We were asked this question recently, “How important is it that we update our WordPress site and how often should we be doing this?” Our answer is absolutely YES, the ENTIRE website, and as soon as the new versions are released!
What Exactly Does Updating WordPress Mean?
When someone says that you need to update your WordPress, they mean everything listed under the updates tab located in the CMS (content management system) dashboard once you’re logged in.
The 3 categories to update are:
- WordPress’s PHP Code
how to update a wordPress site
- When updating your WordPress, update in this exact order above (1-PHP, 2-Theme, 3-Plugins).
- Only update one thing at a time and test that WordPress item you just updated so it will be easier to troubleshoot issues.
- Each test can be done by opening a new private/incognito window, this way nothing caches, and use the developer view for error detection.
- Once everything is updated and tested, do one last test as a whole.
- Then, backup your site and database again.
Common issues when updating WordPress: Social share buttons and contact forms seem to be the biggest culprits of compatibility problems.
Why You Should Update Your WordPress Site?
WordPress’s PHP code, plugins and themes are regularly updated whenever there are known security problems and UX (user experience) improvements. So these updates are important for several important reasons such as better security, faster loading, less glitches, more control features and a few other things.
WordPress is an open-source project and hackers know how to take advantage of security flaws in previous versions and can hack your site pretty quickly. In fact, they can search for sites that are using older versions of WordPress and are basically assured access. Statistics show that 83% of hacked WordPress sites are not upgraded! So the longer you wait to update your website with the latest versions, the greater your likelihood for being hacked. Plugins & themes are often more vulnerable to security issues than the WordPress CMS itself.
If your website IS hacked, not only can you lose content and valuable data (such as customer info or new prospects), but you can also lose your rankings in the search engines, or be removed from their indexes altogether! Google, for instance, de-lists websites that contain malicious code and flag unsecured sites with warnings of malware.
So protect your WordPress site, your proprietary data, your search engine rankings, and profits by keeping up to date with each new release of WordPress & it’s plugins and themes!
Helpful Tips & How To Avoid Security Issues
It is very important to know what you are doing when installing or removing anything on your site. Here are a few solid tips that may help you:
- Always backup your WordPress site and database before installing, deleting or updating your PHP code, themes or plugins. Sometimes plugins don’t get along and are incompatible, causing your site to crash. A backup will make it easier to revert back & keep your website live while trying to fix the issue. (more info about backups below under Takeaway section).
- Try to select plugins & themes with lots of users and positive reviews. The more feedback the better, and the older they are the more time developers had to workout the kinks.
- Make sure your plugins & themes are compatible with your latest version of WordPress. If they are not compatible, your users will have a bad user experience, your bounce rate will worsen, and your Google ranking will decrease… overall leading to lost revenue.
- Disable and delete any unused themes and plugins. These are vulnerable and have no reason for being there in the first place. You can always download again later if you decide you want it reactivated.
- Pick a reliable web host to secure your site and data. Just like your WordPress, your server also needs to be updated when new software releases hit the market. This is important for performance and safety.
But What If These WordPress Updates Break My Site?
One issue for which many people have concerns with is, “will these WordPress updates BREAK my site”? And it’s a valid concern. Some updates are incompatible with older themes or plugins. Unless you backed up your site appropriately, there is not an easy method to revert back to a previous version of WordPress. So it’s understandable that some people hesitate before hitting that update link. But think of it this way, you can prepare and minimize your down time when you update your WordPress no matter what issue may arise. On the other hand, you can’t prepare enough or minimize the damages enough that will be caused when you are unexpectedly hacked. Not to mention losing the trust of your customers when you have to notify them of the data breach.
Don’t be frightened! BEFORE you attempt the update, BACKUP your site files and database. If there’s a major issue, you will be able to revert the site to the previous version manually. We use Updraft Plus, the free version works great and has some powerful features such as automatic scheduled backups and third-party backups to Dropbox (get a free 2G account) or other cloud-based secured storage. We recommend a 3rd party storage, because if your web hosting server gets hacked and is compromised, most likely your backup cloud server will be just fine since it's completely separate.
If you are still worried, you can always hire the professional WordPress developers at Tag Marketing to perform your updates, setup your auto backups, and keep us on stand-by in case any problem should come up. We are local in Illinois including the cities of Chicago, Schiller Park, Brookfield, Roselle, Carol Stream, Bartlett & Geneva. Call today at 773-680-6952 for a free, no hassle consultation.