Running a successful WordPress blog may seem like an easy task, but the truth is; it is not. There is a long list of WordPress tips and best practices that must be adhered to if a blogger is to realize such success.
For experienced bloggers who have grown with WordPress over the years, it may be easier to start a new blog. But for the beginner bloggers who this article aims to address, these ten WordPress tips will go a long way in easing their journey to successful blogging.
WordPress is the world’s leading Content Management System (CMS) powering over 35% of the websites worldwide.
This CMS is also undoubtedly the biggest blogging platform, powering both the WordPress and self-hosted blogs on the World Wide Web.
1. Choose between WordPress.com and WordPress.org
The first and most crucial WordPress tip you need to consider as a beginner blogger is the right platform to use. WordPress has two options; the easy to start and free (WordPress Hosted) version, or the self-hosted (WordPress.org) version.
If you want to start blogging for fun without incurring any costs apart from your internet, power, and time, you have WordPress.com, which is free and easy, to begin. But if you want to start blogging as a career, you’ll need to go for WordPress.org which commences with a cost of domain registration and hosting.
Pros of WordPress.com:
- Simple to set up and use
- Free to start with
- Many themes to choose from
Cons of WordPress.com:
- Can’t monetize the free version
- Not professional
- Limited functionalities you can’t use plugins
- Paid upgrades are more expensive than self-hosting (WordPress.org)
Pros of WordPress.org:
- Full customization is possible
- Looks professional with the custom domain so no yourname.wordpress.com
- You can have unlimited storage
- Thousands of plugins to customize your blog with much functionality
- It’s more affordable compared to WordPress.com
Cons of WordPress.org
- Requires some setup and plugin customization skills
- There is no free version
- The dashboard is not as simple as the one for WordPress.com
2. Get a Domain Name and Hosting
If you decide to go the professional way of blogging to use WordPress.org, then you need to register a domain name for your blog and subscribe to a web hosting plan.
What is a Domain Name?
A domain name is an address which your blog visitors will find your website. It can be any name preferably related to the niche of your blog, followed by a .com, .net, .org, .co.uk, or even, blog depending on the target audience and functions of your blog.
A domain name is what your blog visitors will type at the address bar of their browsers if they want to visit the blog. It is also the same address that is picked up by search engines to return results with links to your blog based on keyword searches related to your blog.
What is Web Hosting?
Web hosting is the storage of your domain name and all the website content, in a web server that allows visitors to access via the internet. While WordPress themselves have a hosting plan in the WordPress.com premium version, it’s much more expensive, yet it still limits you too much less than what WordPress.org offers.
Hosting companies provide web hosting services packaged in many ways with different prices, billed monthly or annually. Usually, you would start with a basic plan that has a limited amount of storage space. Then, later on, you can upgrade to unlimited storage plans as your blog grows, especially if you have a lot of image and motion content.
3. Install WordPress and Choose Theme
Once you pay for your hosting plan, the hosting provider will give you credentials to your control panel commonly known as cPanel. This panel provides you all administrator rights to install WordPress on your newly registered domain name.
The installation process usually is straight forward with several sections to fill in details of the new WordPress blog you are about to install. If you decide to use the free version, the installation is a bit different from the self-hosted CMS but also an easy step-by-step process.
Choosing a Theme:
WordPress blogs are made up of themes and plugins, which offer different functionalities, such as navigation and page customization. There are thousands of WordPress themes developed to suit different types of blogs. As shown by the Solwin Infotech website, which has a wide array of themes for WordPress blogs, general sites, and even eCommerce, WordPress is indeed versatile.
For example, the company had developed a theme called Bloggers Lite, which is available both as a free and paid theme. The free version comes with a few functionalities to start a simple blog. The Bloggers theme comes with fully-fledged features to start your blog into any look you want.
4. Install the Correct Plugins
There are thousands of WordPress plugins available on the web, and they all have their functions; good and evil. Being the biggest CMS in the market today, WordPress gets its fair share of attacks which are mostly triggered by malicious or outdated plugins. It is, therefore, imperative to install and activate only the plugins you require to run your blog to avoid being an easy prey of hackers.
A quick way to identify the authenticity of a plugin is to verify the developers’ name. Also, carry out a quick research on the plugin’s reviews, and look at the last time it was updated. (any plugin that is outdated for more than three months may be vulnerable to attacks).
Keep an eye at the number of downloads the plugin has (a useful plugin ideally has the highest number of downloads compared to others in the same keyword category or with similar functionalities).
