WordPress is an amazing platform, and one of the most widely used content management systems available today. However, there is a bit of a learning curve when it comes to getting to the know the platform. Often, those using WordPress for the first time get overwhelmed and frustrated, and that’s completely understandable. When you’re doing it alone, there is so much to think about.
Luckily, I’ve spent years teaching myself WordPress and making all the most common mistakes (sometimes more than once). That’s what I’ve compiled this list of 12 of the most common ones, so you can learn from my mistakes rather than making your own! Run through this list on your own WordPress website and you’ll be ready to launch a website that is built for success!
Choosing the Wrong Platform
One of the biggest mistakes that new WordPress users make is choosing the wrong platform. Often, this mistake is in choosing to use WordPress.com when you should be using WordPress.org. Some people don’t know that there’s a difference, but the truth is that the two platforms are completely separate from one another. Though both have their pros and cons, it’s important to understand the differences before choosing one, rather than diving in and getting months into your online journey before realizing you chose wrong.I have written before about the differences between the two, as have countless people on the web. I could break them down for you, but instead I think giving you my recommendation would be more helpful.
WordPress.com is a free platform targeted towards beginner bloggers. If you are thinking about taking up blogging as a hobby, and want to try it out for a month or so before committing to it, then make an account on WordPress.com and blog away. Don’t start fidgeting with your design and trying to adjust settings too much. Just get your site up and running, and spend a month or so deciding whether you can really make blogging a regular part of your life. If you succeed, and in a month decide you really do love blogging and you want to start working on your site design, building a following, making money from your site, and potentially make it into a career, you will probably want to switch to WordPress.org.One of the biggest mistakes that new WordPress users make is choosing the wrong platform. Click To Tweet
WordPress.org is a more serious platform that is targeted towards entrepreneurs and professional bloggers. Though WordPress.org is also free, it requires that you purchase a domain name and hosting to have a site, so there are costs involved (around $100 a year). If you already know that you want to start blogging regularly and make money from your site, start with WordPress.org. Or, if you are an entrepreneur and you need to start a website for your business or services, WordPress.org is also for you. WordPress.org is an amazing platform that has no limitations and gives you complete control over your website.
The main proof is that tonnes of people move from wordpress.com to wordpress.org every day, but few people ever switch in the other direction. WordPress.org is the choice if you are serious about your blog or business or services or whatever you will be using your website for. Making a move from one platform to another can be difficult and time consuming, so it’s vital that you make the right choice for you now, and then commit to it rather than switching again down the road.
Launching too Early
One mistake that many beginners make is launching their website too early. Getting your website running is exciting, but many people get ahead of themselves and want to launch before they are really ready. When you are considering launching your website, it’s important that you have mastered the platform first. With WordPress this is especially true, since the platform can have a learning curve.
Once your website is live you want to be able to dedicate your time to publishing new blog content and promoting it to bring in new readers and potential customers or clients. If your site launches and you are still doing things like learning how to use the platform, fiddling with your design, or troubleshooting, you’re wasting valuable time. Instead, make sure you fully understand WordPress before you launch your site, and then you will be ready to find success.
You also want to have your site complete before launching so that it remains consistent. If you launch your new site before you are done adjusting the design, your readers will be confused when they see the changes happening in front of their eyes. Instead, take the time to perfect your design before you launch, and then once you do your readers will only see the finished product.
Leaving Dummy Text
A major mistake that many WordPress beginners make is leaving demo content in place when they launch their site. By default, when you install WordPress there are sample posts and pages in place, to show you a demo of what kind of content you can publish. Lots of people add new content right away and get excited adjusting their site, but then they forget to come back and delete that demo content before they launch their site. This makes their site visible to the public with meaningless, demo content on it that makes them appear unprofessional to readers and potential clients or customers.
The most common demo content that you need to make sure to change is the Hello World Post, the Sample Page, and the Just Another WordPress site title and tagline that you can change by going to Settings > General.Many WordPress beginners leave demo content in place on their site. Don't let this be you! Click To Tweet
Using Default Settings
When WordPress is installed, all of the settings have a default already in place and you could publish your site as-is if you wanted to. But, the problem is that these settings are all generic and probably not set to the best option for your website. This means that it’s important to explore all of the site settings before launching your site so that you know they are configured for you and your needs.
