AskPat 327 Episode Transcript
Pat Flynn: Hey, what’s up, everybody? Pat here, and welcome to Episode 327 of AskPat. Thank you so much for joining me today.
Awesome, now let’s get to today’s question from Tyler.
Tyler: Hey, Pat, this is Tyler from Grand Rapids, Michigan. Thanks so much for all that you do, and all the information you provide. My question is in regards to WordPress and its associated plugins. I’m basically wondering if you have any advice or guidance in how to best manage the relentless updates that happen on WordPress in different plugins. I’m concerned at the amount of time that I’m spending keeping my WordPress site and plugins up to date, and just also making sure that everything continues to work well and integrate well, and that I haven’t had any features go down on the website, because a certain update has been made. If you’ve experienced this, or you have any tips or tricks or best practices to share, that would be great to hear. Thanks.
Pat Flynn: Hey, Tyler, thank you so much for the question today. Plugins are an interesting thing with WordPress. It’s one of the benefits of using WordPress, to be able to just plug and play these different things that you can add onto your site, from anything from, you name it, there’s a plugin for it. If anybody’s had an idea for something they wish was on a website, somebody has probably created a solution for it. There are obviously new plugins coming out all the time, and as they come out they’re very attractive, and we put them on our site.
The crazy thing about it is, a lot of times it breaks our site too, because especially once you have a lot of plugins working together to kind of create what your site becomes, it doesn’t always work out the way we want it to because it’s code. Just one little line of code that just works or is incompatible with another plugin or something else that you have going on with your theme, or the version of WordPress that you have. There’s so many different variables. It’s really easy to break things.
I totally know where this question’s coming from, so again, how do you manage the sort of updates of plugins? Let’s just talk about those updates really quick. It’s really important to update your plugins as soon as possible. Now, upgrading WordPress, maybe not so much, because a lot of people wait until sort of the 0.01 version of the recent update has come out, because sometimes WordPress updates things, and of course it is best practice to update as soon as possible, but a lot of people wait. Sort of like when they get an iPhone, they wait until the S version comes out, to make sure that other, the non-S version, works.
A lot of people want to do that with WordPress too. They don’t update right away because then there might be some bugs that are incompatible with some of those plug-ins, or the theme that you have. And people wait until those first wave of bugs get squashed before they upgrade to the latest one. Of course, if there are security breaches or security reasons for having WordPress be updated, you want to do that as soon as possible in most cases.
When it comes to the plug-ins, it’s very important to update those as soon as possible. There’s a reason why the developer is updating them and that’s to push out new features, or to squash some bugs or incompatibilities. It’s always best practice to update them as soon as possible. Now, how do you update them? The easiest and best way to do it is when you sign into WordPress, if you are in the latest version of WordPress or at least anything above 3.9, you’ll see that it’ll tell you in your plugins directory when there are certain plugins that need to be updated, and you can automatically update those right away. That’s the easiest way to go about it.
Yes, it is a hassle, and yes, those updates don’t come in a very sort of scheduled manner. They just come in as soon as the developer comes and brings those in. Again, it’s best practice to update them as soon as possible. Now, if you had a VA working for you, one of the things you can have them do is go in and check once a week, for example, to make sure updates are put into those plugins as much as possible.
Now, I think a lot of developers out there who are people who kind of know the world of coding and WordPress would probably agree with me when I say that probably the best thing to do is have a doubled version of your site, or a cloned version of your site, to be able to run these plugin updates on, to then check to see if there are any incompatibilities or things that break before you go live with it on your main site.
I know in most cases, for most of you out there, that’s not going to be possible, or it’s just very difficult to do that, and yes, it is a lot more to manage, but that would be the best way to go about it. If you’re like me, or most other people out there, you don’t have a clone site that kind of can be there as a test or crash test dummy for you. You want to go out and do them one at a time, of course, and I think that would be the best way to do it. Whenever you have multiple WordPress plugins that need to be updated, do it one at a time, and just go on the front end of your website, and make sure things don’t break. Whatever that plugin is related to, you want to go and make sure things are still working. I think that’s okay to do.
