More and more people are turning to WordPress to build a professional website as it increasingly becomes a more user-friendly CMS thanks to the availability of quality themes, plugins, and tools. Granted, that doesn’t mean it’s an easy platform to build a small business website with, and anyone who has used WordPress knows it takes time to get used to. To help lessen the otherwise steep learning curve, we’ve put together the top WordPress tips and tricks.
Here are 25 WordPress tips and tricks for small businesses:
1. Sign Up for Web Hosting First
The most common rookie mistake is to create a WordPress account before getting web hosting. While it sounds like the sort of thing a web hosting company would want you to hear, it’s actually what you need to hear. By getting web hosting first, you save yourself a lot of hassle. Why? The best web hosts include extras like a free domain name, a free SSL, and one-click WordPress installation, so your domain, web host, and WordPress site are automatically connected.
Looking for a host that includes everything you need to get started? Get a free domain name, SSL certificate, and one-click WordPress installation for as little as $2.59 per month with DreamHost.
2. Invest in the Right Theme
Your WordPress theme is the foundation of your website. It dictates how your site looks, how it functions, and how much of a pain it is to build. As appealing as a free theme may sound, the reality is that premium themes are generally the way to go. Premium themes give you the chance to start off with a site that looks and works as you want your site to. This means it requires fewer customizations, which makes your life easier and it can be launched faster.
Need help finding the right one? Check out the best WordPress themes for business.
3. Build for SEO
Search engine optimization (SEO) often comes as an afterthought. However, you’ll save yourself a lot of time by building it for SEO from the start. Start by getting a good understanding of your target audience, and then research your target keywords. From there, install an SEO plugin such as Yoast SEO, which will let you know what you need to do to write pages and posts that are SEO-friendly.
New to search engine optimization? Get all the information you need to rank on Google.
4. Edit WordPress Using a Drag & Drop Editor
Let’s be frank: The WordPress page editor is not user-friendly. As much as you can easily learn how to build web pages with it, you’ll find that the pages look like a novice blog post from 1999. That’s not what you want for a professional website—or any site in the 21st century. Instead, use a page builder plugin, such as Elementor or Beaver Builder, to transform the page editor into a drag-and-drop interface that works similarly to site builders like Wix and Squarespace.
Not sure where to start? Check out the best WordPress page builder plugins to find which is right for you.
5. Compress Your Images
Compressing images sounds technical, but it’s surprisingly simple, and requires zero tech expertise thanks to the help of free image optimizer tools such as Compressor.io or plugins, such as reSmush.it. Compressing images is one of the easiest and most effective ways to improve your website load time, which plays a large role in how well your website ranks in Google. A site that loads quickly also has a lower bounce rate, so it’s a win overall.
6. Create Internal Links on Your Website
Both a key on-page SEO strategy and a good user experience (UX) design practice is to include internal links on your web pages. This helps tell search engines such as Google that your website is a good search result for your target keywords, and it helps your site visitors more effortlessly navigate through your website. For example, consider YouTube’s “Up Next” column. It creates a rabbit hole of content, which keeps people engaged and can turn visitors into leads or customers.
7. Add ALT Tags to Your Images
This is one of those small details that can make a big difference. Adding ALT tags to all of your images further helps search engines, such as Google, understand what your site is about. In return, your site has a better chance of ranking highly in search results. To add ALT tags to images, select the image block and find “Image Settings” from the right-hand column under “Block.” There, use a few words (ideally keywords) to describe the image.
Pro tip: Your ALT description should correlate to your meta description and permalink so that your page or post content is consistent.
8. Change Your Permalink Structure for Better SEO
The default WordPress permalink structure includes the date of your posts. However, most SEO pros agree that this isn’t the ideal permalink structure for search engine optimization. The good news is that you can change the default setting. To do this, go into your site’s WordPress dashboard, select “Settings” from the left menu, and then click “Permalinks” from the menu that follows. From here, select the “Post name” radio button, and finally click “Save Changes.”
9. Monitor Your Website Speed
No one—including Google—has the patience for a slow site. The slower the site, the higher the bounce rate, which can be damaging to your bottom line. Of course, knowing that your site loads at a snail’s pace can be difficult to know, unless you test your website speed. With many great (and free) website performance tools available, there’s no excuse not to test your page load time. For example, Pingdom is a top website speed test tool that tests and grades your site.
Want to learn more about website speed? Check out our article on the best website performance tools to increase your site speed.
10. Design for User Experience
Web design is one of those things where no one notices if it’s good, but everyone notices if it’s bad. The best websites aren’t simply designed to look good, but to create a good user experience. This involves knowing your audience, giving them a seamless experience in finding what they’re looking for, and reducing website friction. For more insights, get the complete breakdown on how to design for UX.
11. Keep URLs Short
Shorter URL addresses are easier for people to quickly decipher what the content is about. Studies have also found that shorter URLs tend to attract more clicks than long URLs, so it’s not surprising that shorter URLs are growing in popularity among strategic business websites. WordPress allows you to set the URL structure on the control panel for each post you are writing. So if you customize your permalinks, make sure you make a connection with them and include your target keywords in your URL, if possible.
12. Secure Your Site
Hackers are on the lookout for WordPress sites with poor security. Don’t make your site, your business, and your customers a target for online attacks. Instead, protect your website by using a strong password (and no, that same one you use for everything doesn’t count), install an SSL certificate to protect sensitive user information (e.g., contact and payment information), and use a security plugin, such as Sucuri or Wordfence.
