How to Maintain a WooCommerce Website

How to Maintain a WordPress WebsitePin

How would you like your WooCommerce website to remain fast, secure and perform at its best all year round?

Unfortunately many business owners neglect their website maintenance. It’s not enough to build a new website and just leave it. Setting and forgetting your site is not an option, especially if you rely on it for business.

WordPress is an amazing platform because you can literally make your website do anything you want. Including adding eCommerce functionality using WooCommerce. It’s very powerful but with great power comes great responsibility.

In this article I’ll show you how to maintain a WooCommerce website so that your site is open for business 24/7/365.

Table of contents:

What is Website Maintenance
Why is Website Maintenance Important
How to Maintain a WooCommerce Website

What is Website Maintenance?

WooCommerce website maintenance is the process of updating, securing and testing your website on a regular basis to keep it performing at its best.

Why is Website Maintenance Important?

On average, ~30,000 websites are hacked into EVERY SINGLE DAY. Keeping your website secure is one of the most important reasons to maintain your website. Don’t become one of the statistics.

Taking a proactive approach to website maintenance is key. You could wait until your site is hacked into or breaks and then fix it then. But at what cost?

If your website was down for days, you wouldn’t generate sales you normally would.

Possible scenarios if you don’t maintain your website…

  • your website goes down for an extended period of time
  • extremely bad first impression for first-time visitors
  • loss of sales
  • stolen data by hackers (including customer credit card details)
  • injected malware
  • high costs to fix your website
  • slow website
  • problematic website
  • incompatible software

Hopefully the above list gives you some good reasons to proactively maintain your website.

How to Maintain a WooCommerce Website

1. Check Hosting Resource Usage
2. Take Daily Backups
3. Update Software
4. Scan for Malware and Security Threats
5. Test Website Speed
6. Fix Errors
7. Clean Database
8. Run Test Orders + Test Contact Forms

1. Check Hosting Resource Usage

This is a really simple check but important to ensure you always have enough server resources. Doing this check can also uncover server and website problems. For example, many shared hosting providers have low CPU limits so if you are always exceeding this, then it’s potentially time to upgrade to a better hosting provider.

Check Hosting Resource UsagePin
Monitoring resource usage for a client’s site.
Server Resource UsagePin
This is a closer look at CPU usage over the last 7 days.

2. Take Daily Backups

Before you perform website maintenance, it is absolutely critical to take a full website backup. One that you can restore if something goes wrong during website maintenance like a new plugin breaking your website due to incompatibility or by accident deleted something you shouldn’t have.

Most good hosting providers will allow you to take daily backups, restore backups and take backups on demand.

If your hosting provider doesn’t support backups, I’d suggest moving to one that does. It makes life soooo much easier. However, if you can’t be bothered doing this, then I’d suggest using BlogVault. This is easily the best backup plugin you can get. Trust me, I’ve tried quite a few!

BlogVault - Best Backup PluginPin
BlogVault is the best backup plugin that I’ve tried so far.


3. Update Software

Security vs Functionality Updates

There are two reasons why an update might be available:

  • Security Patch
  • Functional Update

If a security issue is found by a plugin author, they’ll release a security patch via an available update. You should get notified about these immediately and update the plugin immediately.

But if it’s just a functional update, I recommend leaving these for a few weeks on purpose. Oftentimes updates come through that haven’t been thoroughly tested. So if you were to update plugins immediately, you have a higher risk of incompatibilities and potentially breaking your site.

And considering you are running an eCommerce website, your site going down should be avoided at all costs!

So it’s best to leave functional updates until other WooCommerce site owners have run them. This way their website breaks instead of yours (unfortunately), they then send a support ticket to the plugin author who fixes the problem, and another update becomes available.

Running Software Updates

Updating your website software (aka WordPress, theme and plugins) is extremely easy to do. You just click a button. Keeping your WordPress version, theme and all plugins up to date keeps your website secure and running at its best.

