WooCommerce Maintenance DIY Guide

WooCommerce maintenance process is tricky. There are so many ways things could go wrong and break your WooCommerce store. However, if you follow the standard procedure and take the necessary precautions recommended in this blog, everything should be fine.

Task 1: Create a backup of your site

There are many different things you need to do in WooCommerce maintenance and any one of them could go wrong due to one reason or another. We are never sure. Sometimes, it may break the site and it would take hours to figure out the problem.

The best way to prevent this is by saving a backup of your website before you start making any changes. It helps you to revert back to the backup version if the changes you made didn’t work as you expected.

So, the first thing you should always do before making any change to your WooCommerce store is creating a backup of the website.

Task 2: Automate website backup

Automating the process of creating backups of your website gives you peace of mind.

This is a one-time task. Once you setup the automatic regular maintenance of your website, backups are automatically created and saved.

Your hosting service provider may be offering the regular automatic backup service. But you shouldn’t rely on it completely unless they allow you to export the backups to cloud storage outside the server. When your server gets hacked or crashed, you may lose the backup as well if you have the backup copy only on the server.

So, you need to save the backups outside your server.

Fortunately, most WooCommerce hosting service providers offer this feature. You can schedule automatic backup and export the backup file into cloud storage services like Dropbox and Google Drive.

There are also many free and paid WordPress backup plugins out there offering the same service. You can use any one of them to schedule the automatic backup of your website if your hosting service provider doesn’t have the feature.

Task 3: Ensure that the backup works

After you create a backup of your website, ensure that the backup actually works. Imagine you started making changes on your website and something went wrong. But you are not afraid because you know that you have created a backup before making changes so you can restore the backup anytime and the website will work just fine as it was before.

But when you try to restore the backup, you get an error because the backup is broken. This happens rarely but there is a tiny chance that it might happen to you.

So, it’s always a good idea to check if the backup works fine before you start making changes on the website.

Task 4: Set up a staging site

A staging site is a clone of your real website. Instead of making changes directly on the main website, you create a copy of your website and start making changes in the copy. It helps you to test the changes safely without touching the actual website.

Once you are sure that the changes you made work as expected and there are no issues, you replace the original website with this updated copy.

This way, you can test new features and fix bugs without affecting the live website. Once the changes are finalised, you update the live website with the test website.

The idea of creating a staging site, testing changes on that, and uploading the changes to live site may seem complicated. But hosting service providers makes it pretty easy. You can check the documentation of your hosting service provider to check how to create a staging site and how to push the staging site to the live.

Task 5: Update WordPress, WooCommerce, Theme, and Plugins

Once you have the staging website ready, check for pending WordPress updates, theme updates, and plugin updates.

In WordPress, minor updates with security fixes, maintenance patches, and translation file updates are automatically done. This is good because you don’t have to update it manually every time when there is a new security patch. Moreover, it also helps you to keep your website more secure.

You can also enable automatic updates of the major releases of WordPress core, theme, and plugins. But we don’t recommend it because sometimes it may cause issues.

The ideal way to address this issue is to create a staging site to test the updates. When you are sure that the updates don’t cause any issue, you can go ahead and try them on your live site as well.

Here is the order we recommend you to follow when you install updates.

  1. Update WordPress core update first
  2. Update plugins not related to WooCommerce
  3. Update WooCommerce
  4. Update WooCommerce related plugins
  5. Update theme

We don’t recommend updating the theme or plugin immediately when there is a major update like from 3.2.x to 3.3. Most of the time, there could be some bugs in the major release. The plugin and theme developers will fix the issues in the major update (3.3 for example) and release a new minor update (3.3.1 for example) shortly. It’s better to wait for the minor update version after the major update. If there is no minor update release after a week or so, you can go ahead and try the major update.

Task 6: Add new plugins

Once you have updated WordPress core, plugins, and theme, it’s the right time to install new plugins or add new tracking pixels (tracking tags) to your website.

Plugins allows you to extend the features in your online store and manage your website more easily. So, they are really helpful. But they also cause several problems.

Using more plugins could bloat the WordPress admin area and increase page loading time. It also makes maintaining the website more difficult. So, before installing a new plugin, always ensure that the benefit of using the plugin outweigh the problems it causes.

