Much like a car, a blog is a complex system. To maintain it, you need to keep the software up to date, regularly add content, interact with your readers and more.
Here are some of the most important things you need to do to keep your blog running smoothly.
#1: Update WordPress
WordPress is frequently updated. Although some of these updates are fairly minor, many of them include critical security features. Hackers may find weaknesses in the code which they can use to hack into your blog and do damage.
Updating your WordPress installation literally takes seconds. Make sure you update it whenever you see WordPress prompting you to do so.
#2: Keep Plugins Up to Date
Along with updating WordPress itself, it is important to keep other components current, too. Though the WordPress core installation can pose a security risk, the reality is that the vast majority of WordPress hacks come from compromised plugins.
Most people don’t realize that a single compromised plugin can not only result in their entire WordPress installation getting hacked, but having every other WordPress installation on their entire server getting hacked as well.
Updating your plugins is easy. Just go to the plugins panel and click on “Update Available.”
Then click “Update Automatically” under the plugin you want to update.
Update your plugins to their newest versions whenever possible.
#3: Backup Your Site Frequently
Backing up your WordPress installation regularly protects you against losing your data. If your site ever gets wiped out, you can simply do a restore. If your hosting company suddenly crashes and loses your data, you can just re-upload everything from scratch. Or if you do something stupid (Did I ever tell you about the day I accidentally deleted my husband’s blog?) it only takes a few minutes to get everything back online.
Backing up your data is made easy by the myriad of different backup plugins available. Pick a backup system that allows you to automate backups so you do not even have to remember to do a backup.
How often should you run a backup? That depends on how often you update your site. If you add content a few times a week, then a weekly backup may be fine. However, if you add content every day, or multiple times a day, you should backup daily. Also, it is a good idea to run a backup after making major changes.
#4: Moderate Your Comments
Comment moderation is important in order to keep spammy comments off of your site and interact with your readers. It is also highly time sensitive.
If you want to maintain a strong relationship between you and your readers, you need to moderate your blog comments quickly. People should never feel like they’re being ignored, especially after spending a lot of time to write out a thoughtful comment.
Try to moderate your comments at least every 24 hours, if not every 3, 8 or 12 hours. Never, ever let real comments sit unmoderated for more than 48 hours, or you’re either going to lose that reader for good, or they’ll stop commenting and become a passive participant.
One possibility is to let a plugin, such as Akismet or Defensio, cull the obvious spam comments, and let all other comments post without moderation. You can then review the posted comments (or have your assistant do so) and delete any spam comments that slipped through. That way legitimate commenters do not have to wait to see their comments appear, but spam doesn’t clutter up your posts.
#5: Get Rid of Broken Links
Checking for broken links is something you should do at least every few months.
Most bloggers include links in their posts as well as having a blogroll or other groups of links on their blogs. The majority of those links will still work even months and years from today. But some of them won’t.
If a page you link to goes down, that reflects badly on you. Users who click on a broken link on your site will instantly view you as less credible. They might also get frustrated, because there was a resource they wanted to access that they couldn’t get to.
To avoid broken link issues, scan your site for broken links every few months. When you find a broken link, try to replace it with a comparable resource. If you can’t find other useful resources, then just unlink that hyperlink.
#6: Check Your RSS Feeds
Check to make sure your RSS feeds are working properly. Check on several different clients, including Google Reader and a desktop client. Sometimes feeds can work in one reader but not another. If something in your RSS feeds isn’t working as expected, you want to know sooner rather than later.
Make it easy for people to subscribe to your RSS feed by making the subscribe options obvious.
#7: Check Your Stats
Are you getting more visitors or fewer? Where do your visitors come from? Are there specific pages on your site that people seem to be bouncing out of?
Which posts are most popular? What kinds of headlines seem to catch their attention and get a longer stay? What kind of keywords are people searching for to land on your website?
Your stats, from Google Analytics or a program offered by your hosting company, such as AWStats or Webalizer, can provide answers to these questions and others. Your analytics will help you figure out what your audience likes and doesn’t like, so you can give them more of what they want.
#8: Stay on Message
Review all of your posts over the last few months. Ask yourself if you are still on message and writing about what matters to your audience. Does your blog have a mission statement? (If not, consider writing one.) Are your topics consistent with your mission?
It’s easy to write a post that seems just a little off topic, especially if you’re feeling inspired by the subject or if there are current events that you want to comment on. But one “slightly off topic” post can lead to another and pretty soon you are completely off track.
If you see that you have veered off track, make a conscious effort to get back to your topic. Plan a series that addresses something that matters to your audience and is appropriate to your mission statement.
These tips will help you keep your blog in tip top shape. Use these tips to keep your blog running smoothly and attracting more loyal readers.
What do you think? How do you keep your blog up to date and working at its best?