Regular maintenance is part and parcel of almost anything that you want to continue running smoothly for you. Cars without regular maintenance collect gunk in the oil pan and and carbon deposits on spark plugs, and eventually performance drops. Orphaned files and folders bog down my pc’s performance unless I run cleanup software every now and then.
WordPress isn’t any different. Your website can suffer if you don’t take steps to clear out the junk that collects over time. If your WordPress install is starting to get a little bit sluggish, or if you want to help prevent it from doing so, check out this quick reference of steps you can take to speed up WordPress!
Speed Up WordPress!
Before I say anything else, let me make this abundantly clear: MAKE A BACKUP! That’s me shouting from the rooftops. Again: BACKUP YOUR WORDPRESS FILES!!
Got it? Backups are your friend! You can make a backup of your install manually, or there are a variety of great plugins that make backing up really easy. VaultPress (free) and BackupBuddy (paid) are two examples. We would never intentionally recommend procedures or plugins that will screw up your WordPress install, but poop happens sometimes for the strangest reasons. As a general rule of thumb, you should never alter files without having a recent, working backup.
Once more for posterity: MAKE A BACKUP FIRST! Ok, I’m done 😀
Clean up Those Unused Plugins and Themes!
Install a plugin, activate it, test it out, …meh…, deactivate, move on. We’ve all been there. Over time unused plugins and themes can build up and start inflating your website’s file size. Trim the fat here, save yourself some space, and speed up WordPress in the process. Even more importantly, outdated plugins and themes pose a substantial security risk. On that note, while you’re at it, update everything!
Remove Unused Images from Your Media Library
This is a bit of a tricky one unless you don’t have many pics and you know exactly which ones you haven’t used. That’s probably not the majority of us. To see which ones aren’t attached to posts or pages, you can head to your dashboard, click Media>Library, and then in the dropdown that defaults to “all media items”, select “unattached”. You’ll have to manually delete these, but a word of caution: just because an image isn’t attached to a post or page, that doesn’t mean it’s not in use somewhere else. Use discretion.
An alternative to manual deletion is a plugin that searches these orphan images down for you. That’s unfortunately not the easy solution that it sounds like. After much tracking down and testing, I’ve only found one I’d be even remotely comfortable recommending based on my own testing and the plugin’s update history. DNUI worked like a charm on my installation, and was updated just 3 days ago from my writing this post. Reviews indicate mixed results however, so take that into consideration. You made a backup, right?
Fix or Remove Broken Links
These build up over time just like anything else does. Fortunately, finding and removing them is easy. You can visit a site like the World Wide Web Consortium’s link checker, or there are plugins that will reliably take care of it for you such as Broken Link Manager and Broken Link Checker. If you want to fix the links, you’ll have to do so manually.
Clear Out Unused Tags
Not much to this one at all. Just go to Posts>Tags, and there’s a list of all your tags right there waiting on you. You can easily identify which are unused by the “Count” column. Zero count? Delete.
Remove Orphaned Shortcode
A shortcode is a code “shortcut” used by some plugins to do a variety of different things within WordPress like embed files or create object that would otherwise take much more effort. Ninja Forms uses shortcode to let you place a form anywhere in the body of a post or page that you wish, for example. When you delete a plugin, its shortcode may stay behind. You can remove those orphaned shortcodes with a handy dandy tool like the cleverly named Remove Orphan Shortcode.
Zap Old Post Revisions and Drafts
WordPress autosaves your progress as you write in the post editor, which can really save your bacon in the event of a power outage, bsod, etc. By default, each of these saves and revisions are stored indefinitely. If you’re a proliferate writer, these can really start to build up fast. Use a plugin like Better Delete Revision or WP-Sweep to zap these into oblivion and speed up WordPress.
Cook Spam Comments
When you mark a comment as spam, it gets stored in the database for future use. As of writing this post, I don’t know of any plugin that actually makes use of this feature, however (please feel free to chime in in the comments if I’m wrong here!). That means all that spam is sitting around in your database, taking up space. Cook it up and move it out the door with Spam Comments Cleaner or WP-Sweep.
As an addendum to these steps and recommendations, check out WP-Sweep. In the course of researching and testing for this article, it kept standing out as a good general all-around maintenance tool. I don’t have a lot of experience with it yet, but it does look to have a lot of potential. It reminds me of the CCleaner tool I use for maintenance on my PC (it’s for Mac too), and exactly that kind of tool would be wonderful for WordPress.
I hope this helps you get a little bit closer to the lightning fast speeds you want your site to achieve. In reality though, these steps will only get you part way there. There quite a bit more we can do, like database optimizing, caching, and a CDN for example, that will have a significant (and potentially greater) impact. If you noticed from the title, this is intended as a two-part series. Check back with us soon for a for a follow up article that tackles more steps you can take to speed up WordPress!