The reason you want to do it one at a time is because if things break after you update all of them, you don’t know which one really caused the problem. By doing it one at a time, you can then kind of go back and if things break, you can go back in time, and hopefully you have some back-up plugins in there, and we’ll leave that for another conversation.
Making sure, and of course if things break totally, you can always go back to your host and chat with them, or if you have a web guy working for you, you can chat with them as well. Really, you just want to do it when it comes out, when the updates come out. I also want to mention that you might not need all the plugins you think you need. We get plugin crazy sometimes. I remember when I first started out, even up to a couple years ago, before my latest redesign, I had like seventy plugins working at the same time. When you have seventy plugins working at the same time, there are seventy different chances of something not being able to communicate well with something else, and then having it break.
We definitely don’t want that. I was told by a number of people, especially my web guy who came on board, Brian. He’s amazing. He’s been helping me with speeding up my site and keeping it secure. He basically said, “Only have the plugins that you truly need.” I really had to think and really kind of do some soul-searching in terms of what plugins I actually needed more than the others, because every plugin you put out there is an option or is a chance for it to break, but also to slow down your website too.
I’ve been very, very good at only keeping the plugins down to a minimum, even just . . . I haven’t checked recently, but I would care to say or guess it was about maybe a dozen plugins at most now. Only the ones I truly need, and everything else is kind of built in now, everything that’s custom done. That would be the ideal case. The less plugins, the less chance there are for things to break. Obviously, the less updates you have to worry about, but also the faster your website will be, and obviously the speed of your Website has a lot to do with the SEO now.
I saw it in USA Today, actually. Google’s cracking down on sites that don’t have mobile-optimized websites. That doesn’t have anything to do with your plugin, but just for everybody out there, make sure your website is mobile optimized in some way, shape, or form. Not necessarily responsive, but mobile optimized or friendly to a mobile user, or else it’s going to really, really hurt your SEO and your search engine rankings.
Again, do you need all the plugins you have? I would go in one-by-one and see if you actually, truly need them. You’ll probably find that you have a lot of them, maybe even up to 10 or 20 if you’ve been doing this for a while, and installing plug-ins here and there, that you don’t necessarily need. Maybe a lot of them are there, and they’re in the code, but they’re just not being used. Maybe they’re not being used in a way that maybe they’re already deactivated, but they’re still there, and you can actually delete them.
Maybe there’s ones that are active, but you’re just not really using or don’t even need anymore, or there’s an updated plug-in from somebody else that takes care of it for you, that you can then delete a few others that are kind of within the parameters of what that new plug-in can do. There’s a lot of things to think about, but again that’s what I would do.
Obviously, having somebody else help you who is versed with all those things is a best-case scenario, but if not, take it one at a time when you do your updates. Check to see if anything is just majorly broken. If not, then you can keep going. Yeah, best of luck to you, Tyler. Thank you so much for the question. I really appreciate it.
If any of you have anything to add on to this, go ahead and head on over to Twitter and use the hashtag #AskPat325, and you can add in your thoughts about plugins and updates and all those things as well. Tyler, for having your question featured here on the show, we’re going to send you an AskPat t-shirt. You’ll get an email from my assistant within a couple weeks to collect your information to send you that. Thank you so much again for your question.
For those of you listening, if you have a question you’d like potentially featured here on the show, just head on over to AskPat.com. You can ask right there on that page, thanks to the widget from SpeakPipe.com.
Thank you so much for listening in. I appreciate it. And to finish up, I have a quote today from Johnny Carson. He says, “Never continue in a job you don’t enjoy. If you’re happy in what you’re doing, you’ll like yourself, you’ll have inner peace, and if you have that, you’ll have had more success than you could possibly have imagined.” Cheers, take care, and I’ll see you in the next episode of AskPat. Thanks, guys.