What version of WordPress does your website run? As the world’s most popular content management system (CMS), developers are constantly releasing new versions of WordPress on a regular basis. According to the official release changelog, 19 new versions of WordPress were released last year. With updates occurring on such a frequent basis, you may assume that it’s okay to run an outdated version on your website. By running the latest version of WordPress, however, your website will benefit in the following ways.
Running the latest version of WordPress ensures you have access to the CMS’s latest features. Developers often introduce new features in updates. While some of these features are minor, others can drastically change the CMS’s functionality and usability.
WordPress 5.0, for instance, introduced the Gutenberg editor, which is now the CMS’s default text editor. It replaces WordPress’s old TinyMCE editor with a new block-oriented editor. Using Gutenberg, you can drag and drop blocks of content to different areas of your posts and pages.
In WordPress 5.3, developers introduced automatic image rotation. This newly added feature automatically rotates your embedded images based on their orientation data to ensure they display properly. If your website runs an older version of WordPress, you won’t have access to features such as these.
Protection Against Cyber Attacks
Your website will be better protected against cyber attacks if it runs the latest version of WordPress. According to Sucuri’s Website Threat Research Report, a study of over 34,000 hacking incidents, nearly four in 10 hacked WordPress websites were running an old version of the CMS when the incident occurred.
Old versions of WordPress contain vulnerabilities that, when exploited, can lead to intrusion or other types of cyber attacks. When developers discover a vulnerability in WordPress’s core files, they fix it by releasing a new version. Whether it’s cross-site scripting (XSS), SQL injections or brute force attacks, vulnerabilities are patched in new versions. As a result, updating your website to the latest version of WordPress offers maximum protection against cyber attacks.
You might be surprised to learn that running the latest version of WordPress can improve your website’s performance. With nearly a half-million lines of code in its core files, WordPress is highly complex. While it’s already heavily optimized to load quickly, though, developers are still working to tweak its performance. They scrutinize the CMS’s code while searching for ways to make it faster and easier to use. After improving its code, developers release a new version of WordPress to reflect the change.
For faster load times and better performance, your website needs to run the latest version of WordPress. Old versions are less optimized, with many of them suffering from serious bugs that contribute to slow speeds and poor performance. By running the latest version of WordPress, your website will have clean and well-optimized code that’s reflected upon its performance.
WordPress is naturally search engine optimization (SEO) friendly. If it wasn’t, you wouldn’t see so many WordPress websites ranking at the top of Google and Bing. With that said, old versions of the CMS contain cluttered code that’s more difficult for search engines to read.
For search engines to rank your website, they need to crawl it. Using an old version of WordPress makes it difficult for search engines to crawl. As they stumble upon its cluttered and outdated code, search engines will spend less time on your website, which could harm its rankings.
Another reason to run the latest version is for plugin compatibility. Plugins offer a simple way to enhance your website with new features. Rather than coding a feature directly into your site’s theme, for example, you can install a plugin. Maybe you want to add a newsletter, or perhaps you want to display social media buttons at the bottom of your posts. Regardless, plugins can quickly enhance your website with new features.
Unfortunately, plugins aren’t universally compatible with all versions of WordPress. Developers typically design them for the latest version. If you try to install a new plugin while running an old version of WordPress, it may not work. The plugin may simply fail to perform the job for which it was designed, or it may break completely break your website.
If you’re thinking about changing your website’s theme, you should update your site to the latest version of WordPress. Like plugins, many themes aren’t compatible with old versions of WordPress. A theme may function flawlessly on the latest version, but when installed on an outdated version of WordPress, it may fail to load.
Most developers will continue to update their themes so that they are compatible with the latest version of WordPress. When a new version of WordPress is released that breaks a theme’s functionality, the developer will follow suit by releasing a new version of his or her theme. Developers, however, typically won’t update their themes to make them compatible with old versions of WordPress.
How to Update WordPress to the Latest Version
Before attempting to update WordPress to the latest version, you should create a complete backup of your website. Hopefully, you won’t need to use it, but if the update breaks your website, you can revert to the old version of WordPress while you troubleshoot the conflict. You can create a backup manually by copying your site’s static files and its database, or you can create a backup automatically using a plugin.
After creating a backup, log in to your website’s admin panel and select the “update now” link at the top. WordPress will then update itself to the latest version. When finished, visit your website in a new browser tab to ensure it displays and functions properly.
Unless there’s a compatibility issue, running an outdated version of WordPress shouldn’t break your website. Millions of websites run an old version without experiencing any problems. But to take full advantage of WordPress’s power, including its plethora of features and strong protection against cyber attacks, you need to use the latest version.
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