Some of the most common plugins that are a must-have for any WordPress blogger are:
- SEO Plugin
- Comments Plugin
- Slider Plugin such as the Avartan Slider
- Forms Plugin
- Antispam Plugin
- User Registration Plugin
- Backup Plugin
- Gallery Plugin such as Portfolio Designer
- Social Media Plugin
- Maintenance Plugin
5. Put the Blog under Maintenance Mode during Development
As a beginner blogger, it may take you several days or weeks to fully set up your blog and launch it to your global audience. Best practice calls for a hidden front-end while developing to avoid driving away potential customers when they visit your blog and find it half-baked.
The best part about putting your WordPress blog under maintenance mode is that it only requires a free plugin installed, activated, and setup.
Setting up the plugin can incorporate either an image, text or both, with a description telling your visitors to look out for the upcoming website. You can also add some contact information on the maintenance page for your customers to reach you if they need to before you launch the blog.
Some plugins come with a timer which can be set up to countdown the days, hours, and seconds remaining before you start the blog.
6. You Must Secure the Blog
Your blog is an asset which have to secure at all times to avoid being hack or attack by malicious software. Securing your blog starts with your hosting provider. The provider assigns a Secure Socket Layer (SSL) Certificate with your hosting plan, or at a small extra cost billed annually.
SSL is the global standard technology for securing data over the internet by creating an encrypted link between the web server and a browser.
A website with an active SSL will display the domain name starting with an https:// while one without the security certificate will begin with HTTP:// (missing the ‘s’). The secure address also displays a green padlock which shows a message that “your website is secure.” The insecure one will display a red hazard sign with the message “website is not secure, information share on this site can be compromised.”
7. Ensure You Setup a Backup
There is no painful thing such as losing hours, days, weeks, months, and years of thoughts crafted into captivating blog content. Imagine what would happen if you blogged successfully for two years writing consistently one article per day. After two years, you would be over 700 topics under your name!
But what if you got that far then one day you woke up and found your website down for whatever reason? And after several minutes or hours of grilling your hosting provider or trying to figure out the cause of the downtime, you realize that you lost the entire blog, including the database and content.
It can be profoundly depressing and demotivating hence the need to strictly ensure you have a backup schedule, which includes offsite storage. Luckily, setting up a backup plan for a WordPress blog is very easy.
With the availability of backup plugins such as UpdraftPlus, downloaded more than 2 million times and is frequently updated, getting a backup of your blog could not be any easier. When setting up this plugin, make sure you keep a copy on a separate cloud such as Google Drive. It will enable you to restore your blog quickly should your web server encounter any data loss.
8. Know Your Blog’s Legal Requirements
To keep up with the magnitude of blogging in today’s business, you need to know all the legal requirements for your blog. That way, you will be on the right side of the Law and protect yourself in case of any legal suits against you relating to your blog.
These are EU requirements, and as such, they are essential for any blogger who wants to reach the international market. In your blog, you will also have contact and subscription forms. These may require visitors to fill in their private details such as names, email addresses, location, and other contacts.
9. Optimize Your Blog’s Images for Faster loading and SEO
One other very essential WordPress tip for beginner bloggers is about image optimization for faster page loading and search engine optimization. Any website that takes minutes to load content is doomed to fail.
As research shows, website visitors hate the thought of waiting for minutes to see a website loading content. Image optimization starts before you upload the pictures to the WordPress media.
To do this, you need to use image-editing tools such as Photoshop or Illustrator to save the images for web quality, which is usually lighter in weight but maintains the quality. Upload the edited images and run your blog through GTmetrix to get a detailed report of your site’s loading speed.
This report also highlights all changes that need to make the website load faster. The best thing about these results is that they include links to detailed step by step guides on how to carry out each optimization in WordPress. You can also add a Content Delivery Network (CDN) and install a cache plugin to improve the overall speed of your blog.
10. Make Sure You Undertake Frequent Maintenance for your Blog
Over time, the theme and plugins installed in your WordPress blog will become outdated. The developers will release the latest versions which generally come with bug fixes and added features. Keeping your theme and plugins updated is part of your routine blog maintenance. It will contribute highly to the overall success of the website because it will always perform at its optimum best.
These ten WordPress tips are certainly enough to get any beginner blogger started with a career or hobby of blogging. However, keep in mind these are the bare minimum prerequisites to becoming a successful WordPress blogger.
Your effort to dig deeper in research will determine your overall performance as a blogger. Just like checking for updates as described in tip number ten above, you will need to read more about new trends in the blogging world, and generally WordPress.