Automating WordPress websites for better management

WordPress websites require regular management and upkeep. However, managing all these manually may be a cumbersome task. That is why there is automation in place for most of the routine tasks.

Introduction

When a website is launched, it will require regular management and upkeep that includes:

  • Taking regular backups.
  • Checking that the webpage links and page navigation works.
  • Updating site, themes, widgets and plugins.
  • Utilizing spam prevention.
  • Optimizing images and databases.

Thankfully, most of these routine tasks can be automated. This is possible through the implementation of free and paid plugins. Plugins can be accessed by following Administrative Page My Site > My Home > Tools > Plugins

Automating routine tasks

Taking regular backups

Taking regular backups helps ensure that a website crash, the accidental deletion of critical files, or a hacking event does not require the entire website to be rebuilt. Additionally, maintaining structured backups helps access older content and media if required. It is a good practice to try restoring backups at regular intervals, and test the backup files in a non-production environment to ensure that nothing is missing. Backups could be:

Provided by a website hosting provider or a third-party providers
  • Most webhosting providers offer backup capability as a standard function or service to subscribers. Some hosting providers include options to automatically perform full and incremental backups. This might suffice for simple websites.
  • Third-party providers exist because hosting providers may have limited features and functionalities. For a fee, they provide better and focused services.
Local or cloud
  • A local backup is taken on the computers and storage at your physical location. Local backups need one technician to manage the files and keep track of versions.
  • Cloud backups provide a lower possibility of data loss due to hardware crashes. However, the challenge of managing the files remain the same even on the cloud.
Full or incremental
  • Full backups are best to ensure restorability of a website. The downside includes larger storage space requirements, longer back up duration and restoration depending on the website size and complexity.
  • Incremental backups are for those files which have been updated since the last backup. They are quicker to perform and need less space.
  • Using a combination of regular, full, and incremental backups will work well for most situations.
Manual or automated
  • Manual backups are triggered by the administrator pre-planned or ad hoc. If this is not done in a disciplined manner, there is a risk of loss of information and content.
  • Automated backups do not leave room for manual errors. However, they need to be tracked regularly for their efficacy, restorability, and storage.

WordPress facilitates manual and automated, and full or incremental backup on the cloud or local machines using plugins. Some examples of WordPress backup plugins currently supported include:

Brand/Product Name Features ​Publisher
Jetpack Automated real time backup and restore. Possible to duplicate, clone, or migrate website to a staging site or to a new host.

Automatic - https://jetpack.com/

WPvivid Backup Plugin

Backup and migration features offered. Migrate a copy of WordPress site to a new host (a new domain), schedule backups, send backups to remote storage and migration.

WPvivid Team - https://wpvivid.com/

BackupBliss

Schedule backups automatically. Configure which files and databases should be in the backup. The backup will be stored locally, and you'll receive a notification email. Can be used to migrate your site to another host.

Migrate - https://backupbliss.com/
BoldGrid

Allows automated and manual backups. Full or incremental backup to remote and cloud storage. Clone, duplicate and/or migrate your site. Create staging sites to test new plugins or themes.

BoldGrid - https://www.boldgrid.com/

Checking webpage links and page navigation

As the website evolves and new content and pages are added, errors in existing and new links could occur. For example, some old links may not work as the forwarding page has changed. Checking for functional and working links needs to be a part of the regular website upkeep. Broken links negatively impact the visitor experience.

Some plugins can help check for broken links on a WordPress website. Some plugins include capabilities to check for broken links on web pages, posts, comments and even images with links. These can be installed to run in regular intervals and inform the web admin on the issues found. Some plugins have a feature to prevent broken links from being available as a clickable option.

Some examples of WordPress link checker plugins currently supported include:

Brand/Product Name Features ​Publisher
Link Checker The basic version of the Link Checker is free to use and checks up to 500 URLs.

Marco Beierer - https://www.marcobeierer.com/wordpress-plugins/link-checker

Broken Link Checker | Finder

Free plugin to check for dead links. Each link is checked to find if it works as intended. Additionally, it checks image links too. Links are checked on pages, posts, forums, and comments.

miniOrange - https://www.miniorange.com/

Save Post. Check Links.

When a post is saved or published, this plugin will scan the post’s content for any URLs, ping all the URLs found (except relative ones), detect any broken or unreachable URLs and list them for review and correction.

pluginkollektiv - https://pluginkollektiv.org/plugins/
BoldGrid

Allows automated and manual backups. Full or incremental backup to remote and cloud storage. Clone, duplicate and/or migrate your site. Create staging sites to test new plugins or themes.

BoldGrid - https://www.boldgrid.com/

Updating site, themes, widgets and plugins

Updating a website regularly is important, as this ensures that the user experience and site performance is satisfactory. One must consider updating plugins, extensions, themes, and the version of the WordPress website for it to run smoothly and have the best security. Creators of themes, widgets, and plugins regularly publish updates as they come across vulnerabilities, risks, and improvement opportunities. Being able to automate updates through plugins is a great way to handle administrative tasks.

