Boost your WordPress site: Fixing common mistakes

When I look under the bonnet of small business websites, there are a few issues I find again and again. So let’s dive straight into the most common WordPress mistakes and how you can avoid them to keep your site running smoothly and efficiently.

1: Ignoring updates

This is by far the biggest error! Those red numbers on your dashboard are there for a reason. Stop ignoring them! I know it can feel overwhelming when you’re not sure of how everything works but keeping WordPress, your theme, and plugins updated makes sure everything works properly and keeps your site secure. 

Think of updates as regular maintenance for your car – without them, things can go wrong quickly. Here’s why:

  • Security: Updates often include critical security patches that fix vulnerabilities hackers might exploit. A neglected website is an open invitation for trouble.
  • Performance: Updates can address bugs that slow down your website. A sluggish site frustrates visitors and hurts your search ranking.
  • Compatibility: Updates help make sure your theme and plugins work seamlessly with the latest version of WordPress. Outdated software can lead to conflicts and unexpected behaviour.
  • New features: Updates sometimes introduce great new features and functionality that you shouldn’t miss out on!

So if you know those little red reminders have been appearing on your site for a while, consider this your friendly nudge to take action!

Better still set a reminder to update WordPress, your theme, and all your plugins every week to keep your website secure, performing optimally, and packed with the latest features. It only takes a few minutes.

2: Forgetting to back up

Ever spent ages working on a website, only to click the wrong button and have it vanish in a moment? Cue a guilty face and a hand up. Yes I’ve done it. 

Website disasters happen, but they don’t have to be a disaster. Regular backups are your website’s knight in shining armour, riding in to save the day. Here’s why backups are crucial:

  • Disaster recovery: From technical glitches to accidental deletions, backups mean you can always restore your website to a previous state. You no longer need to panic about lost content or functionality!
  • Peace of mind: Knowing you have a recent backup gives you peace of mind. Make changes to your website with confidence, knowing you can easily revert to a working version if something goes wrong.
  • Security threats: Malware attacks are rare, especially if you have everything locked down with a great security plugin. But they can wreak havoc. A recent backup allows you to restore a clean version of your site, minimising the damage from a security breach.
  • Testing ground: Want to experiment with a new theme or plugin but worried about breaking your site? If your hosting package doesn’t cover having a staging site to test on, having a backup lets you test new tools out confidently. If something goes wrong, you can restore your website to its previous state.

While your hosting provider might take backups, it’s wise to take control of your website’s safety. Create your own regular backups using a plugin like Updraft Plus to feel certain you have the most recent version of your website readily available in case of any disaster.

3: Photo overload

Stunning visuals are key to an engaging and on-brand web design, but don’t let your love for high-resolution images turn into a website nightmare. Here’s how to avoid a photo overload:

  • Size matters: Large, uncompressed image files will result in your pages loading very slowly, which isn’t great for your search engine ranking. Aim for images under 300kb for optimal loading speed.
  • Compression is your friend: Use free online tools or WordPress plugins to compress your images without sacrificing significant quality. There are many options available, so find one that works best for you. I use a combination of Canva Pro which lets you download compressed png files, and Shortpixel.
  • Consider different formats: JPEG is a great choice for photos with a lot of colour variation, while PNG excels for graphics with sharp lines and text. Choose the right format for each image to optimise your file size.
  • Resize for purpose: Don’t upload gigantic images and rely on WordPress to resize them. Resize your images to the dimensions they’ll be displayed on your website before uploading. This saves precious bandwidth and loading time. 
  • Think “responsive”: In today’s mobile-first world, make sure your images are responsive and adjust to different screen sizes. This prevents images from appearing blurry or stretched on various devices.

4: Paralysed by too many plugins

Plugins can be a website owner’s best friend, adding exciting features and functionality. But like too many can be overwhelming, slow everything down and create conflicts. Here’s how to avoid plugin paralysis::

  • Keep it minimal: Only install the plugins you absolutely need, and don’t have more than one for the same job. That’s when you end up with technical problems caused by plugin conflicts. Plus every plugin adds weight to your website, so prioritise essential functionality over bells and whistles.
  • Regular reviews: Regularly audit your plugins. Are there any you haven’t used in a while? Are you now able to achieve the same functionality with a lighter plugin or built-in WordPress features? Deactivate and delete unused plugins to streamline your website.
  • Update reminder: Refer back to Mistake 1 above! Don’t just install plugins, keep them updated! Outdated plugins are security risks and can cause conflicts with other plugins or your WordPress theme. 
  • Compatibility checks: When choosing the best plugin for the job, check which have been updated recently and are compatible with the latest version of WordPress (because you’ve update to it haven’t you? Haven’t you!?) and other active plugins. Old and incompatible plugins can lead to unexpected behaviour and website crashes. 
  • Read reviews: Read reviews and ratings before installing a plugin – it’s a good way to find out about issues or conflicts, and user feedback can be a valuable indicator of a plugin’s reliability and performance.

5: Not optimising your content for SEO

You don’t need to be an SEO expert to check a few boxes that will help your content climb the search engine rankings. Here’s how to give your site content a fighting chance!

  • Keyword magic: Conduct keyword research to identify terms and phrases relevant to your business and target audience. Integrate these keywords naturally throughout your website content, but avoid going overboard. Google can tell.
  • H tag hierarchy: H tags structure your content, like headlines in a newspaper article. Use H1 for your main title, and H2-H6 for subheadings, creating a clear hierarchy for search engines and readers.
  • Meta description magic: The meta description is a short blurb that appears under your website listing in search results. Take the time to compose compelling meta descriptions that accurately reflect your content and will tempt users to click on your content instead of someone else’s.
  • Alt text advantage: Don’t forget about image optimisation! Add alt text to your images, providing a brief description of their content. This helps search engines understand your images and improves accessibility for visually impaired visitors.
  • Content is still king: Consistently creating high-quality, informative content that resonates with your target audience is still the key to boosting your rankings and keeping visitors coming back to your site.
  • Mobile matters: Make sure your website is mobile-friendly. The first time your ideal customer looks at your site is increasingly likely to be on a mobile. So a responsive design that adapts to different screen sizes, and is just as fast on mobile as it is on desktop, is crucial..
  • Build backlinks: Backlinks – links from other websites to yours – tell Google that other people trust your site – and a key to your SEO strategy. Create content people want to share and link to, collaborate with other businesses, and get active in online communities to earn high-quality backlinks that boost your website’s authority. 

Keeping your WordPress website healthy

By avoiding these common mistakes, you can keep your WordPress website running smoothly, securely, and attracting your ideal customer. Remember, your website is a valuable asset for any small business, so take care of it!

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