Over the years WordPress has become a powerful and popular content management system with approximately 74.6 Million websites already deployed. Looking forward to 2015 both personal users and business owners alike are looking to optimize their website. Fortunately WordPress is very user friendly and most changes can be made quite easily. Having worked with WordPress for 5 years, here are some simple things you can do to get the most out of your site.
Here are 14 ways to optimize your WordPress website for 2015:
1) Review Meta Data – Take some time to review all page titles and descriptions on the website. Good things to include in both the title and description are any relevant keywords as well as a phone number, address or services. If the page is for a local business, make sure to include the city. This is also a good opportunity to review the website as a whole, cleaning up any outdated or incorrect information.
2) Clean Up Comments in Database – The high number of WordPress websites means they are often targeted by tools like Scrapebox which can fill a site with many meaningless comments. Some websites can get between 20,000 and 100,000 comments over a year. Having a large number of comments can significantly increase the load time of a page. Clearing out old and irrelevant comments can help alleviate these issues.
3) Content Refresh – Check all content for spelling, grammatical or other errors. Really get specific with the content, adding detailed information about any services and knowledge the website offers. Search engines work best when the content of a page is descriptive as possible. This step isn’t always easy so if needed hire a professional copywriter to get that content ready for the new year.
4) Deeplink Website – Where applicable, add natural and relevant links to related content inside the original content itself. When done properly this can benefit the user’s experience as well as help search engines properly index the page.
5) Hide and Limit Login URL – WordPress websites have a standardized login system normally located in the wp-admin directory. Because WordPress has become so popular, this standardized system is often targeted for exploitation. If the site is compromised, malware can be installed across the entire website. To help prevent this we use two tools. The first is the Lockdown WP Admin plugin which allows us to specify a custom URL for the login page. The second is the Limit Login Attempts plugin which allows us to limit the number of login attempts over a specific duration which in turn, limits brute force attempts. Hosting companies like Godaddy and WPengine proactively help by automatically including this plugin when using their 1-click installations.
6) Creating a Sitemap – Sitemaps help search engines like Google, Yahoo and Bing discover all pages and posts on a website. For people new to sitemaps there are many WP plugins that can help, like Advanced Sitemap Generator which generates the page automaticlally.
7) Delete Old Themes – Many old themes have known vulnerabilities and leaving them on a WordPress installation can leave it open to attack. These old and unused themes can also use valuable resources which can slow down the website. Cleaning out these old themes can improve both security and performance.
8) Update WordPress Software – WordPress is open source, meaning old vulnerabilities are generally well known and easily exploited. Using the latest version of WordPress is essential to maintaining a secure installation. The latest version is 4.0.1, before updating make sure the website and the database both have back ups and that all plugins are compatible with the new version. While it is important to update, one of the most common issues is updating the WordPress core files too early, breaking other functionality on the website. If you are unsure if you should update consult with a professional first.
9) Update all plugins – Keeping plugins up to date is a critical part of maintaining a WordPress installation. Moving forward to 2015 it is a good time to check all plugins for updates. It is important to preserve any custom modifications done to plugins so consult with a professional to make sure the website works properly.
10) Remove unnecessary Plugins – Sometimes clients and amateur web developers get a little crazy when exploring the capabilities of various plugins and they often forget to remove them. The more plugins installed, the greater the load on the server when loading a page. In our experience we find a core feature first approach is best, using plugins only when the core features do not easily accomplish what we want. GTMetrix.com is a great tool that analyzes several aspects of a site including HTTP requests, page size, file load history and many other useful metrics. Just as before it is a good idea to consult with a professional before deleting any plugins, they may be critical to the operation of the website.
11) Image titles – Image titles are an often ignored, yet important part of SEO and keyword density. Using descriptive image titles and keywords can help improve search engine results and is a good practice to maintain going forward.
12) Stop Pixelation – Review all the photos on your website and make sure there is no pixelation occurring. If the picture appears pixelated try adjusting the image dimensions or using a higher resolution. Pixelated images are ugly, if a suitable fix can’t be found, try using stock photos to replace it. Many websites like Shutterstock.com, 123RF.com and Photodune.net offer a variety of high resolution images. This simple step can dramatically improve the appearance of a website.
13) Mobile View – Many websites have significant issues when viewed on a mobile device. Sometimes developers only focus on the desktop view, leaving the website poorly suited for browsing on a mobile device. Many users will be viewing a website on a mobile device and having a clean useable mobile presentation is critical for a quality user experience.
14) Google Analytics – Knowing all aspects of a websites traffic is key to optimization and growth. Install a Google Analytics tracking script into the header.php or footer.php of the WordPress theme. If your theme has a spot for it in the Theme options, put the tracking script there. Look at key metrics such as bounce rate, unique visitors, page views, location of visits, referral websites, website flow and search engine keywords. This data will help you understand and correlate different marketing tactics you may be implementing.
This comprehensive list was created by seasoned WordPress Developers. Some of these things may seem tedious but making these changes can have a dramatic effect on organic rankings and improve user conversion. The goal is to make a website work for you by increasing sales and online reputation. So set your goals for 2015 and make your website work for you this year.
— Jason Turnquist is the Co-Founder and CEO of Fyresite, a strategy-led web development agency headquartered in Phoenix, Arizona. Fyresite has over 25 years of experience designing, developing and managing WordPress websites.