The Ultimate New Year’s WordPress Cleanup Checklist for 2024

Folder, notes book, pens, and plant on a plain surface.

With the New Year just around the corner, it’s the perfect time to show some love to your WordPress site. And, like any other important aspect of your business, your website deserves some TLC to be sure it’s ready to take on the challenges and opportunities of the coming year. A well-maintained and optimized website is not just visually appealing, but it also helps you attract visitors, retain customers, improve your search engine rankings, and boost the overall security and performance of your online presence. Cleaning up your website has its perks!

Use this guide we’ve designed to help you enhance your site’s effectiveness and prepare for a successful year ahead!

Backup Your Website

Before we begin, ensure you have a recent backup of your entire WordPress site. It is an essential first step before initiating any updates or changes. Think of it as an important safety net for your website – in the event of any unexpected issues, a backup is your fail-safe to restore your site to its former state with minimal disruption.

Backups are crucial for multiple reasons. For one thing, they provide a safety net against data loss. Whether due to technical malfunction, hacking, or accidental deletion, a backup means you can restore your site quickly and efficiently. Second, backups offer you peace of mind. Knowing that you have a complete, up-to-date copy of your site allows you to proceed with confidence when you’re about to make significant changes or updates.

When it comes to executing backups, there are a few reliable methods you can use:

  1. Automated Backup Plugins: Solutions like UpdraftPlus or SolidWP (formerly BackupBuddy) can be invaluable. These plugins automate the backup process, scheduling regular backups and securely storing them in remote locations. They often provide easy-to-use interfaces for setting up and managing your backups.
  2. Your Hosting Provider’s Backup Solutions: Hosting providers often include backup services in their hosting packages. These backups can be done every day or in real-time, depending on the provider. To take advantage of these services, check with your hosting provider to find out what backup services they offer.

To ensure your backup process is as secure as possible, here are a few additional tips:

  • Test your backups regularly to make sure they are working correctly.
  • Keep backups in multiple locations to protect against data loss in any one location.
  • Be consistent with your backup schedule.

Prioritizing regular and reliable backups is crucial to safeguarding your WordPress site against unforeseen challenges. This will help ensure that your site remains a robust and reliable asset for your business.

1. Update WordPress Core, Themes, and Plugins

An essential aspect of maintaining a healthy WordPress site is keeping the core software and all of your themes and plugins up to date. Updates introduce new features and, more importantly, patch security vulnerabilities and fix bugs.

Update WordPress Core

Core updates include security patches, bug fixes, and new features. Major updates are released a few times a year, with minor security updates more frequently.

Note: Major releases may significantly change features or functionalities.

Update Themes

Updates ensure that themes are compatible with the latest version of WordPress and often include security improvements. Customized themes may require special attention to preserve customizations.

Update Plugins

Plugins require regular updates for security reasons and to maintain compatibility with the latest WordPress core updates.

Test Updates (if possible)

Testing major updates on a staging site can prevent potential conflicts or issues on your live site. Identifying and fixing any problems in a staging environment is important to avoid downtime and user experience issues.

Regularly Schedule Update Checks

Keeping your website up-to-date helps reduce security risks and take advantage of the latest improvements. Regular updates maintain consistency in your maintenance routine.

Ensuring your WordPress site’s security, efficiency, and up-to-date status is crucial for providing a reliable and smooth experience for your users. Regular website updates play a significant role in maintaining good website health and therefore should not be neglected.

2. Audit Your Plugins and Themes

Auditing your plugins and themes is essential when prepping your site for the year ahead. It helps to ensure that each component contributes positively to your site’s performance and security.

Why Auditing is Important?

  • Performance: It’s essential to limit the number of plugins and ensure your themes are up to date to improve the speed of your website. 
  • Security: Older plugins and themes might not be updated with the latest security standards, posing risks to your site.
  • Functionality: Plugins and themes can sometimes conflict, causing issues on your site.

Audit Checklist:

Review Your Plugins

Look at each plugin you have installed and ask yourself: ‘Do I really use this? Does it add value to my site?’ If a plugin isn’t necessary, deactivate and delete it to declutter your site.

Check Your Themes

We’ve said it before, but it bears repeating. Be sure to keep your active theme updated. If you have old themes installed that you’re not using, remove them, as this can help simplify your site management.

