12 Ways to Freshen Up Your WordPress Site for the New Year
Do you find it hard to keep up with your WordPress site when you have a business to run and projects to keep moving through the pipeline? If so, you should think about using the slow period at the start of Q1 as your chance to get ahead of the curve. In other words, as businesses (i.e. your clients) freeze their budgets while assessing the coming year’s needs, this is a good time to work on your own site.
What does this translate to exactly? Well, it means you can work on identifying areas of improvement for your WordPress site and then implementing them. The same goes for any client seeking your assistance in starting their year off on a high note. By strengthening your site’s performance and automating processes now, there will be less to worry about as you work on growing your client base and churning out projects throughout the rest of the year.
As we ease back into a new year, take advantage of whatever “quiet” you have to get your WordPress site’s affairs in order. The following checklist includes 12 ways in which you can give your WordPress site a fresh start this year.
12 Ways to Give Your WordPress Site a Fresh Start
A WordPress developer’s job is never done. There are certainly many reasons why you should be thankful for that (ahem… job security), but with the good, there also comes a little bad. And, as I mentioned before, it can often be difficult to carve out time to address those things that require your attention once the year gets moving. Like speed enhancements. And content creation. And design upgrades.
So, why not identify those areas for improvement now, take care of as much as you can, and then set a reasonable schedule you can adhere to as you progress through the rest of the year? Here are 12 ways in which you can set your website up for a more successful 2018.
1. Look for Trends in the Data
The first thing to do is look over your site data from last year. Specifically, pay close attention to time on site, conversion rates, bounce rates, and how these trends correlate to various changes you made to the site.
This is your chance to identify patterns in traffic and conversions which will, in turn, help you plan your site for different scenarios you anticipate will happen again. For example:
- Traffic surges around holidays or other major sales days.
- Boosts in conversion rates when certain promotional offers run.
- Greater rates of engagement when a specific topic is covered on your blog.
The better you understand how visitors respond to your site, the more prepared you’ll be to not only handle those responses but also more aptly cater to them as you work on your site throughout the year. While you might not see the trends as they’re happening, a full year’s worth of Google Analytics data will surely help you spot them.
2. Review Your Processes
You’ve created processes for everything: WordPress development steps, client onboarding, QAing a site pre-launch. But do each of your processes work as well as you’d like them to? Sure, they help you get the job done, but are you working as fast, efficiently, and seeing the best results each time you reach the end of a project?
Assessing your WordPress business strategies and web development processes each year is an essential part of your business’s growth. If you’ve repeated these processes enough by now, you should have a good sense for which parts worked well and which parts need to be revamped.
To start, look at the profit and losses on each website you built last year. Were there any projects where you didn’t make as much money as expected and, consequently, can you attribute that loss to a specific part of your process? If you use time tracking software, see if you can identify parts of your process that take much longer than you typically allocate to your budget. Perhaps you need to raise your costs in order to adjust for the difference or you need to amend the process.
Whatever changes need to be made, just remember to update the corresponding process checklist, too.
3. Get Your Paperwork in Order
“Paperwork” is kind of a loose term these days, what with most of it being digital now. Regardless of what form you keep your documentation in, now is a good time to review that everything is up to date, starting with your client contract.
First, review your boilerplate template. Has anything changed in the last year that deserves to be updated? Next, review each of your open accounts against their contracts. Look for outdated information and upcoming contract expirations. Fix the erroneous information and send to your client for review and updated signatures.
4. Schedule Regular Backups
If you’re not in the habit of backing up your WordPress site on a regular basis, now is a great time to check that off your list. It’s a really simple thing to do, too. Just get yourself a WordPress backup plugin and automate the process so you’ll never have to worry about it again.
5. Do Some Early Spring Cleaning
Think of your WordPress site like your home… or a really fancy hotel room that you visit from time to time. The last thing you want to see when you open the door and step inside is a big mess and you most definitely don’t want your visitors getting the sense that you don’t keep things tidy either.
Rather than wait until the spring to tackle the cleaning of your site, give it a good scrub right now. Then schedule time throughout the year to go through the checklist again. Joe Foley suggests the following steps to clean up your WordPress site:
- Remove old plugins and themes.
- Delete inactive shortcodes from your content.
- Delete old post and page revisions you don’t need.
- Trash media files you don’t use.
- Clean up tags and categories.
- Delete pending comments.
- Strip out non-essential HTML.
- Scrub the header code.
- Repair broken links.
- Clean up the database.
In addition, consider adding the following tasks to your cleanup strategy:
- Delete post or page drafts that were never published.
