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      Maintenance

      The Complete Website Maintenance Checklist (20 Things You NEED to Do This Year)


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      Your site may be running smoothly now. However, there’s no guarantee that it will perform at this optimal level forever.

      Similar to a vehicle, your website requires ongoing work to keep it in tip-top condition. That’s why we’ve created this complete website maintenance checklist for your WordPress site.

      In this post, we’ll discuss why maintenance is the key to a high-performing, secure, and profitable online presence. We’ll then share a whopping 20 maintenance tasks that you need to do this year. We’ve organized the tasks based on how often you need to complete them to keep your site spick and span:

      Let’s get started!

      Why Site Maintenance Matters

      If you neglect important maintenance tasks, then the consequences can be disastrous. During the first six months of 2021, the Wordfence Web Application Firewall blocked over 4 billion malicious requests. With people actively trying to break into WordPress websites, even a small lapse in security could put your site at serious risk.

      WordPress maintenance isn’t just about spotting the big issues, though.

      Over time, small problems can gradually diminish your site’s performance and search engine rankings. By pinpointing and addressing these minor errors early, you can reduce the negative impact they can have on your site.

      Maintenance also involves evaluating various aspects of your site. This puts you in a strong position to identify opportunities to optimize your content and drive more conversions. In this way, you can keep your site ahead of the pack.

      Get Your Site Up to Date

      Technology is constantly moving forward and keeping up can be a chore. We’ll upgrade your outdated, insecure software to get you back on track.

      Weekly Tasks

      Let’s start with regular maintenance tasks. Here are five things we recommend you perform every single week.

      1. Review Your Metrics

      Most successful websites record a range of data. This includes tracking how visitors behave, your best traffic sources, and the content that drives the most conversions.

      By regularly analyzing your metrics, you can pinpoint problems that need to be addressed. Here, speed is everything. To remain competitive, it helps to review this data weekly.

      The Google Analytics dashboard.

      When viewed in isolation, you may struggle to properly evaluate your performance. If this is the case, you might also want to review your competitor’s metrics.

      2. Back Up Your Site

      Creating regular backups is one of the most important items on your to-do list. If you fall behind, then you risk losing all of your recent work — or even your entire website.

      While you can create backups manually, some hosting providers can perform this vital maintenance task for you. For example, at DreamHost, we offer automated daily backups.

      If you need to back up on-demand, you can also create a copy of your site with a single click. We store all of your backups in a central location and offer easy one-click restore for added convenience.

      3. Moderate Comments

      A lively comment section encourages visitors to interact with your site. However, comment sections can have a dark side. Attackers may try to trick you into publishing malicious content in the form of comment spam.

      Some comments may also contain irrelevant or offensive content. This can reflect poorly on your website. For this reason, you may want to use a comment moderation plugin such as Akismet Anti-Spam.

      The Akismet Anti-Spam plugin.

      You can also hold all submissions in an approval queue, using WordPress’ default settings. Visitors will expect their comments to appear on your site within a reasonable timeframe. If you withhold comments for review, it’s smart to check this queue at least once per week.

      4. Update Your Themes and Plugins

      According to research, 86% of hacked WordPress websites contain an outdated plugin or theme or even an outdated version of WordPress. This makes sense, as updates often contain fixes for known vulnerabilities or new security features.

      To keep the bad guys out, it’s smart to regularly check the WordPress dashboard for any available updates.

      The WordPress updates dashboard.

      While we’re including this task in our maintenance checklist, you may want to consider enabling auto-updates for your themes and plugins for added security. Assuming that you’re running WordPress 5.6 or higher, you can also enable auto-updates for WordPress core in the Dashboard > Updates menu.

      5. Scan for Malware

      WordPress has a good reputation as a secure platform, but no software is perfect. To keep your site in tip-top shape, it’s important to check for malware. Our DreamShield add-on can automatically scan your site for malicious code on a weekly basis.

      Activating the DreamShield add-on.

      If DreamShield detects an issue, it’ll notify you via the DreamHost panel and via email. This email will contain step-by-step instructions that show you how to resolve this problem and restore your site to optimal health.

