The flowers are in bloom, pollen is in the air and allergy medication is flying off the shelves. You know what that means. It’s time for your WordPress website to be cleaned. Here are some ways that you can do easy maintenance on your WordPress website and keep it lean.
Websites are no longer static sheets of paper. They’re dynamic and they do get a little dusty and gather data that is not needed anymore. A key place you see the build up in in the database. This happens to the best of content management systems regardless of who built it.
Here’s what I mean. If you have a WordPress website, you may remember a day when your site was fast, lean and mean. Then, four years later, you’re caught wondering, “what happened?”
Well, the answer is the things that accumulate inside the data storage that makes your site work. For example, WordPress plugins that you’ve installed and used overtime that you don’t need anymore, or have outgrown, tend to leave behind a old data in the database. Even if you install a WordPress plugin and then deleted it completely, that doesn’t mean that the data in the database is gone.
WordPress website owners figure the easy solution is to install another WordPress plugin like WP Optimize, however that is just not enough. To really roll up your sleeves and dig in, here’s the place to look. The two tables that are always a problem children are the wp_postmeta table and the wp_postcomments tables.
Before doing anything with your database always make a back up of it because you’re basically doing brain surgery on your site. One little micro slip up and your site will forget what it’s name is. Or act like that one guy from the Hannibal Lecter movies after … well you remember the shallot scene.
In the phpMyadmin interface, click on the database your operating on and then click the SQL tab. Here’s where you’ll perform the surgery. Now if you’re looking for what to paste in the SQL tab, I’m not going to put that here but you can click this link and here to see an article on how to do this. As of writing this article, it seems to work, but check for what version of SQL you are running to find the correct the instructions. For the rest of this post I’m going to just share with you what the postmeta and comments tables are.
The postmeta and comments tables
The purpose of metadata is that it is a description about other data. More simply, an underlying definition or description of data. Metadata is created in WordPress dynamically, since it’s a CMS. If you want to read more about metadata, check out this link and yes, it’s a boring subject unless you like programming.
Wikipedia defines two types of metadata:
Structural metadata is about the design and specification of data structures and is more properly called “data about the containers of data”; descriptive metadata, on the other hand, is about individual instances of application data, the data content.
Post Meta stores information about posts like the attachments (images), custom fields from current and past themes, plugins, menu items, and post revisions. So if you have attributes about your post, such as a custom field to add an additional featured thumbnail, the data for it is stored here.
Over time the data can build to a silly amount and you’ll want to clean it, but don’t sweat the numbers too much. As a warning again, don’t try this if you are not familiar with SQL routines. If you would like to read about the database descriptions for WordPress head over to the WordPress Codex and read up. There’s a lot of good information there about WordPress and it’s database structure.
Tables that are plugin specific
There are some plugins, like sliders or forms, that create their own tables on the database. These can be spotted visually, but you should always check first before removing them. Tables that are created outside of WordPress framework have advantages and disadvantages. One disadvantage is that there is no support for them, unless you make it. So storing metadata in the postmeta table is preferred and just fine and it’s a approved practice. Unfortunately, oftentimes the plugin will leave behind this extra data, even after the plugin itself is removed. That’s why things linger.
In closing, if you’re wondering what SQL is then you probably should not be doing this. Not being mean, just want everyone to stay safe. Be sure to backup before you try any update or optimization. Or you can reach out to us here at Element 502, and we will take a look at your site and go from there.