In Part 1 and Part 2 of our 3-part series on launching a WordPress site, we discussed hosting, basic setup, design, SEO, and overall functionality. In Part 3, we tell you how to maintain your new site post-launch. There are several things you’ll want to consider as you continue to grow your website through WordPress, including regular maintenance updates, blogging, keeping content current, and social media.
After Launching a WordPress Site: The Honeymoon Period
After you first get done launching a WordPress site, if you’re anything like us, you may find yourself checking our site over and over to ensure everything looks just right. Websites are art forms, after all: they represent the hopes and dreams we have for our businesses.
Like any open source technology, however, WordPress is not without its problems. Though the platform has gotten consistently better over the years, updates can sometimes break your site in unexpected ways. Your blog will feel constantly hungry for content. And then there’s the question of social media and how to drive traffic from other sources back to your new website.
Below, we go through all the main things you need to know to keep your WordPress site running smoothly.
Step 15 of Launching a WordPress Site: Regular Maintenance Updates
WordPress has 3 kinds of updates that need regular attention:
- WordPress core updates: These are updates to the main WordPress operating system. It’s essential to install these updates as soon as they come out, as they affect the overall functionality of your site, its security, and other features.
- Updates to plugins: Every plugin you install will also receive period updates from whoever made it. It’s very important to install these updates when they become available, but waiting a few days won’t hurt.
- Updates to themes: Lastly, whoever made your theme will also release periodic updates for it that improve its functionality. It is typically a good idea to apply these updates, unless you or someone else has edited your theme or has created a Child Theme, both of which can sometimes get broken by theme updates.
When Regular Maintenance Updates Go Bad
As you can see from the huge red banner warning currently displayed on WordPress’s updating instructions, problems sometimes occur when doing regular maintenance updates.
The most common problems we’ve seen with the different types of updates are listed below:
- WordPress core updates: Unless plugins or themes are made by WordPress, rather than by a third-party developer, they are not guaranteed to be compatible with new versions of WordPress. If an existing plugin or theme isn’t compatible with a new version of WordPress, you might see features get dropped from your site, or your entire site might get replaced by a “briefly unavailable for maintenance” error message. See our Definitive WordPress Guide (linked to below) for help troubleshooting this problem.
- Updates to plugins: Every plugin update you apply to a plugin made by a third party also runs the risk of breaking your site, but this is less common than with core updates. The problem that will most likely happen when updating a plugin is that the plugin will stop working properly. To deal with this problem, simply deactivate and/or delete the plugin.
- Updates to themes: Theme updates are trickier to deal with as you simply might not know if it’s safe to update your theme or not when you see that update notification. The safest thing to do if you’re not sure is to not update your theme. If your site is functioning well and isn’t broken, it’s often best to stick with the version of the theme you’re using, unless you trust the developer of the theme, perhaps because you have used other themes by them or they have good customer support.
Step 16 of Launching a WordPress Site: Keeping Up With Your Blog
Another problem many website owners experience after launching a WordPress site is keeping up with their blog. In order for your blog to do what it was meant to do, which is ping search engines with fresh content and keywords and draw people into your site, you have to update it regularly. This means at least 1-2 times per week.
In order to keep on schedule, make yourself a to do list to remind you to write a new blog post or two each week. Set aside evenings or mornings that you know you have free to do them and keep to your schedule.
Also: so you don’t run dry of topics, every time you think of a new topic, write it down somewhere so you can come back to it later.
Step 17 of Launching a WordPress Site: Keeping Content Current
After launching a WordPress site, it can also be easy to let content become outdated. You’re busy running your business, and unless you’re doing e-commerce, it may not appear to matter whether you’ve updated your About page recently, or if your homepage has some outdated product listings.
Trust us: keeping your content current does matter. It matters so much that many designers are starting to talk about a content-first approach that ensures good content is at the core of business strategies. Think about it: if you go to a business website and see content that is outdated, missing, or ineffective, what impression does that leave you with? Are you more, or less, likely to purchase from that business?
To help keep your content current, keep a list of your most active pages (meaning the pages that users visit the most) and review them at least every few weeks to ensure they’re still current. Also, add a date by the names of all your pages in a spreadsheet or other document that indicates the last time they were updated. If a page has gone weeks or months without being updated, it’s probably due for a refresh.
Step 18 of Launching a WordPress Site: Staying Active on Social Media
One of the best parts about launching a WordPress site is that it’s very easy to create a simple workflow for sharing new content to social media. This is largely thanks to the Publicize feature that comes bundled with the JetPack plugin, which we mentioned as a must-have in Part 2 of this series. Publicize allows you to share every new blog post to social media automatically, and even formats posts correctly for different channels (i.e. Facebook vs. Twitter).
Like all plugins, however, JetPack needs to be maintained, so to ensure that all your posts are being shared, keep it updated and make sure you have Publicize turned on. If you do, you should see a little section next to each post that lists all the social media platforms you share to.
Conclusion: WordPress Is Simply a Very Advanced Tool
Clients are often surprised by how much work is involved in maintaining a good WordPress website. They get really excited about launching a WordPress site, but then once the honeymoon period is over, their site starts to fall into disarray. You have to remember that WordPress is simply a tool for maintaining your web presence. And like any tool, it must be used to be effective.