WordPress is an immensely powerful blogging and website platform, and it’s become incredibly popular. In fact, WordPress now powers 39% of all websites on the internet.
WordPress’s popularity can be attributed to several different factors, including cost (free) and ease of setting it up. Most web hosts make it simple to get your website running on WordPress. There are, however, some important steps to carry out as soon as possible and some elementary mistakes to avoid once WordPress has been installed. This is by no means a complete guide but it includes a number of useful tips to help make your WordPress site as effective as possible.
1. Choose the Right Web Host
Ok, so this first tip actually should be done before installing WordPress, but I’m mentioning it here because it is very important as part of the foundation for your website.
There are many different hosts out there, and we recommend two in particular: Bluehost and WP Engine. Vandelay Design has been hosted with WP Engine for several years, and we’ve also used Bluehost extensively for other projects and some client websites.
We recommend these two hosts for different reasons and in different situations. Bluehost is an excellent option if you’re looking for low-cost hosting. Their prices are among the lowest in the industry. Despite the low price, Bluehost also offers 24/7 customer service for qualified and helpful support reps. If you’re looking to keep costs to a minimum, Bluehost is our top recommendation.
WP Engine offers high-quality managed WordPress hosting. This is a better option for businesses and websites that have higher traffic and are able to spend a little more on hosting. WP Engine’s prices are still very reasonable, but they’re not in the same class with discount hosting providers.
We recommend that you choose one of these two hosts for your WordPress-based website. WP Engine works exclusively with WordPress and Bluehost also offers specific WordPress hosting plans.
2. Set Your Permalink Structure
A common critique of WordPress is that its default URL structure for posts is quite weak, with each post being given a page ID such as “http://site.com/?p=123”. This can give a bad impression if it is linked to from another site as it doesn’t give a good idea of what a user can expect to find and in some situations could look spammy.
To remedy this in the WordPress dashboard, go to Settings, then Permalinks and you will find the default settings. Change this to Post Name – the second to last option on the page and you will achieve a much cleaner and more user-friendly URL.
Ideally, this should be done as soon as you install WordPress, before any posts or pages are published.
3. Install an Anti-Spam Plugin
One of the problems with using a blogging engine that allows users to leave comments is all the spam comments that you’ll receive. Unfortunately, bots are used to leave spam comments with links inserted.
Fortunately, you can use an anti-spam plugin to combat this. With the help of a plugin, 99% of spam comments will be flagged automatically, so you won’t need to do anything to prevent them from appearing on your site.
4. Have a Plan for Backups
WordPress is popular because it’s easy to download and anyone can perform this task with the most basic of knowledge. However, inexperienced users can make the most elementary of mistakes and it’s very easy to neglect a proper backup file.
Hopefully, you’ll never need the backup, but it’s best to be prepared. In case of a user error, a hosting issue, or a hack, you may need a backup to restore your website at some point. You certainly don’t want to lose your site after investing a lot of time, effort, and money.
There are several different WordPress backup plugins that we’ve covered. However, one of the perks of hosting your site with WP Engine is the fact that they’ll handle backups for you. If you ever need to have your site restored from a backup, simply reach out to their support team for assistance.
If you’re not hosting your site with WP Engine, we recommend using a plugin like UpDraft Plus for regular backups.
5. Pick a Quality Theme
Another aspect of the WordPress success story lies in the huge choice of themes (templates) that you can utilize for your site. The wide choice can lead to confusion and selecting the wrong theme may also dissuade potential visitors from spending too much time on your site.
An easy mistake is to use a free WordPress theme that links through to very untrustworthy sites that you would not want to be associated with. To avoid this, the link can either be removed by editing the theme or by finding a theme that does not contain any external links. Some themes with links may be encrypted ensuring the links cannot be removed without breaking the theme.
We recommend purchases a license for a premium theme. The cost is very reasonable (less than $100) and there are several important benefits:
- Your website will have a more professional look
- You won’t have to worry about hidden links or malware in the theme’s code
- You’ll benefit from professional support from the theme’s developer
- Your site is likely to load faster and function better, thanks to quality coding
There are thousands of themes out there to choose from, but our top recommendations are Divi and Extra from Elegant Themes. Both of these themes look great and offer endless customization options. You can use the drag-and-drop building to customize the look of your site without touching any of the code. Additionally, Elegant Themes provides the best customer service in the industry.
6. Install an SEO Plugin
There are a number of different plugins that you can use for search engine optimization. Yoast SEO is probably the most popular. This allows you to set up a custom Page Title and Post Title format which can also be edited for individual post or page. Meta descriptions for pages and posts can also be edited and categories and tags which can be considered duplicate content by search engine can be no-indexed.
Yoast has written a great companion piece that covers pretty much all the SEO you will need for a WordPress site that is updated with each iteration of his SEO plugin and it is well worth a read.
Aside from Yoast SEO, RathMath is another outstanding option.
7. Set Up Analytics
Having some form of analytics on your site is a must. While there are several different options for analytics, Google Analytics is extremely powerful, free, and simple to set up. Some themes will include an option to insert the tracking ID and will do the rest for you. If your theme does not offer this, you can use a plugin to add the tracking code to your website.
Using a plugin is the preferable method as it ensures that any theme change or edits will not leave any gaps in analytics data. I would suggest the Analytics Plugin from MonsterInsights.
You should now be well prepared for running a WordPress site. If you have any other essential tips or plugins for running a WordPress site please let us know in the comments.