When it comes to security for your website and making sure you are using the latest features of your real estate plugins, you have to regularly update WordPress core, themes, and plugins.
But these updates can take a long time and you have to remember how to do it. Let’s show you how to turn on automatic updates for WordPress.
In this article, I’ll show you:
- How to automatically update your WordPress plugins using new features in WordPress
- How to automatically update your WordPress website using a premium website security plugin
- How to update WordPress, plugins, and your theme manually
- What to know and ask before turning on automatic upgrades and updates for WordPress
This will work with any IDX WordPress plugin and any Realtor website built on WordPress.
How to know updates are available for your WordPress plugins
You can easily tell if updates are available when logging into your WordPress admin dashboard. It shows you this in multiple places.
If plugin updates are available, there will
- Be a small red circle on the left under “home”
- Be a small red circle on the left menu next to “Plugins”.
Both of these are easy ways to see if there are updates to install. You used to have to do this manually but keep reading and I’ll show you how to automatically update some or all of your plugins in the future.
Note a small percentage of Premium updates do not display updates this way, nor do they update like regular plugins. When you install a premium (paid) plugin, make sure you read about updates. I use several premium WordPress plugins on my personal site that send me an email when a new version is available and I have to upload a new plugin file manually.
Showcase IDX uses the built-in WordPress update technology to make it easy for you to stay up to date. If an update is available for Showcase IDX, the red notification bubble (shown in the examples above) will display.
You can also filter your plugins to see only those that have updates available.
Click into Plugins, and you can easy filter your plugins by just those that have updates available. Simply click “Update Available” to see a list of those plugins that updates are available on.
How to know if your WordPress core or theme needs updating?
The “Updates” submenu that will appear under home will display if WordPress itself needs to be updated and sometimes if your theme needs to be updated.
Premium WordPress themes are each different though in how they communicate if updates are available. For several of the websites I manage, I have to click into the settings for the theme within the WordPress admin dashboard, and there will be a a notification. In one, it is under it’s own settings submenu for updates, and in another, it is under the general settings at the bottom.
If you use a premium WordPress firewall for added security, it will both consolidate an update notifications for you and can even send you an email or slack message if updates are available.
Here is a screenshot of what that looks like in WebARX. I use WebARX not only for its security but also because it gives me one single place to login to see if all of my WordPress sites are up to date or have any security alerts.
How to Enable Automatic Updates for WordPress Plugins
After installing a plugin, you need to visit Plugins (under the left WordPress dashboard menu) to configure plugin settings. You can select “Enable auto-updates” for each plugin. After clicking this option, it will enable and save your settings.
You can always visit your WordPress plugin settings to see the status of auto-updates for each plugin. Keep reading to learn what questions to ask before deciding to turn on auto-updates for specific plugins.
Using an external service to update your WordPress plugins, theme, and core
Keeping plugins, themes, and WordPress itself up to date is key to keeping your website secure.
All software has bugs and vulnerabilities. In fact, many of the updates you receive for your Apple phone, Android device, Apple or Microsoft powered laptop are a result of the company proactively making updates to potential vulnerabilities.
Because keeping your website software up to date is critical for security and many people miss this web maintenance practice for a WordPress website, many premium WordPress security tools offer this as a features.
Here is what that looks like within WebARX. Notice that I do not have this turned on though, as I am shifting to use this new functionality within WordPress itself.
History of automatic updates in WordPress
In WordPress, there are four types of automatic background updates:
- Core updates
- Plugin updates
- Theme updates
- Translation file updates
Core updates are divided into three sub-typologies:
- Core development (only available for development installations)
- Minor core updates (maintenance and security) – enabled by default in stable installations
- Major core updates
WordPress introduced “updates while you sleep” automatic updates feature in WordPress 3.7 (October 24, 2013). This allowed WordPress to automatically install a new minor release to Core updates to improve your website security.
Since 2013, there has been code within WordPress to update when new minor Core versions became available, but few website owners used them because it required an API filter hook and an external plugin.
In February 2020, WordPress released a feature plugin to test the user interface for enabling auto-updates within your main WP dashboard. More than 1,000 websites tested the plugin and they learned a lot. After a few tweaks and some additional work by the #core-auto-updates team…
WordPress first included the ability to auto-update WordPress plugins, themes, and the WP core, in WordPress version 5.5 that came out in July 2020.
Why to consider updating most plugins manually
The auto-updating functionality is a wonderful feature for many users and can save a lot of time and work.
But even though most updates are really safe, you should ask yourself if it is always a good idea to enable them for all plugins and themes.
I’ve personally had websites crash dozens of times from updating a plugin, theme, and even when updating WordPress itself. While there are some plugins that I have high trust for and enable auto-updates on, I keep it turned off for many and login at least once a week to look for updates.
This lets me focus on the update, read release notes, and decide if I want to update the plugin or wait for another version (or two….or five).
The plugins I generally recommend turning on automatic updates for include 1) a high-quality, trusted SEO plugin 2) the IDX that is powering the home search and MLS listings on the website 3) plugins from other trusted companies.
WordPress’s automatic updates are a great feature that will save you a ton of time and work in the coming years. It will also save you from multiple website attacks by plugging security vulnerabilities as soon as they are discovered.
The question is: Would you enable updates for all things? Let me know in the comments below.
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