Most people think that their WordPress site is ready after registering their domain with a registrar, setting up WordPress hosting, and installing their chosen theme. However, you still have your work cut out for you if you want your WordPress site to perform to its fullest potential. There are many other factors that affect performance and user experience like design, loading times, structure and more.
Here a few steps you can take to optimize your new blog.
Step 1: Optimize for Search Engines
Whether you plan on investing heavily into SEO or not, you’ll still want to make sure that it’s optimized for search engines. Setting up your site and pages correctly and optimizing the on page factors can lead to free traffic. The most popular plugin to help you optimize is WordPress SEO by Yoast. You can easily control the title tag, set meta descriptions, build XML sitemaps, and designate the canonical URL. It’s a free plugin that is essential for every site.
Step 2: Fix the Structure and Posts
One of the first things you’ll want to do right out of the box is to fix the permalink structure. WordPress usually relegates your blog pages as “http://sample.com/?p=N” or “http://example.com/2012/post-name/”. What you want to do is to change it to a custom structure so that it appears as so: http://example.com/widget. This is a better structure because it allows you to name pages according to the keyword you are targeting and is easier for visitors to understand what the page is about. You also want to do things like build tightly themed categories and breadcrumb links to make it easier for visitors to find what they’re looking for.
Step 3: Optimize Loading Time
Scripts, plugins and CSS on your site can really slow down the loading speed which leads to a poor user experience. That’s why you want to do whatever you can to minimize the load they have on your blog. WP Rocket is a great plugin that helps you optimize your site speed by minifying your CSS code, fixing problematic images, delaying scripts until it’s needed, and enabling caching. The quality of your WordPress hosting provider can also affect your site’s speed but if you want to stay with your current plan or provider, you can always boost performance by using a CDN for your media files.
Step 4: Make It Mobile Friendly
Having a responsive website is a no brainer and most themes today are built to provide a solid mobile experience. However, having a responsive site is not enough. You really want to take the time to check how your website looks on mobile devices. You’ll find issues with loading times, problematic formatting, fonts that are too small, and a difficult UI to interact with. Google provides a free tool to test how your website appears on mobile devices. It’s a great place to start but you also want to test your site against different mobile devices and mobile browsers as well.
Step 5: Reassess Your Theme and Plugins
It’s easy to get excited with your theme and plugins as you start building out your site. However, your theme and plugins can have a big impact on the performance of your site. You want to study the performance of a specific theme compared to other options when it comes to loading speed. Once you choose a theme and build out your site, making changes will become more difficult. You also want to look at what plugins could be causing problems. A plugin called P3 will monitor your plugins and provide you valuable feedback. Once you identify the problematic plugins, you can start looking for alternatives.
Step 6: Protect Your WordPress Site
If you are using WordPress, you want to take proper measures to protect yourself from malware, hacks and spam. Plugins like Wordfence will protect you from comment spamming to prevent a bad experience for your users. It will also check your WordPress files for malware, site for vulnerabilities, as well as dangerous links in your post/comments. It’s an all in one security tool and similar tools are available for other platforms like Drupal and Joomla.
Step 7: Backup Your Blog
The last thing you’ll be thinking about as you start up your blog is backing it up. However, server crashes, problematic scripts/plugins, and other issues can put your data in jeopardy. There are many backup services and plugins (both free and paid) that are available in the marketplace. Many of them even allow you to schedule your backups so that they don’t in the way while you’re working on your site. Whichever one you choose, make sure you use a backup tool. All the time and money you’ve put into your blog can be for naught if the worst-case scenario actually happens.
Those are the seven steps you’ll want to take to optimize your blog. While most of these examples all point to WordPress plugins and services, similar solutions are available for other content management systems like Drupal and Joomla. Taking these steps will allow you to start off your blog so that you can provide a better experience for your users and give you peace of mind knowing that your work is protected.