15 mistakes every new WordPress site owner should avoid
WordPress is no doubt the most popular content management platform, used by millions of both small businesses and heavy hitters such as Reuters, CNN, Samsung, eBay, and TechCrunch. The beauty of WordPress is its simplicity and abundance of options. That notwithstanding, too many new site owners are diving head first without taking time to understand how the optimal WordPress experience looks like. As goes the popular truism, to be forewarned is to be forearmed. This post essentially isolates 15 mistakes new WordPress site owners should be careful not to make.
Mistake #1 – I need to buy a theme first
This is a common mistake many new WordPress site owners make. Buying a theme should be the last thing you do. Start by creating your content (yes, website content), and then outline a number of requirements that you want your site to meet. Is it going to be a news site, an e-commerce platform or a local business showcase website? Gather as many requirements as possible regarding what features you want your business to have. Once you have your content ready (at least some of it) and your requirements set, buying a good theme should be easy. Check out our checklist of items you should consider before purchasing a new theme for your WordPress site.
Mistake #2 – Trusting the designer to handle all the techie stuff
So you hire a designer and ask them to set up everything for you, from the theme, domain name, and hosting. Doesn’t sound so bad if you’re allergic to all this complicated computer stuff…
But then your designer goes on vacation. You’ve got no security logins for your hosting, and your new WordPress site – which by the way is a total mess!
You don’t want to trust your designer in that way, whether they’re a freelance stranger or your computer-skilled cousin. Buy the hosting yourself, buy the domain name, get the WordPress theme and then set it up. If the designer needs to access your hosting (which by the way is unlikely), you can just give them the password then change it later once they are done.
It’s not that we are saying designers are bad people, nope! But who wants to give the ONLY key they have to their house to that hired cleaner?
Mistake #3 – Not updating the WordPress ecosystem
Not updating the WordPress software, themes and plugins is another wannabe mistake site owners often make. Keep in mind that theme and plugin developers are constantly releasing updates to cover up for security flaws, and to add new features. Not updating your site regularly makes it vulnerable to known security loopholes. So make sure that you check whether there are any new updates every new time you log in to your WordPress site. Although it’s quite unlikely, conflicts between plugins and various components of the WordPress ecosystem can happen. So check to see that your site is still in one piece whenever you install updates.
Mistake #4 – Not backing up the site
There are so many reasons why your site could go down. For once, your hosting servers could get compromised, or hackers could specifically target your site and erase everything (or hijack it). If you have no recent backup in place, you’ll be pressed between a rock and a hard place – back to step one. It’s unimaginable losing your website after pouring in so much money and hours of hard work. Don’t make the mistake of not backing your site up regularly!
Nowadays, you don’t need to follow complicated procedures to execute a backup of your site. There are tons of excellent WordPress plugins for that, we use UpdraftPlus for some of our websites, a free plugin which backs up everything in your WordPress installation, from themes to plugins, settings, uploads, and more. There’s also a restore feature that’s bliss. So in the case something unthinkable happens, you can always restore your site within a matter of seconds. But UpdraftPlus isn’t the only free WordPress backups plugin available. Other great choices include BackWPUp, Duplicator, and BackUpWordPress.
Mistake #5 – Not SEO-optimizing the site
Like it or hate it, it’s the SEO age. Creating your WordPress site is just the beginning. You’re going to have to invest time and money to SEO-optimize your site so that it ranks on Google and other search engines.
There’s a lot of stuff you need to learn about SEO, but you want to at least cover the basics while your site is still new. Get started by optimizing your site titles and meta descriptions, as well as image alt tags. Focus on on-site SEO activities to polish up your site for the search engines. A good way to do all this without getting yourself a headache is to use SEO by Yoast plugin, the SEO plugin we also use here at WPdiscounts. If you still feel like it’s too much work, you can hire a freelancer on Fiverr or Upwork to set up the basic SEO stuff for you. It should just cost you a few bucks.
Mistake #6 – Not having an XML Sitemap
Originally, sitemaps were designed to make navigation easier for site users. But in 2005, Google released an XML sitemap version meant for search engines. Sitemaps make it easier for search engine bots to index your site. XML sitemaps identify new content, and how it’s structured. They are very important for both SEO and faster indexing of your site.
You don’t need to type any XML code to create a sitemap for your new WordPress site. There’s a very good (and free) plugin for that – Google XML Sitemaps – on the WordPress plugin repository. All in One SEO Pack Pro and other premium SEO plugins also have a feature to create an XML sitemap.