13. Change Your WordPress Login Page URL
Speaking of website security, take a step further and change your WordPress admin login URL. That’s right, you can change the actual URL (or permalink) of your login page. Why would you do this? Well, every WordPress site automatically generates the same generic login page (e.g., yourbusiness.com/wp-admin). This means it’s easy for hackers to try to login should they find clues to your password.
14. Limit Your Use of Plugins
Sure, WordPress comes with thousands of free and useful plugins, but that doesn’t mean you need all of them. Having too many plugins is a great way to slow down a site, so while they’re meant to be working for you, they may be working against you. Chances are you have a few extra installed plugins that you’re not using. Check your installed plugins and deactivate any that you’re not using.
15. Get Help When You Need It
Just because you chose to build your own WordPress site doesn’t mean you need to build it entirely on your own. It also doesn’t mean that you’re a web developer or even a graphic designer, but there are times when you might run into issues where you wish you were. In those cases, get help from the pros. Whether you need a custom-designed contact form or a graphic professionally altered, you can get surprisingly affordable help with sites like Fiverr and Upwork.
16. Create a Custom 404 Page
You never want anyone to land on a 404 page. But it does happen, and when it does, you want to try to keep visitors on your site. Just about every WordPress theme comes with a default 404 page, but a generic 404 may lead to visitors exiting your site because they may not even realize it is indeed your site. By creating a custom 404 page, you let visitors know that while they landed on the wrong page, they still arrived at the right website.
17. Track Site Visitors
It’s impossible to get a good read on how your site is performing if you don’t have any data on your site visitors. For example, you may know that you’re getting around 50 conversions per month, but if you don’t know how many people are visiting your site per month, you don’t really know if that’s a good percentage or not. First add Google Analytics to WordPress, if you haven’t done so already. Then, install the MonsterInsights plugin for more helpful user insights reports.
18. Automate Site Backups
Website backups are one of those things that most plan to do, but are easily overlooked and forgotten about until it’s too late. Don’t just plan to back up your site—automate backups so that you never have to think about it. There are a couple ways to go about this. The first is to choose a web hosting plan that includes automatic backups, such as InMotion and GoDaddy. If you have web hosting already, opt for a plugin, such as UpdraftPlus, which is free and automates backups.
19. Stay on Top of Updates
WordPress plugins are constantly being updated by developers, and by failing to perform updates when they’re available, you risk breaking elements of your site. So stay on top of WordPress and plugin updates by checking your WordPress dashboard frequently. You will get notices at the top of your dashboard, but you can also navigate to installed plugins to see which have available updates.
Don’t have time to constantly be monitoring WordPress? Automatically update WordPress plugins by using a plugin. Yes, there are plugins that automate updates for other plugins, such as Companion Auto Update.
20. Use reCAPTCHA to Reduce Contact Form Spam
Contact forms are great, but they’re also a magnet for spammers. Reduce the amount of junk you receive from your contact forms by using reCAPTCHA. This helps eliminate robo messages as it deciphers between humans and bots. Most of the leading WordPress contact form plugins include reCAPTCHA as an option in settings or under integrations. It’s also a good idea to add reCAPTCHA to WordPress login and registration to further reduce bots and hackers.
21. Understand How Redirects Work
WordPress redirect allows you to transfer website visitors from one page to a different page automatically. While you might be wondering why this matters to you, it’s because when you run into the instance where you need to remove pages or change URLs, you’ll need to set up redirects. If you don’t, your site visitors will land on a 404 page, which generally leads to visitors exiting out of your site. To do this easily, use a plugin such as Redirection.
22. Use Click-to-Call or Click Map Buttons
People are coming to your site to find information such as your number or to get directions to your business. Make it easy for them by using a click-to-call button or a click map to open directions from their mobile device. For example, a user may have found your restaurant by searching for the best restaurants near them. They land on your site, but they want to call to make a reservation. By using a click-to-call button, they can quickly and easily place the call.
23. Take Advantage of Available Integrations
The average business uses a multitude of platforms, from customer relationship management systems (e.g., HubSpot) to booking systems (e.g., OpenTable), and email marketing software. What’s great about WordPress is that there are tons of integrations available, so it’s worth checking if there’s one for the platforms you’re using.
For example, if you use Mailchimp for email marketing campaigns, you can integrate Mailchimp to your site so that users who sign up for your newsletter automatically get added to your contacts. When your next newsletter is deployed, the new contact will receive it.
24. Embed Reviews to Increase Social Proof
Whether you’re booking a hotel or an event, you want to know if it’s any good first—and so do your customers. User reviews play a vital role in the success of businesses, and even if you have a lot of reviews on platforms like Google, Tripadvisor, Trustpilot, or Houzz, you’ll want to show those on your site. Embed reviews on your site so users can see what others are saying about your business on other platforms. For example, you can use the Google Reviews widget.
25. Submit Your Site to the Google Search Console
As great of a search result as your site may be, that doesn’t mean that Google is aware of it. When launching a new website, it can take months for Google to find and recognize your site as a quality search result. However, you don’t have to sit around waiting for Google to notice you. Instead, you can help your site get found sooner by submitting your website to the Google Search Console. Get the step-by-step instructions on how to submit your URL to Google.
If you’re in the beginning stages of building a WordPress website, check out our WordPress tutorial video for beginners and following along step-by-step in our article on how to make a WordPress website.