Why software licenses and updates are essential to your WordPress site

Your WordPress website runs on a boundless ecosystem of plugin and theme software. When you ignore those software updates, you’re putting your site at risk.

a computer screen showing multiple plugins ready for updating

Kyle Van Deusen

We all get (and often ignore) those emails – the ones from WordPress reminding you that your plugin software needs an update. There’s a fleeting feeling of urgency, quickly followed by the realization that you don’t know how to update your software. So you put it on the “to do” list and promptly forget it.

Well, I’m here to give you a come-to-Jesus moment about those software and licensing updates: they are essential. Essential to running your website smoothly and to staying compliant with your software’s terms of service. 

There are more than 56,000 free WordPress plugins, and free ones are the most vulnerable!

You see, WordPress is a content management system (CMS) built on a vast ecosystem of smaller software providers, offering users a world of variety in plugins and widgets, templates, and designs (there are 56,000 free plugins alone). It is open source, and countless companies worldwide contribute to developing the software on which it runs.

But if you’re not updating that software when instructed, you’re leaving your website vulnerable to security breaches, and you’re practically begging for slow load times and poor performance.

Understanding your WordPress website

Apart from the genius of its inception in 2002, the real power of WordPress lies in the staggering volume of software companies that create widgets, themes, and plugins to work with the site.

These third-party software companies (and a legion of dedicated volunteers – hooray for volunteers!) power WordPress. They create all the design templates and plugins that make WordPress so functional and versatile.

Theme Shops

Thousands of free design themes are available for your WordPress website, but you can get higher quality, more responsive ones by purchasing a “premium” theme from a theme shop.

A screenshot of various WordPress themes in the repository
WordPress theme repository

Theme shops are software companies that design templates for WordPress users to choose the one that suits their business and personality. 

Plugins

Plugins are additions to WordPress that expand its basic capabilities to make your website more convenient for you and your visitors. You can think of them like the apps that enhance the principal functions of your mobile phone.

A screenshot of the WordPress plugin repository
WordPress plugin repository

Thousands of software developers make plugins for WordPress, creating elements like contact forms and social media share buttons, image galleries, and newsletter signups.

eCommerce

eCommerce systems, also called shopping cart plugins, are a special type of plugin that allows users to purchase goods from your website. This type of software makes it simple for your customers to select and pay for your products, and it also makes it easy for you to see what has been purchased and start filling the order.

Each theme and plugin is available to use on your website, many for free, but some “premium” options have an associated cost. By using WordPress, your website has almost unlimited potential for customization, meaning your website is ideal for your business and your visitors. Within the WordPress ecosystem, you have an astounding number of options at your fingertips.

Keeping the lights on

All of these elements combine to create your bespoke WordPress website. Part of my job is to wade through the dizzying array of themes and plugins to find the ones that will work best for your website. Then I develop the site using those themes and plugins, as well as my expertise in beautiful, functional website design.

But once I’ve created a website, someone has to care for it.

Each theme and plugin require maintenance to keep the lights on, sometimes daily. What’s more, each theme and plugin charge licensing fees to update its software. If you fall behind on website maintenance or forget a licensing payment, you’ll risk a slow, inoperative website.

Keep your website running smoothly

Updating your theme and plugin software whenever the updates are recommended helps it run better. Updates are often written because a glitch in the old code makes it run slower or less efficiently than it should. That’s a massive turn-off to customers who will immediately leave your site if it’s hampered by frustrating load times.

Keep your Google ranking

Updates also help your website rank higher in search algorithms. Search engines such as Google rank websites with more recent updates higher, so if your business relies on generating leads through SEO strategies or digital marketing, you’ll lose sales if you fail to update.

Keep your data safe

Developers also write plugin and theme updates to address security issues in the code. Hackers are constantly trying to breach your website’s security measures. In fact, there’s a Ransomware attack every 11 seconds. These hackers are not just targeting big businesses; they often prefer to go after smaller companies because they assume their security measures are less stringent. By updating your plugin and theme software every time it’s recommended, you’re helping keep your data and your customers’ data safe.

An infographic showing how many vulnerabilities were found in WordPress in 2021
Provided by Patchstack.com

Vigilant plugin and theme updates are essential to managing your WordPress website, and they are a never-ending task. They are like the tide: they come in, you address them, then they come in again. And like the tide, they are vital.

You can have the best of both worlds

It’s natural to ignore problems you don’t know how to solve. However, you can have the best of both worlds: you can ignore those update emails and still enjoy the benefits of a regularly-updated website by investing in a website care plan.

These services keep a constant watch over all your website’s security and performance updates, and they take care of the licensing fees to boot. You don’t have to wonder if your theme has been updated (it has been!) or whether your eCommerce plugin is up to date (it is!). There’s great comfort in knowing these tasks are in expert hands and great relief in knowing you don’t have to lift a finger.

There’s great comfort in knowing these tasks are in expert hands and great relief in knowing you don’t have to lift a finger.

Website care plans also look after hosting and give you daily data backups. They offer unlimited access to support and even deep-dives into web analytics, so you can see how your site is performing and get detailed reports about user behavior on your website.

So unless you enjoy performing software updates (you don’t!), you should consider a website care plan. Fill out this contact form, and we’ll schedule a call to talk about how care plans work and which might be right for you. 

When you invest in a website care plan, you get a polished, safe website and the peace of mind of knowing it will stay that way. I’ll update the software; you can get back to business.

About the Author

Kyle Van Deusen

Since 2003 I have helped businesses like yours increase their online presence through powerful websites that help you easily, effectively, and affordably grow your business.