Blogging is not just about writing. At its bare minimum, it still is part content creation, part social media management, and part website administration. But the first two parts of blogging can in themselves become so overwhelming that it is easy to neglect its third seemingly “lesser” component. “If it ain’t broken, then why to fix it!” is a common reason many bloggers (including me) use to talk themselves out of blog maintenance. This neglect does not matter much in the short run. More so, because it’s not easy to see the benefits or its adverse effects immediately, but ignoring site maintenance activities can be fatal for your blog’s health in the long run.
So, at the very least, here are 11 essential blog maintenance tasks that you need to do every month (along with their corresponding tools/plugins).
NOTE: This post is written for WordPress bloggers specifically, but the general principles can very well be applied to other types of blogs as well.
1. Database backup
If your blog is a managed WordPress site, then database backup will be done regularly and automatically by your service provider itself. But it is still a good idea to keep a monthly backup for faster and easier access.
WP Database Backup is a good plugin for this. It has both a free version and a paid pro version. For simple backup purposes, the free version is good enough. Just remember to keep only a couple of latest backup versions and delete the older ones (more than 2 months old) when you are taking the next backup. Otherwise, in the long run, it may fill up your allotted WordPress space and create performance issues for your site. Again, don’t forget to save a local copy on your laptop too.
2. Code backup
If you are a coding enthusiast like me and enjoy tinkering with the backend PHP code from time to time, then taking a code backup per month is a must. I have been lazy in the past with this task and have paid heavily when my code was overwritten due to automatic WordPress/plugin updates. So, don’t be like me and backup your code regularly 🙂
The award-winning free tool WinSCP is a good one to FTP the latest code to your local system.
3. Database optimization to remove unused drafts, temporary data etc.
You will be surprised how much garbage (Read unused drafts, temporary variables, spam comments etc.) your database can accumulate over a month’s period. To remove such data and reorganize your database for better long-term performance, an optimization plugin in a must.
WP-Optimize (free) works wonderfully well for this purpose and can help you keep your database squeaky clean. A word of caution, though. You must always run your database backup (See Point 1 again) first before running DB optimization in the unlikely event that something goes wrong. (Till date, this has never happened to me, but as with anything else, it is always better to be safe, than sorry!).
4. Deletion of unused media files
Images convey thousand times more information than words. And who doesn’t love a good visual? But sometimes, we tend to upload more images than needed and forget about all the ones which never find their way into the final post versions. Such orphan images and their different thumbnails take up space. Again, in the short run, it doesn’t matter much. However, in the long run, they add up quickly to degrade your site’s performance. So, you must not forget to delete unused media files from your WordPress blog.
Currently, I try to delete an unused media file immediately from the library once I have decided not to use it. This is a manual process using the “Delete Permanently” option in the library. But it is better to use a plugin for the same. Media Cleaner is a good option for this and has both free and pro versions available. As with DB Optimization, you must take a backup of your upload directory before using this plugin.
5. Plugin maintenance
There are three aspects of plugin maintenance that you need to take care of during your monthly blog housekeeping:
Deletion of unused plugins
You must delete any active or inactive plugin that you are not using right now, nor plan to use in the near future. It is tempting to keep some good plugins in the deactivated state in the off chance that you may need it later. But a good rule of thumb is that if you haven’t used it for two months, chances are you are not going to use it. So, go ahead and delete the plugin and save yourself some performance degradation.
Monitoring active plugins for upgrades
You must keep track of all your active plugins to ensure that they are at their latest versions. Whether it is a bug fix or compatibility with latest WordPress version or a security patch, you must keep your plugins up to date at all times.
Monitoring active plugins for performance degradation
Sometimes, for no fault of yours, your site may start behaving sluggishly or erratically. A faulty plugin may be there to blame for this. So, you must always use reputed plugins and also monitor them at least once per month for performance degradation or configuration issues etc. P3 (Plugin Performance Profiler) from GoDaddy is a good free tool for checking that.
6. Page speed and site performance monitoring
Large image sizes, too many widgets, no provision for caching, all could lead to problems with page speed and your blog’s response times. It is a good idea to keep monitoring your site’s performance every month to ensure that the deviations are within acceptable limits and not something that needs immediate attention.
Google’s Page Speed Insight is THE PLACE to start your tweaking. Pingdom’s Online Speed Tool is also another good option to get a second opinion and test your blog’s site performance. Both these free tools give you suggestions to improve your site speed, some of which you can very easily implement by following the instructions.
7. Threat monitoring
I wrote a couple of posts about comment spam some time ago and how to deal with it. Unfortunately, comment spam is a comparatively easy and harmless threat to deal with. However, in the online world, brute force attacks and site hacking – especially when the blog in focus has questionable security measures – are more common than you may think.
Wordfence Security is a commendable plugin (free and paid versions) to fight that threat. In addition, it is a good idea to serve your content through a Content Delivery Network like MaxCDN just in case you happen to be “under attack”.
Again, just installing a security plugin and forgetting about it is not enough. You must actively monitor the logs for threat and tweak its configurations based on the type of threats you are receiving. Also, always block the unsafe and spammy IPs and email addresses every month.
8. Password maintenance
Any website is as strong or as weak as the passwords that are its gatekeepers. So, always, always remember to change the passwords every month. Again, don’t forget to make them strong and devoid of any readily hackable personal data. And yes, if your website administrator Id is still “admin” or your site’s domain name, just go ahead and paint a target on your back too 😉 What I mean to say is – You must change it right this instant!
9. Broken link monitoring
Broken links create a bad experience in the minds of your readers and are not good from SEO perspective. I am guilty of not monitoring them regularly, but this is another activity that needs to be on your monthly blog maintenance checklist (and mine too!).
Broken Link Checker is a good plugin to use for the same. It not only checks for broken links but also gives you the option to edit them or show them differently on your posts/pages and stops search engines from following them.
10. User-Interface cross-browser testing
Once a month, reviewing the user interface of your site through desktop, mobile, and tablets and through multiple browsers is a good idea. Of course, it would be crazy to try to go through all pages but sampling a few can save you some traffic that you may be losing (without even knowing it!) due to browser incompatibility issues. And no, you don’t need to install ten thousand different browsers on your system to test. There are some online tools to help you out. Please refer to the below link which is a good point to start your cross-browser testing.
11. Disabling the housekeeping plugins after blog maintenance is complete
And last, but not the least, once you are done with the housekeeping tasks for the month, don’t forget to deactivate the plugins you used specifically for blog maintenance.
And that’s all there is to ensure your blog’s health month on month. I know it’s not easy to keep track of all these activities (even I forget some every month!) and so, to help you (and me in the process), here’s a free downloadable checklist for your perusal.
Now, it’s your turn to share. Do you actively do these housekeeping tasks for your blog? What other tasks have I missed? Please spill in the comments section below.
PS: If you found this post informative and useful, please don’t forget to share it with your blogger friends on your favorite social media platforms.