Tips:
  • make sure the available update is compatible with all your other plugins and WordPress version (it will tell you within the ‘plugins’ section).
  • ALWAYS take a full website backup before updating software.
  • perform updates in a ‘lossless staging‘ environment to ensure everything is working smoothly before pushing to the live environment.
  • If you don’t have a lossless staging environment, at least perform updates in a standard staging environment. BUT make sure you haven’t had any orders come through while running software updates. Otherwise you’ll lose them when pushing your staging site live. So if you don’t have lossless staging, your best bet is to run software updates in the staging environment before running theme again in the live environment once you are certain everything is going to work.
  • The order of updates should be WordPress, plugins then your theme. Make sure to check and test your website following each individual update. i.e. run WordPress update, then check website, run WooCommerce update, then check website, run other plugin updates individually, each time checking website. This might seem like overkill but is worth the effort to mitigate the risk of your site breaking. And if it does break, you immediately know the culprit.
WordPress Software UpdatesPin
WordPress Dashboard where you run software updates.

4. Scan for Malware and Security Threats

It’s not often that your website will get infected with malware but it’s still important to check. When websites get hacked, oftentimes the website owner is completely unaware.

Your website could be redirecting visitors to dodgy sites for ages before your realise. So it’s important to scan your site for malware and security threats on a regular basis. Monthly at the bare minimum!

Security should be taken care of at the server level. If not, you will need a security plugin like BlogVault.

You can try Sucuri SiteCheck to scan your website for free.

Upgrade Security

  • Add security headers using recommendations from https://securityheaders.com/.
  • If security isn’t taken care of at the server level, I recommend investing in something like BlogVault. You’ll get the security you need plus heaps of other features like backups, staging, migrations and malware scans.
Sucuri Malware ScanPin
Security scan using Sucuri.

5. Test Website Speed

Have you ever visited a website that took forever to load? And then clicked away because you couldn’t be bothered waiting? I know I have.

If your website is slow, visitors are not going to stick around. People expect websites to load almost instantly.

Website speed is also a ranking factor in Google; for both desktop and mobile.

I recommend running speed tests using Lighthouse from Chrome Dev Tools. If you aren’t familiar with this, then try GT Metrix. Make sure to create a free account so you can use a testing server closest to your location.

For more tools, check out the best website speed test tools.

Lighthouse Speed Test - Chrome Dev Tools Pin
Speed test using Lighthouse from Chrome Developer Tools

6. Fix Errors

Websites will eventually show errors in one way or another.

It’s quite easy to hope for the best and assume yours doesn’t have any errors but this could cost you.

Imagine if one of your website links was broken? Perhaps you changed it and forgot to add a 301 redirect from the old one to new one. The old one will still be indexed in Google, so everytime someone visits it they get taken to a 404 page. How would you know if this is happening?

Well, the best way to get started finding errors is by using the Google Search Console (GSC). GSC will monitor your website for you and let you know when errors show up.

Check out the GSC Coverage Report below that shows errors, warnings, valid pages and excluded pages. Make sure you integrate GSC so you can start monitoring your site for errors.

GSC is also great for tracking rankings in Google for specific keyword phrases.

Google Search Console - Errors - CoveragePin
Google Search Console coverage report.

7. Clean Database

Cleaning your WordPress database is important to reduce server resource usage and to keep your website performing at its best. The basics include removing post revisions and trashed posts.

If your website has gone through a number of revamps with countless plugins installed and deactivated, it’s worth auditing your wp_options table and autoloaded data. You might be surprised to find a plugin that was deleted years ago is still loading data every time someone visits your website.

I recommend following this tutorial from Kinsta about cleaning up your wp_options table and autoloaded data.

8. Running Test Orders + Testing Contact Forms

One of the most critical tasks following software updates is to run test orders and test contact forms.

WooCommerce has a range of payment providers so make sure you test them all.

e.g. if you use Stripe, turn on test mode, make sure you have the test API credentials in place, and run a test order using test credit card details. If you haven’t done this before, Stripe has documentation about testing your integration.

Also, fill out your contact form and make sure your email notifications are working.

Final Thoughts

Hopefully the above has helped you understand why website maintenance is important and how to maintain a your WooCommerce website.

I know there is a fair bit of work involved but it’s crucial to ensuring your website remains fast, secure and performing at its best. And to ensure you continue making sales.

Don’t be the business owner who neglects their website. If you are proactive in maintaining your website you will be rewarded.

You’ve got this!