With all the traffic most of us hope to get coming to our blogs, it makes the act of making sure you’re doing blog maintenance all that more important. Truth be told, most of us get things moving along the way we want it to and almost always seem to miss something. As time goes along, we add and remove things that also ends up affecting how our blogs work.
With that said, I’m going to talk about 6 areas that we need to check our blogs for to make sure they’re maintained well. Some of these are going to be things you probably know but need to decide if it’s what you really want to do, whereas others you might not have thought about. Let’s see if I can do this without turning it into another tome. 🙂
1. Broken Links
I wasn’t going to start with this one initially but it seems it’s the only time on this blog that I wrote on this specific topic. Broken links will mess up your blog in more ways than one. First, it’ll irritate your visitors if they click on a link that you’ve put in only to find it doesn’t work. Second, if there are too many of them it’ll irritate search engines and they’ll start picking on you. Neither of those things are pleasant.
The only plugin I know that works here in Broken Link Checker. It’ll find all broken links if you let it run for a while, which is a good thing. However, you don’t want to run it all the time because it’ll slow down your blog and mess up your blog speed and mobile speed. I try to remember to run mine at least every 3 months or so because you never know when people or news sources have removed content from their sites. You need to be cautious though because sometimes the content is still there but the site is having issues.
Still, it’s something you should be checking on a regular basis. By the way, if your blog is old and it’s the first time you’re running the plugin, it’s best for you to set it to go to work and you go off and do something else; trust me. 🙂
2. CommentLuv Link Checker
Since I’m talking about links, I’ll mention this one now. If you’re using CommentLuv it’s possible that the domain link is the same but the link to the blog post has gone bad. That often happens when people change their permalink structure but it also happens when someone has decided to make a post private (such as if they were running a contest that’s now over). This plugin only looks at those CommentLuv links, so it runs faster and easier than the above checker (which doesn’t look at these links). However, you still don’t want this plugin running all the time.
3. CommentLuv plugin
Now, since I mentioned CommentLuv above I might as well talk about this plugin itself. Most people don’t know this but Andy Bailey, the creator of this plugin and the GASP Anti-Spambot plugin, is very sick and is unlikely to ever update it again. This becomes problematic in two ways. One, as WordPress keeps evolving there might come a time when it won’t work with most themes anymore, and there’s nothing else like it on the market (well, anything that works well with the traditional WordPress commenting system). Two, if you have any questions and need some support, all you’re going to get is a form letter offering some things to look at since he can’t do it (although it seems to capture everything you need if you’re tech savvy enough).
Therefore, it’s important for you to keep an eye on how it’s working on your blog. For instance, there are multiple blogs I visit where, no matter what you do, you don’t get that CommentLuv thing to show you any of your previous post options to share; you might not even get your latest post. I’ve already shown people how to fix Parsing JSON error their own blogs (since sometimes it’s the visitor’s fault it doesn’t work) so that one’s been taken care of. If that’s not the issue then it’s definitely the blog owner’s fault.
Sometimes it stops working because you’re experimenting with other plugins, as I was doing when trying to get my mobile speed up to snuff. It turns out that Autoptimize and Async JS & CSS don’t always work with each theme, independently or together, and you’re not always sure which one is affecting your plugins. For CommentLuv, it seems it didn’t like Autoptimize on this blog, but I needed it to reach a good mobile speed level. It hadn’t been working for weeks, but no one who commented had mentioned it so I didn’t know until I started noticing that none of the comments seemed to be showing it anymore (I was slow in maintaining that; I slapped myself lol).
My fix was to change themes, since this blog’s theme was really old, and thus went to one that I already use on 3 of my other blogs. Now I’m running both plugins and CommentLuv is doing it’s thing and all is right with the world again; whew!
