Web design is getting much more advanced, with so many more bells and whistles available now than there were several years ago. Because of this, it is all too easy to forget the basic tips for online success, especially the fundamentals within WordPress. Sure, the type of content you publish, the layout, and the aesthetics are important, but everything begins and ends with your WordPress setup.
If you make mistakes setting up WordPress, your hard work elsewhere might as well get thrown out the window. With that in mind, here are five biggest WordPress mistakes that I hope you aren’t making. If you are, you should fix them ASAP!
Forgetting about page load times
As basic as this might seem, I can point to at least several dozen Web pages that take so long to load that they probably see very little steady traffic, and just have a ton of bounces on their analytics. Webmasters often don’t even realize it’s a problem until after the fact, so it is definitely something you should look out for. If you choose a WordPress theme that fails to take speed under consideration, you’ll end up installing too many plugins and graphics or video, killing your load time.
Make sure you do everything you can to improve your page load time. There are a variety of tools you can use to pinpoint what the problem is and how to fix it. My personal favorites are Google PageSpeed Insights and Google Analytics. Also, it is sometimes a good idea to use a Content Distribution Network (CDN) for your website. Most Web hosting providers will offer this free of charge, and it does a wonderful job of speeding up your page loads all over the world, because it caches your site on multiple web servers around the globe.
Leaving General Settings alone
Many times, people forget to look at the general settings in WordPress, because they don’t have a huge impact on the site itself. However, this is a big mistake, because these settings allow you to change your site’s title, address URL, time zone, and language. It also allows you to optimize your permalink URLs, so you have correct titles in your page addresses instead of just dates and numbers. These might be small changes, but they help in a big way when it comes to SEO.
Choosing a poorly designed template
This mistake is easy to make, and you might not notice it at first. Just because a theme looks beautiful doesn’t mean it’s built right for Search Engine Optimization. If that’s the case, you’ll find your SEO rankings suffering tremendously, and it’s hard to come back from something like that. Some themes, for example, have a ton of small links in the footer, and you might assume those links are nofollow links. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case, so it’s usually better to select a theme that does not include any credit links at all. The same goes for the plugins that you use. It’s better to be safe than sorry, so make sure when you buy a theme, it’s going to be properly SEO designed.
The next problem that crops up with themes is the responsiveness of the theme. Google is placing much more importance on sites being mobile-ready, so if your theme isn’t responsive, it’s not best for you. Make sure you buy a theme that is responsive and looks as good on mobile devices as on a desktop.
Allowing all comments to be published unmoderated
If you make this mistake, you’ll probably catch on to it pretty quickly when you start seeing spammers and other negative comments on your pages or blog articles. Unfortunately, letting this happen for even a short time, like a few days, can be seriously detrimental to your SEO. In some cases, you can even find yourself getting blacklisted by Google as a result of unmoderated comments.
Turn off automatic approval of comments, and consider using a plugin to minimize spam comments. For example, a CAPTCHA plugin can help make sure the comments are being posted by real humans, and not scripts. You should also check your comments periodically for spam.
Leaving all the default plugins enabled
WordPress comes with a number of plugins automatically turned on, and you’ll quite often find that you aren’t really using them. What most people forget, though, is to turn those plugins off so they don’t take up valuable resources within your Web hosting account and your Web pages. The “Hello Dolly” plugin is cute and all, but it takes precious time to load that isn’t useful for most people. Turning that one off, as well as any other plugin that you aren’t using, can make a world of difference in your page load time and the SEO-friendliness of your site.
At the end of the day, WordPress is where your website begins and ends. Before you start shelling out money for advanced design work or SEO, make sure the basics of your WordPress installation are done right. Paying a little bit for a WordPress theme can go a long way in improving your load times, if the theme is built right, but not all of the free WordPress themes out there have problems. Should you decide to go the free route, just make sure you’re working with a solid developer like Elegant Themes or ThemeForest.
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