Today's article is all about helping you to avoid some common, yet potentially disastrous, mistakes you could be making with your WordPress blog, the consequences of each and how you can get your WordPress blog in tip-top shape.
Now it's possible that you don't use WordPress to host your blog, but keep reading as many of these particular mistakes can be generalised to apply to any blogging platform that you may be using so you should also get some useful insights into whether or not there are some things you need to fix.
For those of you who do use WordPress or are considering it, and there's certainly plenty of you out there, make sure to take action if you spot any mistakes that you are making, after all it could only make things better in the long run.
Now, on with the show…
1. Not using a responsive theme
Mobile devices are increasingly becoming the de facto method by which people are accessing the internet and along with this increase in use comes some new responsibilities for website owners and developers, primarily ensuring that their content is presented well and loads quickly on these device types.
This means using a theme that is designed to adjust it's layout to the size of the screen and type of device a user is accessing the site on. Here's a quick definition of Responsive Web Design:
Responsive web design (RWD) is an approach to web design aimed at crafting sites to provide an optimal viewing and interaction experience—easy reading and navigation with a minimum of resizing, panning, and scrolling—across a wide range of devices (from desktop computer monitors to mobile phones).
In essence it ensures that content is laid out in the best way regardless of the device you are on rather than forcing users to zoom in and out of pages designed for large monitors, trying to read the content they are interested in.
Ensuring you have a responsive site is critical to making your site easy to use and the search engines are now identifying which sites are mobile friendly in their results so you'll be at disadvantage if you're not doing it.
To find a responsive site you can filter WordPress.org's themes page to only show themes that fit the bill and most, if not all, premium theme providers have responsive themes on offer, so find one you like, get it installed and customize it to your liking.
2. Leaving plugins, themes or WordPress out of date
One of the great things about WordPress is also one of it's small problems. It is an open platform that is constantly being updated and developed for, which usually means that there are regular updates to the core WordPress code as well as themes and plugins.
This is great as it means that any security issues or bugs are usually stamped out pretty quickly, but it can also be a challenge to keep up to date especially if you have more than one site to keep an eye on.
The biggest problem with not keeping your plugins, themes or WordPress itself up to date is that any security issues that are identified and patched in newer versions will not be applied to your site leaving you open to being hacked.
Once hackers have discovered an exploit in a particular version of WordPress or plugin all they have to do is find WordPress sites that use those particular versions and they'll be able to make the most of it.
So, keep things up to date and don't leave your updates for too long after they have been released. It's highly unlikely that anything will break when you do an update and if you've avoided the following mistake, even if it does you'll be able to recover from it…
Oh, and if you have multiple sites on the go there are some great tools available to let you manage them all from one place, check out InfiniteWP or take a look at iThemes Sync both of which have free options to get you started.
3. Not making regular backups
Backing up your WordPress site is an absolute must, even if your site is small or you are just getting started you should get into the habit of making backups and the best approach is to do it automatically so you can set it and forget it.
Now, backups aren't just about having a recovery should you get hacked, although that is especially important, it's also possible that you have an issue with your hosting provider or you decide to change hosts, not having a backup means you're going to have to start from scratch in these cases.
Additionally, if you are of the more adventurous type you may find yourself making changes to your site manually or experimenting with plugins that could also cause you problems, having a backup to hand could save you from having to start over should something go wrong.
And while many web hosts perform backups of their servers periodically these can be hard to get hold of and will potentially be out of date, so you're better of looking for a solution that provides you with the files you need directly and updates as regularly as you do.
There are a number of solutions out there ranging from free to paid for depending on your budget, a couple of examples include BackWPup or BackupBuddy, go check them out.
4. Not using child themes for customization
WordPress themes are great, there are a ton of them available from free to paid for and you can usually find something that will work for your site with little to no modifications.
However if you want your site to be truly unique then it's entirely possible that you will want to tweak and change your favourite theme to make it your own and the worst thing you can do is make these changes directly to the theme itself.
