You’re serious about your writing career. So of course you have an author website!
(If you don’t, head over here to learn how to build one in only 30 minutes. We’ll wait.)
But is your website running as well as it can? Do you back it up regularly? Do you have critical safety plugins installed?
All of this is important for providing the best reader experience possible. After all, you don’t want your fans to land on your website and have it take ages to load — or, worse, fail to load at all. And you certainly don’t want to lose all the work you’ve put into it to a hacking incident!
Luckily, it’s not that hard to clean, secure, and maintain your WordPress-based author website. Here’s how!
1. Automate Your Backups
No matter where your data is, you have to back it up. We recently talked about how to create great backup systems for your writing, research, and other files — but your website has important stuff on it, too!
It’s easy to automate your backup system so that you don’t have to lift a finger to protect your website. Here’s a few useful options.
Your hosting service probably already offers a backup feature. This will make copies of your entire site — both the WordPress installation and all its files and everything else required to keep your site running. Some hosts offer free versions and some require you to pay. Others have basic backup options that you can upgrade for a small fee.
Bluehost, for instance, offers a great suite of backup and restore options that automatically backs up your site daily, weekly, and monthly, lets you restore with one click if something goes wrong, and lets you download those backups for safekeeping in your offline file system in case something really goes wrong. It also lets you restore just a single file, if you deleted something by accident.
WordPress also offers integrated backup support. Whether you’re using WordPress.com or you’ve set up a self-hosted website, the Jetpack Premium plugin will take care of all your backup needs for $39/year and up (which includes premium support and many other great features).
At the $99/year level, you get daily backups with unlimited space, one-click restore, daily scans to make sure there’s no malware on your site, and more. It’s completely automated, so unless you have a need to restore your site, you don’t have to do a thing!
Keep in mind that this only protects your WordPress data and installation — if you have done any customizations to your site outside the WordPress functionality, you’ll want to back that up separately. But for most authors, the WordPress backup is exactly what you need.
If you want a little more fine control over your backups, consider adding a WordPress backup plugin. Some of the free versions are extraordinarily capable, giving you tons of control over your site and your data. For a small upgrade fee, you can also get a premium version that lets you clone or migrate your site — fantastic for if you’re planning to switch hosts because your site has taken off in popularity and you need more server space!
A great option is UpdraftPlus, which lets you automatically back up your site to the cloud (for instance, sending the backup files to a folder you’ve specified on Dropbox or Google Drive) and quickly restore files and databases. The premium version offers even more uploading options, plus cloning and migration tools, advanced options, encryption, multi-site backup, and more.
Most authors won’t need those fancy upgraded versions, though. If you want the peace of mind of having a spare backup, just use the free version and you’re good to go!
BackUpWordPress does what it says on the tin — backs up your site! It uses very little memory, so it’s perfect if you’re on a basic server plan with your host (it won’t slow down the site for anyone who’s browsing).
All you have to do is install and configure the plugin — which is super-simple — and then set a backup schedule. The Zip archive can be emailed to you for safekeeping, or for a small fee, you can buy an add-on that will upload it directly to Dropbox or Google Drive.
Another solid option is BackWPup. It’ll save all the contents of your WordPress site and upload them to Dropbox or another service of your choice, keeping your content safe and sound in case of catastrophe. If something goes wrong, all you’ll have to do is unzip the archive and upload it back to your host! The pro version offers even more options and there’s a great set of YouTube tutorials if you need help with anything.
2. Clean Up Your Files
Of course, having backups of your website only goes so far. You also need to make sure that your site is optimized for the best user experience. There’s nothing worse than a laggy, buggy website when a reader’s trying to find out about your next event, buy your book, or send you a fan letter! A slow, glitch-filled site can lose you a potential fan faster than you can say “bounce rate.”
Plus, having duplicate content and other un-optimized features can quickly fill up your server space, eventually forcing you to pay more to host your site.
Unnecessary Plugins and Themes
So you definitely need some plugins to add functionality to your site — and to help you keep your site running right, like we’re discussing!
But keeping plugins that you’re not using slows down your site and can give hackers a way to break in.