One of the most common settings that people ignore are the permalink settings under Settings > Permalinks. This area lets you configure how the permalinks of your site will appear. A permalink is the URL or permanent link that someone can use to find a certain post or page on your website. Although you can change permalink individually, they are generated automatically by WordPress first. In most cases it’s good to establish a set permalink format, and then use the links that are automatically generated by WordPress.
You can choose to use the title or a post or page in a permalink, you can include the date, numbers, or create a custom structure all together. The most common and useful format is use the name format. This means that if I write a blog post called WordPress Tips, the automatic permalink that is generated would be www.melissacarterdesign.com/wordpress-tips. This is a standard format and is a good option to use so that your links are always a little bit descriptive.
The only downside to this is when your post or page title is very long, in which case you should manually shorten the permalink within the WordPress editor.
Forgetting Standard Pages
On any website, there are a few pages that should be included and easily accessible no matter what. In my opinion, these are Home, About, Contact, and Blog if you have a blog on your website. This are standard links that many users look for when they land on a site.
If they want to know more about what the site is focused on or who writes the site, they will look for the About page. If they are intrigued by the content and want to follow along or get in touch with the author, they will look for the Contact page. If they get lost on the site or want to go back to the beginning so start fresh, they will look for the Home page. And, last of all, if they are interested in your content and want to read more on similar topics, they will look for the Blog to see what other content you have to offer.
These links should always be available, and be accessible in a menu that is easy to find and use for your user. If your user is looking for any of these links and has trouble finding them within a few seconds, they will likely leave your site rather than searching for any longer.
Blocking Search Engines
One of the best ways to promote your site and build your traffic is to work on SEO (search engine optimization) and make your site easy to find for someone on Google or another search engine. For example, if I write that post called WordPress tips and someone Googles WordPress tips, I want my post to show up in the results so they will visit me.
But, one tiny WordPress setting can stop this from being possible if you aren’t careful. When you are ready to launch your site, go to Settings > Reading and make sure that Search Engine Visibility is not checked. Often, people who are working on their site will check this option so that search engines will not look through their site before it is ready. This is to avoid the search engine storing a version of the site that is only half complete, and then presenting that to searchers rather than the full complete content.
But, the problem is that lots of WordPress beginners check this option while they are working on their site, and then when they launch they forget to come back and uncheck it. Then they wonder why they aren’t getting good search traffic! Unchecking this option is one of the simplest, yet most important ways to make sure your site can be found!This one tiny WordPress setting can stop Google from ever finding you if you're not careful! Click To Tweet
Using too Many Plugins
When you first start using WordPress, plugins can seem like magic. There is one for everything, from caching your website, to inserting an Instagram feed, to adding a slider, plugins really are magic. But, the problem is that it is easy to get carried away, and end up with a WordPress site that is using 100 plugins.
Though there really isn’t any definitive answer out there in the WordPress world, it is generally accepted knowledge that if you have too many plugins, your site will run slower. This is because each plugin has its own code written by its own developers, so if you have too many you will eventually have code that clashes and bogs down your site. In my opinion you should try and stay under 15 plugins if you can. This doesn’t mean that if you have 20 plugins your site will crash, it just means that the more you have, the more likely it is that your site will be slow.
This also depends on the kinds of plugins you are running. A plugin like WooCommerce which adds a full shop onto your WordPress site will obviously take more room and slow your site more than a little plugin that’s adding something like a Twitter feed to your sidebar. It all depends on your unique site, and your unique combination of plugins. But, if your site is slow, the first place to look is always at the plugins you have installed.
Not Setting Feature Images
Setting feature images for your content is something that most bloggers think about, because it is the image that shows when a blog post is shared on social media. But, sometimes beginners forget that every post AND page on your site needs to have a feature image. You never know when someone might be sharing your content, and you always want to have control over what image is going to show up in the preview.
This means that it’s worth taking the time to go through all your posts and pages and set a preview image for each one. If you don’t set a feature image, when a post or page is shared, it will automatically sift through the post and show a preview of the first image it finds, and most of the time that doesn’t look great. If you set feature images, you won’t regret it when your content is shared and it shows a nice preview that draws people in.
Adjusting Design Without a Child Theme
One mistake that beginner WordPress users make a lot is trying to adjust the design of their theme without a child theme. It’s easy to Google a design change you want to make to your website, and then find some random code and throw it into your theme file. But, if you haven’t made a child theme first, this is not the way to go about it.
