WooCommerce Maintenance: 7 critical components
WooCommerce is the 2nd most popular ecommerce platforms available (coming in close to SquareSpace), powering over 3.6 million sites worldwide. According to Statista, as of April 2021, WooCommerce is powers 23.43% of all eCommerce websites. While the WooCommerce plugin is a versatile and powerful platform, it does require regular maintenance to keep it secure and running smoothly.
Ensuring your website stays in operation is not a one-time effort. There are a number of ongoing tasks that must be performed on a regular basis to keep the site looking its best and functioning properly. Implementing a consistent process for performing these tasks is essential for keeping the website active.
Here are 7 components you should include when creating a WooCommerce maintenance plan, with reasons why this should be a part of every business’s marketing strategy. Download our free WooCommerce Maintenance Checklist for future reference.
1) Keep your WooCommerce version up to date
WooCommerce is a complex piece of software, and new security vulnerabilities are occasionally discovered. There have been 8 medium level vulnerabilities documented in the last 4 years. Keeping your site’s WC version up to date is one of the most important things you can do to support your store operating efficiently. Outdated software can cause problems, from plugin conflicts to security vulnerabilities.
Additionally, by keeping your WooCommerce installation updated, you can take advantage of the latest features and enhancements and ensure that your store remains compatible with the latest versions of WordPress.
As of WordPress 3.7 (release Oct 2013), there is a feature that allows WordPress to push out new minor releases of software (core, plugins, themes) to vulnerable sites. However, there’s multiple reasons why these don’t always go through, including automatic updates have been explicitly disabled on your site, your filesystem is read-only, WP has identified your site being under version control, or there are potentially conflicting extensions preventing the update. Thus, having a human manually checking in on this process is necessary. Alternatively, you can get email notifications when updates fail, through a plugin like WordFence.
Update your plugins and themes regularly
WooCommerce is constantly improving, with new features and updates released regularly. Updating your plugins and themes is vital. Here are a few reasons why:
- Updates often include bug fixes and security patches, which help keep your store orderly and protected against hackers.
- New versions can also improve performance, making your store faster and more responsive.
- Keeping your plugins and themes up to date ensures that you have access to the latest features and integrations.
Many plugins and themes offer the option to enable automatic updates so that new versions are installed automatically. However, it is still a good idea to check for new versions manually on a regular basis.
Many WooCommerce stores rely on premium plugins for specific needs not present in the core software. Keeping your licenses up to date gives developers the on-going financial support they need to ensure that their software stays compatible with the ever changing WC & WP environment.
Keeping your plugins and themes up-to-date ensures your store is always running at its best.
As your WooCommerce store grows, it’s essential to monitor its performance and confirm that it runs as efficiently as possible. Performing regular site audits can identify any areas in need of improvement.
Some common areas that may need attention are:
Database Optimization – As your store grows, your database will become larger and more complex. Tasks like removing SPAM or unused data, compacting large tables, converting any tables using the MySIAM structure into InnoDB, and optimizing tables can improve performance.
Caching – This is a technique to increase your site speed by storing frequently accessed data in a temporary location to quickly retrieve it when needed. You want to make sure that your caching system plays well with WooCommerce and excludes pages and processes WooCommerce requires to function.
Image Optimization – Large images can slow down page loading times. It is important to resize or compress images to speed up page loads. Improper file type usage can also be problematic. A transparent .png file can be 20x larger than an .webp image of equal quality. At Fountain City, we set up processes for our client’s websites that automatically convert images to webp (when it’ll result in a smaller files size), and then conditionally serve these images to browsers that can handle them.
Use a Content Delivery Network (CDN) – Caching your images and serving them from a nearby location can help improve page loading times, particularly for visitors’ areas far from your server.
Create a backup plan
It is crucial to have a backup plan for your WordPress site in case something goes wrong. Whether it’s a technical issue, a security breach, or even admin user error, it is necessary to be vigilant.
Many backup plugins are available, so find one that fits your needs and use it regularly. At Fountain City, we most frequently use BackupBuddy. Some features to look for in a backup plugin include scheduling backups, storing backups off-site, and restoring backups with a single click.
Many web hosts also offer automatic backups, so check with your host first to see what may already be included in your plans. This will also help you identify what supplemental systems you need to have in place. For example, your host may only make weekly whole site backups. If you’re running an ecommerce store, even if you haven’t added any new content in a while, you may lose a weeks worth of order and customer information if you don’t have database backups that are daily or twice-daily.
A backup plan will give you peace of mind knowing that you can quickly and easily restore your site if required. This way you’ll have regular backups ready in case you need them. With a WooCommerce shop we recommend daily backups, so you don’t miss any orders.
Watch for security threats
As with any WordPress site, WooCommerce sites are vulnerable to security threats such as malware and hacking. Regular updates and security patches help mitigate these risks.
Below are recommended steps for keeping your WooCommerce site secure.
- Use a strong password for your WordPress admin account, and do not use the “admin” username.
- Change the user ID numbers of your admin accounts. This type of action falls under the idea of “Security through obscurity”, which should only be a part of your overall security strategy.
- Use a security monitoring plugin like Sucuri or Wordfence to scan for malware and monitor activity on your site. In addition, these security plugins help with regular security checks.
- Restrict access to your WordPress admin area by changing the default login urls, using .htaccess rules or security plugins.
- If accepting payments on your WooCommerce site, make sure your payment gateway is PCI compliant.
- Host your WooCommerce site on a secure server with SSL encryption.
- Run your DNS through Cloudflare in order to mask the server IP address, protect against DDoS attacks, and benefit from a free firewall serving tens of millions of Internet properties on the network.
By following these steps, you can help to keep your WooCommerce site safe from potential security threats.
Test your checkout process
Another key part of managing a WooCommerce site is regularly testing the checkout process. To confirm all customer interactions are working properly, perform actions like:
- Adding items to the cart from the shop page, and from product pages
- Apply coupons
- Modify cart quantities
- Entering billing information
- Completing purchases
- Modify customer subscriptions
- Issue refunds through the backend
By catching any potential issues early, you can avoid frustration or inconvenience for your customers.
There are a few different ways to test your checkout process. One way is to make real purchases, or on a staging site, you can create test orders using dummy information by switching your payment systems into test mode. Another option is to use a plugin like WooCommerce Order Test, which allows you to quickly and easily generate test orders with accurate data.
Keep an eye on your hosting environment
Your hosting environment plays a critical role in the performance of your website. If your site is running slowly or experiencing downtime, it could be due to a problem with your hosting. Monitor your site’s resources regularly and contact your host if you notice that you’re getting close to your maximum allowed threshold. Most hosts don’t notify you when this happen, so you only become aware of a problem when customers start complaining about getting time out messages.
You should set up downtime monitoring so you (and your web developers) are aware immediately if your site goes down. There are free (and premium) options through services like Jetpack, StatusCake, or UptimeRobot.
Hosting providers offer various services, so be sure to select one that meets your needs. Make sure you upgrade if needed because more power will also become necessary for optimal performance as the traffic increases.
The popularity of the WooCommerce platform is undeniable. This powerful and versatile ecommerce tool offers an array of features to build and optimize your storefront with ease. However, website owners should understand why regular maintenance is necessary to ensure their store runs effectively. By keeping your site up to date and monitoring it regularly, you can avoid costly downtime and ensure that your customers have a positive experience with your store.
If you need help with WooCommerce maintenance services, don’t hesitate to get assistance. Our experts at Fountain City are available to help you with everything from plugin updates to development.