The road between a Wordpress blog and a successful business is going to be littered with mistakes. Today we’re going to talk about ten common pitfalls so you can avoid them, and save some time and money in the process.
1. Overspending on Plugins and Themes
This is especially important for WordPress beginners who are working with a tight budget. Many beginners—as they move towards converting their WordPress website into a small business—will look at all the possibilities for plugins, and install everything shiny that catches their eye. Although the possibilities are exciting, this isn’t very cost-effective. Be patient, do your research, and ensure any new WordPress addon you install will provide immediate value to your website. Some parts of your site may only need a free plugin for now, and that’s fine. As your website develops, you may find yourself needing to buy a premium addon—I’m not saying never buy plugins, just be realistic about which paid addons you really need. Set a budget, be smart, and don’t let yourself get overwhelmed by all the options.
2. Using WordPress.com, not WordPress.org
A common beginners’ mistake is picking the wrong WordPress: the .com and .org domains are actually different platforms. Thankfully, WordPress is free and you’ll quickly realise if you’ve picked the wrong one. WordPress.org is your money maker: it isn’t hosted, but you have a lot more freedom when it comes to installing templates, plugins and addons. This will take more work but has so much more potential. If you want to create a business or store with any sort of decent revenue stream, always choose WordPress.org.
WordPress.com is more suited for the hobby blogger who isn’t interested in making any money and just wants to write a personal blog. Even if you upgrade from the free plan to premium or business level, you still will be restricted. Thankfully, you can fairly easily migrate your site between platforms if you ever feel the need.
3. Not Adding a Google Analytics Plugin
Google Analytics are powerful, easy to use, and absolutely free. Getting it set up in a WordPress install can take a tiny bit of know-how but there are free plugins like the ever-popular Google Analytics Dashboard for WP that make it a breeze. The information you’ll get from it is totally invaluable: does a particular page have a high exit rate? Is your splash page bounce rate 85%? How long are users lingering on your key content? Understanding user behaviour is the key to growth, and it doesn’t cost a cent. If you haven’t installed it yet, change that right now.
4. Changing Your Theme Too Often
Choosing your theme is a big decision, as it has a huge effect on multiple aspects of your website: design, functionality, speed and compatibility. There are two common approaches to theme selection amongst beginners: being very cautious while selecting, or trying a variety of different themes and seeing how it goes. Constantly changing theme will drive away your audience, as they have to keep adapting to a new UI—you’ll never see the benefits that come with sticking to a theme and developing it.
I would recommend the discerning approach. Choose a theme that keeps things simple, guarantees site performance on multiple devices and works well with popular plugins. As a beginner, you should not expect your theme to be unique, especially if you’re using a free one. For the time being, focus on creating a site that can provide a satisfactory user experience and puts your content first. Of course, there’s no harm in dreaming of a premium or customized theme for the future!
5. Not Practicing Good SEO
SEO is an essential part to any WordPress website. Why? Because it’s the cheapest and most effective way to gain organic traffic. You could have the most useful, awe-inspiring content in the world, but if it’s not SEO-optimized then nobody is going to see it. It’s in your best interest to practice SEO optimization earlier and build upwards, rather than have to backtrack later on. Although you should be aware that SEO best-practice is constantly changing—it seems sometimes like Google upends the entire industry every 12 months. Sites like Moz keep track of the latest trends and you should check them regularly to know what the current state of SEO is.
6. Forgetting to Add a Contact Form
A contact form is a simple thing, but one that often gets overlooked. Even if you don’t expect anyone to contact you during beginning phases, it’s still very useful and necessary: every customer who couldn’t get in touch is a customer you’ve lost. A contact form provides a simple barrier of protection against email spam—it lets people get in touch with you, without you needing to have a public-facing email address. A contact email is bait for spam crawlers. While a contact form will have problems, it will have significantly less than leaving your email address lying around in public. If you’re still having issues, there are a number of WordPress plugins to help fight spam.
A contact form also allows you to filter information and make direct feedback a lot more efficient. Being able to split inquiries by type, question or issue allows you to organize replies quicker. Not to mention you can easily discard or ignore any incoming spam.
7. Disregarding Updates
Not updating things often comes from the fear of breaking your website, but that’s an antipattern—if there’s going to be anything that destroys your website, it’s the fact you ignored a crucial security update. People often leave updates uninstalled, and hackers know and exploit this. Leaving your website unpatched makes it vulnerable to security breaches, and one of those breaches is going to tear your site to pieces.
The same goes for plugins: update whenever possible. Installing a plugin that regularly updates is a good choice—it shows the developer and community have an investment in it. You can expect it to say secure and functional for a long time. I know installing updates can be a pain, but it’s absolutely critical to keep your site secure.
8. Keeping WordPress Default Content
With each new WP installation, there will be a featured sample page. This is usually titled ‘Hello World’ followed by a small description that assumes it will be edited or deleted. You should aim to get rid of this content as soon as possible. Don’t just edit, completely delete it! Why? Well firstly it just looks amateurish to your users, but mostly because it will be indexed by Google as duplicate content, which will hurt your SEO. The quicker you get rid of it and start posting organic content, the better.
9. Forgetting About Maintenance Mode
When making changes to your site, it’s important you remember to put it in maintenance mode. This will require the use of a plugin. Maintenance mode temporarily makes your content temporarily unavailable to the public, which is beneficial to you for a few reasons:
●Your SEO ranking will not be affected, as long as you’re not under maintenance for too long.
●Competitors can’t figure out what you’re doing and try to do it first.
●It builds anticipation. It’s best you put a date on the “in maintenance” page so they know when to revisit. You can use ‘Coming Soon Mode’ to build hype before a major update or content launch.
You can fully customize your maintenance page with text and images to make it really stand out from the rest, and to fit your site’s aesthetic.
10. Confusing Posts and Pages
Mixing posts and pages will upset website structure and user pathing. Site management will also become difficult, which is where most beginners realise they’ve confused the two. Pages have a hierarchy and are used to split up different aspect of a site. Common examples are ‘Contact,’ ‘Portfolio’ or ‘Services’. You can have a ‘blog’ page with posts inside it, and the posts are organized within that page by categories and tags.
To simplify site maintenance, create a custom theme, enhance plugins and optimize all aspects of SEO, it may be worth hiring a WordPress developer. I’d recommend CodeClouds. They’re a distributed team with a tiered subscription model, so you can scale your investment with them depending on how much work you need. Their WordPress developers in Indiana and India are highly specialized and will take the technical stress off any budding WordPress entrepreneur.
However, before even considering hiring a developer, you should thoroughly understand and be comfortable with all the basics of WordPress. This will make consulting with any potential partners a lot more meaningful and help you clarify the future of your WordPress requirements.
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