I routinely get rid of plugins and themes I’m not using. At this point I only use GeneratePress, so dealing with themes is as simple as not doing anything, I just have one theme and it updates itself.
If you have found one theme you like working with, get rid of the rest. Including the WordPress default themes. If you are not using them, don’t keep them hanging around asking to be updated for no reason. If you ever do want to go back to one of them, or use it to test your site, you can just download one again. I did this when I had an error and wanted to be sure it was nothing to do with my theme. It wasn’t.
Don’t keep plugins around for cosmetic reasons, in case you decide to use it later, or give it another try. Even dormant, deactivated plugins can cause errors on your site. Just make a note of the plugin name (or have a test site you can leave stuff like extra plugins) and delete it from your working/ active site.
If you have any plugins which are not automatically updated, get the newest file and update them. I have some plugins which I did not get through the WordPress plugin directory, some of those need to be manually updated. Plugins I like using with ClassicPress I update from files on GitHub. Plugins I have paid for I download from the developer’s site.
Most of the steps to clean up your site are simple. Get rid of the unnecessary clutter like:
- old post revisions
- tags you don’t use (or merge them with tags you make more use of)
- pages no longer used (some may have been created by plugins)
- comment spam you’ve been ignoring
- user profiles which aren’t in use (update your own)
- broken links in posts, resource lists, or bookmarks
- image and media files not attached to anything (or not being used as headers, banners, etc.).
- generic/default content from the theme you are using
- plugins and themes (as I wrote above)
You can also clean up your database. Some plugins which tackle this also go through old post revisions and comment spam. Read the instructions and always backup your site before using a plugin to clean it. It is so much easier to delete the backup file you don’t need than to regret not having one while fixing the damage later. If in doubt, talk to your web host. See what they recommend.
The Broken Link Checker plugin does a really great job of finding broken links (including broken image file links) and helping you fix them.
Cleaning Up Posts
Cleaning up posts is a much bigger job to tackle. It will help if you have already done all the other cleaning first. That will help you find broken things and fix them or choose not to keep them. So some of your post clean up is already done.
My site isn’t for business, commercial or marketing so I don’t need to focus on a big post clean up to impress Google, or any other service. I clean up posts for human readers. I don’t mind to keep old posts around. Even the outdated content is an archive of things I have seen and done.
I am going through and updating links, or unlinking the original site if I can’t find another option. It’s fun and sad to see which sites I remember and which are still online. I get sidetracked trying to find people who used to run the sites and see what they are doing now.
I do have broken image files, a lot of them. I moved and merged my sites together. I’ve been slowly cleaning up which means finding old images on my hard drive or making new images to replace those I can’t find. I’m far from done. If you have moved things around chances are you have a trail of broken links and images too.
Also, posts I planned to write but have left as draft or pending posts. After sitting in pending awhile the original post you had linked to or gotten the idea from may be gone. Or, the idea has lost its importance, relevance, or inspiration for you. If you haven’t published something in there after a year you have moved on from it or have plenty of other fresher content and ideas to keep you busy.
This is a list online, no doubt there are others. I’d add to the point about similar content and say that you could link all the related posts instead of merging or out right deleting them. Turn them into a series of posts with an index linking all the relevant posts at the bottom (or top) of each post.
- Content that is out of date or irrelevant now and needs to be deleted.
- Information that needs to be updated (in particular, check your About and Contact pages).
- Poor-quality content that’s better off removed or replaced.
- Content that is too similar (for instance, if you have two posts on identical subjects, you may want to only keep the best one).
Celebrate the end of the clean up, especially if you had a lot of clean up to do.
Keep the clean up in mind as you publish and maintain your site. Not everything has to wait for a once a year cleaning. Maintain as you go along.