Do you want your WordPress website to be more secure and faster? If so, you must update the WordPress software itself, all the plugins, the theme, and PHP. PHP is what powers WordPress websites, yet many people forget to upgrade it. PHP is a server-based scripting language used to develop Web applications, Dynamic websites, and static Websites.
When your website is running on outdated PHP, you’ll experience many problems, just like in the case of using outdated plugins or themes.
Here, we are looking at the importance of PHP for WordPress and how you can upgrade to the most significant and latest version to breathe new life into your website.
Why should you upgrade your WordPress website’s PHP?
As you use your WordPress website, PHP runs in the background to support whatever you are doing. There are various PHP versions that power WordPress. Your hosting provider must have one of these versions on their server.
You can as well choose whichever PHP version you like and install it on your website. There are four main reasons why your website should be running on the latest PHP version.
1. Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
By updating PHP, your website’s Search Engine Optimization (SEO) will be significantly improved. Win ah improved SEO, and your website will rank higher in search engines. In essence, running on an updated PHP will increase traffic to your site and boost conversion.
2. Improved performance
As you use your website, it will get slower with time. This can be attributed to outdated themes, plugins, WordPress software, and PHP, among others. Updating PHP alone will increase your website speed by up to 400%.
When you have faster loading and navigation speed, the user experience will be enhanced. Often, many people have lost potential clients just because of low website speed.
It would be best if you made it easy for your potential clients to navigate your website, sign up for your newsletter/mailing list, comment on your blog posts, or place orders. Your page loading time is also crucial for Google ranking. Remember that pages that load faster rank higher in Google search.
3. Updated security features
Hackers never sleep, not literally, of course, but they work around the clock to devise new ways of attacking websites. On the other hand, web developers are also equally working hard to outsmart hackers. That’s why new security fixes and features are released once in a while to counter the hackers.
Your website will be safer if you upgrade your PHP because it will have the most recent security features. Running on outdated PHP makes your site vulnerable to hackers, malware, viruses, and such digital threats.
4. Compatibility issues
WordPress releases updates from time to time. Themes and plugins are also updated regularly to ensure they are compatible with the updated WordPress software. This is also the case with PHP.
As PHP gets upgraded, the outdated themes and plugins may no longer be compatible with it. Likewise, if you update only your themes and plugins but ignore the PHP, you also have compatibility problems. This means you should always have your website running on the most recent themes, plugins, and PHP for them to be compatible with each other.
What to do Before Updating PHP WordPress?
While upgrading PHP is a simple and straight forward process, you never know what issues you may encounter along the way. So why take chances? Better take precautions to ensure you have a stress-free and safe migration.
# Here are the things you need to do before migrating to a new PHP:
1. Backup your website
Backing up your website will provide you with peace of mind. At least you’ll know that, should something go amiss, you’ll have something to lean on. So, before you do anything else, take time to back up your website.
2. Update all plugin and themes
If your website has third-party plugins and themes, you can’t be sure they’ll work with all versions of PHP. You’ll notice that after the upgrade, some of your plugins may stop working.
However, suppose your website has only the popular plugins or themes that get updated regularly. In that case, you may not have to worry about compatibility issues. To reduce the chances of your themes or plugins failing to work, ensure they are up-to-date.
Visit your dashboard, then navigate to Updates and click it. You’ll be able to see all plugins plus the available updates. You can update all of them at once. Also, check whether your version of WordPress is the most recent. If there’s a new version of WordPress, install it before you leave the dashboard.
3. Check the Compatibility of the PHP
Now that you’ve updated your WordPress software and all the plugins and themes, the next step is to check the PHP compatibility issues. Test each plugin and theme again the available PHP versions. There’s a compatibility checker that you can use for free using the following steps:
- While on the dashboard, click Plugins, then click Add New.
- Look for the PHP Compatibility Checker
- When your plugin of choice appears, install it, then activate.
- On the menu on your left-hand side, click Tools, then PHP Compatibility.
- You’ll be presented with a list of PHP versions. Choose the one you want to upgrade to (the most up-to-date version).
- You’ll be presented with two options: to scan all themes and plugins or to only scan the active themes and plugins. Choose whichever option you like, then click Scan Site.
The PHP Compatibility Checker will scan according to your choice. If it identifies some incompatible plugins or themes, then you’ll have to look for other plugins or themes. Keep testing until you get the right plugins and themes. Alternatively, you can contact the developer and request an update of the support for their PHP.
Updating Your Site’s PHP
The hosting companies set PHPs at their servers. This means the process of updating your PHP will depend on your hosting provider. If you aren’t sure about the procedure for updating your site PHP, check your hosting company’s website, help manual, or documentation for instructions.
You can also update PHP version WordPress by booting up the search engine then looking for “Update WordPress PHP” together with your hosting company’s name. Another way of updating your website’s PHP is to contact your hosting company to correct it directly. They should be able to help.
If you have access to the cPanel, you can also upgrade your website’s PHP through this route. Log in to the cPanel, then search for the tab written: “Select PHP Version.” Click on that tab. You’ll be taken to a page with a list of all the available PHP versions, including the version you are currently using. Select the latest PHP version on the list, then click “Set as Current,” and you are done. Just as simple as that.
Suppose you had never updated your website’s PHP before. In that case, you might think doing this is a time-consuming and complicated process. Although this process varies from one provider to the next, you’ll realize that it isn’t as difficult as you might think.
You are still wondering how to update PHP in WordPress? The good news is that some companies offer managed WordPress services that you can use to easily and quickly update your website’s PHP to the latest version.
Check Your Website
After you update PHP WordPress, you need to confirm whether or not it is working correctly. It will take about 20 minutes before the changes you made come into effect. But if your website has many visitors, it may take several hours for the changes to take effect. So you need to give your website time before your check. If you are patient enough, give your site up to 24 hours.
If you followed the steps discussed above, your site shouldn’t have any problems. But in case you notice a problem, there might be some problems with your theme or plugins. To identify the cause of the problem, go to your dashboard, then change your theme to a default theme such as “Twenty Seventeen.”
Next, disable all the plugins. You can then enable the themes and the plugins one by one, testing each time to find out if the website is now working correctly.
At the end of this exercise, you should be able to identify the culprit. Whether it is a theme or a plugin causing the problem, you can disable/uninstall it and then install a new one that’s compatible with your website’s PHP.
Up to 40% of website visitors will bounce if the website can’t load in less than three seconds. This means you’ll be losing your potential customers to your competitors. Websites get slower when they run on outdated software. So you should try as much as possible to ensure your website is always up-to-date in terms of the theme, plugins, and PHP.
If you find it difficult to upgrade these parameters or don’t have time to do so, you can hire an expert. This way, your website will be taken care of as you concentrate on your business’s core activities.