“Help! I’ve set up my own WordPress website, but now my dashboard says I have critical updates to make. How do I know this is safe?”
Keeping your WordPress website up to date is indeed critical. If you slack on website maintenance, you risk opening yourself up to hackers, spammers and other bad actors who are looking for an opening to your website. Spammers know that unattended websites are more easily taken over, and fixing the problem will take away from your time and money.
But should you do it yourself? Yes, but only if it’s a good use of your time. A lot of small business owners have to keep track of their time and if you’re not using your time for its best and highest use, then you could be losing money.
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For instance, if your time is worth $100 an hour, and you spend two hours a month figuring out how to keep your website updated, is that a good use of your time? Did you save $200 or did you waste it.
If you have time on your hands and you feel comfortable in your WordPress dashboard, by all means, update your website using the “updates” feature. But here are some tips to make sure you do this safely and properly:
1. Make a fresh backup of your website. That way, if something conflicts and your website goes wonky or, worse, you can easily install the backup and be back in business in no time. Have your backup stored online (best option), or have it sent to your inbox.
2. Click on Updates and do each one separately. This way, if there’s a problem, you’ll know which update was at fault. Check your website after each update to make sure everything is functioning properly
3. Check your links to make sure everything is working. Sometimes, when editing a website, a link might have been deleted that carries a reference elsewhere. You can use a website like BrokenLinkCheck.com or install a plugin designed to find broken links.
4. Check to see when you made your last post, and make sure that you’re creating regular and updated content. If you have gone a month without adding or changing anything on your website, your SEO will go down. The more content the better. Also, delete any promotions or sales that are no longer valid.
5. Check your analytics. If you haven’t set up a Google analytics account and checked on your statistics lately, now is the time. Your website’s value depends on the activity to your site.
6. Do a security audit and scan for malware. Make sure you have a security plugin at work like Wordfence or Securi Security. If not, install the plugin, and pay attention to the settings to make sure it’s going to do the job.
You may find it worthwhile to use a maintenance service to do this work for you. Most providers will charge anywhere from $50 to $100 a month for a single website.