- Get rid of users that should no longer have access to the site and force password resets for everyone else
6. Automate the Update Schedule
I’ve previously made the case for why you should set WordPress and all your plugins and themes to automatically update. But here’s a reminder for it again.
Many of the vulnerabilities that get into WordPress sites stem from users forgetting to update WordPress. In order to keep your site safe, you must be diligent about keeping everything updated. Whether that means automating everything with a tool like Automate or doing it all by hand with every new version available, now is the time to get this in order.
7. Prioritize Security
Once your backups and updates are automated, look for other ways in which you can tighten security for your WordPress site. The more you can automate this process, the better.
Here is what you can do to improve WordPress security this year:
- Understand WordPress security inside and out.
- Always use this security checklist whenever you build a new WordPress site.
- Get a security plugin for your site (and your clients’ sites) to automate monitoring and defense systems.
If you’re overwhelmed by how much work this seems to be, this might be the year that you outsource management of your site’s security (and performance). A managed WordPress host may be just what you need to get a handle on this as you scale your business.
8. Check Optimization Efforts for Gaps
Who says your conversion rates wouldn’t improve if you decreased page loading time by a single second? With consumers so picky and demanding about how fast and convenient every experience is these days, it certainly couldn’t hurt to refresh your WordPress site’s optimization efforts.
Start by using a testing tool like WP Checkup to assess the health of your site. (In addition to giving you tips on how to better optimize, it’ll also tell you how to fix security and SEO issues!)
Once you have a sense for where the weak points are, you can get to work in fortifying them. Consider the following steps:
- Find a better caching plugin.
- Invest in a CDN.
- Reduce HTTPS requests.
- Do more for image optimization.
- Revise the backend with cleaner coding practices.
- Deactivate and delete plugins you don’t actually need.
In general, get better about monitoring your site for performance issues. This guide to WordPress optimization has a comprehensive checklist you can use as you do this.
9. Revitalize SEO
Sometimes it feels as though playing the SEO game will always be an upward battle. With Google regularly updating search algorithms and mobile coming more and more into play with each passing year, it can be hard to keep up.
Thankfully, there are SEO plugins that will review your content and tell you how to better optimize it. But you can’t just rely on a plugin to do all the work. You have to utilize SEO best practices every time you build a new WordPress site. You should also revisit this checklist every quarter to ensure that your content remains optimized.
In terms of starting the year off right, take a look at revitalizing your SEO by asking yourself the following questions:
- Is every page and post correctly utilizing metadata?
- Do you have a set of long-tail keywords around which your entire site is optimized? Are these the right ones for your site?
- Are newer, more popular types of media (like images and video) optimized for search?
- Do you have a link strategy in place for internal links as well as backlinks?
10. Refresh Your Design
There’s no need to be intimidated by this one as I’m not suggesting your website undergo a total redesign (unless you feel it’s needed). Instead, think about ways in which you could do some design touch-ups to give your site a refreshed feel.
Or you could go with a more subtle change like giving your font a facelift.
11. Update Your Content
A stagnant site is a major no-no. Not only does it reflect poorly on you if you have nothing new to contribute to it, but it also won’t sit too well with Google when they’re trying to decide which well-maintained and relevant site to rank at the top of search results.
Needless to say, if you’re not in the practice of keeping your WordPress site up to date, this needs to be on your radar now. You can do this in a number of ways:
- Create a blogging schedule and produce content at regular intervals (maybe once a month to start).
- Update your portfolio, product offering, service descriptions, case studies, or testimonials as more current information and examples become available.
- Do A/B testing on various key pages to identify better ways to present your content.
The key thing to remember is to update content with purpose. Don’t do it just for the sake of telling search engines that your site has new content available.
12. Assess Your Web Hosting
Finally, take a look at your current web hosting situation. How has it held up over the course of the past year? Did you experience issues with downtime? Was support sufficient when you needed it? Did you feel nervous about entrusting them with server security?
Perhaps you weren’t concerned with the quality of web hosting last year, but you have big plans to scale your WordPress site in the coming one. If that’s the case, then the shared or cloud web hosting your site started on may not be sufficient for future needs.
Whatever the case may be, assess your web hosting as it stands now and pit it against your needs six months down the road. If it doesn’t align, think about upgrading to a new plan or a new type of web hosting now. And if you don’t yet have an SSL certificate, be sure to add one while you’re at it.
Normally, you don’t have much time to fiddle around with your WordPress site. However, the tips above aren’t about making inconsequential changes to it; these are necessary measures you should take on every site you’re responsible for. As you look to keep yourself busy at the start of the year, use this time to give your site a fresh start and put in place steps to ensure that it remains well-maintained in the months ahead.