WordPress Plugins Best Practices (and how to keep them updated)

This article is for those with a self-hosted WordPress.org website, not a WordPress.com hosted site. You will know this applies to you, because you will have purchased web hosting with a third-party provider such as Siteground, Blue Host etc.

You most likely have already experienced the benefits of installing a new plugin in your website, which instantly creates additional functionality without the need to hire a web developer. This feature alone, is one of the many powerful benefits of running a WordPress website, however, you need to consider how many plugins you install on your site and have best practices in place to keep them up to date and maintained.

I am regularly asked ‘how often and when should I update my WordPress plugins?’  and ‘should I do a backup of the site first?’

These are very valid questions. The following information will answer these questions and more, to help you prepare a maintenance plan to keep your website running efficiently and quickly.

Let’s get started.

When you log into the back-end of your site, you may have noticed in the top left menu section of your dashboard a red number notification in the Updates area.

This update notification is alerting you that there are available software updates for those plugins. Occasionally, you will also see an update available for your website theme and WordPress itself. 

Why update plugins?

When software developers have made new changes to their plugin, they send it through to WordPress to let you know there is an update available. There are various reasons for this:

  • They are updating the code to make it more compatible with WordPress (or WooCommerce).
  • They could be releasing a new update for security reasons so others can’t hack into your website.
  • They have added new features that are going to improve user experience.

Think about it, every WordPress website has its own unique combination of plugins installed to suit your particular needs.

For example, the WooCommerce plugin provides you with a shop facility and you’ll also have other plugins such as payment providers like Paypal, Stripe or Afterpay; you might also want a Wishlist feature or Loyalty Rewards program. All these different plugins must communicate seamlessly with WooCommerce, so there are no conflicts.

So, this is another major reason why plugin developers must continually keep their plugin code updated to make sure they all play nicely together!

A final and really important reason to keep your plugins updated, is to make sure your site is secure and continues to function efficiently. Poor user experience will result in people clicking off your website within seconds, which just creates another opportunity for a lost sale.

How often should I update my plugins?

It depends on how many plugins you have on your website. Even with a basic WooCommerce shop, you will probably notice there are plugin updates available every time you log into your site!

Rather than running the updates everyday, I prefer to set aside a specific time each week. This allows you to intentionally build some best practices into your maintenance process, such as doing a site backup before you do any updates, so that if something breaks you can easily restore the site back. 

Occasionally, a new plugin update will cause a conflict and suddenly your shop layout looks strange or you might notice you have lost some functionality. If you want to learn how to do your own website maintenance and site backups you can learn more HERE.

It is also worth mentioning here, that every time you update a plugin your website temporarily goes into maintenance mode. So, another benefit of choosing a weekly ‘maintenance schedule‘ is you can choose an off-peak time of day when your web traffic is minimal, such as early morning or late evening. 

How many plugins are too many?

That depends. Generally, I would suggest you try to limit your plugins to a maximum of 25 to 30 (max). Every plugin you add to your site will SLOW your site down. If it’s not an essential part of the functionality of your website then get rid of it.

Now there are some cases where this might not work. For example, if you purchased your theme from a third-party marketplace like Themeforest. Those themes may require other plugins to be installed so that the theme can function properly. Even if you aren’t using that particular feature. Be sure to read up on what is required from the developer of your particular WordPress theme.

As a business coach and website designer, I have logged into the back-end of many websites and found lots of plugins that weren’t needed simply because the owner couldn’t figure out how to do something. So, they just found a plugin to help them add code to their site. If you aren’t sure a plugin is essential for your site, be sure to work with your web designer or find a developer and have them take a look.

I actually recommend you go through a website audit at least once a year to make sure your site is well-optimised.

Now you may be thinking…

How do I update my plugins?

If you prefer to update your plugins yourself, you can either update the plugins in bulk in the Dashboard>Updates section:

Or update plugins one at a time via Plugins>Installed Plugins, then click on Updates Available

If you want to learn more about WordPress Maintenance and Best Practices, you might be interested in signing up for my short video training that will:

  • Walk you through the importance of updating your website plugins and software.
  • How to properly back up your website before doing updates.
  • How to restore a back up if needed.
  • Plus other recommended advice you should have in place to make sure your website is functioning at a high-level.

This is a one-time small investment that you can continue to refer back to as you maintain ownership as a website owner. Use the button below to sign up and start to feel empowered about managing your own website!

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