By regularly auditing your plugins and themes, you keep your WordPress site lean and efficient. This practice improves your site’s speed and security but also ensures a smoother experience for your visitors. Keeping your digital space clutter-free is as important as tidying up your physical workspace!

3. Review Your Site’s Content

Content is core to any WordPress website. Checking and updating your content on a regular basis not only keeps your site relevant and engaging but also plays a crucial role in SEO performance.

Importance of Content Review

  • Relevance: In order to attract and retain visitors, it is critical to ensure that your content is both up-to-date and relevant to your audience.
  • SEO: Search engines prefer rich, up-to-date, high-quality content, which can help improve the rankings of your website.
  • User Experience: Updating content can improve the user experience, encouraging visitors to spend more time on your site and return in the future.

Content Review Checklist:

Check for Outdated Information

Check your pages and posts for outdated information, statistics, or references, and update them as necessary.

Improve Existing Content

Identify potential opportunities to improve your content for better engagement and SEO. This may involve adding more detailed information, updating images, and incorporating relevant keywords.

Fix Broken Links

Broken links can harm both the user experience and SEO. To ensure a positive experience for your users and maintain good SEO, it is important to use tools to scan for and fix any broken links on your site.

Refresh Visual Elements

Make sure that the images and videos on your website are up-to-date, relevant, and optimized for fast loading.

Evaluate Content Structure

Consider the layout and formatting of your content. Use clear headings, short paragraphs, and bullet points to improve readability and user engagement.

Regularly reviewing and updating your website’s content can significantly impact its effectiveness and success. Doing so keeps your site fresh and exciting for your audience, follows SEO best practices, and helps your site rank higher in search engine results. A website with well-maintained content reflects a company that is active, informed, and responsive to its audience.

4. Optimize Site Speed and Performance

For both user experience and SEO, website speed and performance are critical. A fast-loading, smooth-running WordPress site will keep visitors happy and engaged while helping your site rank higher in search engine results.

Why Speed and Performance Matter?

  • User Experience: Sites that load quickly and run smoothly are more likely to keep visitors coming back.
  • SEO Impact: Faster websites are given preference by search engines such as Google, which affects your site’s visibility in search results.
  • Conversion Rates: Speed and performance can directly affect conversion rates and the overall effectiveness of a website.

Site Speed and Performance Checklist:

Image Optimization

Compress large images without compromising quality and ensure they are sized correctly for your site’s needs.

Optimize Your Theme

Select a theme that is well-coded and optimized for speed. Themes that are bulky and contain unnecessary features can negatively impact site performance.

Database Maintenance

To keep your WordPress database running smoothly, it’s important to regularly remove unnecessary data such as post revisions, spam comments, and transient options.

Regular monitoring and optimization of these aspects can significantly improve your site’s effectiveness, user satisfaction, and search engine rankings.

5. Enhance Website Security

A secure WordPress site is crucial for protecting against online threats, such as malware and data breaches. It also helps to establish visitor trust, which is essential for maintaining credibility and customer confidence.

The Importance of Robust Security

  • Protect Sensitive Data: Security measures protect sensitive information belonging to you and your users.
  • Maintain Site Integrity: Security breaches can result in site downtime or malicious content that can damage brand image.
  • SEO Impact: Compromised sites may be flagged by search engines, affecting your visibility.

Security Enhancement Checklist:

Review and Adjust Passwords

It is important to use passwords that are complex and difficult to guess, and to change them on a regular basis. This will help to keep your site and users’ personal information safe and secure.

Review User Permissions

Manage user roles carefully, giving only necessary permissions to reduce risk.

Install Security Plugins

Use reliable security plugins like Solid Security or Sucuri to add an extra layer of protection against common threats.

Implement SSL Certification

SSL (Secure Socket Layer) encryption is crucial for protecting data. Ensure your site has a valid SSL certificate.

Conduct a Security Scan

Conduct regular scans for malware and vulnerabilities. Many security plugins offer this feature.

By following these steps, you can significantly enhance the security of your WordPress site for the coming year. Remember, a secure website is a cornerstone of a successful online presence.

6. Check Mobile Responsiveness and User Experience

In today’s mobile-first era, having a mobile-responsive WordPress website with great UX is crucial. A well-performing mobile site ranks higher in search results.