Why? Because as soon as the theme developer releases a new version and you update to it, your personalization will be lost as the theme files will be overwritten by the new ones, resigning all your hard work to the internet graveyard.
A child theme however allows you to have your cake and eat it to by using the original theme as the building blocks for your own customized experience and should it be updated your changes will not be lost.
Working with child themes is a topic that I will go into in another article as it can get a little technical, however for those of you interested you can check out the WordPress.org guide here.
A quick search will also call up a number of great articles on the subject if you want a less technical introduction.
5. Using the default permalink structure
A permalink is the hyperlink (or address) for your blog posts e.g. http://yourblog.com/article-title-goes-here and is how readers will find and/or link to your content, however by default WordPress does not use a structure that is particular user friendly.
Not only that it is not search engine friendly, rather than following the example above you'll end up with links like http://yourblog.com/?p=168 which won't make it easy for users to find the content that are looking for or for you to share simple links with others.
The good news is that WordPress does make it easy to change this structure yourself simply by choosing from some other built in options that will tidy up your urls and make content easier to find.
Simply navigate to Settings → Permalinks within your Dashboard panel and you can choose one of the more common permalink structures or enter your own in the “Custom structure” field using the structure tags.
6. Not using an SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) plugin
Getting traffic to your website or blog is crucial if you want to get people engaged with your brand or articles and a key to the success of these is ensuring that your content can be found correctly by the search engines.
While WordPress is pretty SEO friendly out of the box there are still plenty of opportunities to make improvements and increase your chances of getting more visitors to your site, reading your content or learning about your products & services.
The good news is that with WordPress being as popular as it is and developers embracing it there are a wide range of potential solutions that you can download and install for free, simply by searching the plugins library.
Plugins such as All in One SEO pack and SEO by Yoast are great examples of what are available to download and install and they do a great job of improving your site's SEO.
If you're interested in a wider range of alternatives then you'll find plenty of articles out there comparing WordPress SEO plugins.
7. Not building an email list
Not strictly an issue limited to WordPress, however it's a biggie non-the-less.
If you are spending time and effort creating a site full of great content or a range of awesome products and services and you're not attempting to collect visitors email addresses so that you can keep in touch with the in the future then that's a serious mistake.
It's very rare for someone to make a purchase from you or share your content on their first visit, it takes time to build trust and convince people that what you have to say is worth listening to and/or your products are worth their investment.
In fact, it's a commonly held belief that it usually takes 7 or more contacts or interactions with a potential customer before you are likely to make a sale, so if you can't get in touch with people again in the future how are you going to achieve this?
It's critical that you offer ways for visitors to subscribe to your list and then keep in touch with them, offering valuable and useful content to build up that relationship, so get a subscribe form installed and get collecting.
As with all things WordPress there are a number of great plugins available that will help you to build a list, however the one that I use and highly recommend is called Bloom by Elegant Themes.
It creates stunning opt-in forms for your site through a variety of locations and it integrates with a wide number of autoresponders such as Aweber and Mailchimp and if you use the likes of Divi or other themes from Elegant Themes it all ties together nicely.
So there you have it, we've come to the end of my 7 WordPress Mistakes You Must Avoid Making If You Want A Successful Blog…
I hope you've found it interesting and if you are making any of these mistakes you now have the tools to go away and make the necessary changes to your sites.
If you're not making any of these mistakes then congratulations you're well on your way to having a great site or blog based on the WordPress platform, so keep doing what you're doing.
Of course there are plenty of other mistakes that can be made when using WordPress (as a quick Google search is liable to show you) and I have no doubt I will cover more of these in the future, in particular those that relate to security, a topic that can get into a lot of detail.
If you've liked what you've seen today please feel free to provide a comment and/or share with your friends and if there's anything in particular you'd like me to cover in a future article then definitely let me know.
Until next time…