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How to Perform WordPress Website Maintenance

When talking about WordPress, most people focus on how easy it is to build a website. However, creating and maintaining a website are two very different things. Proper maintenance is needed to keep your site performing well over time.

If you have a live WordPress website, therefore, it’s important to know how to keep it running at its best. Fortunately, this isn’t difficult, and you can get started by learning about the different types of maintenance that are required. There are also plenty of services and tools that can make the process easier.

In this article, we’ll discuss website maintenance services, and explain how to use the WordPress maintenance mode. We’ll then look at some key maintenance tips, the costs involved, and how WP Engine can help. Let’s get right to it!

What Are Website Maintenance Services?

WordPress maintenance services take care of maintaining your website for you. However, not all services are created equal.

The right service should provide certain key features, such as staging areas and automated backups. High-quality maintenance services should also keep your website up-to-date at all times. This includes everything from your site’s plugins and themes to WordPress itself.

If your website runs on WordPress, you should also look for a maintenance service that specializes in the platform. After all, maintaining a WordPress website is different from managing a Shopify or Wix site. Maintenance experts should also be able to answer any questions you have in a way you can understand.

What Is WordPress Maintenance Mode?

Most tasks on your WordPress website can be handled from the dashboard. However, you may want to enable a maintenance mode before performing certain administrative tasks. These are generally tasks that affect the performance of your website.

It’s also a good idea to use maintenance mode if what you’re doing will affect the site’s theme or functionality. Maintenance mode will temporarily take your website offline, which prevents visitors from accessing broken or unfinished content. This is vital for providing a strong User Experience (UX).

How Do I Put My WordPress Website into Maintenance Mode?

There are a few ways you can enable a maintenance mode on your WordPress website. The easiest option is to use a plugin such as Coming Soon Page, Under Construction & Maintenance Mode or WP Maintenance Mode. You can also add a custom function to your site’s functions.php file. Let’s look at both of these options in more detail.

Method 1: Using a Plugin

Using a plugin is the easiest option, as it will handle everything for you. You also reduce the risks associated with enabling maintenance mode using code (which we’ll explain later on). 

1. Download a Plugin

The first thing you’ll need to do is select a maintenance mode plugin. You can find many options in the WordPress Plugin Directory. You’ll then need to install and activate the plugin in your dashboard.

2. Turn on Maintenance Mode

After activating the plugin, you’ll want to navigate to its settings. These are generally located under the plugin’s name: for example, SeedProd > Settings:

You can then enable maintenance mode. In the Coming Soon Page, Under Construction & Maintenance Mode plugin, this is located under the Status section of the plugin’s settings. If you’re unsure how to proceed using your chosen tool, check out its documentation or contact its support team for help. 

Method 2: Add a Function

If you are more comfortable with coding, or want to limit the number of plugins you use on your site, you can add some code to your site’s functions.php file to enable maintenance mode. You will also be able to adjust the appearance of the public maintenance page.

Before you use this method, you should create a backup of your website. It’s important to proceed carefully, as changes to this key WordPress file can break your site or lock you out of it.

1. Open the functions.php File

To access your functions.php file, you can navigate to Appearance > Theme Editor in your WordPress dashboard:

Then, select functions.php from the options available in the right-hand menu. 

2. Copy and Paste the Function

To activate maintenance mode, you’ll need to copy and paste the following function into the functions.php file. You can place this code at the top or bottom of the file:

function wcr_maintain() {
    // we show this message if
    // 1. you're not logged in
    // 2. you're not on /wp-admin/ (index.php is redirecting you to wp-login.php)
    // 3. you're not on login page
    if (
         !is_user_logged_in() && 
         !is_admin() && 
         !in_array($GLOBALS['pagenow'], array('wp-login.php'))
       ) {
        $period = 3 * HOUR_IN_SECONDS; // 3 hours, but you can change if you need
        header($_SERVER['SERVER_PROTOCOL'] . ' 503 Service Unavailable', true, 503);
        header('Retry-After: ' . $period);
        // you can insert whatever you want :)
        echo 'content goes here';
        exit;
    }
}
add_action('init', 'wcr_maintain');

You should then save your changes to the file. Your website will now be in maintenance mode. To change the information displayed on the maintenance page, you can adjust the various placeholder texts. When you’re ready to make your site live again, simply delete this code and save the file again.

Tips for Maintaining Your WordPress Site Manually

Being able to put your WordPress website into maintenance mode is a great start. However, there’s a lot more involved in maintaining your site over time. Here are some vital tips to keep in mind for maximizing your site’s security and performance.

Back Up Your Site Often

It’s important to create regular backups of your website. Backups ensure that you always have a working version of your website that you can quickly restore, just in case something goes wrong. You’ll need to back up both your WordPress database and your site’s files. 

To manually back up your website, you can use a plugin or a File Transfer Protocol (FTP) client. You can also automate this process with the right hosting provider. For instance, here at WP Engine we offer built-in backup services. This puts your backups in the hands of experts, and can save you a lot of time.

Ensure That Your Site Is Secure

There are a number of ways your website can be compromised. Ensuring that your site is secure can close some of the gaps, and keep your visitors (and you) safer.

To do this, you’ll want to start by scanning your website for signs of malware or hacking. Solutions such as SiteCheck by Sucuri can help with this:

Updating plugins, themes, and your WordPress installation also makes your website more secure. Developers create patches to overcome vulnerabilities, and include them in updates.

However, there are certain security measures that you might not be able to implement yourself. This includes disk write protection and user enumeration. To get these security measures, you’ll need to make sure your hosting provider offers them. 

Keep Your Content Updated

You might not think that your site’s content has much to do with WordPress maintenance, but it’s actually a crucial component. Checking your existing content periodically enables you to eliminate broken internal and external links. These broken links make your website harder to use by both visitors and search engines, and can cause 404 errors.

Updating your content also helps you keep your on-page Search Engine Optimization (SEO) strategy on track. When updating your content, you can review your heading tags and keyword density, make sure you have an appropriate meta description for every page and post, and so on.

How Much Does WordPress Maintenance Cost?

As we mentioned earlier, if you don’t want to handle your site’s maintenance personally you can sign up for a WordPress maintenance service. These services handle the tasks you don’t have the time or expertise to perform yourself.

While this is a convenient option, not all services are created equal, and some can be very costly. That’s why bundling these services with your web hosting is a smart option. For example, we offer comprehensive packages that provide you with hosting and WordPress management services for a single price, starting at $25 per month.

How WP Engine’s Managed Hosting Can Help Maintain Your Digital Experiences

Here at WP Engine, our affordable managed hosting can help you more easily maintain your website. For example, your WordPress installation, theme, and plugins will be automatically and safely updated for you.

You’ll also get access to a staging environment, which helps you take care of maintenance without affecting your live website. Plus, we have WordPress experts on call who can answer your questions and help you provide a top-notch digital experience.

Maintain Your Site With WP Engine

WordPress maintenance is vital to keeping your website performing at its best. Some of this work involves enabling a maintenance mode, which can be done via a plugin or some custom code. However, there are a lot of maintenance tasks you should complete regularly that do not require maintenance mode. 

While it is possible to maintain your website on your own, a WordPress maintenance service can be more convenient and cost-effective. WP Engine’s managed hosting plans handle and automate many key maintenance tasks for you, which leaves you with more time for WordPress development and improving your site!

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