WordPress is an amazing, scalable platform to use for building your coaching website. I’ve gone into detail about why I recommend it before. That said, creating a WordPress site isn’t a one-and-done job.
A WordPress website is kind of like a car — it needs regular upkeep and care to keep it running smoothly and working hard for you and your coaching business.
Proper care keeps your site safe
If its maintenance is neglected, your site can break over time as software becomes outdated. Outdated sites also leave room for security vulnerabilities. In fact, one report showed that 40% of sites that got hacked were running outdated software. That’s a pretty close relationship between outdated software and getting hacked.
The good news is WordPress is very secure as long as best practices around its care are followed.
Most of my clients sign up for one of my website care plans as soon as their project is done. However, if you’re creating a DIY website, this post will explain the basics of how to keep it maintained and in tip-top shape after you’re done building it. You’ll learn the four parts of website care, and how often to perform each part.
The four parts of website care
There are four main aspects to basic website care:
- Website backups
- WordPress core, theme, and plugin updates
- Security scans
- Uptime monitoring
1. Website backups
Perhaps the most important part of website care is regular offsite backups. An offsite backup means taking a copy of your entire website and storing it somewhere external to your website (such as Dropbox or Google Drive).
That way if your site gets hacked, or you break something major while trying to update or edit it, or in rare cases if a natural disaster affects where your web host stores your site files (it happens)…it’s okay! Because you have a backup you can restore immediately, and very little website data is lost.
How to take offsite backups?
The good news is there are ways to automate offsite backups. ****Your web hosting provider may offer it as an add-on service you can purchase. The downside of web host backups is that you have no control over how or where the backup data is stored. If your host ever goes down, you’ll definitely still want to have your own copy external to your hosting plan.
So even if you have your web host take backups, I still recommend setting up offsite backups using a WordPress plugin. Here are a few great options. They’re all easy to install, with lots of tutorials from the plugin creators on how to set up offsite backups properly.
How often to take backups?
I recommend taking a website backup daily. That’s usually frequent enough to catch any changes you’re making to your site, whether it be a blog post uploaded or a line of copy changed here and there. You might choose to increase to hourly backups if you have a very active membership site or e-commerce store.
2. WordPress core, theme, and plugin updates
The second key aspect of WordPress website care is regular software updates. There are three software types to update on a WordPress site:
- WordPress core
- The theme
- The plugins
The WordPress core and the installed theme contain the basic functionality of the site, and plugins simply extend that functionality. The creators of all three release regular updates to improve the way the software works. This is great for you — it means you can focus on your business instead of tinkering with software code.
How to update them?
I recommend approaching software updates very conservatively. That means don’t hit “select all” on your site and update all the software at the same time. Because if you update all the things at the same time, and something breaks, you can’t pinpoint which updated software actually caused the site to break in the first place.
Here’s how I recommend you approach updates:
- First, take an offsite backup to the cloud. That way if updating breaks something, you have a fresh update you can immediately put into place so your site doesn’t stay broken while you troubleshoot the software causing the issue.
- Then, update the WordPress core. WordPress regularly releases new updates to its core software to make it more functional and more secure. You’ll find these updates under Dashboard > Updates when you log in to WordPress. Perform a visual check on the front end of your site after you update the WordPress core.
- Update your theme. Under Appearance > Themes, you’ll be able to see if your theme has a new update to install. You might see some old themes there, too, that are inactive. You can update them all from that screen. Perform a visual check on the front end of your site after you update your themes.
- Update your plugins. Under Plugins > Installed Plugins, you’ll see a list of all your plugins and any new updates that are available for them. I recommend you update them all one at a time, checking your homepage and a few other key pages after each plugin is done updating. That way you know which plugin is the culprit if updating it breaks the site.
- Perform a thorough visual check. Once you’ve updated WordPress, the theme, and plugins, perform a thorough visual check on the front end of your site. That means pinpointing five key pages on the site and making sure they still display properly and all the links and forms work. This is very important because sometimes there will be things to troubleshoot and fix after updates.
- Take another offsite backup. Now that you’re finished updating, save your work by taking another offsite backup.
How often to perform updates?
My team and I take care of WordPress core, theme, and plugin updates once per month. Updating once a month is usually frequent enough to keep the site secure, but also gives time so that if the plugin’s creator releases a buggy update, there’s time for them to iron it out before you install it on your site. For that reason, I recommend updating your site somewhere between every month and every two weeks.
A word on auto-updates
Some web hosts offer auto-updates built into their hosting services. That means they’ll automatically update WordPress, your theme, and your plugins anytime there’s a new update released.
Auto-updates sound great in theory. However, sometimes updates cause your site to break. If you aren’t manually updating the software, you aren’t going to catch those broken things. For example, if an auto-update breaks your blog page on Friday afternoon, you may not find out until Monday morning when your friend texts you about it as they were perusing your latest article.
For that reason, I don’t recommend auto-updates.
3. Security scans
The third aspect of website care is regular security scans. This is a scan that reviews your website’s files and determines if there are any harmful pieces of code inserted by attackers.
Not only could this code harm your website, but anyone who visits it (including your clients!). While it’s not possible to completely protect from such harmful code, it is possible to detect it early so you can fix it.
Thankfully, just like offsite backups, there are ways to automate security scans using plugins. I personally use WordFence for my client sites, but there are a variety of security plugins out there that are proven to help detect security threats. See a comprehensive list of solid security plugins here. Again, they all come with helpful tutorials so you can know how to set them up properly.
That way if there’s a security issue, you can know immediately and take action to remediate it.
4. Uptime monitoring
The last aspect of website care is uptime monitoring. Uptime monitoring means knowing immediately when your website goes down for any reason so you can quickly take action to get it back up again. UpTimeRobot and Watchful are a couple of solid plugin options to install on your site that will notify you as soon as your site goes down. Then you can get in touch with your web host to figure out what’s wrong and how to fix it.
Now you know the four aspects of website care so that you can keep your website up and running for you 24/7. If you’re ready to hire a web team to take over website care so you can spend your valuable time working on your business instead, you can request a care plan here.