If you were to make styling changes to your theme, whenever you update the theme, these changes will be overridden. This is because an update isn’t really updating the files, it’s actually just deleting the old ones and putting new files in their place. This means that any changes you make to your theme will disappear when you do a theme update.
To avoid this, the proper way to make changes to a theme is to create a child theme. A child theme is a theme that is based off the original (or parent theme) and allows you to put all your changes in a separate safe area, that won’t be affected when you update your parent theme. Another important benefit of a child theme is that you are adjusting your code in a separate area, so if you ever make a mistake you can just delete those files, and the original files of your theme will still be in place.
Setting up a child theme can be a little confusing at first, but once you get it up and running you can make any changes to your site without ever having to worry about it again.You can't start adjusting your theme design without a child theme! Find out why here. #wordpress Click To Tweet
Forgetting to Keep Your Site Updated
A simple error that a lot of new WordPress users make is forgetting to keep their site updated. When something on your site needs to be updated, a small orange notification will appear in your dashboard, but most beginners just ignore these notifications and go about their regular business of publishing content. Though this is okay for a few days at a time, the real problem begins when updates get ignored for weeks, and then start to build up.
Plugins, themes, and even WordPress itself is updated by the developers on a regular basis. Then they send these updates through to your website, which is when you get the notification. This is to make sure that WordPress is always the best it can be, and the themes and plugins are always compatible with the latest version of WordPress. When you ignore updates for a long time, they start to build up on top of another.
Though, in theory, there is no problem in doing a lot of updates at once, the more updates you have to do, the more likely it is that something will go wrong. Updates require deleting old files and replacing them with new ones like I said, so every file is a chance that something is going to go wrong. Through WordPress is a reliable platform in general, doing updates is the place where things most often go awry. If you keep your site up to date on a regular basis, there is nothing to worry about. But, if you have to do twenty updates at once because you’ve been putting them off for so long, you’re putting your site at a higher risk for no reason.
Uploading Images at the Wrong Size
Site speed is a huge factor in whether your website will find success. Especially today, when everyone is busy and looking to get their online content as fast as possible, and no one has time to sit around twiddling their thumbs while your website loads.
Better yet, no one wants to. Have you ever tried to visit a website only to have the progress bar creeping across the screen slowly? Chances are you probably gave up and left the site, and found the information you needed elsewhere. If you REALLY wanted the information that was there, you might have waited a little longer, but even then you were probably annoyed. So, we all know page speed is important.
Though there are a lot of factors that affect how fast your site loads, one of the big ones is the size of your images. I’m sure you’ve also landed on a website before where the content loads before the images, and you see the images slowly load and fill in frame by frame. Most of the time this is because these images were too big. One of the most important things you can do for your website is making sure that you upload images at the correct size. First, you want to reduce the file size by running them through a service like TinyPNG.
Next, you want to make sure that the actual size of the image, like the width and height, is as small as possible (while still fitting whatever purpose you need it). For example, if your site only ever expands to be 2000px wide, you never need an image to be larger than that, even if the image is going to be the full width of your page. This is especially true for smaller images that are within posts and pages, that only take up a portion of the page. You should explore your site and your theme to figure out what size images you need, and then make sure you are never uploading images bigger than that.
Forgetting About Mobile Design
Today, a huge percentage of your site visitors are likely looking at your site on their mobile devices. Whether that’s a tablet or a phone, everyone is seeing your content in different sizes. This means it’s vital that your website is mobile friendly.
Luckily, most themes today come optimized for mobile design (if your theme isn’t, you should choose another theme). This means that as your content scales smaller and larger it will change sizes and shift around to make it readable and user friendly at any size.
But, as you add more content, plugins, widgets, images, and other elements that can affect how your site scales, you need to make sure that your site still looks great across every device. This is something that most beginners forget about, because they assume it is something that is taken care of automatically. Though your mobile friendly theme takes care of a lot for you, you should always look at your site on as many browsers and devices as you can before launching, so you know everyone is seeing your content in its best form.
WordPress can be overwhelming if you dive in alone and don’t know where to start, but the truth is that the platform is powerful and easy to use once you get the hang of it. If you avoid these beginner mistakes and focus on learning the platform rather than rushing through it, you will be a WordPress master in no time!