Most people think about a web site in terms of the creative design, or the content. That’s what you and your users see, but there’s much more going on behind the scenes. Your web site has to be hosted someplace and your hosting company uses a lot of hardware (web server, database server, media server, firewalls, load balancers, etc.) to get the job done. And there’s the software that powers all of that. Something like 80% of all web sites use WordPress as their content management platform. If you’re part of that group, then your web server is probably running some version of PHP. As mentioned in a previous article, PHP 5.6 and PHP 7.0 are about to go EOL, and that means you (or someone who manages your web site) is going to have to perform an upgrade to PHP 7.3.
Step 1 – Backup Your Site
It is important to back up your WordPress site. There are several ways to do this, one of the easiest is to use WordPress’ Jetpack plugin. Another is to use UpDraftPlus, Backup Buddy, WP-DB-Backup or Vaultpress (which is the one I use and the one recommended by my hosting company.
Step 2 – Check Plugin Compatibility
Make sure all of your plugins have been updated to their latest version. If not, update it before running any backups. And make sure (usually by visiting the author’s web page) that it will run with PHP 7.3. If the plugin is not compatible then switch to the most popular and recently updated plugin that does the same thing. Remember, any plugin that isn’t compatible with the latest version of PHP is a potential security risk.
Step 3 – Upgrade PHP Version
Once everything is backed up, log in to your web hosting control panel, find the PHP section and perform the upgrade. If you’re not comfortable doing this, you can always contact your web hosting support for help.
Make Security a Part of Your SEO Process
Most people don’t think of security issues as a part of SEO, but they are. Search engines like Google can and will take steps to demote or even remove your web site from it’s index if it has been found to have been hacked. And browsers can potentially throw up a warning message to users that you site contains malware or other malicious content. It’s something you don’t want deal with if you can avoid it. And you can.
However, once a site is hacked and the search traffic disappears, security rapidly becomes an SEO nightmare. So why wait until your site is hacked to add security to your SEO toolkit? Add security to your SEO routine and avoid the crisis of losing traffic. SEO is as much about retaining traffic as it is about gaining it.