Again, we recommend you try new plugins and new changes on the staging website first before adding them to the live website.

Task 7: Remove plugins

Once you installed new plugins and made other changes, you should check if all the plugins that you use now are absolutely necessary. If you think your online store will work just fine even without a particular plugin, you should consider removing them from your website. It helps you to keep your WordPress clean and tidy.

Task 8: Deal with the out of stock products

There is no point in keeping the products that you no longer sell in your store. So, you can either unpublish them or remove them from your store.

When you remove a product from your store, it’s a good practice to set up URL redirects to a similar product page. This way, you can avoid the SEO related issues when removing a URL from your website.

Task 9: Security scanning

Setting up an automated security scanning system on your website may seem unnecessary now but you will regret it once your website gets hacked or infected by malware.

There are many great WordPress security plugins out there and you can try any one of them to automate the security scanning on your website.

Premium WordPress security plugins can completely automate the security while free plugins usually only do the security scanning and report the issues.

Task 10: Automate uptime monitoring

Server downtime has a significant impact on your sale and business. So, you need an automated system that regularly monitors if your site is live and to know when your site is down.

Even the free uptime monitoring services check the websites in every five minutes or so.

Please remember that the monitoring service won’t do anything to fix the issues. Its only job is to check and map your website’s uptime. You should take appropriate actions if your site goes down every now and then.

Task 11: Check performance issues

The performance of your website may reduce due to various reasons even if you have optimised it initially. So, it is a good practice to check the loading speed of your website regularly.

Sometimes it could be the server that causes the issue. In that case, changing the hosting plan or hosting service provider will fix the performance issues. But most of the time, the problem would be with your website. Then your goal is to identify the issue and fix it as soon as possible.

Task 12: Initiate WooCommerce Maintenance Mode

Once you have done with the changes in the staging site, your next step is moving these changes to the live site.

Usually, it takes only a few seconds to update the live site when you push changes from a staging site. However, customers may experience issues during this time.

So, it’s a good practice to let the website visitors know that your store will be on maintenance during a particular period. You can show a site-wide alert message like your online store will be on maintenance from 1:00 AM to 1:10 AM on 5th July 2020. So, customers can avoid critical activities like purchasing during this period.

You can find plenty of plugins to create and display site-wide warning notices.

There are many WooCommerce related plugins to enable WooCommerce maintenance mode and show an “under construction” or “coming soon” page to the visitors. But this is now required if you create a staging website to test the changes and push the changes. A simple site-side warning would be more than enough.

Task 13: Push changes to the live site from staging site

After making all the changes and doing the maintenance activities on the staging website, ensure that the staging website works fine as expected. Here is a checklist for you to follow when checking for issues with your WooCommerce website.

  • Step 1: Login to WordPress backend and ensure everything works fine
  • Step 2: Verify if WooCommerce settings, features and options are correct.
  • Step 3: Open your store and check for issue
  • Step 4: Make test orders and go through all the processes a customer would go through on your store
  • Step 5: Compare the performance of the staging site with the live site. If your staging site is not online, you will not be able to use performance testing tools like GTmetrix. But still you will get a feel of fit when you use it.
  • Step 6: Ensure that tracking pixels work correctly.
  • Step 7: Run security scanning to figure out if the new changes you have added cause any security issues.

After following this checklist and ensuring that your staging site works correctly as expected, you can push these changes to your live site.

Just like they made creating a staging site easier, most hosting service providers also make it easier to push the changes from the staging site to the live site.

Task 14: Check for issues

Once you have updated your live site, follow the checklist given in task 13 to ensure that your WooCommerce store works correctly. It’s very unlikely that you will face new issues on the live site if your staging site was on the same server. But still, it’s a good idea to ensure that there are no errors.

If you have any issues on the live site, try to find the issue immediately and fix it if you can. If you can’t fix it within 10 minutes, then reset your website using the backup version.

Summary

WooCommerce maintenance is a tedious task but if you don’t do it regularly, it could hurt your eCommerce business. There are many things that could go wrong when you make lots of changes to your website. So, you need to follow a standard procedure and checklist to ensure the maintenance work doesn’t affect your online store negatively. We hope that this guide gives you an overview of the WooCommerce maintenance process and the confidence to do it by yourself.