Running a blog is a bit like running a car. Every so often, you need to put some time and energy into maintaining it. If you don’t, will it still run? Sure, it’ll run just fine – For a time. But if you go too long without changing your oil, or go too long without replacing your brakes, you put strain on the system. Eventually, the whole thing could fall apart. The same goes for running a blog.
Much like a car, a blog is quite a complex system. Maintenance encompasses a wide array of issues, from interactions with readers to interactions with other websites to website security issues.
Here are some of the most important things you need to maintain to keep a blog running smoothly.
#1: Update Your WordPress Installation
Updating your WordPress installation is arguably the most important task on this list. If you’re running an old version of WordPress, there’s a good chance you’re running a version of WordPress that has known security vulnerabilities.
If so, it’s not difficult at all for hackers to find your site through Google, then easily compromise your blog. Updating your WordPress installation literally takes seconds. Make sure you update it whenever you see WordPress prompting you to do an update.
#2: Update Your Plugins
The second most important thing on your checklist is updating your themes. 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 Periodically
Backing up your WordPress installation regularly, say every 2 weeks or so, helps prevent avoidable disasters. 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.
Backing up your data is made easy by the myriad of different backup plugins you can choose from. Pick a backup system that allows you to automate backups and learn it inside and out.
#4: Moderate Your Comments
Comment moderation is not only an important part of maintain your blog, but a highly time sensitive one.
If you want to maintain a strong relationship between you and your bloggers, 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.
#5: Check for Broken Links
Checking for broken links is something you should do about every three months.
When you’re blogging actively, chances are you’re going to be sending quite a few links out to cyberspace. 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 very 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. Whenever possible, replace your old links with new resources. If there aren’t any comparable resources, then just unlink that hyperlink.
#6: Check Your AdSense Ads
Every once in a while, check what ads are showing up on your site. Check your ads for individual posts as well. Sometimes AdSense will misread your site and post non-relevant ads. Also, sometimes you might be getting ads for competing services. In fact, competitors might sometimes specifically target your site to have their ads displayed there.
One of the best ways to check your AdSense ads is to use the AdSense sandbox: http://ctrlq.org/sandbox/
This allows you to see your ads, minus any retargeting. If you just visited your site, you’ll see a lot of ads that are targeted towards you specifically because of retargeting cookies. The sandbox allows you to see just the ads that are showing up organically on your AdSense ads.
#7: Check Your RSS Feeds
Get in the habit of checking your RSS feeds every 3 months or so.
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 isn’t quite working with your RSS feeds, you want to know sooner rather than later.
Make sure that people can find your RSS feed by typing your site’s URL into their RSS reader. Don’t make people scour your site for a specific RSS link in order to subscribe.
#8: Check Your Analytics
Is your traffic going up or down? Are there specific pages on your site that people seem to be bouncing out of?
What kinds of topics does your audience seem to like? What kinds of headlines seem to catch their attention and get a longer stay? What kind of keywords are people typing in to land on your website.
Your analytics can help answer all these questions and more. 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. It’ll also help you catch red flags early on. If your search traffic suddenly takes a plunge for example, you want to investigate why.
#9: Are You Still on Message?
Finally, re-examine all your posts over the last few months. Ask yourself: Are you still on message? Are you still covering the things you ought to cover? Or have you veered off course?
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 sooner than you know it, you’re completely off track.
It’s not a big problem. All you need to do is realize when you’re off track by re-reading posts from your past few months. Then re-center your message in your upcoming posts.
These tips will help you keep your blog in tip top shape. Use these tips to help your blog stay secure, to help make sure everything works, to maintain a good relationship with your readers and to stay on message.