      Protect Your Website with DreamShield

      For just $3/month, our premium security add-on scans your site weekly to ensure it is free of malicious code.

      Monthly Tasks

      By monitoring your site’s speed and search engine performance, you can stay one step ahead of the competition. With that in mind, here’s your monthly website maintenance checklist.

      6. Test Your Site’s Speed

      Your site’s performance has a huge impact on its success. Studies suggest that 40% of people abandon a site that takes longer than three seconds to load. Even if visitors do stick around, a sluggish website is unlikely to impress potential customers.

      Page speed can also impact your SEO, particularly with the launch of the Core Web Vitals project.

      You can test your site’s speed using a tool such as Google PageSpeed Insights or GTmetrix.

      The GTmetrix performance monitoring tool.

      If you’re concerned about your Core Web Vitals performance, Google has also created a dedicated reporting tool. This evaluates your site against the specific Core Web Vitals metrics.

      7. Create New Content

      Regularly publishing interesting, relevant content is a tried-and-tested way to convert one-off visitors into loyal repeat customers. Content can also position you as an expert in your industry, which is great for conversions.

      It isn’t just people who read your posts and pages. Search engines will also use this content to understand what your site is about. So by regularly publishing materials such as blog posts and articles, you can maximize your chances of appearing in relevant search engine results.

      To ensure that you’re winning the Search Engine Optimization (SEO) game, you may want to consider partnering with an experienced SEO team. Our experts can create and publish a stream of five-star content tailormade to support your keyword strategy.

      8. Improve Your Site’s SEO

      With 40–60 billion searches happening on Google in the U.S. every single month, SEO is one maintenance task that you can’t afford to overlook. As an established site, chances are you’ve already identified the keywords that you want to rank for. However, keyword popularity can change over time, so it helps to check whether you need to adjust your approach.

      You can view the current search volume using a tool such as Semrush’s Keyword Overview or Keyword Magic tools. We’re so confident that you’ll love using Semrush, we’ve partnered with them to give you a 14-day pro trial for free. [f]

      Semrush & DreamHost Start your free 14-day trial

      Once you’ve made any necessary changes to your keyword strategy, you’ll need to review every part of your site to ensure that it’s helping you rank for those terms. That’s no easy feat!

      To help you out, we’ve created the DreamHost SEO Toolkit. With over 100 automated checks and verifications, you can use this add-on to create a personalized SEO plan. It can also help you implement your SEO strategy via powerful on-page optimization tools. You can add SEO Toolkit to your hosting plan for just $4.99/mo per site.

      Quarterly Tasks

      Let’s take a look at some website elements that are too often overlooked. Here are seven tasks to perform every quarter.

      9. Change Your Passwords

      A strong, complex password is essential for preventing unauthorized access to your website. When creating your password, it’s essential that you follow all the latest best practices, such as using two-factor authentication.

      Even if you’re following the rules, it’s still smart to change your password every quarter. Then, even if your password does get compromised, it will minimize the time the hacker remains inside your hacked account.

      Hacked Site? We’ll Fix It Fast

      With our Hacked Site Repair service, we’ll remove any malicious code and restore your website so it’s back up and running fast.

      10. Check and Fix Broken Links

      Broken links can occur for many reasons. For example, you might delete a page or implement a redirect incorrectly.

      They may be common, but these URLs are disastrous for the User Experience (UX) and your SEO. When search engine bots encounter a broken URL, they’ll crawl that link to verify that it’s broken. This wastes precious crawl budget.

      You can scan for broken URLs using tools such as Semrush.

      Semrush’s Site Audit feature.

      Semrush will scan your site and display any broken URLs in the Crawled pages section.

      Sometimes, you may be able to fix a broken link by manually adjusting the URL. Alternatively, you can use a plugin such as Redirection.

      11. Delete Unnecessary Plugins and Themes

      Every theme or plugin adds code to your website, which is a potential loophole for hackers to exploit. In fact, themes and plugins account for 96% of WordPress vulnerabilities.

      It’s a good idea to regularly take stock of the themes and plugins installed on your site and delete any you no longer require.

      You may be tempted to simply disable the software in question, just in case you need to reactivate it at a later date. However, hackers may still be able to access deactivated code, so deletion is always the safest option.

