The first 20 things to do if you’ve just inherited a large WordPress site.

Don’t be intimidated; it’s just a website.

It’s a big thing to keep up with large WordPress site maintenance.

Trying to handle it by yourself, especially if you’ve had little experience, isn’t always the best way to go.

So, we’ve compiled 20 things you must do after inheriting a large site, warts and all.

1. Initial Site Assessment

Before diving into any changes, start with a full MOT.

Understand the site’s structure, content, and any existing issues.

This initial assessment sets the foundation for effective management.

Examine the sites:

  • Structure: Analyse the site layout, navigation, and the arrangement of pages and posts, and make sure they align with the site’s purpose.
  • Content: Review the existing content to gauge its quality, relevance, and accuracy. Take note of any outdated or redundant materials.
  • Issues: Find any immediate issues, like broken links, missing images, or functionality problems.

2. Back Up Everything

Data security is vital.

Begin by creating a full backup of the website.

This ensures that you have a safety net in case anything goes wrong during the transition.

A comprehensive backup should include:

  • Content: This comprises all text, images, videos, and other media on your site.
  • Database: Make a complete backup of the database, where everything is stored.
  • Configuration Files: Don’t forget to backup configuration files that may contain important customisations or settings.

A solid backup is a safety net.

It’s the digital equivalent of an insurance policy for your website.

3. Documentation Review

Search for any existing documentation related to the site.

This may include login credentials, hosting details, and previous maintenance records.

An effective review involves:

  • Login Credentials: Ensure you have access to all necessary accounts, including WordPress admin, hosting, and domain registrar logins.
  • Hosting Details: Review hosting settings, including server specs and configurations.
  • Previous Maintenance Records: Historical records can provide valuable insights into past issues and solutions, helping you make informed decisions.

4. WordPress Core Update

Keeping your site secure and up-to-date is important.

Start by checking you’re running the latest version of WordPress.

The core updates offer:

  • Security Enhancements: Updates often include fixes for known vulnerabilities, improving your site’s protection against threats.
  • New Features: You’ll benefit from the latest features and improvements, making your site more functional and competitive.
  • Compatibility: Updates also improve compatibility with plugins and themes, reducing the risk of conflicts.

Regularly updating your WordPress core should be a fundamental part of site maintenance.

5. Plugin and Theme Audit

Examine the plugins and themes in use.

Remove any redundant or outdated ones that might create conflicts or security vulnerabilities.

To do a thorough audit:

  • Plugin Evaluation: Review the purpose and functions of each plugin and make sure they’re maintained and active with the latest WordPress version.
  • Theme Assessment: Do the same with the themes. Consider whether they still align with your goals and if they’re optimised for performance and responsiveness.
  • Security Check: Pay attention to security plugins and practices, ensuring they are actively protecting your site from threats.

Maintaining a lean and efficient collection of plugins and themes is key to a well-functioning WordPress site.

6. User Roles and Permissions

This makes sure that only authorised individuals have access to the back end of the site.

Here’s what to keep in mind:

  • Role Definitions: Understanding the roles in WordPress like Administrator, Editor, Author, and Subscriber – They should each have an appropriate role.
  • Access Control: Restrict access to sensitive areas of the site, such as the WordPress admin panel, to those who genuinely need access.
  • Password Policies: Implement strong password policies and make sure all users are using secure credentials.

Managing user roles and permissions is crucial for maintaining site security and data integrity.

7. Performance Check

Evaluate the site’s performance to identify areas that require optimisation for a smoother user experience.

This entails:

  • Speed Testing: Use performance tools to assess page load times and identify slow-loading elements that require attention.
  • Caching Implementation: Explore caching solutions to speed up your site. Caching can significantly reduce load times and improve user experience.
  • Image Optimisation: Compress and optimise images to reduce page size and enhance loading speed.

8. Security Assessment

Perform a security audit to identify and rectify vulnerabilities, update passwords, and strengthen security measures.

A comprehensive security assessment includes:

  • Vulnerability Scanning: Use security plugins to scan for vulnerabilities in your WordPress installation and address any identified issues.
  • Password Management: Encourage strong, unique passwords for all users. Consider implementing two-factor authentication for added security.
  • Firewall Implementation: Explore firewall solutions to safeguard your site from malicious activity.

9. Content Audit

Assess the quality and relevance of the existing content.

Plan for updates or removals as needed.

