We all know our cars need regular maintenance to run and function smoothly. Similarly, your WordPress site requires some crucial maintenance tasks to run correctly. Whether it is security, backup, or performance – you have to go through a checklist of maintenance tasks for your website. Period.
In this post, we will talk about 14 crucial WordPress maintenance tasks you should perform regularly.
Why and when to perform maintenance tasks for your WordPress site
Before we get down the list of maintenance tasks, let’s talk about the frequency of these tasks to be performed. If you have a WordPress site with many visitors regularly (for example, a community website or online courses website), you should consider performing these tasks every 2-3 months. If your site doesn’t have much traffic regularly (for example, a simple blog website), we’d suggest running these tasks every 6-8 months.
Performing these maintenance tasks ensures security and optimum performance of your site. Plus it aids decluttering your site of the junk files that build up over a period due to visitor interactions, post revisions, media, etc.
Now that we’re clear about the frequency and need, let’s jump right into the maintenance tasks one-by-one. Use the list below to jump directly to the preferred section.
Here are the crucial WordPress maintenance tasks to perform regularly:
- Create a complete backup of your website
- Update all WordPress files
- Change all WordPress passwords
- Optimize WordPress database
- Run performance tests
- Optimize images
- Fix 404 errors
- Fix broken links
- Remove unused, old themes and plugins
- Review/Manage spam messages
- Test all your WordPress forms
- Perform a thorough content and SEO audit
- Troubleshoot maintenance tasks
- Review WordPress Security logs
1. Create a complete backup of your website
We can’t stress enough how important it is to backup your WordPress website at timely intervals. These act as your cushions when your website breaks after an update or when hacked. You can always rollback/restore to a stable backup version of your website if you conduct scheduled automatic backups and updates.
There are plenty of popular backup WordPress plugins such as WPvivid or UpdraftPlus. These plugins can help you completely automate the WordPress backup process. We recommend WPvivid Backup plugin for its power-packed features which include creating staging sites, push staging to live site, incremental backups, customizable backups, database backup encryption, and much more.
Even though you’ve automatic backups scheduled, there might be situations where the auto-backup might be interrupted. So make sure you run a manual backup from time to time to create a complete backup of your WordPress site and store it at a remote location such as Dropbox, Google Drive, etc.
To manually create a backup of your WordPress site using the WPvivid backup plugin, install and activate it. Go to WordPress Dashboard > WPvivid Backup > Backup & Restore. In the Back Up Manually option, select the storage directory you want to backup, in this example, we are backing up the WordPress database and files both and saving it to the Google Drive cloud storage. Click the Backup Now button to create a .zip folder of your WordPress database and files.
2. Update all WordPress files
When we talk about WordPress files, we are referring to the WordPress core, plugins and themes. WordPress has a built-in system to manage all updates for the WordPress core, themes and plugins.
Although WordPress updates can be done with a click of a button there might be some situations when you may miss an update. For example, when a premium theme or plugin’s license expires, it may fail to check for an update.
To manually check for updates, go to WordPress Dashboard > Dashboard > Updates.
3. Change all WordPress passwords
The first point of attack on your website is your password. It is the first point of a breach for unauthorized access to your website. You should always use strong and unique passwords for your digital accounts. This includes your WordPress website, database, and FTP accounts.
WordPress security experts recommend changing your password regularly – for your WordPress admin area, WordPress database and FTP or SSH accounts.
If you have a problem remembering strong passwords, then we recommend using password manager apps such as LastPass or 1Password to securely store and easily fill passwords without having to remember and type them.
4. Optimize WordPress database
Over a period of time your WordPress database will grow with unwanted data such as spam comments, post revisions, trash, orphaned meta data, transient options and so on. Such unwanted data increases the size of your database hence resulting in taking more disk space on your webhosting server. The larger the database, the more time it takes to backup and restore it.
The easiest way to optimize your WordPress database is to use the WP-Optimize plugin. Install and activate the plugin. Go to WordPress Dashboard > WP-Optimize > Database > Optimizations. Mark all the checkboxes for optimization and then click the Run all selected optimizations button.
5. Run performance tests
As time goes by, new content is added, plugins and themes and installed, post revisions are automatically created – all affecting the performance of your WordPress site.