Why Mobile Responsiveness and UX Matter?

  • Broader Reach: Most website visitors use mobile devices, making a mobile-responsive site essential for effective content delivery.
  • SEO Benefits: Search engines like Google prioritize mobile-friendly sites in their search results.
  • User Satisfaction: A mobile-friendly website increases user satisfaction and engagement by making the site easy to navigate and interact with.

Mobile Responsiveness and UX Checklist:

Check to See How Your Site Functions on Various Devices

Do this regularly and use tools like Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test to assess mobile responsiveness.

Optimize for Touch Navigation

Ensure buttons and links are easy to tap and that navigation menus are touch-friendly.

It’s important to make sure that your WordPress website is optimized for mobile devices and provides a great user experience. This will help you to retain your users and also attract new ones, ultimately improving the overall performance of your site. By catering to the vast majority of internet users who access the web through mobile devices, you can expand your audience and ensure that your website is accessible to as many people as possible.

7. SEO Health Check

SEO is crucial for making your WordPress site visible and discoverable. An SEO health check ensures that your site is optimized to rank well in search engine results, making it easier for your target audience to find you.

The Importance of Regular SEO Checks

  • Visibility: Good SEO practices improve your site’s ranking in search engine results, leading to increased visibility.
  • Traffic: Higher rankings typically lead to more organic traffic, which can mean more leads and customers.
  • User Experience: Many SEO best practices also enhance the user experience, making your site more user-friendly.

SEO Health Check Checklist:

Review Keywords

Make sure to use relevant and effective keywords in your content. It is important to regularly research and update your keywords to match current trends and search behaviors.

Optimize Meta Descriptions and Titles

Ensure that each page has a unique and descriptive title tag and meta description. Use keywords effectively to improve click-through rates from search results.

Check for Broken Links

Be sure to scan your site regularly throughout the year to find and fix any broken links. This is crucial for maintaining good SEO.

Utilize Social Media and Backlinks

It is important to encourage your content to be shared on social media channels, while also focusing on building high-quality backlinks from reputable websites.

Performing regular SEO health checks and making improvements can greatly enhance your site’s visibility and appeal to both search engines and users.

8. Plan for Future Content and Updates

A well-planned content strategy is important for maintaining an engaging and dynamic WordPress website. It ensures regular audience engagement and positively impacts SEO and overall site health.

The Benefits of Content and Update Planning

  • Consistent Engagement: Regularly updated content keeps visitors returning and attracts new audiences.
  • SEO Advantages: Search engines prefer fresh and updated content, which helps achieve higher rankings.

Content and Update Planning Checklist:

Review and Perform Content Updates

Pinpoint pages and posts that require regular updates, such as service pages, contact information, and industry news sections. Set reminders to review and refresh this content periodically.

Plan for Major Site Updates

Plan for regular content updates as well as more extensive site updates, such as redesigns, new features, or significant structural changes.

Continuously Monitor and Adapt:

It’s important to regularly review your website’s performance metrics to understand what content speaks to your audience. Be open to changing your content plan based on what works and what doesn’t.

Planning for future content and updates ensures that your WordPress site remains a dynamic and growing digital space. This forward-thinking approach to content management can improve user engagement while supporting your broader digital marketing and SEO strategies.

As the new year approaches, cleaning up and revamping your WordPress site is essential. This is not just a maintenance task but a strategic step towards ensuring your online presence thrives in 2024. We have provided checklists that cover crucial areas, including backups, updates, content, and SEO. Each of these areas plays a pivotal role in the health and effectiveness of your site.

As you go through these checklists, it’s important to remember that maintaining a website is an ongoing process because the digital world is constantly evolving. If you find website maintenance to be a daunting task and you don’t have the time to deal with it, consider using Valet’s WordPress Maintenance and Management services to help your site stay at its best. With professional WordPress support from Valet, you can rest easy knowing that your website is in good hands and you can focus on what matters most – growing your business and achieving your goals. Schedule a consultation with us, and we’ll find a solution that works for you.

Here’s to a new year filled with success, growth, and an outstanding online presence! Let’s make 2024 a year where your website becomes a beacon of your business’s success and commitment to excellence.