Every once in a while, you need to remove those pesky cobwebs to keep your WordPress running at full steam without any disruptions.
Unlike real cobwebs, you can not just suck them into a vacuum cleaner. You need a very specific set of tools and perform certain tasks manually, to rid your site of the menace.
When you are done, your WordPress site will be running smoother than ever.
Ohh, you don’t have to stick around to next spring to perform the next WordPress spring cleaning, start right away and revisit the cleaning exercise, when those cobwebs turn up again.
Of course, by the cobwebs I refer to
- Unwanted/Unused Themes & Plugins.
- Outdated Plugins & Themes.
- Poor Website Security Measures.
- Lack of Regular BackUps.
- Images Not In Use.
- Unused Tag.
- Invalid Shortcuts.
- Website cluttered excessively with social media sharing options.
- Broken Links.
- Multiple redundant post revisions.
- Spam Comments.
- Poorly Optimized WordPress Database.
Prior to WordPress spring cleaning, please create a site backup. You can use BackUpWordPress to do so.
I strongly recommend backing up everything, especially if it is the first time you’ve ever spring cleaned your blog. There may be a few things that you are unfamiliar with, we wouldn’t want to put you in a situation where you’ve caused irreversible damage to your site’s database.
So please backup your site, before we proceed any further.
Deleting Plugins & Themes That You Aren’t Using
Find all the plugins and themes you no longer need, then deactivate, uninstall and delete them.
Some of these plugins may just take up a bit of space and not really affect site speed. However, failure to update all plugins and themes may leave your site vulnerable. You’ll have to keep updating all plugins and themes, this becomes an issue if you have 20 or 30 plugins and themes.
The hassle of constantly having to update things you don’t need, is sufficient reason to get rid of themes and plugins that aren’t in use.
Updating Themes & Updating/Replacing Plugins
After you’ve deactivated and deleted the unwanted plugins and themes, update all themes and plugins that you are using or are likely to use in the near future.
This has to been done manually. But if you know your way around WordPress and are ready to get your hands dirty, try reading up WordPress.org’s page on enabling automatic background updates.
And apart from that keep an eye on what is changing with new updates, so that there aren’t any compatibility issues in the future. If a plugin hasn’t been updated for a while now, you should consider switching to an equally good or better alternate.
Apart from that, I’d suggest that you see if there are any plugins that contribute significantly to site load. Once you identify them, try to find better alternatives. You can use P3 Plugin Profiler to find out which plugins are affecting you site speed and act accordingly.
Beef Up Your Site
A lot of the emphasis for deleting unnecessary plugins/themes and updating all remaining themes/plugins is based on reasonable security concerns. The notion that if left unupdated, it leaves your website open to vulnerabilities that may develop over time.
Two really good options to ensure your site’s security, Wordfence Security and iThemes Security. Both of these security plugins cover all your bases and keep your site safe from malicious scripts and hackers.
Use A Reliable BackUp Solution Regularly & Remove Unnecessary BackUps
There are multiple free and paid mechanisms to perform backups for your site regularly. The difference lies in where you decide to deposit these backups.
A backup has to necessarily be independent of the hardware your site relies on. In other words, you shouldn’t be storing your site and its backup on the same server. If something were to happen to that server, then you’ll lose your site.
So the logical thing to do would be to save your site’s files elsewhere, perhaps on Rackspace Cloud, Dropbox, Amazon S3 or Google Drive and lastly on your own personal hardware at home/office.
There are a couple of plugins that can help automate the backup processes, personally I like BackUpWordPress. There are two other free plugins, but the user ratings on WordPress.org are rather polarizing. So I am refraining from recommending them.
Not only are backups created regularly but you can limit the number of backups, to ensure that it doesn’t take up too much space. The number of backups you should keep depends a lot on the frequency with which you run backups. Always backup your WordPress before any major updates or whilst adding new themes or plugins.
Remember so long as you choose to keep your backups on a server that doesn’t host your site, it will never affect site speed. So the number of backups is limited only to the size of the support storage.
