Inherited a WordPress website? 10 things to do right now

Inherited a WordPress website

Congratulations! We promise you're going to love WordPress...

If you’ve inherited a WordPress website recently, you may be wondering how best to handle it. 

Perhaps you’ve just bought a new business that already has a WordPress website? Or maybe you have just been given responsibility for looking after your company’s website and you are not sure where to start? 

Maybe you can’t wait to get started, or maybe you’d prefer not to! Either way, this article will help you to decide what’s most important, and give you the confidence you need to get started.

1. Get the logon details

First things first

Before you begin, you’re going to need a lot of password and username information. It’s not just the website either. If you’ve inherited a WordPress website, you will also need usernames and passwords for:

  • The WordPress admin dashboard itself.
  • The “FTP” password. FTP stands for “File Transfer Protocol.” You don’t need to know what this is at this point.
  • CDN password. CDN stands for “Content Delivery Network”. Again, you don’t need to know what this is at the moment (and not all websites have one in any case)
  • Domain provider (i.e. the company that provide you with a domain name such as outerbridge.co.uk – this usually needs renewing every year).
  • E-mail marketing service. You’ll need this if your company uses an e-mail service such as MailChimp or MailerLite.
  • Third-party services and premium plugins. If the website uses any additional services such Yoast Premium, GoCardless, PayPal, Stripe or WooCommerce plugins, then you will need access to these too.
  • Social media services. Don’t forget that you may also need access to your company’s accounts for Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram etc.
  • Google Analytics & Google Search Console. This is so that you can check that Google Analytics tracking has been set up on the website. (Google Analytics is used to collect data about your website’s visitors). Make sure you can log on to both of these services; you’ll need them later.

Phew. That’s a lot of work in itself, right? Stop and have a coffee, and maybe even a bit of cake, because now you’re going to need to…

2. Change them

Unfortunately, once you’ve got all those passwords, you will need to change them all. Yep, every single one of them.

Why? Well, if you don’t change them, then the previous owners/developers/administrators will still be able to access everything. You don’t want them making any modifications, so make sure that only authorised people have access to all these things. If you’ve inherited a WordPress website, you may not even know who has had access to it in the past.

Even if you trust the previous users, it’s a really good idea to change all the passwords because you never know what might happen to those logon details in the future.

3. Review user access and admin emails

Check who’s got access to the website

If you’ve inherited a WordPress website, then you probably don’t know for sure who’s got access to the admin area. You can easily check this by selecting “Users” and then “All Users” from the WordPress admin menu. You’ll then see a list of everyone who has access to the website. 

Review the list of users, delete them if appropriate and make sure they have the appropriate level of access. Note that administrator access is hugely powerful, so make sure you restrict that to the people that really need it.

Change the admin contact details for the website

WordPress sends any important website notifications to the admin email address, so you will want to make sure that those messages are being read by the right person i.e. you!

To do this, select “Settings” and then “General“and you can change the administration email address there if necessary.

4. Stop! Before you do anything else, take a backup...

I can’t stress this highly enough. If you don’t have a backup of your website, then you are asking for trouble. Websites can (and do!) fail. If you’ve inherited a WordPress website, at this point you will have no idea how reliable it is, so it pays to be really obsessive about backups.

If something goes really badly wrong and you have a recent backup, you will be able to restore the website and carry on as though nothing has happened. 

But if you don’t have a backup, you will have to BUILD THE WEBSITE AGAIN FROM SCRATCH. Yes, really. Fancy adding that to your to-do list? Or telling your boss/partner/customers how stupid you are?

There are lots of backup plugins you can use. You need to backup both the website files AND the database. And make sure you keep the backups somewhere separate to your website. Like Dropbox or Google Drive

You can find out more about backups here. And find out how often to backup your website here.

5. Run a security scan

If you’ve inherited a WordPress website, you’ll want to make sure that it doesn’t have any lurking security issues. One of the best ways to do this is with a security plugin like Sucuri or Wordfence. You can use one of these to run a scan on your website to check for any problems. You should also check out this article about site security.

6. Speedy Gonzales

Nobody likes a slow website. These days, people don’t hang around for a page to load, they will just go to one of your competitor’s websites instead. If you’ve inherited a WordPress website, you might have no idea how fast or slow it is. So run a performance check to see how fast your website is.

Most of the performance tools will show you a list of issues if your website is not up to scratch. We like Pingdom and GTMetrix, both of which have free online tools to check whether your website is like Delboy’s van or a finely-tuned Formula 1 car.

There are lots of reasons why websites can be slow, but the one we so most often is cheap, shared hosting. If you’ve inherited a WordPress website, don’t just carry on with the same old hosting. Make sure it’s fit for purpose. It’s definitely worth paying extra for decent hosting to ensure that your website zips along nicely. No point in having a Formula 1 car with bald tyres and lawnmower petrol, right?

7. Check Google Analytics & Search Console

Remember those logon details for these Google services? You’ll need them now to log in to Google Analytics and see how many visitors the site gets, and what they do when they get there. If you’ve inherited a WordPress website, this is a really good way to familiarise yourself with it.

Google Search Console allows you to check for any crawling errors or issues that might mean that Google is unable to index your site. It’s a good idea to diarise a regular review of both Search Console and Analytics too.

8. Time for a spring clean

There aren’t many websites that don’t need a really good clearout from time to time. And if you’ve inherited a WordPress website, I’ll bet that there are some dodgy things lurking under the bonnet.

Check that all your plugins are up to date. Are they still supported (i.e. being actively developed and maintained)?

Familiarise yourself with all the plugins. Make sure you know what they do, and check the settings. Note that lots of plugins send important emails to the admin address recorded in their settings area, so it’s important to make sure that this is correct.

Are you using the latest version of your website’s theme? You should be.

Finally, get rid of any spam comments, optimise the database and delete any old post revisions. There are WordPress plugins that will do this for you if you’re not sure where to start. When we do this, we like to use Marie Kondo’s KonMari method of decluttering. If something doesn’t bring us joy, we get rid of it…

9. Get some training

If you’ve inherited a WordPress website and you haven’t used WordPress before, then it’s a really good idea to get some WordPress training. You’re going to need some help with all this, and a good WordPress trainer will be able to answer any questions that you have and give you the confidence to get started. 

Even if you already have some WordPress knowledge, a training session will give you lots more tips and tricks and will end up saving you loads of time. Find out more about WordPress training here.

If you've inherited a WordPress website, be sure to enjoy the process!

If you’ve inherited a WordPress website, then you’ve been given a great opportunity to develop your skills and have fun doing it. WordPress is a fabulous tool, and one that we promise you will really enjoy using. Being able to use WordPress is a great skill to have on your CV, and it could even lead to a whole new career. So embrace the change and get stuck in.

One of the key benefits of WordPress is that it’s freely available and used by millions of people. So if you need help, there are lots of online resources, and you can often find the answer via Google.

If you’re based in Devon or the West Country, and you’d like some face-to-face WordPress training, then please contact us to book a training session. We also offer Zoom or Skype training sessions for those further afield or anyone who prefers online training. Our sessions are fun, friendly and tailored to your specific needs. You’ll be surprised at what you can learn in a couple of hours…

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