Is it Important to Update My WordPress Website?

Keeping your WordPress website up-to-date is like locking the door to your home. You always make sure your home is as secure as you can make it - you want to do the same for your website.

Increase the security of your Cape Cod business website by keeping all the relevant pieces of software updated. Eliminate potential headaches - BIG headaches - by doing your own updates.

What bad things can happen if a site is not kept up to date?

Websites run on software, so the software itself may break, i.e. stop functioning correctly. Updates include bug fixes, for example (there is no such thing as "bug free" software). Updates also are done to keep the software current with standards, or with the requirements of other pieces of software with which it has to interact.

Security: you can get hacked.  Because WordPress is so popular (it runs over 25% of all websites worldwide), it's a big target for hackers. Hackers are constantly looking for new ways "in" to the software that runs your site, and they find them.

The people who make the software you use are regularly making changes to that software to block hackers. Notices for these updates appear automatically in your WordPress Dashboard, and the updates should be run asap… or you risk getting hacked.

Sometimes you'll see failed functionality, i.e. something isn't working right. A plugin might stop playing well with others (other plugins), causing malfunctions.

Plus, you can miss out on new, good things that have been added!

A big, red, graphic indicating a potential website with malware

What will visitors to your site do if they see this?

What happens if my site is hacked?

Symptoms of a hack vary.

The site may display odd or inappropriate text in the header or footer (top and bottom) of the page, often including links to porn, gambling, or phishing sites.

Sometimes there is nothing really noticeable, but in the background a malevolent file is automatically downloaded to the visitor's computer.

Your site may seem to be non-existent... all visitors see is a blank white screen, or an image or message in place of your site (usually not a very pleasant image or message).

Maybe you can't log into the WordPress Dashboard. Or when you try to go to your login page, it's automatically redirected elsewhere.

What are the benefits of keeping my WordPress site up to date?

Significantly greater protection from hackers.

Elimination of bugs

Take advantage of new features that have been added. WordPress, theme makers, and plugin authors often add new and useful features to their products, things that can make your site function better.

A better experience for your visitors (software improvements often make your site load faster, for example)

What needs to be updated?

Basically, your site runs on software, many pieces of software that have to a) work correctly on their own, and b) interact with all the other pieces of software on your site, as well as the software used by your webhost.

You have three "levels" of software:

  • The WordPress framework
  • A theme (and possibly a theme framework)
  • Smaller pieces of software to accomplish specific features or functionality, called "plugins"

Will keeping my WordPress site up to date prevent all hacks?

No, it won't, unfortunately, though it will make it much harder for hackers. Unfortunately, there are other methods they can use to get it.

Most hackers are employing automated methods that look for the easiest way in. If they can't get it quickly through the most common access points, they will move on rather than spend the time on your site.

How do I update my site? Is it hard to do?

The process itself is not hard, no.

Before you start, we recommend having a current complete backup, in case something goes wrong.

  1. Log into the Dashboard, and click on the Updates button, where you will see a list of all updates that need to be run.
  2. We suggest running plugin updates first, one at a time.
  3. If there are theme updates, run those next, again one at a time.
  4. After all of that is complete, if WordPress itself needs an update, run that.

How often do I have to do these WordPress updates?

Updates should be done as quickly as possible. Why? Because, from a security perspective, if you have an access point for hackers you want to block that off right away.

Wait, how do I know if updates are available?

When you log into the Dashboard, you'll see a notification.

There is also a plugin you could install, called WP Updates Notifier, which will send an email to you when updates are available. The plugin description states, "Monitors your WordPress installation for core, plugin and theme updates and emails you when they are available. This plugin is ideal if you don't login to your WordPress admin regularly…"

If running WordPress updates is not hard, why are so many sites out of date?

Why does anything get left undone? We forget, we get busy, something more important comes up. You seem to be too busy running your own business, and the website, since it's not right in front of you, falls into to that "out of sight, out of mind."