WordPress Updates – How to Survive and Improve your site at the same time.

Should you run a WordPress Core Update?

Should you run the update? Yes. Are you the one to do it? Maybe. My rule of thumb is always that if you push the update button, can you fix what goes wrong? If the answer is yes, then go ahead and do your updates. If you are not confident, consider WordPress Maintenance Services.

The problem is a lot WordPress developers still build sites with the idea that you don’t update them. This is not best practice and its not good site security.

Most website hosting companies are now requiring core updates. If the update is a security update, most will run automatically. Backups are the key to surviving core updates. Make sure you have regular backups of your site in case an automatic update causes a problem with your site.

Do WordPress Core Updates Improve your website?

Core Updates always contain a component to improve the security of your website. Recent updates have updated code that will help improve Google User Experience scores. Which helps improve your search rankings.

Up-to-date code is always faster than old code. Page speed is still a major issue for SEO and user experience. This is a simple way to continue to improve the speed of your site.

WordPress Theme Updates and Performance Improvement

There are a lot of WordPress themes out there that will improve the performance of your website. There are also a lot of bad ones. Sometimes we don’t know this until we launch them on our site. Many times we picked the theme for our website because we liked the look of it. And now we are left dealing with the performance of theme and its coding. As we continue to upgrade WordPress and work through Google’s Core Vitals, the quality of WordPress themes has become a hot topic.

Since WordPress 5.8 major functionality changes were made to the back-end page editor. This had a direct impact on the function of your chosen WordPress theme and how you edit your content. Many themes also came out with a software update to be compatible with the new WordPress. Too much change at once for some sites. Website maintenance happening right now has been cleaning up some of these issues.

Problems with WordPress Themes – Things that you need to keep a eye out for.

Keeping Licenses Current

Theme licenses are usually purchased when the website is built. Typically, theme licenses are a one-time fee and updates to the theme software were free. We are seeing licenses switch to an annual fee. You may have gotten an email if your contact info is on the license. For many, this notice went to the person who built your website. The problem for us is the theme stopped pushing updates when the Theme needed to renew. When the WordPress updates happen, themes break. We could not get the new version without a current license.

Track down your theme information. Each license should have a login that gives you access to renewals and software updates. Typically a license key needs to be added to the site to get update notices. Get that information to your webmaster.

Page Builders

Common practice by some web designers was to use a page builder plugin. These plugins make it easier to build pages without having to write web code. Examples of these plugins would be: WPBakery, Visual Composer, Elementor or Beaver Builder. Sometimes themes required you to install one of these plugins.

We are seeing is theme builders abandoning these plugins. They are using the new default WordPress editor instead. Because the functionality is just as good if not better.

Here is the problem. If your website content was built with one of these plugins, all your content is in that plugin. You can’t get rid of it. Even if your theme no longer uses it.

You have two options. One is to get a separate license for the page builder. Instead of relying on your theme to update this. This will guarantee your site stays up-to-date and pages continue to display.

The other option would be to move pages out of the plugin. Rebuild pages using the theme editor or WordPress editor. This is a bigger project. You can do this one page at a time. If your site is having performance issues, getting rid of the plugin could help improve performance.
Maintenance for this month will be to get a backup plan for sites in this situation. This can be fixed one page at a time. The next version of WordPress will come out in December. Use that as your deadline to fix this.

Abandoned Themes

A WordPress Theme is labeled “Abandoned” when updates are no longer available. The Theme publisher has not provided any software updates for at least one year. Your hosting server and your WordPress software continue to push updates. But your Theme code stays the same. At some point a WordPress update will occur and your site will break. To survive the next update, as soon as you are aware you have an Abandoned theme, make plans to replace it.

WordPress Themes and Impact on Core Vitals

The quality of your theme is playing a big role in your Core Vitals scores. For example, if you used built-in tools in your theme to add items to your design. Like adding the logo to the top of each page or adding links to social media accounts. These types of built-in tools use a lot of JavaScript to let you add things without code. How well JavaScript is added to your code. How code loads when the page displays. JavaScript is a big factor in your Core Vitals scores. We replace built-in theme features frequently with straight HTML code to clear Core Vitals errors.

Learn More about Core Vitals

Sign-up for our webinar recording “Checking Your Core Vitals“. I will go over all the details you need to know about Core Vitals. We will talk about impact, fixes and tracking these ranking factors.