Site BackUps are not optional, if not a paid solution please do use a free BackUp service/plugin. You never know when you’ll need it.
Scrubbing Your Site Of Unused Images
Images in your WordPress gallery occupy quite a bit of space on your WP database’s content folder. Unnecessary imagery that your site could do without.
You can use Image CleanUp, to remove all the unused and unreferenced images. The plugin works by indexing all images and any unreferenced files are checked against meta data to verify, if the meta entry still exists. If there isn’t any, then it can be moved out of wp-content or deleted permanently.
Over time the number of images that aren’t in active use grows and it clutters wp-content. The fun part of this plugin is you can move the images to a backup folder and out of the content folder. The images can be restored later, if the need should arise.
Removing Unused Tags
Deleting unused tags one by one can take up a great deal of time. Instead you can use Mass Delete Unused Tags. Please note that the plugin works like a charm, even though it hasn’t been updated for a two years. Check the screenshot below, I tested it with WordPress 4.2.2.
You wouldn’t want to spend your time manually deleting over a hundred or a thousand tags. I’d advise that you use the plugin, if you have to delete a large number of tags that have no doubt clogged your WP. Especially, if you haven’t deleted them for the past year or so.
Deleting or Hiding ShortCodes
There are many shortcodes that you’ve used, some of which belong to plugins that are no longer in active use. Manual deletion of shortcodes is time consuming.
If you are concerned that it might somehow affect your site functionality or mess up your database, then try Hide Unwanted Shortcodes. This nifty little plugin hides your shortcodes, not the same as deleting them. But at least your visitors will not see remnants of deactivated plugins anymore. Hide Unwanted Shortcodes in effect achieves the same goal as the previous two plugins, without any of the risks attached with using the other two plugins.
Sorting Your Social Media Sharing Options
I’ve seen on many a WordPress site, the website is completely cluttered with social sharing options. Personally, if I am ever bombarded my multiple sharing options, I never visit the site again.
Most good websites ensure maximum accessibility of sharing options to the visitor. They do this, while ensuring that it never gets in the way of a good user experience. Never do anything that makes it more difficult to read or browse content on your site.
Assuming you are looking for a free plugin, I’d recommend you try Simple Shared Button Adder or Floating Share Bar. Again with Simple Shared Button Adder, it defeats the entire point of getting a simple plugin, if you add the share buttons everywhere.
Or better still try Social Sharing By Danny, lightweight and minimal. This makes for an excellent sharing plugin in my opinion. For freeplugin.net we are using Jetpack and its social sharing module. Probably it is not the best social sharing plugin out there but since we use Jetpack for many things we decided to use its social sharing module as well.
If you’re looking for a premium plugin, I’d recommend Monarch.
Fixing Broken Links
Broken links are a real downer on any website. It makes for a very frustrating user experience and any first time visitor to your site is unlikely to ever visit again.
Checking for broken links is easy with Broken Link Checker, you can check all posts, pages, comments and other parts of your site. Once broken links are identified, you can either edit it, unlink the text, dismiss or mark the links as not broken.
While the plugin permits you to choose which parts of your site to check, what type of links to check, provides continuous/intermittent monitoring options, the plugin seems to be quite the resource hog. Better to use it manually, rather than have it working continuously.
The alternative to this plugin, is W3C Link Checker. This alternate choice does not run on your site’s server resources.
Another option that seems to show promise is Broken Link Manager. This plugin can check, monitor and organise all your broken links. Apart from enabling different redirects for each broken link, a default redirect for all broken links can be set. And the plugin also provides 301 redirects.
301 Redirects are search engine friendly and ensure you do not suffer SEO loss due to broken links. In comparison, Broken Link Checker only prevents search engines from following broken links. That isn’t quite as useful as a 301 redirect.
I actually like it, over the other two options but it is relatively new. I’d approach it with caution and a bit of skepticism.