      The WordPress plugin management page.

      You can further reduce your attack surface by removing any images, videos, or audio files that you no longer require. To achieve this, connect to your site using a Secure File Transfer Protocol (SFTP) client, then head to the wp-content directory to locate and delete those unnecessary files.

      12. Optimize Your Database

      WordPress stores all of your data and content in a database. The larger your database, the longer it will take the server to retrieve information from your tables.

      By optimizing your database, you can reduce the server load and boost your page load times. You can optimize your database using phpMyAdmin. DreamHost customers can access this tool via their hosting account.

      Logging into phpMyAdmin through your DreamHost panel.

      In phpMyAdmin, navigate to Databases. You can then select the database that you want to optimize.

      13. Test Your Site’s Forms

      Many websites use forms to capture leads and drive conversions. Some forms also deliver core functionality, including login forms.

      An example of a login form.

      Since they’re so important, it’s wise to check that your forms are functioning correctly. We recommend reviewing the entire submission process, including ensuring that you’re logging user input correctly.

      14. Test Your Checkout Process

      If you accept payments via your website, then the checkout process is at the heart of your business. If there’s an issue with this process, then you could be missing out on countless sales. In the worst-case scenario, your system may be completely broken, which will bring your revenue to zero.

      With this in mind, we recommend verifying that your checkout is working as expected. Most payment solutions have a dedicated testing mode, including the popular WooCommerce platform.

      During testing, it’s smart to look for any opportunities to improve the purchasing process. A complex payment process can prevent customers from crossing that finish line. In fact, 34% of shoppers will abandon their carts if they’re forced to create an account.

      If you can streamline the payment process as part of your review, it may do wonders for your bottom line.

      15. Check Your Social Media Links

      Social media is a powerful tool for reaching a wider audience and retaining your existing one. By frequently posting across social platforms, you can keep your company at the forefront of your followers’ minds and ensure that they remain engaged over the long term. Many websites feature prominent social media buttons, including links to follow your accounts and share your content.

      Social sharing buttons on the DreamHost blog.

      However, when dealing with third-party tools, there’s always a chance they may change how they process your requests. They may even implement technological changes that affect your site’s social content.

      If your social URLs are broken, then you could be missing out on countless followers and shares. Therefore, it’s important to check them once in a while to make sure that they work.

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      Annual Tasks

      You don’t have to perform these tasks multiple times a year. However, we recommend setting aside the time to perform them annually.

      16. Schedule User Testing

      This is where you evaluate how intuitive your website is by testing it on real-life users. Chances are you performed at least one round of usability testing when you first designed your website.

      However, the way people interact with websites has a tendency to evolve over time. New technical innovations, devices, or browser updates can dramatically change how your typical internet user interacts with your website.

      To ensure that you continue to provide a good experience, we recommend scheduling annual usability testing.

      17. Review Your Domain and Hosting Renewals

      Choosing a domain name is one of the most important decisions you can make. A good domain will become an integral part of your branding.

      Now, imagine losing this essential part of your online identity. If you fall behind on your renewals, then you might try to access your site one day, only to discover that your domain has expired. Therefore, it’s smart to check your domain and hosting renewal status.

      Even if you activate auto-renewals, we still recommend manually verifying that everything is set up correctly, particularly your payment information. If your credit card has expired, the renewal will fail, and you may lose access to your domain or web hosting.

      18. Update Your Header, Footer, and Legal Policies

      Your header and footer are prime digital real estate. Typically, you’ll use these elements to display useful information, such as your contact details or opening hours. If this information is out of date, then you may lose out on conversions.

      The DreamHost footer.

      If you make any significant changes to your operations, you must immediately update the header and footer. However, it never hurts to perform an annual check just to ensure that no changes have slipped through the cracks.

      The header and footer also appear across your website. This makes them perfect for putting your most important pages at the audience’s fingertips.

      While reviewing these elements, consider removing any links that are no longer relevant. There may also be some new content that deserves a top spot in your header or footer.

      Most websites feature various legal policies, including a privacy policy and copyright information. Laws can evolve over time, so it’s always worth verifying that you’re in line with the latest regulations.