Well, except for this one thing. I can never update to the last version of CommentLuv on this blog because to get it to work, Andy forced part of it to process through the blog footer… and I’d removed mine years ago because it was getting on my nerve, and even though now my updated software has a footer, it still won’t work with it. Oh well, I’m good for now. 🙂
4. Plugins in general
Since I’ve talked about two plugins already (are you sensing a pattern?) I guess it’s time to call out plugins in general. Many of us don’t pay attention to our plugins to realize that some of them don’t work properly with our themes or our software or have basically sunset without any notice to us about them.
For instance, I used to run a plugin on this site called WordPress Thread Comments. It worked great for years, even though it’s never been updated. When I went on my quest for higher mobile speed I found that it was slowing down my sites so I removed it. Once I updated this blog I thought I could bring it back… alas, I started getting error messages. So that bad boy is gone forever here; sniff! Before anyone says it, I know it’s built into the WordPress software but it’s never worked on any of my blogs; no idea why.
It’s good to always check your plugins to see what’s been updated or not and see what’s still working and what’s not. If it still works well and is important enough (like Limit Login Attempts), then it’s all good. If it’s not working or doing anything at all, it’s best to deactivate it and then remove it. That’s an important piece; if you deactivate a plugin you’re never going to use again, totally remove it, just as I advised years ago when talking about free themes you’re not ever going to use.
5. Protecting the core of your blog
Since I mentioned Limit Login Attempts, let’s talk about protecting your blog overall. I use that plugin because those lousy creeps who try to break into blogs use software that will try to figure out your username and password thousands of times and you’ll never know it… and eventually they’re going to get through unless you’re protecting yourself. By using this plugin, I can limit how many times someone gets to try to break in to 4 times, then they have to wait so many days to try again, and if they try it for more times I can limit them to trying it again in months. This is probably the most valuable plugin there is in protecting your blog up front.
The second is some kind of firewall protection, just like what you use for your computer. I use WordPress Firewall 2, but I know there are others out there. Firewalls electronically block access into your system just in case something’s slipped through and these weasels try to activate it remotely.
The third is a plugin that does a regular backup of your blog, just in case your information gets lost (which happens all the time unfortunately). I use WP-DBManager, which backs up the entire database once a week and emails it to me. I also have WordPress Database Backup, which allows me to do an immediate backup; it might be overkill but after 11 years of blogging I don’t want to take any chances.
The fourth is a plugin that will help to optimize your database files and tables, which you should be doing on a regular basis anyway. I use WP-Optimize, which is also the plugin I recommended people use for that JSON parsing issue above.
The fifth is trying to protect your blog from a lot of spam or malware. I mentioned GASP Anti-Spambot above and that’s a good one, but there are a number of plugins one can use to help out in this regard.
This section is probably the most important maintenance you should be doing for your blog. Although I feel content is the most important aspect of blogging in general, making sure your blogging space is secure and safe is the most critical thing to think about.
6. Comments and your commenters
One of my biggest gripes about commenting on other blogs is not getting a response back to my comment. It’s worse when someone has responded but I never know about it because I don’t get an email.
This second one is a two-part lament I always have. The first part is getting an immediate response from blogs that want me to subscribe to comments, which is about 30%. If I’ve already commented I don’t, and won’t, subscribe to it; that’s just redundancy I’m not in the mood for. The second part, which is never getting notified of a response at all, is about 60%; that’s the most irksome thing of all. That last 10% are the people who never respond to comments at all; it used to be higher on my list when there was less technology involved in commenting.
If you’re using these things, using commenting systems like Disqus, or using Captcha-like junk, and you’re not getting the amount of comments you’d like, you know where your problems lie; change them! As much as I hate spam, unless I was getting 500 comments a day and most of them were spam I wouldn’t think of using any of these things. If you are, please at least check them every once in a while to see if they’re working and if you’re getting what you want from them.
We’ll stop there because that’s a lot of content for you to absorb. If you think you can handle more, check out my post about 30 mistakes you’re making with your blog; just make sure you have your favorite calming drink with you before you start reading. 🙂 Also, if you want to share your thoughts on other plugins than what I’ve mentioned above, please feel free. Happy blogging!