Why do I need to worry about WordPress updates?

One of the pieces we offer as part of our WordPress development is ongoing maintenance — security updates, plugin updates, etc.  Why does that matter?

WordPress is popular

WordPress is much like Microsoft Windows; very popular and really quite secure, but a hot target for hackers to go after.  With nearly 20% of the web running on WordPress, hackers are always looking for a way to get into your site.  Fortunately, with thousands of developers backing it, any security holes that are discovered in WordPress are fixed almost immediately.

The problem is that you need to update your software to be able to take advantage of each fix, and many sites don’t bother with them.  In fact, when a WordPress site gets hacked it’s almost always due to outdated software.  The breakdown of why a site gets hacked:

  • 83% are WordPress blogs that have not been kept up to date.
  • 14% are web hosts that are not upgraded properly (such as GoDaddy, often).
  • 3% are for other reasons.

Updates are a click away, but be careful

Keeping WordPress updated has never been easier, but proceed with a bit of caution.  It only takes a single click to update your site, but if something goes wrong you may end up in a bit of trouble.  It’s becoming rare for an upgrade to cause issues, but when it happens it can be quite a pain.  A quick backup will help protect you if anything does go wrong, but many don’t take the time to do that.

WPBeginner has a nice chart showing a typical WordPress update process, which is almost exactly how we do it.  You can see the chart here.

Plug-ins

Perhaps a bigger issue are outdated plugins.  Keeping core WordPress updated is more important, but those updates only come out once every month or so and they’re widely publicized.  Plugins are constantly being updated, and it can be difficult to know when an update is a crucial security fix or just a small new feature being added.  We spend a great deal of time researching plugins to make sure everything is good, but as a general rule we simply keep all plugins updated as often as possible.

Things can break

While updates can cause items on your site to break, a lack of updates can hurt as well.  In the past few weeks we’ve worked with a few companies that had a variety of odd things happening on their sites.  In both cases, we updated WordPress and all of their plug-ins to the latest version (after grabbing a full backup first, of course) and their problems went away!

Get it done

One way or another, it’s very important that you stay on top of your updates.  For our clients, we take care of all of the below items for a very small monthly fee:

  • We keep your site updated on the latest version of WordPress within one business day of a new release.
  • We keep all of your plugins updated daily.
  • We connect your site with Google Webmaster Tools so we can be alerted to any other issues that may come along.  In addition, we use this service to keep a fresh Sitemap in Google’s hand so they’re aware of every page that is published on the site (which helps a little bit with search engine optimization).

If you’d like us to take care of those for you, just let us know and we’ll be happy to help.  If you’d prefer to do them yourself, there are tons of great tutorials online to help you make it happen.  You can use tools like BackupBuddy to help back up your site, and we have quite a few WordPress tutorials that you can take advantage of as well.  One way or another, just make sure those updates are being taken care of.

WordPress is an amazing tool.  Stay on top of those updates, write amazing content, and your site will reach more and more people every month.

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Mickey Mellen

Co-Founder and Technical Director

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Comments

  1. Actually I don’t understand why so many people don’t keep there installations up to date. It would definitely help to avoid many problems, if you look at the recent bot attacks.

    Thanks for the argumentarium!
    BR, Florian.

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