6. Optimize images
The larger the image size, the more time it takes to load; thus hitting your website’s performance and page load speed. You can use WordPress image compression plugins such as EWWW Image Optimizer or WP Smush to compress, optimize and lazy load the images of your WordPress media library.
Compressing images without having to loose the quality can bump up your site’s performance significantly. You don’t want to present your site visitors with a sluggish site! Optizing images is one of the most important maintenance tasks if you need an automated solution or run a multi-author site.
7. Fix 404 errors
We have all landed on the 404 error page at some point of time online and been bugged by it. A 404 error page is displayed when a user requests to visit a page that does not exist on your site.
Sometimes, it could a human error while typing that shows up a 404 error. But the 404 errors that occur because a page is no longer available are not only bad user experience, can be downright frustrating for the users.
Plugins such as Redirection can help you track and fix 404 errors on your website to improve the overall user experience.
8. Fix broken links
Broken links are links that don’t work as expected. They usually redirect your user to the 404 error page of your website. Having broken links on your site can result in a poor SEO score. You do not want your SEO score to be low – it’s bad for business and your brand! You can link checker plugins like Redirection or Broken Link Checker to monitor, and test all internal and external links for any broken links that need to be fixed. Always aim to improve the SEO score of your site to stay on top of the game.
9. Remove unused, old themes and plugins
When you are just starting with your WordPress site, there are chances that you will try out many different plugins and themes to test if they meet your needs and serve a purpose for your goals in terms of a functional site.
Some WordPress plugins and themes may meet your requirements, some may not. Make sure you delete the plugins and themes that you do not use. Unused, old WordPress plugins and themes only act as a digital burden that hamper the performance of your site. Some plugins and themes may get outdated over the period of time and are no longer apt for your website – delete them from your website.
10. Review/Manage spam messages
With a WordPress site, you are bombarded with spam comments on posts and pages on a daily basis. Using plugins such as Akismet, enables you to review and manage spam messages queued for moderation. This, not only lets you differentiate between genuine comments but also keeps your content comments spam-free.
11. Test all your WordPress forms
But due to misconfiguration on your WordPress hosting server or your email service provider or the settings of the plugin itself, can cause these forms to stop sending emails.
You must make sure to check all the forms on your website are working properly. Send out a test email when you have configured or customized a form to make sure it is working as expected.
We recommend using the WP Mail SMTP plugin for its email logging feature – it alerts you when an email fails to send from your website.
12. Perform a thorough content and SEO audit
Now let’s talk about thoroughly reviewing the content of your website and why you should perform this maintenance task religiously. It will have a direct impact on the overall SEO rank and performance of your WordPress site. There are plenty of SEO plugins in the WordPress repository for analysing and improving the SEO of your content on a very granular level. Plugins such as Yoast SEO, SEOPress and Rank Math are packed with the features to let you stay ahead of the game when it comes to your site’s SEO audits, on-page SEO, automated technical SEO improvements, and much more.
You should also use the data from Google Search Console and Google Analytics to conduct an SEO audit for content that is popular among your users for better conversion rates. Google Analytics shows you where the traffic on your website is coming from and how the visitors are interacting with your content. You can use the Google Search Console to narrow down the search keywords that can help achieve a higher rank by updating pages and posts.
13. Troubleshoot maintenance tasks
You may have automated some maintenance tasks and some need to be performed manually. As a word of advice, you should create and run a staging site of your WordPress installation where you perform the maintenance tasks and then push them to your live site.
If you don’t have a staging site, you can install a plugin that puts your WordPress site on maintenance mode for the set time. This way your users are shown an ‘Under Maintenance’ message or an ‘Under Maintenance’ page (depending on the plugin you install). Hence, keeping your visitors informed that your site is under maintenance and will be live soon. The simplest and easiest plugin we’d recommend is the Coming Soon Page, Maintenance Mode & Landing Pages by SeedProd.
14. Review WordPress Activity & Security logs
You should always keep tabs on the real-time user activity and monitor the security logs of your website to be aware of what goes on under the hood of your WordPress site. This can help you catch a potential attack or any unusual activity in time to save your site. We recommend the popular Wordfence Security and Sucuri Security plugins as they help in auditing security issues, malware scanning, and add an extra layer of security to your website.
Now that you know the crucial maintenance tasks, go ahead and cross them off your checklist. Let us know in the comments below which of these maintenance tasks you perform regularly.