Have you ever felt anxious about hitting that update button on your WordPress website? Keeping your WordPress website’s software up-to-date is essential to ensure it continues to run smoothly. And yet, it’s one of the most neglected tech tasks among business owners for fear they’ll “break everything.”
However, I’m here to tell you it IS possible to keep your website healthy without fear of losing it all (i.e., your sanity OR your website files).
In this comprehensive guide, I’ll walk you through how to update your WordPress website to ensure a safe and seamless update experience.
So grab an iced chai tea latte, log into your website, and let’s dive in!
Note: This post may contain affiliate links to software, products, or tools I personally use for my own business. If you click the link and make a purchase, I may receive a teeny-tiny commission (and I mean teeny lol!). However, that does not affect my recommendation at all. Thank you for supporting the content I create for you.
First Up: The Website Software & Tools I Use
There are lots of options when it comes to website software. However, this blog post is written for those whose websites are built with WordPress.org.
Below is the setup of software I use to run my website. I’ve been a web designer and developer for almost a decade and have tried MANY different website hosts and services. These tools are tried and true, and ones I use personally for my website and the websites I build for my clients.
This is the set of software I’ll be using for the demonstration in this post. Let’s dive in!
Siteground WordPress Hosting
I’ve used Siteground WordPress hosting for yearsss. Not only do I trust them with my own website, but it’s also the number one hosting company I recommend to my web design clients. And there are a lot of reasons why! One of the biggest reasons is Siteground WordPress Hosting packages include free automatic daily backups of your website files and database. That means that a version of your website is saved to your Siteground account every single day, at the same time, automatically. You don’t have to set anything up for this to happen; it’s included in your hosting plan. This could save you HUNDREDS of hours of troubleshooting tech by being able to restore a backup of your website if something were to go wrong.
They also have highly reliable customer service that responds quickly and typically solves your problem without escalating it or submitting a ticket.
This might be obvious since this article is about updating your WordPress website, but I use WordPress as my CMS (content management system). Basically, WordPress provides the functionality to create pages and posts and design an entire custom website. WordPress is used by millions of people worldwide, including many large organizations, such as Forbes, The Guardian, and TechCrunch, because of its incredible flexibility.
(Note: There is a difference between wordpress.org and wordpress.com – read this post to get the difference.)
I build websites with the Divi Theme Builder for two reasons: it’s easy to use for my clients (no coding knowledge necessary), and they have stellar support and continually update and improve their product every year. It’s the most flexible WordPress theme builder on the market.
How to Safely Update Your WordPress Website: A Step-By-Step Guide
Each new release of WordPress includes security updates and new features that can help keep your site safe from hackers and other malicious activity. Updating your WordPress website may seem daunting, but it’s pretty easy when you follow the best practices when updating software! So without further adieu, let’s dive into how to update your WordPress website safely and securely.
How will I know when it’s time to update my website?
When you log into your WordPress Dashboard, you’ll see a prompt at the top left of the screen when a new update is available. It will look like this:
You can also check for other updates under the Updates tab on the lefthand sidebar.
But don’t hit “Update” just yet! Before updating your website, we need to do a few things first.
Step 1: Back Up Your Website Files and Database
Before you update your WordPress website, one of the most important things to do is to save a backup of your website files and database. This will ensure you have a copy of your site’s files and database if anything goes wrong during the update process. If that happens, you can restore your website’s backup version so that it’s immediately back online. If you use Siteground, here is how to backup and restore your website.
Most hosting services include the ability to backup your website; however, If your hosting plan does not have backups, check out these backup plugins that can do that for you.
Step 2: Navigate to Dashboard > Updates
Once you have a backup in place, it’s time to start the update process. Log into your WordPress Dashboard and navigate to the Updates page.
Here, you’ll see a list of all the available updates for your WordPress core files, themes, and plugins.
Select the updates you want to run by clicking the checkbox next to that item and then click “Update Plugins” or “Update Themes,” depending on what you’ve selected.
3 Tips for Updating Your WordPress Website Safely
When it comes to the world of websites, operating with an abundance of caution is always a good idea to prevent future headaches. Keep these safety tips in mind when you’re updating your WordPress website!
Tip #1: Only Run 100% Compatible Updates
It’s important only to select the essential updates. Update all plugins and themes to their latest versions. If any of your plugins or themes are out-of-date, they may be incompatible with the new version of WordPress and cause errors.
Tip #2: Update One Thing At A Time
Don’t try to update everything at once, as this could cause problems. Instead, only select the most critical updates and install them one at a time.
Tip #3: Check Your Website After Updates
After installing each update, thoroughly test everything on your site before moving on to the next update to ensure the update you ran didn’t break anything. If you see any errors or problems, restore your website from the backup you took in Step 1.
And That’s It! You’ve successfully updated your WordPress website.
Give yourself a pat on the back! See, that wasn’t so bad : )
I hope this step-by-step guide on updating your WordPress website safely was helpful and will help ease the butterflies next time you hit “update”!
Always remember to back up your website before making any changes. And if you have a staging site included with your hosting package, you could even be EXTRA cautious and run updates on the staging site first to see if any conflicts or bugs arise.
Lastly, if in doubt, seek professional help from an experienced web developer when dealing with large-scale updates. Working with a professional could prevent any potential hiccups or data loss in the process.