Building a website with WordPress is a safe option. There are plenty of tutorials, millions have done it before, and it’s easy to use for creating and managing a website. Simplicity also has its downfall: novices are so comfortable that the WordPress system is doing the right thing they forget to take steps to improve their website.
Here are 8 mistakes you shouldn’t make and what to do instead:
- Using default permalink setting
All too often we see websites with the default permalink set up: www.mywebsite.com/?p=123/. It’s bad for SEO and it’s bad for user experience. Go to Settings » Permalinks to change the format. Generally the post name is the most accepted structure, though having the date doesn’t hurt.
- Not backing up your site
Bad things happen. Websites crash, they get hacked, and coding errors are made. You don’t have to learn this the hard way. Losing data – especially as your website grows – is difficult and expensive to deal with when you’re unprepared. You can export directly from WordPress or you can use an automatic back up plugin like WP-DB-Backup.
- Using free or unreliable themes and plugins
There are thousands of free themes and WordPress plugins available for users and many of them do make life easier. However, many free or plugins have errors in them that can result in site crashes, or even worse, contain malicious code that will allow hackers access to your site. Save yourself the stress and hire a professional to get something unique or buy a premium WordPress theme. For plugins make sure that you do your due diligence before uploading.
- Failing to use a responsive site
Everyone has a smartphone or tablet and they are more likely to access your website using one of them than a desktop or laptop computer. Mobile-friendly sites are the only way to go if you want to keep users on your page. There are two ways to do this: One, use a plugin or theme that is responsive. That means the page size adapts to the screen it’s being viewed on. Alternatively, some sites choose to create a mobile version of their site which is specifically built for use on mobile devices.
- Forgetting to use a cache plugin
This is a big one and a lot of website neophytes can’t always wrap their heads around it. Caching increases the efficiency of your website by creating static HTML pages that shown to your visitors rather than loading PHP files one by one. This will increase your page speed, which has an effect on Google rankings. Try WP Super Cache or W3 Total Cache and add a Content Delivery Network (CDN) for optimum results.
- Not updating WordPress and other plugins
Since the dawn of WordPress there have been about 20 updates. Many people’s fear is that updating WordPress will result in a loss of their modifications. What’s worse is opening your site up to security issues. When an update is released it is generally to fix vulnerabilities or improve the experience. Back up your files and hit update when it arises.
- Not having a XML Sitemap
Not using a sitemap is like trying to find the tenth chapter of a book that has 1000 pages in it. The sitemap helps Google crawl your site to index pages by providing a breakdown of the page and a ping when the content changes. The XML sitemap includes all the pages on your site that you want Google to index. There are plugins or it can be custom built for your site.
- Changing URLs without redirecting them
You can’t just go changing URLs all willy-nilly. This can result in a lot of 404 errors, which doesn’t necessarily affect your SEO, but it does negatively impact the user experience. If you want to change your URL (such as moving to self-hosted WordPress) be sure to perform a 301 redirection. If you’re just changing permalinks, use the .htaccess file to ensure that the old links know what the new ones look like so WordPress will do it automatically.