WordPress is one of the most popular content management systems on the Internet. Although it’s a powerful system, there are plenty of best practices you can implement in WordPress without breaking the bank…or the site.
Today, I’ll share some things that will make web development a lot easier, efficient, and productive. This will show you how to get the best out of the WordPress CMS.
And no, we’re not going to carve any turkeys with a chainsaw.
18 WordPress Best Practices
Creating a WordPress blog is actually quite easy. In fact, it’s a system that works right out of the box as soon as you install it. Technically, you can start creating content immediately.
However, there are some things you want to consider as you’re building the world’s best website.
1. Use “Pretty” URLs
First, if you just set up your site for the first time, make sure you’re using “pretty” URLs. Although this really doesn’t have an impact on search engine optimization, the URL can still offer clarity to users.
For example, when you search for something in Google, you can see the available URL. What if that URL is dated from seven years ago? Are you confident the information is going to be accurate compared to something written this year?
A good rule of thumb is to include your keyword or phrase in the URL and keep it as short as possible while still making sense for the topic.
If you want to change the permalink structure after you’ve created content, you’ll want to use the Redirection plugin so your SEO remains intact.
2. Always Keep Your Site Updated
WordPress and its plugins require regular updates. This is because developers are constantly adding and fixing things within their products.
Today, you can go through your plugin list and set them to auto-update. This helps keep your site running efficiently, especially if a developer fixed an exploit bug.
In other words, it’ll help protect your site from being hacked or otherwise broken.
3. Install a Backup Plugin
Never underestimate the value of a backup. In the event something goes wrong, it’s better to have a method of recovery than to spend the next six months trying to find pictures because your old web host failed to help you.
Instead of a broken site, you can simply make a couple of clicks and restore your site to its former glory.
At any rate, there are many plugins you can install right now that are free, automated, and incredibly easy to use. Personally, I like UpDraftPlus for backups. But, you can essentially pick whichever suits your needs.
4. Have Security In Place
Even the smallest of websites should have security in place. This is because bots don’t care if you have a popular site or not. They’ll still infect your files and use it for nefarious purposes.
Luckily, there are some great security plugins out there that you can use for free, such as Wordfence. And if there is one of the best practices for WordPress you need to consider, it’s security.
Don’t think for one second that you’re safe from hackers and bots. It only takes the slightest chink in the armor to bring your WordPress site to its proverbial knees.
5. Add an Optimizing and Caching Plugin
If you’re trying to build a website to drive traffic and make money, you’ll definitely need an optimizing and caching plugin. These will help with WordPress performance.
Some optimization tools will work together. However, I’ve come across several that didn’t place nice together on my particular site. Test a few and find ones that work for what you need.
I specifically like the Autoptimize plugin. It’s helped me fix the cumulative layout shift problem I had in Search Console, and works exceptionally well.
6. Use a Database Optimizing Plugin
Over time, your WordPress database will become a horrid mess. This is especially true if you’re like me and make more than 10 revisions of a post before actually publishing.
Many database optimization plugins will remove the useless data while making the platform work much better. In some cases, you’ll even see a speed boost because the database tables are optimized.
I like the simplicity of the Optimize Database plugin by Cage Web Design. It’s a quick, one-click optimization system that you can set to keep your data quick and easy to access.
7. Use Images Sparingly and Optimize Them
Images are one of the biggest issues when it comes to WordPress performance. Using too many large and raw pics can really slow your site and hurt the user experience.
Not to mention how it can destroy your speed score in tools like PageSpeed Insights or GTmetrix.
Images are valuable in terms of engagement. Just make sure you use them sparingly and optimize them as best you can. And yes, there are plugins that can do this as well.
Personally, I edit all my images in Photoshop to make them as small as possible without losing quality.
8. Do Major Adjustments on a Test Site First
Refrain from making major changes on your live website. I’m talking about things like changing themes, coding modifications, layout adjustments, and testing plugins.
This is because you don’t know what kind of an impact these things will make. What if there is a plugin conflict? What if the theme doesn’t look right or fit your purpose? Perhaps the coding snippet you added breaks your site.
You don’t want to cause issues on a live site when someone is trying to view your content.
I use a locally installed WordPress site as my testing platform. Using Bitnami, you can install WordPress very easily onto your computer.
Just keep in mind that since you probably don’t have a server-style machine, the local install of WordPress may seem a bit slower than on the Internet.
9. Keep the Plugins to a Minimum
Plugins are among those things that give WordPress great versatility. However, they can also hinder performance and cause a myriad of issues.
Not only do you have to worry about plugins conflicting with one another, but some of them will actually make the website load slower for visitors. With each plugin you install, you put more strain on WordPress to work efficiently.
After every plugin, I suggest running a speed test using GTmetrix or another system to make sure you’re not sacrificing too much. Sometimes, the performance hit isn’t worth the bells and whistles you might want to add.
10. Delete Plugins and Themes You Are Not Using
If you’re not using certain plugins or themes, remove them from WordPress. Not only do they take up drive space on your hosting account, but they can be a security risk…especially if they’re no longer supported.
From the backups you save to the size of the database, unused scripts and apps can fill your site with junk. It looks cleaner and is easier to find specific plugins if you only keep what you’re using.
When you remove plugins, I suggest using a database cleaner to get rid of any orphaned tables and information they may leave behind. Some plugins store settings in case you reinstall the tool, which is an unnecessary amount of data.
