There are 3 huge risks to ignoring your WordPress back end (in other words, the dashboard).
Hacking. Breaking. Slowing.
There. I just said them right up front! Now you can go eat a sandwich or something if that’s enough info for you. Otherwise, please read on.
Did you promise your web designer that you would keep up with software updates? To check in on your website to prevent issues?
It’s so easy to think you will log into your website regularly for those little red circles that tell you it’s time to update. You know you should. You’ve probably heard me talk about it.
But then stuff comes up. You’re distracted by some article you’ve been meaning to read, Facebook is calling your name, or you need to grocery shop right now or it’ll never get done.
Or the cat left a treat for you in the litter box and if you don’t take care of it asap, you just know you’ll pass out and die from noxious fumes, and the cat will eventually eat you before anyone even notices you’re missing. That last one may just be me.
Whatever the reason, I get it. If I didn’t have clients whose websites I manage, I might put off doing my own site checks too.
But time flies! When you think it’s only been 1 week since you last checked, it turns out it’s really been 3 or 4. That’s plenty of time for things to go awry!
So it’s imperative that you go into the back end of your website (again, that’s the WordPress dashboard) frequently. No less than once a week.
But really, why?
Because the software that makes your website work is constantly being updated. This is a good thing, and it’s almost always done to address one of these 3 risks.
This is THE most important reason for checking in with your site. Just do a Google search for the top reasons websites get hacked and you will see the number 1 reason is outdated software. When I say “software” I mean WordPress, and all your plugins and themes (even the ones that are deactivated).
All websites are being attacked by evil robots all day, every day trying to find any chink in the armor they can exploit. Anything from learning your password to finding a program file that left a little “hole.” If there is a weakness they will eventually find it.
So get into that dashboard and when you see those little red circles with a number inside of them (the number shows how many updates you need to do), update those suckers.
The second most important reason for updating is to fix or prevent breaks in your website.
Breaks (or malfunctions) most commonly occur when WordPress updates their software. Then the plugins and themes you are using may not work correctly because of that.
So the creators of plugins and themes step up and adjust their programs to keep them working properly. Then it becomes your responsibility to perform the updates within your website. And it’s not just when WordPress updates. Themes and plugins are updated frequently, especially if they find flaws.
It’s important to note, that plugins and themes are all created by different people. They don’t always play nicely with each other. Sometimes an update of one plugin can break another. This is much more rare than it used to be. People used to wait to see what others experienced before doing their own updates, especially major WordPress changes.
But in today’s Internet, there is no wait. There is only do. Okay that’s a bit of a ripoff from Yoda, but my point is made.
You HAVE to update.
Then you have to browse through your website to make sure nothing broke in the process. 98% of the time everything will be fine. (That is an unsubstantiated number based on my experience and questionable ability to guess percentages.)
But conflicts do happen which can cause anything from a feature not working properly to your entire site disappearing. Yikes! Don’t worry – it’s still there. It just has some code error blocking it from appearing.
You just have to figure out which item is the culprit and deactivate it. Then you may need to change settings or find a different plugin that does the same thing.
There could be a few things happening when your website slows down.
Sometimes software is updated to improve the way it functions. The programmers may have found a better way to make their plugin or theme work. The new software may speed up the website loading process. So you want to make sure you perform those updates on your website for those benefits.
Slowness may also be a subtle sign that you’ve been hacked due to old software. If your website seems more sluggish each time you view it, there may be a drain on your site because some planted programs may be running in the background. Many times slowness is the first sign you may be hacked.
Another issue could be that you may have recently done a WordPress update, but you haven’t kept up with the theme and plugins. This can cause the website to load more slowly. To put it simply, there would be new code trying to talk to old code.
Think of a teenager trying to FaceTime great grandma who only has a rotary phone. It just wouldn’t work. If you don’t know what a rotary phone perhaps this video will help.
So you know how important it is to your bottom line to keep your website clean, working properly and loading quickly. And you promise your web designer you will check it regularly.
It is super important to back up your website before you perform any updates. You can do this with a plugin or in the Cpanel of your website hosting account. This way if you find yourself in deep weeds, you know you can restore your website.
Now, here are some ways to remind yourself to follow through.
- If you use a paper calendar, write it in the same day every week at the same time.
- Add it to your Outlook calendar on your computer as a recurring event and set an alarm to remind yourself.
- Do both of the above. I do.
- Add it to your phone as a “Reminder.”
Though it usually doesn’t take more than a few minutes to perform a backup and updates, allow a little extra time in case there is an issue.
Now if you’re finding it difficult to keep up, it’s time to hire someone who knows exactly what to do, especially if something breaks. It is so worth the money; just ask anyone whose website has been hacked!
Don’t let your website fall prey to hackers, breaks or even slowness. Any one of these can and will cause your site to lose viewers.