Mistake #7 – Hosting on WordPress.com
This is another common mistake that new WordPress site owners make. If you’re a new site owner, the WordPress platform is totally easy to use, but there’s very little room for customization. Although hosting on the WordPress platform is free, you’re better off utilizing the benefits of a self-hosted platform. You’re going to need more room to flex your muscles as your WordPress site grows and you can only get that flexibility with self-hosting. There are dozens of reliable web hosting companies that you can rely on for an incredible hosting experience for your site.
Mistake #8 – Installing too many plugins
Too much of anything – even plugins – is poison. As a new WordPress owner, you might feel tempted to install all the different plugins that do a lot of cool things for your site. But you’ll effectively be slowing down your site. However loyal your site visitors are, nobody wants to wait for 10 seconds for your website to load. If your site is too slow, people are going to look over and go to the completion without even giving it a thought. So weed out your site to make sure that you only have installed essential plugins.
Mistake #9 – Not renaming your sample pages
Every new WordPress installation comes with some sample pages. At the very least, you’ll have a single sample page and a sample post. If you install theme demo content, you’re going to have a lot more sample pages.
While sample pages might not affect the SEO-friendliness of your site, there’s a potential that they’ll create dissonance with your visitors. Nobody wants to see a “Hello World” page while they’re looking for the latest article on your weight loss niche site. So it’s available that you get rid of all sample content.
Mistake #10 – Not monitoring website analytics
Not setting up analytics and monitoring is another common mistake that many new WordPress site owners make. Analytics and monitoring help you gauge how your site is performing, and identify areas where improvements are needed. One of the best ways to monitor your site is by using Google Analytics. This platform analyses your visitors based on their age, the operating system used, geographical location, and a lot of other metrics that can give you invaluable insights into your audience.
Mistake #11 – Taking security for granted
Hackers are always on the hunt for insecure websites. For WordPress, a common mistake that new site owners make is not setting up solid administrative security. You should avoid using dictionary words for passwords, and desist from using ‘admin’ for the administrative username. If you’ve difficulties coming up with a tough password, you can use a Password Generator Tool to get it done for you. It’s also important that you install a good security plugin to secure your site and lock-down users who make too many unsuccessful login attempts. Updating your themes and plugins often also helps keep your site secure.
Mistake #12 – Not setting up basic settings options
When you install your WordPress site, it comes with a lot of default options. For instance, it’ll have ‘just another WordPress site’ as the tagline. The last thing you want is for search engines to index your site this way. So go right ahead to Settings>General and change the tagline to one that makes sense for your business. You should also configure the default permalink URL structure. You do not want your page or post URLs looking like this: ?p=100. Basically, go to the Settings screen and make sure that everything is in order.
Mistake #13 – Not having a contact form
A contact form/page is one of the first things you should do after setting up your site. Your website not only serves to inform but also to engage visitors. You want visitors to know that there are real people behind the business and that they can talk to them at any time. You can use a suitable plugin (e.g. Ninja forms) to create a pretty decent contact form within a matter of seconds. It’s also important that you include your business’s physical address on the contact page so that people who just want to show up can do so.
Mistake #14 – Outdated products
This is a special one for e-Commerce sites. If you’re running a WordPress-based online store, don’t make the mistake of having outdated product listings on your site. All eCommerce plugins for WordPress will allow you to hide products that are no longer available, or at least put an “Out of Stock” sign on them. Make sure to go through your product list every once in a while and delete all products that you know will no longer be available. You sure don’t want people to start ordering for products that are non-existent. It’ll dent your image and rub otherwise serious customers the wrong way.
Mistake #15 – Failure to interlink content
Most beginner WordPress site owners undervalue the need to interlink content as their site grows. It’s very important that you link your good old pages (and posts) to new ones that you create. This helps provide a rich experience for your visitors, and it also helps search engines crawl and index more of your content. You might want to install a ‘related content’ plugin that suggests similar posts to users after they read a particular post. If your site is going to be focused on content (let’s say, for example, a niche blog), you want to do your keyword research and give your new content a real shot at ranking well in the search engine. Keyword research is what separates mediocre content and content that ranks. So invest just a little bit of your time to get keywords figured out at this time.
Avoid costly mistakes
The mistakes above can be very costly, now or later. I have come across second-time site owners who wished they knew as much when they were setting up their first site. You’ve got a head start and no excuse. Make sure you start your new WordPress site on a high note and optimize it for success and convenience right from the word go!
LAST UPDATED ON: April 20, 2017
POSTED UNDER: Tutorials
Great article, and while I knew most of these tips there are a still a few I didn’t know about. One thing I see on some new (and maybe even older) WordPress site is people don’t disable/remove the meta admin widget from their sidebar. No reader/viewer/client/customer, etc needs to see a link for you to log into your WordPress dashboard when they got to your site. That tab is completely useless (just go to yoursite.com/wp-admin) and should be removed as soon as your site is active.
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