      19. Review Your ‘About’ Page

      A compelling About page can convince customers that you’re a company worth doing business with. It can also give people a sense of who you are as individuals.

      The DreamHost About Us page.

      Despite its importance, too many companies write their About page and then never revisit it. To ensure that this page is always representative of your company, it’s worth performing an annual review.

      An example of an About Us page.

      You can look for opportunities to add exciting developments, such as a major new client. You might also update any outdated information, such as changing an employee’s bio to reflect their new job title.

      20. Perform a Content Audit

      Publishing engaging, relevant content signals to visitors that your site is active and that you’re an expert in your field. This content can also help you improve your search engine rankings.

      To ensure that you’re getting maximum value from this content, we recommend performing an annual content audit. This is where you catalog all of your site’s content and evaluate its performance.

      This way, you can identify the topics and formats that attract the largest traffic and drive the most conversions. Conversely, you can pinpoint the content that doesn’t appear to resonate with your target audience. This is invaluable information that you can use to refine your content strategy.

      Ready to try the WordPress Website Maintenance Checklist?

      The hard work doesn’t end just because you’ve published your website. Running a successful WordPress site requires ongoing effort — and regular maintenance.

      By breaking this challenge into 20 tasks, you can keep your site in tip-top shape without becoming overwhelmed. In addition, if you add the right tools and services to the mix, you may be able to further reduce your workload.

      Running a website isn’t always easy, so why not let us lighten the load?

      Our DreamCare Service puts a team of DreamHost experts at your fingertips. With our 24/7 professional website monitoring, managed updates, and monthly security reviews, you can be confident that you’re smashing every item on your maintenance checklist.



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      How to Fix the “Briefly Unavailable for Scheduled Maintenance” Error in WordPress


      Is your website stuck in maintenance mode? During updates, WordPress displays a temporary notice on your site that reads: “Briefly unavailable for scheduled maintenance. Check back in a minute”. However, this message may sometimes remain visible after a few minutes, thus preventing visitors from accessing your site.

      Thankfully, fixing this error doesn’t require technical expertise. The maintenance mode issue is one of the easiest WordPress problems to resolve — and prevent.

      In this article, we’ll look at the main causes of the WordPress maintenance mode error. We’ll also show you a quick fix for this issue and share some tips to help you avoid the same problem in the future. Let’s get started!

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      What the Maintenance Mode Error Is (And What Causes It)

      When updating core software, themes, or plugins, WordPress puts your site in maintenance mode. It does this by creating a temporary .maintenance file in the root folder of your site.

      Anyone who visits your site during the update process will see the following message:

      The “Briefly unavailable for scheduled maintenance” message in WordPress

      Typically this notice is only up for a few seconds. Once the updates are done, WordPress automatically deletes the .maintenance file, and the message disappears from your site.

      However, an error may prevent your site from completing updates. When this happens, the maintenance notice stays up on your site, making it inaccessible.

      There are several reasons your site might be stuck in maintenance mode:

      • You may have closed the browser window in the middle of an update.
      • You may have tried updating a lot of plugins at the same time.
      • The update script may have timed out due to a slow hosting server response or a low memory problem.

      To resolve this issue, you may need to increase your site’s PHP memory limit. However, we’ll also be looking at two other simple fixes for this maintenance mode error.

      How to Fix the “Briefly Unavailable For Scheduled Maintenance” Error in WordPress

      Fortunately, there’s a very quick way to fix the WordPress maintenance error in WordPress. All you have to do is delete the .maintenance file from your site’s root directory.

      First, you’ll need to connect to your site using a Secure File Transfer Protocol (SFTP) client such as FileZilla. Alternatively, you can access your site by logging into your web hosting account and using the file manager.

      If you have a DreamHost account, you can navigate to WordPress > Managed WordPress in the sidebar, find your domain, and select Manage.

      Accessing the file manager in your DreamHost account

      On the next page, click on the Manage Files button in the Details section. In the file manager, open the folder with your domain name.

      In your site’s root directory, open the public_html folder, locate the .maintenance file, and delete it.

