Do you have the annoying tendency to make sure whatever you do is organized is up to date? Are you a web developer, web designer, or maintain websites who has that issue? There’s often so many things to keep track of when making and maintaining a WordPress site, from plugins to themes and even links within blogs and posts, that some developers won't organize a WordPress site just because they're tired of looking at it.
Why poke something that’s working perfectly, right?
There are, however, glaring problems with that approach, from security to SEO rankings and more. Old, not-updated themes and plugins can contain security vulnerabilities, and SEO rankings can get hurt by broken links on posts and blogs. Drawing on my experience as a web developer and designer at Abstract Hub, I’ll go through five ways to keep your WordPress site and the dashboard updated, secure, and optimized!
1. Organizing WordPress plugins
The problem with many plugins is they can fall by the wayside when you organize the WordPress site you're building. How can you organize them efficiently in the backend to make things easier for you as a developer? Enter Plugin Groups, a plugin as simple as its name. Think of Plugin Groups as enabling categories for your plugins, so you can place them in different groups (or categories if you will), and easily access them right from the “Installed Plugins” pane.
You simply have to select the plugins, select “New Group” from the dropdown, name the group, and it appears right at the top. You can make as many groups as you want and the next time you need to know which plugins handle ecommerce or analytics (or whatever other groups you make), the plugins become easily filterable and accessible.
Aside from just organizing them, also be sure to review all your plugins and where they’re being used. If you don’t need a plugin anymore, always deactivate and uninstall them to ensure there are no unnecessary modifications on your site, since old and unused plugins can often be targets of attacks and hacks that are easily avoidable.
2. Reviewing & cleaning up WordPress themes
Most web pros agree that themes are one of the most defining aspects of WordPress itself. Themes and plugins together help make WordPress sites dynamic, colorful, and extremely versatile. However, as important it is to keep plugins updated, it is equally important to make sure installed themes are kept to a minimum and updated regularly.
The three main reasons why themes and plugins (and WordPress itself) are updated are because of new features, bug fixes, and security patches — the latter of which is to protect your sites from potential attacks.
In the past several years, old default WordPress themes — named “Twenty Fifteen” or “Twenty Seventeen”— and even old popular third-party themes have had several security vulnerabilities uncovered that hackers exploited. These themes often go untouched and aren’t updated, which can cause headaches for developers who then have to deal with hacked sites.
Now, although themes may seem dangerous as described above, if they’re reviewed periodically and kept up to date, they’re nothing to worry about. My best practice for themes is to always keep the minimum number of themes required and to keep them up to date. WordPress limits the minimum number of themes you can have to two, one active and another inactive one.
Since I almost always use custom themes, I keep the latest WordPress default theme as my second (and only) inactive one. The latest WordPress theme is often updated by WordPress, which helps keep me on top of security patches, while I work with my custom theme (and keep that updated as well). That way, I’m on top of security updates when I organize WordPress, and I don’t have to unnecessarily keep installed themes that I’m not using in my site.
3. Cleaning up the WordPress database
Even though a new WordPress installation comes with a fresh database, that database can swell and populate with a lot of information during development and over the months and years with use. Each theme, plugin each post go in as tables or entries in tables and these databases can grow in size and complexity. Even older revisions of pages and posts are saved as well as comments marked as spam.
This, in turn, factors directly in slowing WordPress sites down, since the WordPress engine has to query the database, and, as expected, a more complex database takes longer to query.
However, cleaning up a database itself isn’t an easy task either, especially considering that one wrong table deleted in a database can result in the whole site going down. This is where WP Optimize comes to the rescue. This WordPress performance plugin helps clean up databases and optimize WordPress sites without even touching the database yourself.
With WP Optimize, you can clear out unnecessary data and compactify your databases and tables within. As you organize a WordPress site, it gives you a good overview of what is being optimized in the database and what exactly is being removed/compactified. You can also set a schedule for periodic optimizations and custom select what should or should not be deleted.
For safety purposes, it also saves a set number of past database data just in case you need to revert back. On top of all that, the plugin lives up to the “optimize” in its name by also having options to compress images on the site as well as cache pages and minify code. Optimization at its finest!
4. Disabling annoying notifications
If you’re as picky as me about what alerts you see when you work on a site, and especially hate that one notification that’s always there at the top of the dashboard, this plugin is for you! Intuitive and extremely simple to use, Disable WP Notification allows you to hide those pesky spammy notifications from plugins and themes, and gives you control over whether you want to hide them for all users or all users except for admin users.
This is extremely useful if you want a clean dashboard and not have notifications bombarding you to sign up for premium plugins or to review them. Additionally, if notifications are important but you don’t want all users to see them, you can hide notifications for everyone except for admin users, which can help from a security and privacy point of view as well. The plugin settings page shows all the hidden notifications in case you want to see what they are, and you can always enable or disable them whenever needed with a click of a button.
5. Checking for broken links
Given the sizeable task of building and maintain a WordPress site, broken links may not seem like a huge problem, but they are a pain to deal with for anyone. Links you might have placed can often “break” or give the dreaded “404 not found” message, and this common problem doesn’t just turn away visitors from your site but also hurts your site’s search engine ranking, as this is something monitored by major search engines including Google.
But monitoring a site every single day or week and sifting through posts and pages for dead links isn’t a trivial task.
Thankfully though, we can use Broken Link Checker, an extremely robust and customizable plugin to help with exactly that! Broken Link Checker helps monitor all internal and external links on a site, whether they are on pages or posts or comments, and alerts if any link is broken or throws a 404 exception. You can set intervals over which to check (for example, check every 72 hours), and get an email and dashboard notification of the detected broken links as well as alternative suggestions.
If there’s a link the plugin is uncertain about, those can also be marked as “warnings” instead of broken, prompting a manual check. The plugin’s customizability allows you to define where to look for links, what kinds of links to check, and even set rules as to what is defined by a “broken” link (how long should it wait for the site to timeout).
All of this also comes with a neat dashboard widget that tells you right away when you login what links were discovered broken, if any. You can also stop search engines from following broken links, helping your SEO, and edit the links directly from the plugin so you don’t even need to go to the specific page or post, saving you time and keeping your site updated and SEO friendly!
Ready to organize that WordPress site?
These tips and plugins will not only help you keep a site and the dashboard organized, but also help visitors have a great user experience and keep clients' SEO rankings high. You can also do other periodic cleanups, such as going to your website occasionally to delete unneeded pages or posts, or deactivating old plugins once every month or two months.