March 14, 2017

WordPress beginner’s guide – Common mistakes that you might have made

WordPress is no doubt one of the most popular CMS (Content Management System) right now.  In fact, 27.6% of the web is using WordPress which is still by far the most used and the fastest growing CMS.  Each month, WordPress users produce nearly 77 million new blog posts and 40 million new comments!

For those who are new to WordPress and have a WordPress powered website or blog, here are some common WordPress beginner’s mistakes that you should avoid.

1. WordPress.com or self-hosted

wordpress.comWordPress.com is a service that hosts WordPress blogs, which is suitable for a personal blog with nothing advanced or for those who just wants something very simple and basic to test the waters.  You can easily start your own blog on WordPress.com without worrying about setting up anything.

On the other hand, a self-hosted WordPress website is for those who is determined to build a more complex website, e.g. a website for your business.  You have to go download WordPress files from WordPress.org and install it on your own server.  With a customizable WordPress theme and about 50 thousands plugins for you to play with, you can enjoy a highly functional website with total control.

It’s an easy mistake to make, but a WordPress.com website is not something you own or have control over and not a place to grow your business.

2. Always use a child theme

What are child themes?  When you buy a premium WordPress theme, either from Envato or any other smaller theme companies, you can use it as a parent theme which usually comes fully packaged with all of the premium shortcodes and functionality.  If you make updates to this theme, they will be overwritten when you upgrade and you will lose all your work.  If you’re using a child theme, only the parent theme will be overwritten while your child theme will remain untouched.

Very often, people who use a parent theme to build their website lose their website changes after they update their WordPress theme, but other times it may prevent you from updating and taking advantage of new features or security patches.  Creating a child theme enables you to fully customize your WordPress themes, without losing your hard work and any modifications you have made on the site when an update comes around.  You might think “Well, I will just not update my theme forever!” But the truth is no WordPress themes ever come completely bug-free.

An added bonus is that if you’re using your child theme to modify a plugin function (like hooking into Woocommerce), these changes will remain even if you change the parent theme and want to switch up your style.

3. Backup your website

Backing up your website consistently is an essential move; do it once every month at the very least.  You want to be ready for the worst case scenarios – when it’s so bad that you have to rebuild the entire WordPress website, having a backup will make your work ten times easier.

Creating a backup of your WordPress website is not extremely hard.  There are some plugins that backup both the database and files.  If you’re feeling confident, this can be a cheaper option, but be careful as these plugins have the ability to overwrite information on your server.  If in doubt, ask a professional; the hour of work they provide is far cheaper than rebuilding your entire website.

Another situation where you need to backup your WordPress website is when you’re going to update WordPress, any WordPress plugins, or your WordPress themes.  It’s not uncommon for updates to break your site or conflict with your other active plugins.

4. Setup permalinks to be search engine friendly

A permalink (or permanent link) is a URL that intends to stay the same permanently.  The permalink default on WordPress is “plain” (something like “http://echo5web.com/?p=123”) which tells search engines nothing about your web page and is hard for your website visitors to interpret.  Search engine friendly URLs are simple and contain relevant keywords.

You should change your permalink setting as soon as you finish installing your WordPress theme, to avoid causing invalid internal links when you change the setting after your made your web pages.  In your WordPress dashboard, go to Settings, and you’ll see “Permalinks.”

WordPress permalinks setting

“Post name” is usually what I recommend using because of its relevance and keywords on the web page.  However you can also use permalink structure tags to customize your pretty permalinks.

5. Uncheck “Discourage search engines from indexing this site”

On your WordPress dashboard -> Settings -> Reading, there is an option called “Search Engine Visibility”.

Search Engine Visibility on WordPress

Before your WordPress website is finished and ready to go, you should leave this checkbox checked, so that people won’t find your unfinished website when they’re googling.  And when you want to launch your website, don’t forget to come back here and uncheck this box!  Otherwise people won’t be able to find your awesome WordPress website in the search engine results.

6. Don’t install too many plugins on your website

There are so many magnificent WordPress plugins out there and I understand you want them all installed on your WordPress website.  But remember, less is almost always more!  Installing too many WordPress plugins on your website will not only slow down your website speed but also cause problems with conflicting plugins that are not compatible with one another.  Research your plugins before installing and choose wisely so that you can use the least amount of plugins possible.

When you no longer need a plugin, make sure to deactivate it and permanently delete it if it’s no longer needed.  Even inactive plugins can pose security risks.

7. Stop using huge images

I have seen so many websites using gigantic background images that take up to half a minute to finish loading.  Long loading time is really bad for the UX of your website and it will have a bad influence on your SEO.  For more tips to improve your website speed, you can also read this article.

When your website only needs a 800px wide image, you shouldn’t upload an image which is 3000px wide.  Use photo editing tools, such as Photoshop, to lower down your image quality properly.  I’m not saying that you should make your images blurry, but you can reduce the quality to a level that is not noticeable to the eye.  If it’s being used as a background image with an overlay, take advantage of the fact that it’s not the main focal point.

Take a look at these two photos below.  Can you tell which is the larger version?

Properly lower down image quality

The photo on the left is actually high-res quality and its file size is almost 900KB larger than the right.

WordPress is already relatively heavier than other websites built under other frameworks.  You should always strive to keep your WordPress website as light weight as possible.  This simple trick is so effective and arguably the fastest way to make your site faster, but this still gets overlooked all too often.

8. Choose a reliable hosting company and the right plan

If you decide to go with self-hosted WordPress website, choosing a poor website hosting company can spoil all the effort you have made.  Don’t just go with the first one you see or the cheapest option you find, think about what you need for your website and how big of the website traffic are you expecting.  For example, if you’re building a big website with very high volume, you will not want a shared server.  (But of course you can start from having a shared server and upgrade it in the future as your business grows.)  After an honest self-evaluation, go investigate on the reviews, reliability, uptime guarantees of the hosting companies on your list.  You don’t want to put your website on a server that crushes 3 times a week, even if it’s cheapest option.

WP Engine WP Engine is one of the best hosting service companies and it’s the one we usually recommend to people.  They’re very stable and have less website down time with dedicated support.  What else can you ask for?

Conclusion

If you didn’t make any of these common WordPress beginner’s mistakes, congratulations!  Keep farming your website content to improve your SEO.  If you did make some of these mistakes, go fix it and let us know if it helped.  We also offer a one hour free consultation for your WordPress website project, so don’t be shy to ask!