Regular blog maintenance is a critical and essential task for every professional blogger. It not only keeps your blog in a healthy condition, but also keeps you well prepared in advance to tackle any kind of emergency. Some of the routines included in a typical blog maintenance checklist are more or less similar and are done by almost every blogger. I currently manage three niche blogs and one personal blog and the maintenance routine discussed here is same for all of them. Before we go ahead, I must stress that some of the tasks mentioned here may not be applicable for your blog and you can safely ignore them.
Weekly Blog BackupWithout any doubt, this is one of the most important blog maintenance routines for every blog. Instead of daily backups, I prefer to do it on a weekly basis, mostly at weekends. If you're publishing lot of content on a daily basis, you can increase this frequency to suit your needs. I use three different ways to backup all of my blogs.
The first one is quite simple that includes backup of important files (/wp-content, .htaccess, wp-config.php & robots.txt) and database to my desktop. The other two techniques are tree replication and cross-server replication which I've already discussed in detail. This helps me keep my data on three different physical locations. In the event of any mishap, my first option will be to use the tree replicated on the local server as it will help me restore the blog very quickly. The second best option is the backup lying on a different server and the last resort is the backup lying on my desktop.
Monthly Dead Links AuditThis is often ignored by good number of bloggers that results in bad visitors' experience. If the number of broken links is large, it may also affect your search engine presence. I analyze these dead links in the first week of every month. Since I do it every month, the number of broken links detected are low and it doesn't takes much time to fix each of these links.
Instead of using a plugin, I use this tool to find all broken and non-functional links on my blog. Yes, it's not just the non-existent links that need to be fixed, but you must deal with non-functional links as well. A typical non-functional link simply hangs and doesn't open for a long time. For both types of links, I either remove it altogether or replace it with a different and relevant link.
Quarterly Archives OptimizationEvery 3 months or so, I head over to my archives for various reasons. One of the reasons is to continue my internal cross-linking effort to facilitate better inter-post navigation. The second reason to traverse all the old directories is to improve and update non-performing content.
Make no mistake about it; archive optimization can improve your blog by leaps and bounds. The time spent on this optimization activity is totally worth it. If you're not doing it on your blog, try it once and see the difference. If you're not posting on a regular basis, you can extend this optimization interval to twice a year. If your archive is extremely large, you can target each category every month.
Quarterly Optimization of Key On-page Sections/ElementsThis is an important exercise to get more out of your blog. Here I'm talking about various visual elements and content sections that must be audited and optimized for better results. A common example is your blog's sidebar. That's the first content section under my radar while optimizing different sections. You must be familiar with at least one web analytics program to correctly assess the performance of various content sections of your blog.
Recently, I updated the design of this blog and added some key content sections based on my research from the data I got through Google analytics. I've revamped my sidebar, footer and the home page to include some important sections that were non-existent before. I'm already experiencing positive results both in terms of better subscription rate and the number of leads I used to get earlier. Remember, although I've mentioned that I do this quarterly, but it doesn't mean that I change different content sections every 3 months. I simply assess their performance and if needed only then I go ahead for the change.
Monthly or Quarterly Ads OptimizationI use both affiliate and pay-per-click advertisements on all of my niche blogs. What blog maintenance has to do with these ads? Although ad optimization is not strictly part of a typical blog maintenance routine, still I prefer to keep it under this list.
Quite similar to optimization of select content sections on a page, ads optimization ensure you're blog is giving you the returns to its full potential. I regularly (almost every month) analyze the performance of my PPC ads and make necessary changes accordingly. I also use URL tagging for select affiliate links to assess their performance. Since I use my theme's internal affiliate link generator facility, I can easily tag them without any problem. You can also tag key page links to monitor visitors' activity on them.
Weekly Spam CleaningAlthough you can use auto-cleaning feature of various spam plugins, but I prefer to delete them manually. The reason is quite simple. Before deleting them in bulk once a week, I glance on the first page whether any legit comments are caught in the spam queue or not.
If you're getting very high volume of spam comments, you can either switch to auto-deletion or you can clear the spam queue on a daily basis. Since I get limited number of spam comments, I use weekends to clean the spam queue after quickly inspecting for any legit comments. If you want to reduce this cleaning activity, you must disable pingback and trackback notifications through your blog's dashboard.
Plugin/Theme/WP Core UpdatesExperts always suggest keeping your blog's CMS and its components up-to-date to avoid any kind of security issues. If you're using WordPress as your blogging CMS, you'll be dealing with three kinds of updates on a regular basis. First one is the update related to the WordPress core. Here's how I do it.
Generally, experts suggest immediately updating the WordPress core as soon as it's released. But, I do not do so for a simple reason. What if after the update your blog goes down? It happens with lot of bloggers, isn't it so? Here's my update cycle for the WordPress core. First, I update the replica of my blog installed on my local system having exactly the same customized theme and plugins. Once it goes well, I do make sure to check for any negative feedback about the newest version on the internet. If both are positive, I go ahead with the update process on the live blog.
This reduces the chances of inadvertently breaking the blog. Same thing applies to plugin and theme updates. You must also make sure that you've taken the backup before you attempt to initiate any kind of update process.
Quarterly Database OptimizationWith passage of time, your WordPress database accumulates lots of redundant as well as some unused meta data associated with your content. To reduce accumulation of redundant text in your database, you can disable post revisions. This will help you keep your database size in control as more and more content is piled up in your archives.
MySQL inherently supports database optimization options which repairs and optimizes tables in your WordPress database. You can do this in two different ways. You can either use various database optimization plugins or you can use phpMyAdmin web interface to do it manually. Depending on the amount of database activity of your blog, you can increase or decrease the frequency of this database optimization process.
Miscellaneous Maintenance RoutinesApart from these core maintenance routines, there are several other important tasks that come under a typical blog maintenance schedule. Depending on the type of blog and the entire setup, you may not be using all of the routines mentioned in the list below. If it's applicable to your blog, you must include it in your blog maintenance checklist. So here we go...
- Check your blog feed every week to find out whether it's functioning correctly as expected or not. If you're offering multiple feeds to your subscribers, regular check up of all of the feeds is essential to avoid complains from your subscribers.
- Once a month, check all kinds of submission forms present on your blog. The best way to test them is to provide a dummy submission for each of these forms. You must also test them in the latest versions of all major browsers to check whether they're rendering correctly or not.
- Monitor and optimize all of your squeeze pages (if any) every quarter. This also includes other important pages like your 'About', 'Services' & 'Archives' page.
- Once a month, do general blog health checkups related to DNS lookup, ping and page load times. You can use powerful tools provided by Pingdom to perform all these tests very easily.