Go through all your plugins every month or so to make sure they’re updated and in use. If you haven’t used a plugin’s functionality in awhile, consider deleting it. If it’s sitting there deactivated, delete it permanently!
The same goes for themes you’re not using. Keep every theme on your site updated, and get rid of whatever you’re not using. You can always download a new version later if you want to change your theme.
Duplicate or Unused Media
Instead of manually hunting around for duplicate content (why did you upload six copies of the same headshot, anyway?), install a plugin to take care of it for you!
Media DeDuper not only checks out your media library to find duplicate files, it can also prevent you from creating duplicates in the first place! It takes awhile to scan all your files, but once it’s done, you can simply go down the list of “twins” to get rid of any duplicates. Then, each time you upload a new file, Media DeDuper will check it against your existing library and stop you from uploading any redundant images. Handy!
An old plugin that’s still potentially useful is Image Cleanup, which scans your media library to find images that you haven’t actually used anywhere on your site. You can quickly delete them — or move the images to a backup folder that won’t clog your site’s performance but will let you restore the images any time you might need them.
Once you’ve got your media library pared down, it’s time to make sure all the images and other content is optimized for space.
Grab the Imsanity plugin to automatically resize all your images to the right size for web. You don’t really need a 4.6Gb high-resolution image on your mobile-optimized site, after all — a simple 1024px JPG will work great (and keep things running faster and using less space).
This plugin takes care of all the hard work for you — it can bulk-convert existing images and scale down any new uploads. It can even take care of scaling contributor uploads, ensuring that any guest posters on your site don’t clutter up your files!
3. Keep Everything Secure
Now that you’ve backed everything up and cleaned up your files and plugins, it’s time to make sure your site is defended against malware and hackers.
You’d think that hackers would have something better to do with their time than attack author webpages, but you’d be wrong! Big Bads often try to create the most chaos possible with the least effort, and that means attacking popular frameworks like WordPress. Because tons of people use WordPress and many of them aren’t incredibly tech-savvy, there are plenty of loopholes and glitches hackers like to try to exploit.
It might not seem like having your site hacked would be that big a deal, but it really is — it can cost you a lot of trust among your readers if visiting your website gets their computer infected with a virus, and it damages your reputation to have your site taken over.
Plus, you really don’t want someone forcing their way into your site by cracking your administrator account and posting whatever they feel like. Not a good look!
Save yourself the time, trouble, and other consequences of a hack by securing your site in advance. It’s really not that hard!
The first, easiest thing to do is to make sure that your administrator account on your WordPress site isn’t named Admin or Administrator — that’s the first thing a hacker will try to break into.
Don’t use an easy-to-crack password, either. A random combination of numbers, letters, and symbols might be hard to remember, but it’s also incredibly hard to guess…and even takes a long time to brute-force through. If you can make your site even a little challenging for a hacker, they’ll often move on to easier targets.
If you have Jetpack Premium, you’re already in good shape — this scans your site for malware and potential problems every day, and the WordPress premium support team can help you deal with any problems that get flagged.
If you’re not a subscriber, there are plenty of other options to help keep your site secure.
One of the best is Wordfence Security. Once installed and configured, this powerful plugin will constantly scan your site for the latest known threats and alert you if something’s wrong. You can blacklist IP addresses, block known attackers automatically, check password strength for all users, and more. The free version alone is a powerhouse, but if you have trouble with Big Bads trying to force their way into your website, the paid upgrade offers even more useful tools.
Another incredibly powerful free security plugin is All-in-One WP Security & Firewall. This tool blocks brute-force login attacks through lockouts, helps you maintain username and password best practices, scans your WordPress installation files for malicious code or viruses, and can even help you maintain backups of your database.
Two of its most helpful tools for authors are its spam-management features for comments and its copy-paste lockdown, which lets you disable the ability to copy text from your site — ideal if you want to make sure that no one is repurposing your stories or articles without permission.
A few hours of cleanup time and a few plugin configurations will help you get your WordPress author website running even better, offering a better reader experience and helping keep all your content safe and secure.
Clean up and optimize your WordPress author website for a better user experience and safer data management.
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