What’s your favorite thing about buying a new car? Is it that infamous “new car smell” or the way the engine rumbles when it starts up? Not to take the wind out of your sails, but we all know a car loses value the minute we drive off the lot- despite that euphoric feeling. While a car might lose some value, it’s still an asset in many ways, and to maintain value requires routine maintenance. Your website, just like a shiny new car, will also require maintenance and frequent updates in order to run smoothly and retain maximum value. An oil change, quick wash and wax or checking the tire pressure can prevent breaking down on the side of the road. Websites benefit from the same type of basic maintenance, whether it’s refreshing the homepage or making sure your site software is updated. Moving beyond aesthetics, ignoring the ‘engine’ of your website – the software – can mean putting your site at risk. Months of hard work goes in to customizing your website – creating the perfect design, writing compelling content and getting the functionality just right. To ensure your website’s security, and to ensure optimal performance, you’ll need to update your WordPress platform frequently.
74,652,825. Does that number mean anything to you?
That’s how many websites depend on WordPress every single day. On top of its many advantages, people trust WordPress because it’s the most powerful Content Management System (CMS) around. Without proper updates, however, websites can fall susceptible to anything from site banners being replaced with someone else’s imagery to malicious software being put in the root of your website and even entire sites being taken down. At a startling rate of nine times out of ten, these security exploits occur because a site is running an outdated version of WordPress or plug-ins haven’t been updated. Think of it this way: if you have an outdated plug-in on your website, it’s simply one more hole a hacker can get in to your site through.
So, how do you prevent this? WordPress is constantly coming out with new versions of its software to enhance the functionality of its platform as well as to guard against security holes and threats. Ensuring you’re running the most recent version of WordPress is the first step, but you can also install a number of different plugins that thwart or prevent breaches such as WordFence or Lockdown WP Admin. The Lockdown WP Admin plug-in changes your login admin path to something unique since the WordPress login defaults to [www.sitename.com/wp-admin]. Lockdown WP Admin allows you change this since most hackers will be looking for the default [/wp-admin] when they’re running their scripts.
A word of caution. One of the most important things to remember before updating your website is to not only back the site itself up, but to backup the database as well. While updates can be performed automatically, you should be very careful when doing so. Updating your WordPress platform has the potential to harm your website if plug-ins haven’t regularly been updated or your theme is outdated. Your theme is the overall design or style of your website including, font styling, colors, and widget locations- among other things. If the theme you’re using no longer has support for updates then automatic updating is definitely not your best option, especially if you’re using a free theme, or one that cost you $20. Running an automatic update could potentially destroy all of your content and styling, and depending on the severity of the damage, some content may not be recoverable. As a rule of thumb, anytime you backup a plug-in, you also need to backup your website.
When you’re updating the WordPress core version, it’s possible that you’ll also notice newer features that make it easier for you to post content, monitor users, as well as a range of different usability improvements. Upgrading your website increases the opportunity for better conversions and interactions on the site as a whole.
How Often Should Updates Be Performed?
Website and plug-in updates should be performed every 2 weeks or whenever an update becomes available. Weekly monitoring is paramount because if WordPress is releasing an update, you can be guaranteed there’s a reason.
If you haven’t updated your site in 1-2 years your SEO, and especially mobile layouts, will be out-of-date. If this is so, you’re undoubtedly missing out on mobile rankings. This year alone Google has moved to two separate algorithms in their searches, one for mobile and one for desktop. If you’re unfamiliar with current SEO best practices, it’s due time to get caught up!
Compatibility, Features & Bugs
If updating your website is last on your “list of things to do,” eventually you’ll run into some compatibility issues. Plug-ins may work incorrectly or even become completely broken, and it’s entirely possible that some kind of malicious software could be embedded somewhere in your site. All in all, it cannot be stressed enough how fast tech is moving, especially with regard to best practices. With the frenetic pace, there is a myriad of ways to do things when it comes to front-end development.
Lastly- bugs. Unless you’re an entomologist, it’s probably safe to say that we all understand the importance of bug protection- especially when it comes to your website. If there are bugs affecting your plug-ins, it’s likely because it hasn’t been updated. Either the plug-in must be updated, or you must go into the core of the plug-in and alter it (until the author of the plug-in fixes the problem themselves). Frequent overall website updates will ward against bugs, but updating plug-ins themselves grants better features and security patches.
From security measures to ensuring the best features and protection from bugs, website updates must be performed frequently, and be performed well. If you have questions, or you’d like to jumpstart your WordPress security, check out our easy WordPress Monitoring & Maintenance selections!