Maybe your site is running slowly. Or you haven't looked at it in ages, so when you log in, you've got a slew of update notices. It may seen innocuous, but ignoring your WordPress site can result in being hacked, slower load times, and functions disappearing. The good news is that it's easy to clean up WordPress and optimize it with my WordPress cleanup checklist:
1. Double-check your backups
Check if your scheduled backups have been running, and restart them if not. If you don't have a backup solution, consider Backup Buddy or Updraft. Once you've scheduled backups, you can almost forget about them—just check periodically that no errors have popped up! Best practice is also to save backups offsite, such as on Dropbox.
2. Update everything
After you've backed up the site, begin by updating your plugins, your themes, and WordPress itself. The backup is key in case you need to restore anything the updates have broken. It doesn't happen very often, but you'll want to go back to your previous backup if errors come up.
3. Delete unused themes, plugins
Even if a plugin or theme is not activated, hackers can exploit them and gain access to your WordPress site. So delete those unused ones! I personally keep one fallback theme (usually twentytwenty one) in case your theme has an error, for testing.
4. Delete old users
Especially ones who haven't logged in for years! Be sure you save their data to another user, as you won't be able to retrieve those pages or posts unless you have comprehensive backups. While you're at it, update your password.
5. Optimize your images
Large images can slow down your site, despite how great they look! I recommend 1000px wide for many images, though any image will benefit from being compressed by plugins including Smush or my new favorite, WP-Optimize's Image function. Also consider running your images through TinyJPG.com (which also compresses PNGs!) before uploading, as their compression methods are excellent and you'll save a lot of space before it even hits WP.
Imagify is another great solution that's kept images high resolution yet compresses them beautifully.
6. Check for any 404 errors
If you haven't reviewed your site's broken pages for a while, install the plugin Redirection. After day or so, you can check it for any 404s you might have missed, and redirect them to the right pages.
7. Revive your evergreen posts
If you have evergreen posts that are as relevant as they were years ago, update and enhance them! Find popular keyword phrases by searching Google for your topic, and then use those same phrases in the content or titles of your evergreen posts.
MissingLettr.com lets you set up a year's worth of posts to your social networks; you'd think it was overkill but it's not! My engagement on new and evergreen posts has gone up quite a bit since implementing it! I think part of the draw is that it can pull quotes into a graphic in your social posts, or images of your choosing. You can get 50% off any plan for 3 months with my link; note it's an affiliate link, so I get a commission if you become a customer.
Revive Old Posts actually takes the posts you want to reshare and sets them up to reshare on a schedule of your choosing; say, every 48 hours. It's also a great way to keep those great posts from being ignored.
8. Optimize your WordPress database
You don't know how big your database is until you've saved a few MBs of data. Every time you update a blog post or change any information on the site, it's added to your database. Imagine if this website was years old and full of spam comments!
WP-Optimize clears out that pesky data while also saving space for new content in an efficient manner with one click (or three).
If you're being hit with a lot of spam, check out my post on combating the WordPress spam monster.
Hire a professional
If you're not sure what to do next, or if your WordPress site is really slow and you don't know why, contact me about WordPress cleanups! I also offer maintenance plans, even for sites I didn't develop.
Designer + WordPress developer for 20+ years. Love design, travel, good food and the Iowa Hawkeyes.