8 Rules of Managing a WordPress Website
WordPress has become the simplest and most popular way to create your own website or blog. In fact, today WordPress powers over one-third of all websites on the Internet. The website builder is an open-source content management system, which means anyone can use or modify the WordPress software for free. Every day, more and more businesses are gravitating toward WordPress to build and power their web presence.
But whether you’re new to WordPress or have been on the platform for many years, you must follow certain rules to keep your WordPress website running smoothly.
8 Rules of WordPress Management
1. Update your plugins and themes
Each WordPress site runs on the core WordPress, a theme, and a variety of plugins. All of these, like the apps and software on your smartphone need to be updated from time to time. Choosing to ignore updates can leave your website exposed to security breaches and may jeopardize the usability and overall performance. A general practice is to update the plugins and theme once per month.
Conducting these updates on your own can sometimes cause unwanted errors. The reason? Remember how we mentioned that WordPress is an open-source content management system? This means that every plugin and theme has been built and is maintained by a different developer. With over 50,000 plugins to choose from, it is common for an update from one plugin to conflict with another. For that reason, it is recommended that you either make sure all plugins are tested in a staging (non-live) environment or let an experienced WordPress expert handled these types of updates for your business.
2. Keep it secure
We have already spoken to overall attraction to and popularity of WordPress for businesses. Unfortunately, this same popularity leads to increased interest from hackers as well. It does not matter whether you have a small website or a very complex website, you still need to make sure it is secure and checked 24/7.
Don’t let this increased interest from hackers deter you from using WordPress. It just means that you need to make sure you setup a couple extra features on your site to make it secure. Monthly maintenance, including upgrading themes and plugins, is one of the best ways to keep your site stable.
It is also highly recommended that you set up website security surveillance 24/7. This advanced monitoring helps prevent brute force attacks where an attacker tries to guess the login information for your WordPress admin account. These are extremely common on WordPress sites as there is a login page for every WP account. Security measures can be added through plugins and also implemented at the server level.
3. Do not delete without 301 Redirects
Making changes to your website probably happens all the time. While this is great – even anticipated – you will have to set up a 301 redirect for any page that you choose to remove or any page that undergoes a modification in the URL. Remember this involves renaming the URL for pages, products, and posts, and changing the published status of any content that has a URL.
A 301 redirect is basically a rule that will have the changed/deleted URL redirect to a designated page that is still on your website. If you don’t setup a 301 redirect, any visitor that comes across a deleted URL will get a 404 page not found error. They may be following links from an old social media post, another person/business that added a link on their site to yours, or a search engine that indexed the URL. To the visitor, this makes your site look out of date and not trustworthy. In the long term, too many 404 errors will also negatively impact your search engine optimization.
You can install a WordPress plugin to help manage your 301 redirects or even some web hosts allow you to manage these from their user portal. Making sure Google Search Console is also connected on your site can help to determine areas of potential issues for visitors being able to navigate easily throughout your site without errors.
4. Keep an eye on performance
By the time you install you WordPress theme and plugins, build out your content, and add all your images, WordPress websites can have a fairly large database size. Because of their inherently large size, it can be very common to experience performance issues.
With many variables that can impact performance, finding the one that needs improvement can prove challenging. If you experience performance issues, it is best to have a WordPress developer run multiple speed tests to review both desktop and mobile scores. Like a diagnostic test on your car can reveal problems within a car’s engine or other major components, a speed test for your website can tell you where to focus your attention for improvements.
Your hosting set-up may be another performance factor. WordPress sites tend to have poor performance on shared hosting where the server shares resources between hundreds of sites. Finally, look at the site’s overall number of plugins installed. You or your team can install plugins left and right to add functionality after the website has been launched. But the more WordPress plugins you have, the more your site’s performance can suffer.
5. Do not upload large images or videos
Some site performance issues can be avoided from the start by optimizing your images or videos before adding them to your WordPress media library. Anything you upload to the media library will have an impact on the overall size of your site’s database.
You should become familiar with the necessary image dimensions and best file types to use for your site design. Your web developer can easily provide you with information for areas such as banner images, featured images, so you’re not uploading extremely large files. For videos, it is far better to host the video on a third-party resource such as YouTube or Vimeo. This will allow you to embed the video into your site or use a video player for easy viewing, without slowing down your site.
6. Avoid installing dangerous plugins
There are over 50,000 plugins in the WordPress repository, making it easy to find solutions for the functionalities that you need on your site. It is important to understand, that many of these plugins are free and others require purchasing a one-time or annual license for use. When license fees are involved, these plugins will require you to keep the license active to receive support from their developers and critical updates of the plugins. The same is true for the theme that is installed and used to build the overall structure of your site.
Research and test plugins before installing on your live site. Consistently review your in-use plugins for updates, support, and security. It may be helpful to keep a list of all the free and paid plugins and the theme used to build the site handy. When you run updates, note the version and the date of update. Keep any credentials for paid plugins handy so you can easily contact their developer support if needed.
7. Always block SPAM
“I love spam,” said no one ever. Unless it was the food and that may even be questionable. And yet, SPAM has become more of a problem affecting websites. We create compelling call to actions that lead to contact or comment forms to try to capture new business. Unfortunately, it’s these same forms that are used to flood our inbox with SPAM.
Thankfully, the problem is actually easily avoidable. To instantly reduce these spam messages install a Google reCaptcha for all your forms and logins. Google reCaptcha is a free tool that protects the site from SPAM. You’ve probably been prompted to complete a reCaptcha before, asking you to complete a little test to prove you are a human and not a bot.
To set this up, you’ll need to register your domain on the Google reCaptcha platform with your own google account. This will generate a unique secret key and license for you to install on your website. Most WordPress security plugins and contact plugins will offer a means to simply copy and paste your reCaptcha details and hit save to start blocking SPAM immediately. If you’re not able to setup a reCaptcha on your own, contact a WordPress developer to help.
8. Make use of an SEO Plugin
WordPress is a website platform that is perfect for implementing basic and advanced Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Without any additional plugins, most themes will give you the ability to configure meta descriptions and other SEO elements from within the WordPress dashboard. However, if you’re wanting to set more detailed SEO for your site content, you will want to add a powerful SEO plugin. With over 5 million active installs, Yoast SEO is the go to SEO plugin for many site designers.
Yoast SEO is a completely free plugin, that even a non-SEO expert can configure on a basic level. The plugin will allow you to set meta titles, meta descriptions, and one keyword per page/post type. Yoast even gives you prompts on how to optimize for certain keywords by adding links, adding images with title tags, or adding more content to your site.
Many SEO plugins can also connect with the Google Search Console and help with automatic XML site map submission, which is important for indexing your website with search engines.
While many WordPress developers and SEO companies can assist with more advanced Search Engine Optimization for your site, be sure to take advantage of all the free tools that are already out there first on the WordPress platform!