As hard as it is to say this, the new year is merely weeks away. Around this time of year we all start doing two things: slowing down to make time for what matters most to us and doing some thinking + planning on what we want to accomplish in the next 12 months.
Kory here! As exciting as it is to start thinking about all of the possibilities of what can happen next year, it’s easy to get so wrapped up that we forget that this year isn’t over quite yet. Don’t worry, we’ve definitely been guilty of doing this, too.
But, before you start creating a year long to do list (yep, I see you over there!), it’s a great idea to take the last month of this year to make sure that we and our blogs are organized and optimized so can start 2017 off strong! In today’s post, I’m going to share with you 5 simple tasks you can add to your to do list to help get your blog ready for the new year!
1. Delete plugins and themes you’re not using
Over the course of months or even years of blogging, it’s really easy to add a lot of different things to the front and back-end of your site to accomplish different things. From changing your theme to adding a new plugin to create a new functionality, it’s not uncommon to get to the end of the year and realize that you’ve installed a lot of things that you don’t use anymore. Aside from this clogging up your WordPress dashboard, having too many plugins and themes installed on your site can not only slow down your load time (how fast your site loads when someone visits it), but it can also put you at risk for hacking.
To keep your site from being at risk of getting hacked or losing readers, now is a great time to go through and deactivate and uninstall any plugins and themes that you aren’t using. It’s pretty straightforward on how to do this with plugins. If you’ve installed something that you’re no longer using (for example: if you tried one plugin to display your Instagram feed, but you are using a different one now), then simply deactivate and uninstall that from your site. If you hired someone to build your site and you aren’t sure what a plugin is being used for, be sure to reach out to your designer and / or developer before you delete everything. This could cause more harm than good!
For themes, it’s a little bit different. Obviously, when you’re running on the Genesis framework, you have to have the Genesis parent theme installed on your site as well as the child theme you’re using. However, it’s likely that you have other themes you’ve used in the past installed and maybe even the defaults that WordPress gives you. Our recommendation here is to have no more than 3 themes installed: Genesis, your child theme, and no more than 1 backup theme (we use a WordPress default for our backup).
[Tweet “Wait! Before you enter the new year, do these 5 things for your blog first”]
2. Audit the content on all of your pages
Once you’ve cleaned up the back-end of your site, it’s time to start working on the front-end, or the pages that your audience sees. The most obvious things that you’ll want to take a look at are your sidebar and footer, but we’ll talk about that next. The most important part of the front-end of your site to audit would absolutely be the content on your pages. The pages I’m referring to here would be: About, Services, Portfolio, Contact, Start Here, and any other pages you may have.
It’s so important to audit these pages because if you’re anything like us, it’s easy to create those pages or update the content and then forget when something’s no longer accurate (for example: you’ve stopped offering a service, need to update your portfolio or office hours, etc). This doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to overhaul every single page and create new content for it, but at least go through and make sure things are accurate. Are the prices on your Services page still the same? Do you need to remove any out-dated projects from your portfolio? Are the office hours you have listed on your Contact page the same?
In case you need a little motivation for this step: I usually put 2 months on my Contact page for when I’m currently booking. A few years ago, when I was still running two separate sites for my portfolio and blog, someone contacted me wanting some work done. However, since the months I had listed for when I was currently booking had passed, she thought I wasn’t taking on new clients until that time the following year. Oops! I could have (and may have) lost out on potential clients due to that forgotten section on my Contact page.
3. Clean up your sidebar and footer
Just like it can be easy to add new plugins and themes throughout the year, it’s incredibly easy to add new pages, content, and more to the front-end of your site while you’re creating and launching new things. For example, how often have you put a banner in your sidebar for a webinar or a new course? However, because bloggers can have a busy day-to-day schedule, it’s just as easy to forget to trade out certain content or graphics. This one is a super simple update to make: you take out any promotional content or graphics for stuff that has passed or update them if your content is evergreen.
However, it’s not just the promotional material you want to think about here. Krista would probably de-friend me if I didn’t remind you that it’s important to make sure these areas on your site are displaying content that are still inline with your overall website strategy. (If you’re not sure what I mean, you might want to check out Krista’s post here on what a website strategy is.) So while you’re thinking about your overall goals for 2017, make sure you’re reviewing the content you’re displaying in your sidebar and footer and make sure that they align with the things you want to accomplish during the next twelve months. For example, if you want to grow your email list in 2017, make sure that you have an opt-in form in your sidebar and that the description of your list is accurate based on the content you’re sending.
[Tweet “2016 isn’t over yet! Here are 5 things you can do to prepare your blog for the new year”]
4. Install + setup a security and backup plugin
Now in the first point I recommended that you remove any plugins that you aren’t using, so this one may seem counterintuitive, but trust me on this. I can’t tell you how many times we’ve seen people post in Facebook groups that their site has been hacked and they lost all of their content or that their site went down and their host wasn’t backing up their content like the blogger had originally thought. You can’t rely on your hosting company to do all of the work of protecting your blog, and that’s why it’s important to make sure you have a security and backup plugin installed and setup on your site.
What you get for both your security and backup plugins really depends on your budget and what all you’re doing with your blog. On the security side of things, both Krista and I recommend a plugin like Loginizer Security or iThemes Security to help protect your site from hackers. Both of these plugins have premium versions, but the free versions of them just as great for protecting your blog. If you’re running a bigger site, say something like a membership, you may want the premium versions!
For keeping your site backed up, we both really love BackupBuddy, but that’s a premium plugin from the same guys over at iThemes. I’ve also heard of BackWPup, which is a free plugin you can use. The key thing here is to make sure that you’re doing a full backup of your site at least once a month and that you’re storing it somewhere like on Dropbox. You do not want to store it on your own site because if you lose everything, you’ll also lose your backup!
5. Start brainstorming content for Q1 of 2017
This last thing may or may not be one of the hardest to do out of all five of these steps; however, I firmly believe that the more you can plan for the next year, especially the next quarter, the better off you’re going to feel when January rolls around and it’s time to start creating content for your audience again. The key here is that you’re not trying to plan your content for the entire year, but just for the first three months. Here are a few key things to keep in mind while you’re working on this step:
- Plan for how many different categories you write on your blog
- You don’t have to have these scheduled on a specific date, just work on generating some ideas
- Think about anything you want to launch next year and blog posts that will help with your launch
- Consider how many days per week you want to be writing next year
Doing all of these things at once might seem a little overwhelming, so instead, I encourage you to schedule each one on your calendar of the next couple of weeks and try to get them taken care of one at a time. You’ll not only get to start the new year off strong, but you’ll have a clean slate and less to worry about when the first workday of 2017 rolls around!