WordPress powers more than 23% of the top 10 million websites, giving it an estimated 60% market share of all sites using a Content Management System (CMS). While it is a trusted and popular system, like all software it's important to keep it updated. Here are 5 main reasons why you should keep your WordPress website updated:
Possibly the most important reason to keep WordPress updated on this list is for strengthening security. Although WordPress can be a target for hackers, it is one of the most secure platforms for your website. With a large community of users and developers, any security weaknesses identified are reported. The WordPress team then works hard to release an update that resolves the issue in a timely manner.
By not keeping your WordPress site updated, you run the risk of leaving it open to malicious attacks, distributing malware, data theft and other cybercrimes. While it's true that nothing is "hacker-proof", the introduction of new data protection laws and regulations requires companies to be more pro-active in securing websites.
Updating WordPress can also improve the performance of your website, ensuring that it functions at its best. Search Engines such as Google also rank faster loading sites higher as part of their algorithm. There are many other factors that can affect your website loading speed, but keeping WordPress updated is a great place to start.
Each major release (dictated by the first two sequences. For example; 4.1, 4.2, 4.3) comes with added features and improved functionality. These help update your website in new ways, giving you more control and making life easier. Previous enhancements include simplifying image uploads, improving widgets (and their content fields) and updating management of links to web sites and internal pages.
Every minor release (dictated by the third number sequence. For example; 4.1.2, 4.1.3, 4.1.4) is reserved for fixing security vulnerabilities and critical bugs. These are far more frequent than major releases as they quickly address issues to tighten security and remove exploits such as cross-site scripting vulnerabilities. They also fix glitches which may be causing temporary issues with content management updates.
Themes and plugins are often updated to be compatible with the latest version of WordPress, which means they may not work correctly if you have an outdated/older version powering your website. The opposite can also be true where an update can break a plugin. This usually only happens though if the plugin has not been regularly updated or does not follow best practices. This is why it's important to check your plugins are functioning correctly after an update and ensure that you backup your WordPress website on a regular basis.
There is always a risk that software will not work correctly after an upgrade. With WordPress and other open source software, the variety of third-party themes and plugins increases that risk (as we touched on in point 5). It is possible that after an upgrade, a particular plugin will no longer work properly and/or cause errors on your website.
If you manage your own WordPress installation, you may be under the mistaken impression that you only have to click the "Upgrade" button for your WordPress installation, themes, and/or plugins to be successfully upgraded. However, there are things that could go wrong, and you could break your website if you upgrade blindly. We advise that you exercise caution, check the WordPress changelogs, check any plugin and/or theme changelogs, backup your website and database, and check thoroughly for errors, bugs and glitches.
If you're wondering how to keep on top of all the updates and needs for your WordPress site, you may want to consider signing up for one of our WordPress Care Plans. Our WordPress Care Plans are designed to remove the stress and responsibilities of website maintenance, so you can focus on your business without needing to worry about potentially missing important updates for your website. We also perform additional checks and enhancements to give you the best possible protection and support.
If you're unsure about which WordPress Care Plan is best for you or if you have any questions regarding updating your WordPress website, please send us a message or leave a comment below.