11. Consider Using a CDN
One of the best practices for WordPress, and any other site for that matter, is by using a content delivery network, or CDN.
These platforms essentially store copies of your website in various servers around the world. This means your content loads faster regardless of a visitor’s geographic location.
For example, let’s say your web host has your website saved on a server in Toronto, Canada. A visitor from Great Britain is accessing your pages. Instead of the data traveling from Canada to the UK, a CDN could have a server located in Great Britain with your website’s copy.
This means distance is taken out of the equation when it comes to WordPress performance. The Great Britain visitor accesses the Great Britain CDN copy of your site.
12. Perform a Speed Check at Least Once Per Month
I would suggest performing a speed test on your site at least once per month. However, I would also suggest doing so after every plugin or theme installation.
Essentially, you should run a test any time you make a major change to the site’s layout or functionality.
This is so you can discover any issues that may arise before you start losing a lot of visitor traffic. You could inadvertently install a plugin that decreases load time to the point of making pages unbearable to use.
13. Keep an Eye on Mobile Performance
As more than 50% of visitors are using mobile devices, it’s a good idea to make sure your site loads well on smaller screens. And I’m not just talking about optimizing images.
Font sizes, tappable elements, and other graphics may need to be addressed as well. For instance, you’ll get an error in Search Console if you have links too closely together for mobile device users.
One way you can test your site’s appearance and functionality is to simulate a mobile environment. You can simulate a mobile device in Chrome or you can see what your site looks like from the WordPress Customizer.
An easy way is to simply load your site on your own phone.
14. Limit 3rd Party Scripts and Plugins
When you use third-party tools on your website, it means those functions are pulling data from a website or server located elsewhere. A good example of this is when you use Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook feeds on your site.
All these comments and images are being pulled from those sites to your own.
AdSense, most affiliate programs, social media, stock tickers, weather widgets, and more all put a strain on website performance. This is because your site has to wait to load that data from the other server.
If there is a lag between the other website and yours, the visitors will see a performance hit.
You can use these services. Just make sure you test the site after each one to make sure they’re not negatively impacting your site’s functionality.
15. Remove Dates from Posts
Removing dates from posts is more of an aesthetic than a performance tip. People are more likely to trust and engage the content if they don’t notice the post’s age.
It goes along the lines of removing the dates from the URLs I mentioned earlier.
Some people will avoid certain types of content if it was published more than a year ago. This is because many of them want fresh and current information.
Even if you’re post is up-to-date, the published date can still affect a person’s judgment on the article itself.
16. Don’t Adjust Coding Unless You Absolutely Know What You’re Doing
If you’re unsure about how to make coding adjustments or adding custom CSS or PHP scripts, don’t do it. Something that is improperly added or coded incorrectly can do serious damage to WordPress.
Some things are pretty easy to adjust, such as font size or colors. But some of the more intricate development codes can cause all kinds of havoc if they’re incorrect.
The best practices for WordPress include, “if you don’t know what it does, don’t touch it!” That was actually something I learned back at Job Corp about 30 years ago.
17. Use Yoast SEO (Optional)
You don’t necessarily need to use Yoast SEO. However, I’ve found the plugin to be exceptionally useful for a variety of purposes.
Mostly, I use it to monitor how I create content. That’s because it comes with a readability test that helps you create content that is more engaging to the average Internet user.
At any rate, it’s definitely among the most popular WordPress plugins…and for good reason.
18. Learn a Bit of CSS and PHP (Optional)
All of the above tips don’t require knowledge of CSS or PHP of any kind. However, it’s worthwhile to learn some of the basics if you want to get more out of the performance of WordPress.
There is simply far more you can do on a coding level than what plugins or themes can provide.
The best part is that you can learn the basics of any language WordPress uses for free from W3Schools. It’s a great platform for teaching you how to manage online coding in an easy-to-understand layout.
Do the Best Practices Really Help WordPress Sites?
WordPress is a powerful and intuitive system that users of any skill level can sink their teeth into. However, it’s not infallible.
The tips above for the best practices in WordPress can save you a great deal of headache and frustration. They can prevent prolonged downtime, poor functionality, and a loss of visitor engagement.
Does this mean you can’t be successful without these tips? No. But, they will vastly improve your chances if you’re trying to create a site that attracts a lot of people.
Everything from distributing your site through a CDN to being able to provide readability will affect how others engage your content. And the methods and tools above streamline the process.
Is WordPress Difficult to Use?
I’m not entirely sure why people say WordPress is difficult to use. Out of all the content management systems I’ve used in the past, WordPress is by far the easiest system.
What makes WordPress superior includes:
- You don’t need to know a single line of code to create an amazing site.
- Everything is self-explanatory and easy to find, especially when you consider the helpful community.
- When self-hosting WordPress, you can do whatever you want to your content.
- You can monetize a WordPress site in a plethora of ways.
- Having access to thousands upon thousands of integrations.
- How the Internet is full of tutorials for just about anything you want to do or create.
In the grand scheme of things, it’s one of the easiest systems to use regardless of your skill level. And since it works right from install, it doesn’t take much to make an impressive website.
What Best Practices Do You Use for WordPress Performance?
There’s a lot of tips available for getting the most out of WordPress. In reality, though, it depends on what you’re trying to create and your target audience.
In the end, the most important thing to keep in mind for the best practices in WordPress is the user experience. If people enjoy your website and can easily find the content, you’ll do well.
Make sure to keep it fast and efficient.
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