What is WordPress Maintenance Mode?

Your work in progress.

WordPress maintenance mode is incredibly handy for websites, and you should be using it, if you’re not already.

Managing your site should be easy and this WP feature adds exactly that.

Let’s get into it.

Understanding WordPress Maintenance Mode

WordPress maintenance mode is a feature that allows site owners to temporarily offline their site.

It also allows you to display a maintenance page to visitors while updates, changes, or fixes are happening in the back end.

Basically, it’s a virtual “under construction” sign.

So, just like avoiding being hit by swinging concrete, your site users can be kept away from any broken links, common errors, or unfinished content during these updates.

The Importance of WordPress Maintenance Mode

Avoid User Disruption

Imagine visiting a website and there are broken links all over, missing images, or half-loaded pages.

You’re not going to go back, are you? It’s just bad UX.

WordPress maintenance mode stops all access, so you can fix your site without damaging your reputation.

Make it polished and give people a professional experience.

A Seamless Update Process

WordPress releases updates for software, themes and plugins, pretty often.

They’re essential for security and functionality, but they can sometimes cause conflicts or errors.

Maintenance mode allows you to test updates and make sure everything is working properly.

Maintaining a Professional Appearance

First impressions matter.

When site visitors see a maintenance page with a friendly message, a countdown timer and contact information, they’re more likely to respond well.

It looks professional and well-maintained, rather than neglected.

Customising Your Maintenance Mode Page

After fixing your stuck maintenance mode, personalising it can make a big difference in how your users perceive the downtime.

Here are customisation options:

Adding a Countdown Timer

This tells visitors about the estimated time until your website is back online.

It adds a sense of anticipation and transparency.

Displaying Contact Information

Include a contact form, email address, or number so that people can get in touch if they have urgent inquiries or concerns during the maintenance.

Showcasing a Progress Bar

A progress bar shows the status of updates or maintenance tasks.

It reassures visitors that progress is being made and gives them an idea of when they can expect the site to be fully operational.

Best Practices for Using WordPress Maintenance Mode

To make the most of the maintenance mode, follow these:

1. Plan Ahead for Updates

Schedule maintenance during periods of low traffic to minimise disruptions.

Plan and test updates thoroughly before deploying them.

2. Communicate with Your Audience

Use the maintenance page to communicate why the site is temporarily unavailable and when it’s expected to be back online.

3. Testing During Maintenance

Check every now and then that everything on your site is working properly.

This is super important for e-commerce sites or those with complex functions.

Common Mistakes to Avoid

In the frenzy to update or fix issues, you may tend to make these mistakes:

1. Not Using Maintenance Mode

If you forget to use this, it’s not the end of the world.

But users will have some serious problems with your site, and probably avoid it in the future.

2. Leaving Maintenance Mode Active Indefinitely

This might seem silly to suggest, but it does happen.

Don’t forget to turn it off, it’s another thing that can cause some damage to bounce rates and SEO.

3. Neglecting to Communicate with Users

Keep them in the loop, tell them what’s happening.

A constant lack of information can be incredibly confusing and damaging.

SEO Considerations

Maintaining SEO integrity during site downtime is SO important.

Here’s what you should keep in mind:

Impact on Search Rankings

Temporary dips in search engine rankings can happen during maintenance, but they’re usually short-lived.

Proper configuration for the mode reduces this.

What is the Best Practice?

Use a 503 HTTP status code to signal to search engines that your site is currently unavailable for maintenance.

This helps search engines understand the situation so they don’t penalise your site.

Precautions to Keep SEO Intact

Ensure any changes made during maintenance, like URL structures or content updates, don’t hurt your SEO.

Audit your website to make sure your SEO is the best it can be.

Advanced Tips and Tricks

Now that you’re familiar with the basics, let’s take a look at some more advanced ways to maximise its effectiveness and streamline the process:

1. Segmented Maintenance Pages

For larger sites (or ones with diverse user segments) think about creating these kinds of maintenance pages.

This means tailoring the maintenance message and content based on user roles or specific audiences.

For example: You can have different messages for regular visitors, logged-in users, and administrators, giving each group relevant information.

2. Use Redirects

Sometimes, you might need to send people to another page or site.

It’s especially useful when you want to direct them to a temporary landing page or alternate site.

Use plugins or coding to create them seamlessly without confusing your audience.

3. Collect User Feedback

Why not turn downtime into an opportunity for user engagement?

Put up a feedback form on your maintenance page so users can freely share their thoughts or report issues they’ve had on your site.

It helps you identify possible problems you should start addressing.

4. A/B Testing

If you’re making significant changes, try this out.

It allows you to compare different versions of your site and gather data on user preferences and behaviour.

A/B results can help you make decisions about design, layout, and content.

5. Hop on Socials

For any sites that have some sort of social media presence, use it to update people.

Announce the downtime, share progress, and give a general timeline for when the site will be back online.

Maintaining a casual connection with your audience helps lessen the confusion.

6. Backup Your Website

Please, please, please do this before making major changes to your website.

It’s just so you have a copy to restore in case anything goes horribly wrong during the maintenance.

Many hosting providers offer automated backup solutions, but you can also use WordPress backup plugins for added peace of mind.

7. Monitor Performance

While your site is down, use performance monitoring tools to keep an eye on server resources, page load times and overall site health.

A proactive approach like this allows you to address any issues as they come up, preventing any from escalating.

8. Educate Your Team

If you have a team of content creators, editors, or administrators working on your site, make sure they understand the importance of maintenance mode and how to use it.

Teach your team members when and how to activate maintenance mode to avoid accidental disruptions.

Final Thoughts

WordPress maintenance mode is a really useful tool for site owners.

By following these tips and keeping an eye on your SEO, you can make the most of this feature and keep your WordPress site in top shape.

Lilli Foreman

Lilli Foreman

Lilli works on copy, content, site build and layout at Toast. She helps clients with optimised blogs, on-page SEO and general site work.