Top 5 Tips to Get the Most From Your WordPress Website
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If you’ve got a WordPress website, you’re probably aware of all the added functionality available with plugins and how easy it can be to update your website content, or post a blog. What you may not be aware of, are some simple things you can do with your site to get the most out of the content management system (CMS).
#1 Secure Your Site
Because of it’s popularity, WordPress is a target for hackers. This is fairly well known. It’s probably because hacker types seem to like to cause as much mayhem as possible that they go after the CMS that has 60 million+ installs (source). Besides really basic stuff like creating a difficult user name (please don’t ever use Admin, Administrator, Webmaster, or anything like that) and an even more difficult password, there is another easy thing you can do. You know how you have to have anti-virus and malware software for your PC? Installing a security plugin for your WordPress site is about the same thing. You’re trying to keep nefarious parties out and have an alert system (and a way to clean it up) if anything funky starts to go down.
When we create WordPress sites for our clients, we use two key plugins for this:
WordFence is a good all around security plugin. It gives you the ability to set alerts, adjust login security, block IP address, and scan your site, among other things. It also has a pretty solid caching system that can help speed up your site (more about site speed in tip #3). When set up properly, and when the site owner stays on top of WordPress core and plugin updates, this plugin usually does its job to keep hackers from accessing your site. There is also a paid option that will enable a couple other features, such as country blocking if you’re having a particularly hard time with hack attempts.
The second plugin is a malware scanner but can also sniff out exploited and hacked files – and usually fix them. While I’ve personally seen (and fixed) some pretty bad WordPress hack jobs that took a lot more than a site scan to fix, this one plugin often fixes over half of them and helps with 99% of them. Running the scan once a month is a good practice. If it finds something, check the box to have the plugin fix what it can. If that doesn’t do it, it’s time to enlist the help of a professional to get your site back and running the way it should.
Good security is critical to getting the most out of your WordPress site. If your site is vulnerable, or gets hacked/infected with malware, that will not do your business any good.
#2 Back Up Your Site
This is just one of those “best practice” type of things. In the off chance your site is hacked, or you get the dreaded, “white screen of death” after installing or updating a plugin, having a complete backup of your site can really bail you out. There are a number of ways to do this from super technical (downloading all site files via FTP, then log into your control panel to export a copy of your database via phpMyAdmin … and if you have no idea what that means, go with the plugin option) to pretty automated (installing a plugin, such as UpDraftPlus, that backs up a copy of all your files and database to your hosting server, or a third party location such as Dropbox). Whichever method you choose, make sure all files as well as the database are included in the backup.
#3 Speed Up Your Site
Having your website pages load quickly is a good idea not only for human visitors to the site, but also for the Google Bot. Google likes fast sites and it is a ranking factor for search engine optimization (SEO). If you’ve got a good web host, that’s step one (we recommend Media Temple for WordPress hosting). If you consistently notice your website down, or moving at a snail’s pace, your hosting may be the number one culprit (hacked files/malware, bloated code, poorly made themes, or too many plugins may also be culprits).
A few things that can speed up your WordPress site are:
- If you’ve installed WordFence for your site security, consider going to the Performance Options and enabling either Basic caching, or Falcon Engine caching. Cashing simply means that your website pages are stored and then served to your site visitor. This reduces the load on the processing server.
- Make sure to optimize any images before you upload them to your WordPress site (try a service such as, optimizilla.com).
- Minimize Plugins. The ease of finding and installing plugins is a great temptation, but one to be resisted. Every plugin you install adds more files and usually more load time to your pages. If in doubt, ask a professional developer who works with WordPress sites.
- Is your theme optimized? Not all themes are created equal! In fact, there’s some really bloated ones out there that include everything but the kitchen sink (most of which you won’t use or will find difficult to use). This is one reason why we always recommend hiring a pro to create a custom design for your business, then code a custom WordPress theme.
And a few extras for more advanced users:
- Keep your databased optimized. Over time, databases can get a little messy after you’ve installed/uninstalled plugins, made post revisions, etc. One of the plugins we use every few months is WP Optimize. Whatever you do, read the instructions carefully and make sure your site is backed up before you start optimizing.
- Read through WordPress’ own tips on optimization.
If you want to test how your WordPress website is doing on the speed front, check out Google’s PageSpeed Insights.
#4 SEO and Content Marketing
Since Content Marketing is most definitely a part of SEO now, I’ve combined the two into one tip. While this won’t replace the services of an experienced SEO rockstar or online marketer, it will get you moving in the right direction with a solid foundation for long-term success.
The core of WordPress has a nice little feature where every time you make a new page or post, it sends a notification out that basically tells search engines, “Hey, come over to my site and index the new stuff”. That’s set up by default, but what’s not set up by default is SEO friendly links. If you haven’t already, you’ll want to go to Settings > Permalinks, choose Custom Structure, and paste /%postname%/ into the field. WordPress will now make the links on your site match the titles of your pages and posts (unless you tell it differently on each individual page/post).
For the rest, we’re going to utilize another plugin, All In One SEO. What we like most about this plugin is it’s not bloated with difficult (and easy to screw up) settings. It’s pretty straight forward, actually. Once you install it, you can customize the settings to your liking, but even just out of the box it will provide you with a way to add SEO titles and description tags to each of your pages and blog posts. You can also create a Google XML sitemap by going into All In One SEO > Feature Manager > and then activating the Google XML Sitemaps feature. Other useful features are the Social Meta and Robots.txt. If you’re not familiar with the those, just read through the plugin documentation or click on the help links within the plugin itself.
Don’t forget to add your Google Analytics or other tracking code to your site as well.
For content marketing, WordPress is very user-friendly. By posting blogs regularly (and consistently), you’ll definitely be making the most of your WordPress site. WordPress’ ability to create pages on the fly also enables an easy way to create specific landing pages for any online marketing or campaigns you are running.
Take advantage of WordPress’ scheduling feature as well. You can load up a number of blogs and schedule them to post while you’re off doing other important things, like running your business.
#5 Use It
It seems a bit silly to make this one of the top tips, but you would be surprised how many business clients we’ve worked with who demanded to use WordPress as their CMS and then promptly did nothing with it. Nothing is sadder (well, at least in the realm of websites) than a WordPress site that has been neglected by the business owner. I once had to fix a site where the owner admitted they hadn’t logged in to in two years. TWO YEARS! That’s like, an eternity in web time. If you’ve got a WordPress site, use it. That’s what content management systems are for, after all – easy updating and adding of content.
WordPress is a great, stable, and well supported framework that can grow and expand with your business. Just make sure it’s well suited to your business and your goals and if you don’t have the time to maintain and update it, hire a professional who will make sure you’re getting the most from your WordPress website.
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