Do you ever use the “Tools” section in the backend of your WordPress site? Most bloggers + business owners don’t and that has a lot to do with the fact that not much lived there. Until WordPress introduced Site Health.
What is Site Health
This new feature of WordPress 5.2 + above gives you the ability to check the status of your site’s health based on criteria deemed important by the folks at WordPress. Aka it’s WordPress’s way of letting you know if your site is doing well or at risk for big problems.
When you head to Tools > Site Health you’ll see a grade at the top of the page shown with a phrase + color indicator.
It’s a great new resource for WordPress owners + bloggers, but since it is new there are some things to keep in mind when using it. Like the fact that most of the time, my client’s sites show as “should be improved” — and I’m not panicked about it.
WordPress Site Health Score
While WordPress has the best intentions with this new feature, there are some recommendations to take with a grain of salt.
For example, anyone that hosts with us (or on a managed WordPress server) will be shown a critical issue that “background updates are not working as expected.”
What exactly does that mean?
If your website is on a server dedicated to hosting WordPress websites, your automatic updates are disabled so that the team managing your site can dictate exactly when updates are run.
From the backend of your site (where you log in), it looks like updates are not working. But in reality, your hosting team is taking great care of you + your website. So it’s not a critical issue because your updates are in fact scheduled + taken care of regularly.
Before you skip this section because it sounds extra nerdy, hear me out. WordPress is written with a coding language called PHP. Sure, there are some other languages used alongside PHP, but they aren’t the root of this great platform.
When you’re hosting on a server, it runs PHP to help your site function. New versions of PHP are being released all the time — just like new versions of WordPress. That doesn’t mean that you ought to be using the newest one.
Most hosting companies will use a version that is one or two editions old. Why? Because it’s more secure to do so. These versions of PHP are tested + security issues have been addressed. Automatically jumping to the latest + greatest could put your site in danger.
So when WordPress site health recommends that you update PHP, know that any version of PHP that starts with a 7.2 is great! (Network Solutions has loads of customers still using PHP 5.6, which is more than a little outdated.)
Nerd alert: Versions of PHP are released like WordPress versions. The first number is the true version + the secondary numbers note small changes made. So 7.0 is two versions older than 7.2.
Improving your score
Most of the recommendations or alerts within site health are work checking out. And two of the biggest ones are really easy to fix!
Keeping inactive plugins around is usually a bad idea. They can cause issues with security, maintenance + site speed. So if WordPress site health shows that you have inactive plugins, you likely want to clear those out.
Go to Plugins > Installed Plugins > Inactive to remove any that aren’t currently being used. Remember, you can always add them back in later if you want.
The default theme recommendation in site health refers to having the latest WordPress theme installed. The important bit is that this theme does not have to be active on your site in order to improve your overall score.
If you’re seeing this alert, add the latest theme by going to Appearance > Themes > Add New and clicking the “install” button on Twenty Twenty.
Do not click Activate once you’ve installed it. Doing so will change the appearance of your website.
Adding Twenty Twenty to your themes list will clear out the default theme recommendation + improve your Site Health Check score. It’s not necessary, but if you’d like to see your score increase, this 3 minute task will help.
Read through your site health recommended improvements/critical issues + also read why they are being recommended. This way you can chose to make the changes suggested, hire someone to do it for you or skip them if you’re not into what’s being suggested.