      Deleting the .maintenance file in your site’s directory

       

      If you’re using an SFTP client and can’t see the file in the directory, it may be hidden. To find it, go to the menu and click on Server > Force showing hidden files.

      Showing hidden files in FileZilla

      Your site should now be out of maintenance mode. If you’re still getting the error message, you may need to update the wp-activate.php file.

      To do this, go back to your site’s root directory and find the wp-activate.php file.

      Editing the wp-activate.php file in your site’s directory

      If you’re connected to your site via your hosting account, you may be able to open and edit the file within the file manager. Alternatively, you can download it to your computer.

      Open the wp-activate.php file and locate the following line of code:

      define ('WP_INSTALLING', true)

      Next, change the value “true” to “false” so that the code looks like this:

      define ('WP_INSTALLING', false)

      Save your changes and close the file. If you’ve been using the file manager in your hosting account, you don’t need to do anything else. If you’ve edited the wp-activate.php file on your computer, you’ll need to upload it to your site’s root directory.

      Once you’ve completed the above steps, return to your site and refresh it. You should now be out of maintenance mode.

      How to Prevent the Maintenance Mode Error

      When your site gets stuck in maintenance mode, people are unable to view your content. Thus, if you fail to notice the problem straightaway, you may lose potential conversions.

      Fortunately, there are several steps you can take to prevent this error in the future:

      • You can update your plugins and themes one at a time. While updating plugins in bulk saves you a bit of time, it can lead to conflicts and errors during the process.
      • You can upgrade your hosting plan. It’s a good idea to choose a managed WordPress hosting plan for enhanced site performance and fewer technical issues.
      • You can check the compatibility of your themes and plugins with your current version of WordPress. For this, you may want to set up a staging site so you can test new themes and plugins on an offline platform before making your changes live.

      Moreover, you may want to avoid closing your browser until all updates are complete.

      Updating plugins in WordPress

      If you exit the browser before then, WordPress won’t be able to update and remove the .maintenance file. You’ll know that updates are ready once you see the “All updates have been completed” status, as shown in the screenshot above.

      We also recommend that you check your site when running updates. This way, if the maintenance error does crop up again, you’ll be able to spot it and get it fixed immediately.

      How to Customize the Maintenance Mode Notice

      You can also avoid the default WordPress maintenance notice by using a plugin. This will enable you to manually put your site in maintenance mode before running any updates. You’ll also be able to customize the message.

      One popular tool you can use is the SeedProd plugin. After installing and activating the plugin, navigate to SeedProd > Pages in your admin dashboard. Then click on Set up a Maintenance Mode Page.

      Creating a maintenance mode page using the SeedProd plugin

      Next, you can choose a template and customize it to your liking. Note that some templates and features are only available in the premium version of the plugin.

      Selecting a template for the maintenance mode page in SeedProd

      Every time you need to run updates, you can head to SeedProd > Pages and simply activate your maintenance mode page. This will replace the default WordPress maintenance message.

      Another option you may want to consider is the Maintenance plugin. Install and activate the plugin, then click on Maintenance in your dashboard and edit the text you want to be displayed on your maintenance page.

      Customizing your maintenance mode notice using the Maintenance plugin

      You can also choose a premium pre-built theme. The plugin also lets you select pages and posts that you want to exclude from maintenance mode. Once you’re done, click on the blue Save Changes button.

      Similarly, the WP Maintenance Mode plugin lets you create your own maintenance page. After activating the plugin, navigate to Settings in your dashboard and select WP Maintenance Mode.

      To customize the content of your page, click on the Design tab.

      Editing your maintenance mode text in the WP Maintenance Mode plugin

      When you’re done, click on Save settings at the bottom of the page. To activate maintenance mode, go to the General tab and select the Activated option.

      Activating the maintenance page using the WP Maintenance Mode plugin

      You can also use these maintenance mode plugins for other purposes. For example, you can activate them while making some major changes to your content or working on a particular page or section on your website.

      WordPress Error Resources

      Now that you know how to tackle the “Briefly Unavailable for Scheduled Maintenance” message, you can learn how to solve and prevent other issues on your site. We’ve put together several tutorials to help you troubleshoot the most common WordPress errors:

      Are you looking for more information about running a WordPress site? Check out our WordPress Tutorials, a collection of guides designed to help you navigate the WordPress dashboard like an expert.

