WordPress is a wildly popular platform for hosting website. When properly configured, it’s extremely secure, easy to use, fast, and incredibly search engine friendly. But the way WordPress achieves these distinctions is by frequent updates and tons of support from third-party plugins. It’s important to review your WordPress site a couple times a year to make sure it is running at it’s best.

DISCLAIMER: This list is provided as an outline of technical tasks required. It does not provide step-by-step instructions. Do not mess with the backend of any website unless you know what you are doing. Most of the following steps can cause catastrophic damage to your site if performed incorrectly.

Here is our checklist for a semi-annual WordPress site update:

1. Backup

Before doing any site maintenance you need a full backup. Not just the files but the databases, too. The most likely time to crash your website is when you are updating plugins and such. Just grabbing the files in public_html with FTP will not get the post data and configuration data in the MySQL database. If you’re not familiar with MySQL exports, take a look at BackupBuddy by iThemes.com. It does a great job of grabbing everything you need and making it easy to restore if you need it.

2. Update WordPress

The reason WordPress ranks as one of the most secure content management systems is because they have a huge group of developers helping identify and fix security holes before they become epidemics. But you have to be on the current version of WordPress to reap these benefits. Most current versions of WordPress have an update now button that will initiate the update.

3. Review Plugins

Having too many plugins running can slow down your site and make troubleshooting a pain. This is a good time to review your plugins for any you don’t need any more. Every major version of WordPress includes new features that were previously provided by plugins. If the plugins aren’t needed any more, remove them.

4. Update Plugins

More than likely some of your remaining plugins will have updates available. You can go to the plugins’ website and learn about the new features or bug fixes. It is generally a good idea to keep your plugins current.

5. Theme Updates

Check with your theme developer to see if there are any updates for your theme. Just like plugins, new theme versions can take advantage of new WordPress features like menus that didn’t exist before.

6. Security Check

Look at your users table, particularly users with Administrator rights. Make sure you know who has accounts. Remove obsolete accounts. New versions of WordPress do not require the master admin account to have the username admin. If you have other administrator level users you can delete the admin account. This makes it a little harder for hackers to get in.

7. SEO Review

This is a good time to review any SEO settings in your themes or plugins. Make sure the keywords and descriptions are current. Verify your Google Analytics or other tracking systems are properly configured.

8. Content Check

Give your website content a quick read through. Particularly make sure that phone numbers, addresses and staff contacts are still current. Verify that any contact forms or other plugins are sending to the proper contacts.

9. Backup Again

It’s time for a final backup. The first backup you did was to protect you if anything broke during this update process. Now you want a backup of the new up-to-date site. Again, make sure the databases are backed up, too.

10. Store Backups Offsite

Last step is to move your backups to a safe place (not on the same server as the website). If the server goes down, you don’t want it taking your backups, too. We like to make sure backups are stored on a different server, preferably with a different vendor than our host site.

That’s it, you’re up-to-date with one of the most popular, secure and easy to use web content management systems available. Relax and enjoy your site.