higher priority is given to sites that are modified on a regular basis. And since SEO and performance, and user expectations are evolving monthly, your site will quickly become a dinosaur nobody uses.

Worst case scenarios are far more interesting to talk about. With all those security holes, from the lack of updates to Core and your third party plugins, the site could easily be hacked — remember, when they release the fix, they are also revealing the security flaw. If you have no backups, you can’t restore to a version before the hack (where it will still be vulnerable to the same hack).

Or your website host could one day alert you that they no longer support the version of PHP or mySQL your site is using. Some hosts automatically update these tools, some even update Core for you, but not your plugins. Depending on how out-of-date your site is, these would be site breaking compatibility issues. Imagine depending on your website for income and then losing that overnight

Obviously it is a huge risk to keep a poorly or unmaintained website. Meanwhile the benefits of good maintenance and consistent support far outweigh the costs. You reduce security risks, stay current with SEO trends and requirements, and have the ability to grow your site and use new and updated features. All of these things can lead to more traffic, and more conversions overall.

But it’s also time consuming to do, and requires some research and expertise in hosting, WordPress, and website development. Especially for sites that require daily upkeep. That’s why so many organizations and businesses turn to providers like Kanopi to lighten the load. 

Kanopi: The Best WordPress Maintenance and Support Service

Forgive me if I’m a little biased, after all I do work here, but I really do think Kanopi offers the best support. We work with some great hosting partners who understand what we’re about, and it lets us really hold the right reins when it comes to our client sites. Our developers are experienced with the CMS, and strive to uphold the standards put out by WordPress itself. 

Top Features of Kanopi’s WordPress Maintenance Service

Kanopi’s got a well rounded team of experienced designers, strategists, and developers, which means we can actually support your WordPress website at any stage of its lifecycle. Got a lemon that needs a serious overhaul? Need a complete rebuild? Have a freshly built site that needs extra care to keep it going? We’ve got the combination of skills and people needed to handle your website wherever it’s at.

Like your site, our team is also always growing their knowledge base. We stay up-to-date with security releases, changes to WordPress Core, industry standards, and new technologies. If the next version of PHP is on the way, we’re already preparing your site for the update.

Maintenance and support sounds very technical, and it’s easy to overlook that this includes general website content and functionality. A good portion of my day is spent doing content or code updates for clients, and one of my goals is to leave it better than I found it. Sometimes that means cleaning up a bit of code in the area I’m working on, or refining an animation, or adding additional accessibility to the content I was given. 

We’re not just about keeping your website running, Kanopi wants to work closely with you to genuinely understand your organization. Forging this partnership allows us to help create a website that truly represents you as we strategize together. We take a continuous improvement and growth driven approach with incremental updates like navigation strategy and SEO fixes that boost your site over time.

What Kanopi can do for you:

  • Module and plugin upgrades
  • Bug fixes and security patches
  • Development modifications
  • Updating content types/views
  • Third-party integrations
  • CSS/HTML changes
  • Commerce updates
  • Performance enhancements
  • Content revisions & updates
  • Managing support tickets with your host

5 Other WordPress Maintenance Tools

  1. Pantheon
  2. WP Engine
  3. Yoast SEO
  4. Kraken.io
  5. PageSpeed monitor

Pantheon: WordPress Host 

Pantheon is one of Kanopi’s partners for a reason! We love using their platform for hosting WordPress sites. They’ve got a number of powerful features that are super useful for iterative development and rollouts, and you can even check your plugin versions right from the dashboard with security alerts attached.

WPEngine: WordPress Host 

WPEngine specializes in WordPress hosting, which means they know the ins and outs of the CMS and can help with a number of problems. Their support is fast, knowledgeable, and dedicated. Their platform also keeps up with the latest stable PHP version and WordPress Core, with easy testing and deployment.

Yoast SEO: WordPress Search Engine Optimization 

This is a plugin we regularly use and recommend for WordPress websites. Yoast automatically adds basic schema data to your website, creates a sitemap xml, and gives you control to create dynamically generated metadata for your various post types. The free version is absolutely sufficient, and can be augmented with other free plugins to address things found in the paid version.

Kraken.io: WordPress Image Compression 

Images make up a lot of your website’s “weight,” which is why it’s necessary to optimize image compression and keep things nice and trim. Kraken.io is a paid service with a WordPress plugin that allows you to create optimized images for your website. It’s fast, professional, and helps reduce those website load times.

PageSpeed insights: Google Website Analyzer

This handy tool gives you a quick overview of how well your site is doing across the board, including performance, SEO, accessibility, and best practices. Put any url in and see how it stacks up compared to Google’s standards. You can also download this as an extension (Google Lighthouse) for Chrome and run it directly in your browser.

My Hamster and I are convinced — we want to talk to Kanopi

To wrap this up in a neat little package, yes, you do need to maintain your WordPress website, yes, there’s a lot to do, and yes, someone else can do it for you. If you’re interested in a partnership with Kanopi, we’d love to hear from you. Otherwise I hope this guide gets you pointed in the right direction as you and Hammy take on the internet.

Good luck, and happy WordPressing!

Even blogs about a pet hamster need regular WordPress maintenance.