If you have a WordPress website, you should be updating it regularly.

Yes, you should be updating the content of your WordPress website often, like posting new blog posts, or adding new services or products. However, you must also update the WordPress SOFTWARE on a regular basis (i.e. AT LEAST every 2 weeks, preferably even more often). The WordPress software is the WordPress core, the WordPress theme you are using, and the plugins on your website.

Update your WordPress core, theme, and plugins regularly. It’s absolutely vital.

WordPress (and many of the themes and plugins) are open-source. This means that this software is freely available to anyone who wants to download it. As soon as software updates are released to the world, you see the update waiting in your WordPress Admin Panel, and hackers worldwide get access to that same update. They immediately start to look for vulnerabilities in the new code and use whatever they find to try to hack into your website.

It’s an ongoing battle between software developers and hackers. Updates often fix bugs and block potential entry points into your website that hackers could use to exploit your site, and the hackers start to look for NEW way to get in. Software developers code NEW fixes and release their updates, and the cycle starts again. Software developer versus hacker. Can the developer find and fix bugs in time so hackers can’t use them to hack your website?

Updating your WordPress website software is one of the best ways to keep your website safe from hackers and errors.

If you don’t keep a close eye on your website updates, there will eventually be a hefty price to pay. Your site could break. It could be hacked. It could be hacked and take down the entire server it’s hosted on. Broken websites can be very tricky to fix, and hacked sites can be even trickier to clean.

And possibly the worst news of all… If your website IS ever hacked, you can say goodbye to your search engine rankings. Search engines de-index websites that contain malicious code.

Why can’t you just use WordPress’ automatic updates?

WordPress updates can be simple to do, but must be handled with caution.

While it is possible to setup automatic updates in your WordPress Admin Panel, this can be a very risky way to run a website. There’s always a chance that a new WordPress update will break something on your website, because it conflicts with some other software, like another plugin, that you are using.

If your website updates itself automatically, it might run several updates before you look at it again, and something on the site might have broken. You won’t be able to tell which update broke the site, and you might struggle to pinpoint the problem and fix it. This type of skill is often best left to web developers, but developers will charge you to diagnose and fix your website.

How do you update your website correctly and safely?

A better approach is to start by implementing a robust, automated backup system that saves backups of your website OFFSITE (i.e. not on the same server as your website). We save our customers’ websites to Dropbox, which keeps them safe, but also easily accessible to US (not to hackers). And if your backups are automated, you’ll never forget to do them!

Once you have a backup system in place, you MUST back up your entire website before you start ANY updates. Just in case an update breaks something on your website, you must be able to restore a previous version of your site if anything stops working after an update.

I suggest backing up elements separately (i.e. the database, the core, the theme, plugins, and uploads) so they are quicker to restore if something goes wrong. Then update each piece of software separately. After each update, check that your website is still working correctly and that the update hasn’t broken anything.

Don’t select a list of updates and update them all at once!

One of those updates could break your website and you’ll never know which one, because you ran the updates altogether. It’s imperative that you backup and update one at a time, and check your website each time. It can get cumbersome, but it can save you a lot of heartache.

A broken website is much easier to fix if you know which software update broke it.

We offer Website Maintenance and Security as a monthly service if you would prefer us to look after all of this for you. If we are looking after your website, we will follow the correct procedure. This includes fixing your website if a backup breaks it. We will also monitor your website security 24/7. We’ll continuously check for any malicious files, any strange logins, and any other suspicious website activity. It’s a big job, but one we are skilled at and fully prepared for. We will also fix your website if it is ever hacked.

Website maintenance is incredibly important and the cost of this must be factored into your website design cost. You can do it yourself, or you can ask a website design company to do it for you. Whatever you decide – it’s crucial that your software stays backed up and up-to-date!

Do not neglect your WordPress website’s updates.

An outdated website WILL eventually break completely, or get hacked. All your good work could be lost forever, and you might need to rebuild your website from scratch. It’s a bad situation to find yourself in, especially as it can be avoided.

Has this ever happened to you? Do you need some help redesigning or rebuilding your website?

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