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      Fix the Briefly Unavailable For Scheduled Maintenance Error

      WordPress puts up a notice on your site during updates to let visitors know it’s currently under maintenance. This message is only visible for a few seconds, but an error during the updating process may result in your site getting stuck in WordPress maintenance mode.

      To fix the maintenance mode error, you simply need to delete the .maintenance file in your site’s root directory. You can also prevent this problem from cropping up again by running updates one at a time, ensuring that your plugins are compatible with the latest WordPress version, or upgrading to a better hosting plan.

      Are you looking for an advanced hosting solution for your WordPress site? Our DreamPress plans offer high-performance WordPress hosting with 24/7 expert support. This means that we take care of all your technical issues, so you can focus on growing your business.



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      Survey: Monitoring and OS Maintenance are IT Pros Biggest Infrastructure Time Wasters


      If time is considered a finite resource, IT pros are feeling a shortage.

      For INAP’s second annual State of IT Infrastructure Management report, we asked IT professionals to list the routine infrastructure activities taking too much and too little of their time. Once again, monitoring topped the “too much time” list, while designing and implementing new solutions ranked No. 1 in the “not enough time” category.

      Overall, 59 percent of IT pros are frustrated by the time spent on routine infrastructure activities and 84 percent agreed that they “could bring more value to their organization if they spent less time on routine tasks”—up 7 points from 2018.

      The survey was conducted late last year among 500 IT senior leaders and infrastructure managers in the United States and Canada. The margin of error was +/- 5 percent.

      Participants also shared how often their personal time is interrupted and how they would spend their time if they were given 16 hours back to use as they please.

      Check out the results below and download a copy of the full report here.

      How IT Pros Spend (And Don’t Spend) Their Time

      Here’s the full list of routine infrastructure activities alongside IT’s assessment of whether each is getting the attention it deserves.

      IT's Time

      Only 23 percent of participants said they don’t spend enough time monitoring infrastructure, which is less than half the rate of those who consider this routine activity to be something that is eating into time that could be spent elsewhere (48 percent).

      Operating system and hardware maintenance came in second and third, at 42 percent and 40 percent, respectively.

      Nearly half (47 percent) of IT pros want to spend more time on designing and implementing new solutions, compared to 28 percent who already spend too much time.

      IT pros remain polarized, as they were in the 2018 report, as to whether the amount of time spent securing their infrastructure is hitting the mark, with 39 percent saying it’s too much and 42 percent saying it’s not enough. Information security management/vulnerability migration is also the activity where the highest percentage of IT pros went one way or another on the issue, as only 19 percent fell into the “neither” category.

      Senior leaders were far more likely to say they spend too much time on security compared to non-senior infrastructure managers—30 percent vs. 13 percent. They were also more likely to say they don’t focus enough on OS maintenance—20 percent vs 6 percent of non-leaders.

      How IT Pros Would Like to Spend Their Time

      Survey respondents say their personal time is disrupted by work responsibilities related to server and/or cloud infrastructure an average of 6.24 times per month—up slightly from 5.9 times in 2018’s report.

      With so much time—on and off the clock—being dedicated to upkeep and maintenance, we once again asked, “What would you do if we gave you 16 hours back in your week?”

      16 hours

      Application related answers make up three of the top four activities this year, with “enhancing existing applications” and “optimizing existing environments for application performance” coming in third and fourth, respectively. Reclaiming work-life balance fell to second, after claiming the top spot in 2018.

      In the first annual State of IT Infrastructure Management report, IT pros noted that their departments are the key driver of their organization’s digital transformation initiatives, but they are spending too much time on routine tasks, focusing on functions that are “just keeping the lights on.” This sentiment continued in 2019. The list of activities noted in the chart above can be considered the opportunity costs of these routine tasks.

      Have you read checked out our second annual State of IT Infrastructure Management report yet? If not, download a free copy and get your report card for the hybrid IT and multicloud era:

      Laura Vietmeyer


      READ MORE



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