Some examples of the WordPress Updating plugins currently supported include:

Brand/Product Name Features ​Publisher
Easy Updates Manager The basic version allows customized automatic updates. Disables updates for custom developed themes and plugins.

Easy Updates Manager Team - https://easyupdatesmanager.com/

Companion Auto Updates

Supports auto-updating for plugins, themes, core, and translation files. Exclude plugins and themes that should not be updated. Other features include e-mail notifications, updating the logs, and the option to delay automatic updates.

Papin Schipper - https://codeermeneer.nl/

Webcraftic Updates Manager

Allows automatic updates and disabling updates to ensure custom developments are not overwritten. Allows WordPress major and minor release updates.

Webcraftic - https://wordpress.org/plugins/webcraftic-updates-manager/
Spam prevention

WordPress has built-in blog and comments capabilities. As these posts grow and the website becomes more popular, the possibility for spam in comments (if comments by subscribers and public are open) emerges as a possible risk. Spam impacts the user experience and satisfaction:

  • Too many spam comments prevent legitimate subscribers and users from having meaningful interaction.
  • Spam comments could include malicious links, that may extract personal information through misleading screens.

Typical approaches for dealing with spam include:

  • Control the number of links allowed per post. Encourage posting only by registered users or subscribers.
  • Provide moderators with a list of censored and blacklisted words so that inappropriate content is not posted. Some third-party providers offer "moderation systems" to accomplish this.
  • Use an anti-spam plugin on WordPress.

Some examples of WordPress Anti-Spam plugins include:

Brand/Product Name Features ​Publisher
Akismet Spa, Protection Checks comments and contact form submissions against a global database of spam to prevent publishing of malicious content. Allows review of comment spam found in a blog’s “Comments” admin screen.

Automatic - https://wordpress.org/plugins/akismet/

CleanTalk

Supports "Contact Form and Comments" from multiple providers including any WordPress registrations, contact forms and themes. Prevents spam comments, spam registrations, spam contact emails, spam orders, spam bookings, spam subscriptions, spam surveys and polls, spam in widgets. Additional features include compatibility with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), real-time email validation, blocking disposable, and temporary emails.

CleanTalk - https://cleantalk.org/

Antispam Bee

Blocks spam comments and trackbacks and is GDPR compliant. Some features include trust approved commenters, allow comments in certain languages, block commenters from certain countries, validate IP address, check against spammer database. and notify admins by e-mail.

pluginkollektiv - https://wordpress.org/plugins/antispam-bee/
Optimization of images and databases

Websites today are accessed by multiple devices including desktops, tablets, and mobiles. How the website renders on the user’s screen, and as a result the user experience, vary with the device used to browse the website.

Optimizing the website to work across devices includes reducing images and database sizes while improving access speeds to a level that works best for the user’s interface and experience. Additional benefits of an optimized website include, quicker website loading speed which could impact SEO rankings positively, easier management due to less storage space, less bandwidth, and fast website backups.

WordPress being a dynamic web application, uses a MySQL database to perform and track actions on themes, plugins, posts, comments and every element on the website. Over a period of operations, unused database elements and traces of old elements remain. These occupy storage space and increase memory leading to degraded database performance. As a result, a request to the database may consume more time than it normally should. You can clear out unused elements from the database and optimize it to achieve better performance.

WordPress plugins offer the possibility to compress images before they are uploaded on the website and to the WordPress database.

Some examples of WordPress Image and Database Optimization plugins include:

Brand/Product Name Features ​Publisher
WP-Optimize Cleans the database, compresses images and caches the website. Additionally, can minify and asynchronise CSS and JavaScript. Reports on database tables that have overhead and wasted space. Enables you to schedule automated optimization with a selected number of weeks of data stored, allowing fallback options. Image-compression tool uses lossy compression techniques to convert large images into compressed files.

David Anderson, Ruhani Rabin, Team Updraft - https://getwpo.com/

Imagify – Optimize your Images & Convert

Focuses on image compression and optimization. Imagify can convert many common image formats. Compression algorithms called “normal, aggressive and ultra”.

WP Media - https://imagify.io//

WP Clean Up Optimizer: Optimize Database and WordPress

Optimizes WordPress sites/blogs and cleans up obsolete data in the database. Can schedule cleaning, optimizing, deleting, and repairing database tables through the plugin. Minifies the WordPress data and databases helping faster loading of WordPress websites.

Tech Banker - https://tech-banker.com/clean-up-optimizer/

Summary

Routine management of a WordPress website is streamlined by using plugins which automate some management tasks. We looked at plugins that automate management of backups, broken links, updates, spam prevention, image optimization, and several WordPress database tasks. Many plugins are available in free versions with additional functionality provided in paid versions. Which plugin suits a particular WordPress site should be reviewed based on management goals while comparing features and limitations. Finally, despite automation being available, it is a good practice to review management tasks manually at regular intervals.