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A straightforward guide to updating your WordPress website

Keeping WordPress up-to-date is crucial for the smooth functioning of your website. Whether you’re running a blog, an ecommerce site, or a business portfolio, regular updates help keep your website secure, enhance performance, and provide the latest features. This guide will walk you through the essential steps to keep your WordPress website updated without the worry that you will break something.

Why updating your WordPress website matters

Before diving into the how-to, let’s briefly touch on why updating your WordPress website is so important:

Security: Updates often include security patches to protect your site from vulnerabilities.    Performance: New updates can improve site speed and efficiency.
New Features: Access to the latest tools and features that can enhance user experience.   Compatibility: Ensures plugins and themes work seamlessly with the latest WordPress version.

Now, let’s get into the nitty-gritty of updating your WordPress site.

Step 1: back up your website

The first and most crucial step before any update is to back up your website. This ensures that you can restore your site if anything goes wrong during the update process.

The simplest way to back up your site is to use a plugin. There are a few plugins to choose from, but the one we recommend is UpdraftPlus. Once you have run the backup, download the backup files to your computer (that way you’ve got a copy if for any reason you lose access to your WordPress admin).

Some web hosting providers can block you from using this type of plugin, so instead you can back up manually:

Database Backup: Use phpMyAdmin to export your database.
Files Backup: Use FTP to download all files from your website directory.

Step 2: update WordPress core

Updating the WordPress core is essential to keep your website secure and functioning as it should.

WordPress offers automatic updates, so if this feature is enabled you may find that your site has already updated to the current version. If not, follow these steps to run the update (you’ve backed up first, right?):

  1. Go to your WordPress dashboard.
  2. Navigate to Dashboard > Updates.
  3. Click the “Update Now” button if a new version is available.

Once you’ve run the update, go to the frontend of your website and make sure that it still loads as you expect.

Step 3: update plugins and themes

Plugins and themes are often the primary culprits for vulnerabilities. Keeping them updated is crucial. As with WordPress core, it is possible to have some plugins and themes set to update automatically. In this case, we recommend that you don’t have everything auto-updating, as you may find that something updates and causes a problem without you being able to easily get things back to what they should be. In our experience, it’s better to do a purposeful manual update when you know you have a backup to hand in case of issues.

  1. Go to Dashboard > Updates.
  2. For each plugin that has an update, select one at a time and click “Update Plugins”. Please, please, please don’t select everything and update them all at once. I know it’s a drag doing it one at a time (particularly if you have a lot of plugins) but it will save you tears, I promise!
  3. For each theme that has an update, select one at a time and click “Update Themes”.

Step 4: test your website

After updating, it’s essential to test your website to ensure everything is functioning correctly. Browse through your site making sure that everything loads and works as you expect. Test out any forms, shopping cart, or other features.

Step 5: clean up

After updates, a little housekeeping can go a long way in maintaining your site’s health. Remove any plugins or themes that you no longer need, and run a database optimisation tool to keep your database clean and running as fast as it can.

Keeping your WordPress website updated is a simple yet effective way to ensure its security, performance, and functionality. By following this guide, you can manage updates with confidence and keep your website running smoothly. Remember, the key steps are backing up your site, updating the WordPress core, updating plugins and themes, testing your site, and regular cleanups.

If you are a business owner managing your own websites, these updates might seem like a chore and yet one more thing for you to have to take care of, but they are essential for maintaining a professional and secure online presence. If you would like help with your website maintenance, we’re here for you! Sign up for a WordPress Maintenance Plan and we’ll take care of it all for you.

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