Author James Joyce once said mistakes are the portals of discovery. Oscar Wilde equated mistakes to experience. Experience is perhaps the best teacher, and the difference between success and failure can be learning from those mistakes and moving forward in a more positive direction. Fortunately, we often have the opportunity to learn from the mistakes of others so as to avoid making those same mistakes.
When you’re launching a WordPress site, there’s no shortage of information available about what you can do right, and wrong, let’s take a look at some of the most common mistakes people make in WordPress and how you can avoid them for greater success. Are you making these common mistakes?
1. Choosing the Wrong Platform
One of the most common mistakes people make when using WordPress is choosing the wrong platform for their needs. Users can choose from a free WordPress.com blog or a self-hosted installation.
For many, such as artists, bloggers, and photographers, the blog platform is adequate for their needs. However, for those who need more control over their site, for example, those using it for online commerce, the self-hosted option will be much more effective.
A WordPress.org (self-hosted) site is very inexpensive and provides benefits like full theme support, the use of any compatible plugin, and the ability to sell ad space regardless of the amount of traffic on your site. These are valuable benefits, if you need them. For a simple online blog or a place to show off your art, you probably don’t need these extra perks.
2. Leaving your Site Vulnerable to Hackers
Upon installation of WordPress, an admin username is automatically created, “admin,” and that username is assigned admin privileges. Failure to change this username leaves your site wide open to hackers who will exploit any weakness to access sensitive data.
When you do the installation, you’ll see an option to change the username. You must do so, and when you do, use a combination of upper and lower case letters, numbers, and special characters to create a username and password that will be very difficult to hack.
Visitors to your site are counting on you taking all reasonable security precautions with their data. Making this very basic mistake creates an unacceptable risk to you and your guests.
3. Failing to Personalize the Favicon and Tagline
A favicon is a tiny icon found in the browser’s address bar, or in the bookmarks list next to website’s name. When you visit WordPress.com, you’ll see the distinctive W that is the WordPress logo in your address bar, as this W serves as their favicon.
Many WordPress site owners never change the favicon from the default. You want your site to be uniquely yours, and this includes using a customized favicon for a more professional and credible appearance.
Another part of making your site unique includes personalizing the tagline. The default of “Just another blog” is included with the installation, and many users make the mistake of not changing it. Go to your dashboard and choose settings>general to create a tagline that reflects the unique flavor of your website.
4. Selecting the Wrong Theme
There are a plethora of free and premiums themes available for WordPress and selecting the best one for your site might be a bit of a challenge. Keep in mind that the structure and design of your website plays a key role in determining how your site ranks in the most popular search engines. Not taking the time to choose the best theme for your needs is a big mistake you cannot afford to make.
Determining the right theme means finding one that is easy to use, is free or affordably priced, and is built by a reputable developer. You can find some great WordPress themes at Web-Dorado, or a Google search will give you easy access to a number of premium themes.
Always check feedback in the WordPress online community about any theme you’re considering to ensure that developers are offering good ongoing support and a reliable product.
5. Linking Pages That Are Incomplete or in Progress
We’ve all seen the website where we click on a link only to be greeted with a message like “Coming Soon.” Incomplete pages announce to the world that you are not ready to sit on the porch with the big dogs, and leaving such a first impression is a critical, unforced error. If a page is not complete, don’t provide a link. If your website is not completely ready for launch, don’t launch until it is. You can use a plugin while preparing for launch that lets users know your anticipated launch date, but avoid launches and links that are not complete.
6. Leaving Unused or Unnecessary Plugins in Place
When a new user is setting up a site, they may experiment with many different plugins. Many users make the mistake of not deactivating and uninstalling the ones they have decided not to use. This jams up resources and slows down your site, which has a negative impact on search engine rankings and the user experience. Plugins and widgets are great and should definitely be used where they add value, but choose the best and delete the rest for optimum efficiency.
7. Failing to Install a Caching Plugin and CDN
A caching plugin and content delivery network ensures your site can handle a high volume of traffic without crashing, improving your site’s efficiency, uptime and load times. Improved efficiency, uptime and load times helps your search engine rankings as well. A content delivery network will also help to distribute content in a personalized manner for site visitors, improving the user experience. WP Super Cache and W3 Total Cache are great caching options, and great CDN options include CloudFlare and MaxCDN.
8. Failing to Set Up a Contact Form
Upon setting up a WordPress site, many beginners create a page providing their email, but the net effect can be a ton of spam to sort through to find those actual contacts. A custom contact form can easily be created by installing a plugin, such as Contact Form Builder WD. This form builder allows you to build a custom form with a simple interface and includes options for Captcha and ReCaptcha word verification and your choice of fields. User can choose from a free version or a premium version with added benefits such as greater variety of available themes and the ability to export data in CSV or XML formats.
9. Not Backing Up Your Site
Backing up data is something that is often not thought of until critical data is lost. It is important to do both manual and automatic backups of your site on a regular basis. Creating backups is a simple process with WordPress. Just go to the dashboard and choose tools>export. You can also use a plugin like BackWPup.
10. Not Using Google Analytics
It’s very important to be aware of your site traffic, what users do on your site, and which keywords are driving traffic to your site. Nevertheless, many site owners fail to recognize the importance of tracking this information.
Absolutely the most effective tool you can install for this purpose is Google Analytics WD. Use the overview page to check the traffic on any sites registered with your Google Analytics account, which display stats in real time. You can also create detailed reports that allow you to track visitor demographics, interests, and more. There is a free version, and also a premium version of Google Analytics WD available that offers added benefits such as custom reports, e-commerce tracking reports, and the ability to link and track Google AdSense and Google AdWords accounts.
11. Not Changing the Default Permalink Structure
WordPress automatically creates numeric permalinks, which are permanent hyperlinks to your content. A more user-friendly permalink structure improves the user experience, boosts your search engine rankings, and gives your site a more professional look and feel. To change the default, go to the dashboard and select settings>permalinks. A plugin like Custom Permalinks can also be helpful, although it will still require you to make the change to the default through the dashboard.
12. Not Recognizing the Importance of Mobile Responsiveness
More than ever, people are accessing websites from a number of mobile devices, including smartphones, tablets, and laptops. The experience for users on these devices should be as neat, clean and beautiful as it is for PC users. If your site is not responsive to mobile, it is critical that you fix it right away.
Fortunately, many of the WordPress themes have factored in mobile devices and are designed to adapt to whatever screen size your visitors are using. You can also use a plugin in like WPTouch that creates a mobile-friendly version of your site that performs well enough to pass Google’s mobile test.
This overview of common mistakes made by WordPress users can help you avoid the pitfalls and traps that many have fallen into, and seen their site suffer as a result. Whether you’re just starting out or you’ve had an active website for a while, it’s always a great investment to spend the time checking up on a few simple things that can so greatly impact your site’s performance.