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Year end WordPress checklist

By Drew Strojny on December 24, 2013

WordPress checklist

‘Tis the season for a WordPress checklist. Here’s three ideas for optimizing your WordPress website as the year comes to a close.

1. Speed check

With the rise of mobile devices the speed of your website is becoming increasingly important. Google announced back in 2010 that site speed is even factored into search result rankings. Faster sites are a better experience for the end user, and Google wants to factor that into their ranking algorithm. If you run any kind of business or make money through your website, it’s important your WordPress site is fast.

Grab a free Pingdom account and start monitoring the speed of your site. Pingdom uses servers all over the world to continuously monitor your site’s response time and uptime. You should be looking for average speeds of 500ms or less. If you can hit 200ms or less, you’re really flying. If you’re slower than 500ms, talk to your web host and ask if they have any recommended caching plugins to help speed things up.

Pingdom will also keep you updated on when your site is down and send you alerts. This is a great way to keep tabs on your uptime. If you’re site is down more than 5 minutes a month, you should talk to your web host. If they blow you off, or you don’t get the feeling uptime is a priority, consider moving to a new host.

2. Google Webmaster Tools checkup

Sign up for Google Webmaster Tools and add your site. Google Webmaster tools give you some nice insight into how Google views your website.

  • Crawl errors: Google will give you a report of any crawl errors on your site. Use this tool to add 301 redirects for any abandoned pages.
  • Search queries: Take a look at the Search Queries item under Search Traffic. You may find some nice surprises in this list. It might also give you some ideas for writing new content or editing your existing content to better reflect what readers or customers are searching for.
  • Sitemap: If you don’t already have a sitemap submitted to Webmaster Tools, you should add one using the Google XML site map plugin and submit it through your Webmaster Tools account. This will help your content get indexed and found more quickly.
  • Links to Your Site: Browse through the Links to Your Site list under Search Traffic. You may discover some sites that are already interested in your content. Consider reaching out to the owners of the sites and thanking them for the link.

3. Back it up

If you’re not backing up your WordPress website, you should be. Servers crash, hard drives fail, sites get hacked. If you don’t have a backup, all your hard work could be gone in an instant.

The number of options for backing up your WordPress site has gone way up over the past few years. We highly recommend VaultPress for easy set it and forget backups (we use it here at The Theme Foundry). If you need something a little more cost effective check out the WordPress Backup to Dropbox plugin. You can get a free Dropbox account with up to 2GB of storage, which should be more than enough space for your WordPress site.

Verify your backups

Even if you have a backup solution in place, it’s important to periodically verify your backups (every six months or so). The only thing worse than not having backup is thinking you have a good backup when you actually don’t. How far you take this is up to you, but at the very least you should download a copy of your backups and make sure everything looks complete and up to date. If you want to be extra sure, try restoring the backup on a test website or a local WordPress install.

Anything else?

We’d love to hear some tips and tricks from your WordPress checklist in the comments.

Enjoy this post? Read more like it in From the workshop.


  1. Chris Mccoy

    Not for optimizing, but some wordpress security hardening should be done, disable some key php functions in php.ini, to prevent people from running evil code they shouldnt.

  2. Andy McIlwain

    Some good pointers here, Drew! I came into the office this morning thinking about what needed to be done for my own sites. Here are some other tips to add to the list:

    Check mobile compatibility using a web service like BrowserStack, Keynote MITE, or DeviceAnywhere.
    In addition to Pingdom, try Google’s own PageSpeed Insights tool, which analyzes both mobile and desktop performance.
    Install a security plugin like Better WP Security or WordFence.
    Lastly, start planning out some content for the year. EditFlow and CoSchedule are two options I’m planning on using for different projects.

    Hope these are helpful. :)

  3. Drew Strojny

    Good stuff Andy! A very comprehensive list. I appreciate you sharing.

  4. Chris McCoy

    reason I state the php function issue, somehow a plugin on a client site set the default role as admin, and someone had signedup, and ran some code which made it cycle through all the dirs on the site and did quite a mess to clean up

  5. Sara

    It’s time for me to spring clean my WordPress sites, so thanks for these tips. Do you also think there is any optimizing necessary for plugins? Also, I thought I heard somewhere that having a plugin installed but not activated still impacts your site speed. Is that true? Thanks!

  6. Drew Strojny

    Hey Sara! Good questions. You generally don’t need to do any plugin optimizing (other than making sure they’re up to date). Having a plugin installed, but not activated, shouldn’t have any impact on your site speed.

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