Deleting Multiple Revisions
I can’t quite recall a single time when I’ve written a post on WordPress site without saving it multiple times. When I’m was done writing my last post, I had accumulated 19 revisions. Say you were to publish a hundred articles, it would add up to over a thousand revisions. At least, it certainly would in my case. And this takes up space unnecessarily.
These multiple saves prove useful from time to time. But when you have published the finished article and are no longer in need of them, they simply take up disk space on your servers and load every time someone requests your website.
So let’s get rid of them. You can use Better Delete Revision to do this for you. Better Delete Revisions will delete the post revisions, tags, metadata and pretty much every other relationship of your revisions in your WordPress database.
On the whole it will delete revisions, save space and make your WP database lighter.
However, the plugin will not touch revisions of currently scheduled, published or draft posts. Other plugin choices perform functions apart from deleting revisions, but this is the best plugin for getting rid of redundant revisions.
Another plugin you can use for the same purpose is RVG Optimise Database. But it offers many more optional functions.
Revision Control is yet another plugin that can be used to enable/disable revisions and limit the number of revisions for different posts and pages.
Clean Out Spam Comments Regularly
We all love engagement on our content, it’s why we spend time agonizing over producing what we think will appeal to and be helpful to our readership. But on the net, most comments are from spammers and spambots.
Websites receive hundreds, if not thousands of spam comments each day. So cleaning them from our sites regularly is important.
Spam Comments Cleaner deletes comments at regular intervals of time. You can choose how often you’d like the plugin to delete spam and you are set!
The pile of spam comments on your site will never become large enough to become an issue.
If you want a premium solution to handle spam comments and post revisions, you can use Manage WP to handle the same across any number of WordPress sites.
Optimizing Your WordPress Database
A critical part of any WordPress Spring Cleaning, Database Optimization. I kept it towards the end because there are a few plugins that not just get your WordPress database clean and free of clutter. But they perform other functions as well. Some of these functions were already covered in the post.
So you can read this part on the database optimization plugins, then decide whether you want separate plugins for certain purposes like cleaning comments and removing post revisions.
WordPress is run of a database, the health of that database is vital to the performance of your website. Every time something loads on your site, it is retrieved from a database. So the lighter it is, the faster and more efficiently your site performs.
WP Optimize is a powerful database cleanup and optimization plugin. It removes spam and unapproved comments, trash posts, remove trackbacks and linkbacks. The plugin can be set to run automatically every week, every alternate week or on a monthly basis.
Beware the plugin options in red, avoid them if possible. It’s best, if you perform a manual backup of the database before the plugin starts any optimization process. Site restoration to original state should always be possible.
WP-Sweep is probably better still than WP-Optimize. This plugin can be used to remove unused, orphaned and duplicated data.
This plugin uses proper WordPress delete commands as opposed to running direct MySQL queries. And as a result, data that is often orphaned by the other database optimization plugins, is also deleted when you use WP-Sweep.
WP-DB Manager is another option at your disposal, the main advantage of this plugin has over the previous two is that it performs database backups.
Using database cleanup and optimization tools will simultaneously take care of your spam comments, unused tags and post revisions. That being said database optimization tools are more difficult to handle. The potential for something going horribly wrong is definitely greater. But chances are nothing will happen, in which case using a database cleanup plugin and running backups prior to running database optimization, is a potent combination.
If you opt for a database optimization plugin, you do not have to worry about spam/unapproved/deleted comments, post revisions, auto drafts, orphaned data and unused tags.
So you do not need additional plugins, you can use one plugin instead of many.
Figure out which database optimization plugin works best for you. And then if one of the functions you need for WordPress Spring Cleaning aren’t there, look up the plugins mentioned previously in the post for specific functions.
You need to find the right combination of plugins and solutions for your WordPress site. I hope, I’ve helped you become aware of the essentials of WordPress Spring Cleaning and armed you with the necessary knowledge of appropriate plugins.
It is important that you arrive at the right frequency for performing full and partial WordPress Spring Cleaning. This depends on the size of your site’s traffic and the themes/plugins that you employ.
Tell me how your WP spring clean went! Cheers 🙂