During a content audit:

  • Content Quality: Evaluate the content for accuracy, relevance, and overall quality. Identify outdated or incorrect information.
  • Content Strategy: Consider your site’s goals and target audience to develop a content strategy. Plan for new content that aligns with these objectives.
  • SEO Enhancement: Look for opportunities to improve SEO by optimising existing content and identifying keywords for future content.

10. SEO Status

Examine the site’s SEO status, including keywords, metadata, and search engine rankings.

An SEO check involves:

  • Keyword Analysis: Research keywords relevant to your niche and ensure they are strategically incorporated into your content.
  • Metadata Optimisation: Review meta titles and descriptions to ensure they are informative and enticing for users and search engines.
  • Ranking Monitoring: Use SEO tools to monitor your site’s rankings in search engine results pages (SERPs).

A solid SEO foundation is key to driving organic traffic and enhancing your site’s visibility.

11. Speed Optimisation

Website speed is crucial. Slow-loading pages can drive visitors away and harm your search engine rankings.

To optimise speed:

  • Image Compression: Compress images to reduce file sizes without compromising quality.
  • Caching: Implement caching solutions to store static versions of your site and serve them quickly to users.
  • Minify Code: Minify HTML, CSS, and JavaScript to reduce file sizes and improve loading times.

12. Mobile Optimisation

As mobile device usage continues to grow, it’s essential that your site is fully optimised for mobile users.

This includes:

  • Responsive Design: When developing or customising your site, prioritise mobile users. Start with the mobile design and then scale up for larger screens.
  • Testing Across Devices: Regularly test your site on various mobile devices to confirm that it displays correctly and functions smoothly.

13. Reducing Bounce Rates

A high bounce rate, where visitors leave your site quickly, can harm your site’s performance.

To reduce bounce rates:

  • Engaging Content: Create compelling, informative, and engaging content that captures visitors’ interest and encourages them to explore further.
  • Clear Navigation: Ensure intuitive site navigation with a clear menu structure and easily accessible content.

14. Website Security

Website security is paramount, both for the safety of your data and the trust of your users.

Enhance security with:

  • Firewall Protection: Implement a firewall to block malicious traffic and attacks.
  • Regular Updates: Keep all software, including WordPress, themes, and plugins, up-to-date to patch security vulnerabilities.
  • Backup Solutions: Regularly back up your site to safeguard your data in case of security breaches.

15. Accessibility Compliance

Your site should be accessible to all users, including those with disabilities. Achieve accessibility compliance by:

  • Alt Text: Use descriptive alt text for images to assist users with visual impairments.
  • Keyboard Navigation: Ensure that all site functions can be operated using a keyboard without relying on a mouse.

16. SEO Enhancements

To boost your site’s visibility and ranking on search engines, focus on SEO enhancements:

  • Checking Rankings: Regularly view page rankings in Ahrefs or SEMrush to understand which needs improving.
  • Internal Link Optimisation: Optimise internal links with relevant keyworded anchor text to improve search engine results.

17. Analytics and Reporting

Monitoring your site’s performance and user behaviour is essential for making data-driven decisions.

Utilise:

  • Google Analytics: Set up Google Analytics to track site traffic, user behaviour, and other vital statistics.
  • Reporting Tools: Use reporting tools to generate insights and discover areas for improvement.

18. User Engagement Strategies

Engaging your audience is key to the success of your website. Employ user engagement strategies such as:

  • Interactive Content: Incorporate interactive elements like quizzes, polls, and surveys to engage your visitors.
  • Social Media Integration: Connect your site to your social media channels to encourage user participation and sharing.

19. Monetisation and Revenue Generation

If your website is a business venture, explore strategies for monetisation and revenue generation:

  • Ad Placement: Strategically place ads to maximise revenue without compromising the user experience.
  • eCommerce Integration: If applicable, optimise your eCommerce platform for smooth transactions and a secure shopping experience.

20. Future-Proofing

Finally, keep an eye on future developments in web technology and trends. Consider:

  • Emerging Technologies: Stay informed about new technologies like AI, chatbots, and virtual reality, and assess their potential for your site.
  • Content Trends: Be adaptable in your content strategy to align with evolving trends and user expectations.

Final Thoughts

There’s a lot to do when it comes to getting your hands dirty on large WordPress site maintenance.

But it isn’t impossible, especially with some expert WP assistance.

Here at Toast, we offer comprehensive WordPress site support with flexible plans to suit any business.

We promise you won’t get it as good from anyone else.

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.

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