I love most aspects of developing websites. Brainstorming for new ideas, researching keywords to find out what people want, finding and tweaking a new theme, writing great content and watching the visit counter start to tick up are all things that bring me great enjoyment. Maintenance and cleanup, not so much. In fact, WordPress maintenance has to be one of the things that I enjoy least about running a website. However, giving WordPress a Spring cleaning can benefit your bottom line because it can make your website faster and more secure and can help you unearth some of your best old content. It can also help you make sure that you aren’t losing out on affiliate sales. So, make the time to do a little WordPress cleanup this Spring. Use this list as a guideline if you have trouble deciding where to begin.
One of the reasons why I love using an affiliate jump script is because you can link to the same affiliate offer from multiple locations on your website, and if you want to link to a different product or landing page — or fix a dead link — you can change the link in every location simultaneously by changing one entry in the script. If you deep link to product pages, though, you’re going to find that occasionally merchants will change their product URLs without notifying you. In many cases, they won’t even bother redirecting the old URLs to the new ones. This means that when a potential customer clicks your affiliate link, he’ll see a 404 page. This creates a very negative impression and drastically lowers the chance of making a successful conversion. Prevent this by periodically testing every link in your jump script to make sure that they all still work. Out of all the WordPress cleanup suggestions in this article, this is perhaps the one that has the most direct impact on your bottom line. Don’t neglect it.
If you use post tags liberally, you may find that you have 3-4 times as many tags as you do posts. Because of various changes made after the creation of a new tag, some tags may no longer have posts linked to them, while other tags may have multiple variations. For example, let’s suppose you operate a blog about films; you might have a “Scorsese” post tag as well as a “Martin Scorsese” tag, with your content about Martin Scorsese split between the two. You may even have a misspelled version that you created by mistake. Choose one variation of the tag, link all relevant posts to it and delete the rest. If you allow Google to index your tag pages, increasing the number of posts linked to a tag can potentially increase your authority on that topic. More importantly, it creates a better experience for your users by improving navigation and reducing the size of your database.
In Google Webmaster Central, you can find a list of the URLs on your website that Google attempted to crawl and was unable to find. In most cases, you can safely ignore these; for example, you’ll see a crawl error when you delete a post tag, but it will go away as Google re-crawls all of the pages that used to link to it. However, you may occasionally find errors that exist because of internal links you created that are no longer correct because of other changes you made later. You may also find external links to URLs that have been changed or no longer exist. Clean these up by fixing the broken internal links and redirecting the broken external links or contacting the webmasters who link to you and notifying them of the new URLs.
If your content is designed to be evergreen, some of your older posts may no longer be quite as correct as they once were. As this content becomes older and less relevant, readers will find it less useful and it will start to slip on search engine results pages. Sometimes, making an old post accurate again can be as simple as changing a few words. Then, you can encourage extra clicks from Web searchers by adding a phrase such as “updated for 2012” to the post’s meta description. This simple part of WordPress cleanup maximizes the long-term value of your older content. While you audit your old posts for correctness, take advantage of any opportunities that you find for creating new internal links. Internal linking is great for SEO because it helps reinforce to Google what your posts are about. It also keeps people on your website longer by helping them find the content that interests them.
WordPress periodically releases updates for security, stability and usability. If you’ve been holding off on updating your website because you’re afraid it will break something, now is the time to bite the bullet. Back up your WordPress database as well as your hosting account, and apply all available updates. If you use Elegant Themes, I provide instructions for updating Elegant themes as well.
You’ve deleted dozens of orphan tags, maybe axed a few irrelevant posts, and overall made WordPress leaner and meaner. This creates slack space in your database that you need to clean up for the changes to have a positive impact on your website’s performance. Clean up the WordPress database by removing this slack space in your host’s phpMyAdmin console. If you haven’t done so already, disable post revisions and delete the unnecessary content that the revision system generates before cleaning out your database.