If you’ve ever worked with a developer or agency, they may have tried to sell you an ongoing maintenance package once your website was complete. Maintenance packages can range from $30/month to $199/month (or more) and can include a variety of services.
If you’re not flush with cash or would rather try to avoid ongoing fees for your WordPress website, you can DIY these services with some time and elbow grease.
Let’s look at the fees you can get around and those that you won’t be able to avoid.
What companies charge for
There are three main areas that require updates on your WordPress website: WordPress core, themes and plugins. The frequency of updates depends on the developers of each piece of software and when they’ve released a new version.
When you update WordPress core, your theme or your plugins, make sure you 1) test your site to make sure everything still works and 2) have a good backup (ideally taken right before an update) in case the update breaks your site in some way.
Software like Wordfence (which we’ll discuss below) can email you when a plugin needs to be updated. However, logging in to your site at least once a week and performing any updates is the best way to make sure everything stays current.
Why is this important? Not just because of new features in WordPress core, themes and plugins, but because older versions of software may have security vulnerabilities that leave your site exposed.
Your web host may offer backups of some sort, but for peace of mind, store your own set of backups off site.
UpdraftPlus is a free plugin that allows you to take and schedule backups. Set both the file and database backups to occur at least weekly and keep at least 2 backups. Back up to Dropbox (there’s a free 2GB option), Google Drive (15GB is available with the free plan) or another option that works for you. Read more about using UpdraftPlus and watch a video on how to set this up.
Several items can be included in this category.
To handle optimization of your database — namely table optimization and the cleanup of post revisions — use WP Optimize. There’s no scheduling option in the free version, so remember to perform this task now and again.
Another service that could be included in performance optimization is the handling of spam comments. If your site allows comments, get the free Antispam Bee plugin. Spam comments will be marked accordingly. Remember to trash them when you’re updating your site.
Speed optimization may be included in a maintenance package where your site is tested weekly or monthly to make sure it’s performing well. You can test your website speed for free at Pingdom.
Using a caching plugin may also help speed up your site. WP Fastest Cache is a good option. (Don’t forget to turn desired features on after you activate the plugin.)
There are a number steps you can take to secure your website such a limiting the number of administrator users and forcing users to have strong passwords. Plugins like Wordfence, iThemes Security or Sucuri all have free versions and can help secure your site further.
Read more about hardening WordPress at wordpress.org.
Part of a maintenance package may include uptime monitoring. Your developer will be alerted if your site goes down for any reason, and will be able to fix or monitor until the site comes back up. Find free uptime monitoring services at Pingdom or UptimeRobot.
Some maintenance packages will include updates to your site in the form of content updates and design fixes. Services range anywhere from small tasks to unlimited edits each month.
If you’re savvy with WordPress and your site, you can make these changes on your own.
Other services that you’ll see with maintenance packages can include:
- Priority support
- Support with advanced or custom plugins
- Access to premium plugins
- Strategy sessions
- Content and image refreshes
- Monthly reporting including information on all of the above, your keyword rankings and analytics for your site
ManageWP is a free service where you can connect your website (or multiple sites) and do the following:
- Perform updates on WordPress core, themes and plugins
- Remove old post revisions
- Optimize your database
- Remove spam comments
- Take backups (the free version allows one backup per month)
- Perform security checks on demand
- Perform performance checks on demand
- Connect and view your analytics
I still recommend logging into your site once in awhile, but ManageWP does a great job of managing your WordPress site without having to install a bunch of plugins.
Fees you can’t avoid
There are some fees you can’t avoid — namely the yearly fee for your domain name and website hosting. These can be purchased from separate companies OR the same company.
Your domain name is the URL of your site.
Hosting is where your website files live.
There are a lot of great hosts. I use and recommend Siteground (referral link). When looking for a host, make sure you look beyond just price. Check reviews and recommendations. Also check that your host includes a free SSL certificate.
You might see hosting specifically for WordPress (called managed WordPress hosting). It can be a bit more expensive than regular, shared hosting, but comes with benefits specifically for WordPress sites.
Keeping your site maintained and up-to-date on your own will take time, but it can save you money. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact me.