New year, new habits: a monthly checklist to optimize your WordPress website

The older and larger your website, the easier it is to start letting things slide. Before you know it, your media library is bursting at the seams, unwanted draft posts are taking up valuable database space and you’re wondering why your site has slowed to a snail’s pace. 

Just like solving a coding problem, you can solve your website’s situation by breaking the matter down into manageable chunks. 

By regularly running small, simple optimization tasks, you can maintain your website’s health, speed and security without it feeling like a huge burden. 

The monthly checklist

Small jobs often build up and if you keep putting them off “until you have more time”, they can seem even more overwhelming.

By committing time to website maintenance every month, you can save yourself work in the long run and make sure your site is offering visitors the best experience. 

To help you “eat the frog”, we’ve rounded up a few quick tasks you can carry out on a monthly basis to optimize your WordPress website.

Ramp up the speed

A faster website makes for a better user experience, can lead to higher conversion rates and can even give your Google search ranking a boost. Make the most of the many WordPress plugins on the market to regularly check and improve your site’s speed.

  1. Run a speed test

Several plugins, including Speedguard and WP Speed of Light, will do the hard work for you, running daily speed checks and sending you reports with ways to improve loading times.

  1. Install a caching plugin

While we’re talking about helpful plugins, unless your hosting provider offers server-level caching already, you could benefit from a caching plugin like WP Rocket or Comet Cache

Specific features may vary, but essentially caching plugins will take a snapshot of all of your pages, posts, categories, links and so on. You will then have the option to decide when to serve your site visitors a cached version of your content to save having to load it from the server.

  1. Optimize your images

Images and media files can really bloat your website, slowing things down and taking up valuable storage space.

As part of your checks, it’s worth going through your media library to delete all unused images and media files. 

Depending on the size of your library, you might want to use a plugin like Media Cleaner to help – just make sure to back-up your content first.

Finally, if you’re not already optimizing your images pre-import, now’s a good time to start. Large image files can make websites slow for you and your users. You could also use a plugin like Smush to compress, optimize and lazy load your images.

Clean out the cobwebs

Speed checks done, next up is general housekeeping. 

  1. Delete, delete, delete: check for unused content

We’re all guilty of hanging on to half complete drafts of posts, “forgetting” to check our sites for broken links, unused tags, categories and so on that can be deleted.

Dedicate some time to delete unused content and check for broken links, irrelevant or duplicate tags and categories. This will make it easier for visitors to navigate your site.

To check for broken links:

To check for unused tags:

  • Go to Posts > Tags in your WordPress dashboard. Click on “Count” in the upper-right corner and delete any with a count of 0.

To delete unused content:

  • We don’t have a handy plugin suggestion for this – just bite the bullet and sift through your draft posts!
  1. Check for updates: plugins and themes 

This is another task that’s good to carry out regularly: make sure all of your themes and plugins are up-to-date with the latest security patches and bug fixes.

Go to the Updates page in your WordPress dashboard to see if there’s anything you can update. 

Don’t forget to delete any unused plugins and related database entries and tables while you’re at it.

  1. Upgrade WordPress and PHP

Finally, check you’re running the latest versions of WordPress core and PHP. This will ensure you have the latest security fixes to protect your site and will make sure your code is running smoothly.

You’ll find news of WordPress releases on the Updates page in your dashboard – be sure to make a back-up of your site before installing any upgrades!

Updating your PHP version may take a bit more effort. Kinsta has a useful guide on how to carry this out safely.

Lockdown your security settings

Perhaps the most important task of all is to review your security settings. Regular checks can help you avoid having to handle a compromised site or security breach.

  1. Review user access and roles

Careful management of your WordPress user access and roles is essential to the security of your site.

WordPress has 6 pre-defined user roles: Super Admin, Administrator, Editor, Author, Contributor and Subscriber. Each role gives users different permissions. Make sure to check the Users page in your dashboard to review these regularly for out-of-date logins and to make sure each user has the correct level of access.

  1. Reset passwords

As well as reviewing user roles, another good habit to get into is regularly resetting passwords. 

Reset passwords from your WordPress dashboard by going to Users > All Users, clicking on the desired user and then clicking the “Generate Password” button on the edit screen. See Google’s tips on creating a strong password.

If you need to reset all users’ passwords at once, you can do so by going to Users > Emergency Password Reset and clicking “Reset all passwords”.

Hopefully these tips will help keep your website healthy, fast and secure. Do you have any