Advice and guidance on how to maintain, develop and drive more traffic to your WordPress website.
- Backup your WordPress website
- Protect your WordPress website from hacks
- Speed up your WordPress website
- Search optimise your WordPress website
- Get stats from your WordPress website
Save tears and backup your site before making any changes. If you don’t feel confident about making any of the recommended changes yourself, consult with your web developer, techie friends or get in touch, we’d be happy help.
Backup your WordPress website
It would drive me to tears to rebuild the entire blog archive and keyword optimised pages on the Rather Inventive site. In fact, it’s likely we’d have to just suck it up and start again. If a site gets hacked or a server fails, which it might and they do, having a recent backup copy is a chance to restore and be up and running quickly.
If you haven’t taken a copy of your website for a while, or even since it was launched, now is a good time to do so. Here are a few suggestions on how to do it.
Ask your web developer to take a copy for you
If you have someone who manages your website for you it’s worth checking if they take regular backup copies on your behalf and if not how they can set this up and at what cost. It’s also worth asking your web hosting company if they offer a backup option as the best backup is one you can set and forget.
Export a copy of your WordPress content
Not a complete backup by any means but quick and easy to take. We often use this as a ‘just in case backup’ on clients sites when making small content changes.
WordPress provide some instructions on how to Export but you’ll need to have administrator access.
Install a WordPress backup plugin
We use duplicator plugin to download a copy of the files and database in one zip file. It’s quick and simple but is a manual process and you’ll also need to have administrator access.
Use an external backup service
CodeGaurd ($60/yr) and Dropmysite (39$/yr) automatically takes daily backups of client sites and works on most websites with FTP access. You will need access to your database and Secure FTP (or just plain FTP) login credentials.
If you do nothing else we recommend, backup your website as regularly as you can. It will save tears should the worst happen.
Protect your WordPress website from hacks
Over 25% of websites now run on WordPress including many Rather Inventive websites. Sadly this makes it a big target for automated bots and scripts to gain access for nefarious purposes.
Letting your site fall behind on updates can leave it vulnerable to malicious attacks. I’ve provided specific advice on updating WordPress below.
Update your plugins and themes
Plugins and themes provide additional style or function not present in WordPress extending it far beyond it’s humble default setup. Plugin developers often have access to early development versions of WordPress so it’s worth updating these first before moving on.
To know if you have any plugin updates, login into your WordPress dashboard then look for the ‘Plugins’ menu on the side bar. If you have updates it will show an orange circle with the number of updates available.
Important. Sometimes updating a plugin can break your website and stop it working, in the worst cases you may even get the ‘white screen of death‘. Most plugins will let you know if there is a potential this might happen such as major updates for WooCommerce so read any update notices carefully.
Update the WordPress core
Next update the main WordPress files, also know as the core. To see if any updates are available click on ‘Dashboard’ then ‘Updates’ in the side bar.
I recommend you also read through WordPress’s own page on updates, which has further information if you run into problems when updating.
Check it all still works
Before you go on with your day make sure the website’s working correctly including testing contact forms, password protected pages and making dummy purchases if you have an ecommerce site.
Protect from hacks
Finally I suggest adding two plugins that help prevent malicious attacks, provide email reports when updates are available and can even speed up your website with caching, making it quicker to access commonly accessed pages.
Both have functional free versions with additional paid features should you need them.
Wordfence – Let’s you know if you site becomes compromised through an attack, which files might be affected and provides a cache to speed up the website.
iThemes Security – Locks down your site files to prevent access to automated scripts an people who get the password wrong too many times.
Are there any security plugins you couldn’t live without? Share them with me Twitter.
Speed up your WordPress website
I get frustrated by slow sites and often click back to the search results or social media post I came from if it takes too long to load. I’m reasonably tolerant but for many people ‘too long’ is just a few seconds.
Not only will a slow site reduce the number of visitors that stay on your site but it can also affect how much traffic you get from search engines. Google appears to penalise slower sites by moving them down the search results resulting in much reduced organic traffic.
As a minimum we aim for a website to load entirely within two seconds or one second as a stretch goal. Here are some ideas to get your site nice and nimble.
Save tears, backup your site before making any changes.
Test your site before you make changes
Whichever method you use make a note of the resulting speed to compare once you gave finished optimising.
Bloated images are the biggest culprit to slow loading websites. Luckily most images can be compressed without loosing any noticeable quality.
Where possible save images in JPEG format with a compression of around 90% for hassle free results. If you have time though I recommend experimenting by lowering the compression until you strike a balance between quality and a small files size.
If your image requires a transparent background you’ll need to save in PNG format. If you have options for compressing then choose 90%.
Remove unused plugins
We have also found that some plugins are badly programmed or use outdated methods which cause inefficient use of your internet when loading files. For example we removed a rotating Tweets plugin from a WordPress site we were optimising bringing load time down by 4 seconds! All in our developer shaved off 6 seconds even when re-implementing a more efficient rotating Tweets plugin.
Cache often visited pages
Pre-loading, or caching, your website pages can save visitors many seconds when waiting for you page to load. We’ve seen speed improvements of up to 10 seconds on data heavy WooCommerce websites.
I highly recommend WP Rocket cache as the easiest way to get a super fast site. It is a paid plugin (currently $39) but it’s worth it. I like it because you can set it up quickly and then fine tune if you need to.
As a free alternative caching plugin you could try WP Super Cache by the makers of WordPress.
Use a Content Delivery Network (CDN)
A CDN is a clever service that makes your site available in multiple locations globally and then directs visitors to the nearest (and often quickest) server for them.
CloudFlare is a service we use and it makes adding your website to a CDN straightforward. It also performs magic tweaks on your website to compress files before your visitors get to see it so it’s delivered to them as fast as possible.
Should your server be unavailable CloudFlare can also serve up a static copy of your website to visitors so they don’t see any nasty error pages and can still access your content albeit with some limits.
Finally, test your site again
Do you see a speed improvement? If so don’t keep it to yourself share it on Twitter.
Search optimise your WordPress website
Writing interesting, engaging or funny content regularly for your website is the best way to get a good position in search or get referred in social media. However basic SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) should not be ignored and if done well can lift your website above many others.
Be mobile friendly
This means making your website look good and function correctly on a mobile device such as an iPhone.
Not only can a mobile friendly site reduce visitor frustration on smaller screens and lower bounce rate (how many people leave your site after 1 page visit) but not making your website mobile friendly can have a negative impact on your search position in mobile Google’s search results.
Google has a tool to check your sites Mobile Friendliness for you. If your site passed well done! It’s still worth testing all the pages, buttons and links to make sure they work correctly, particularly if you rely on the income it generates.
If your site failed the test all is not lost. If you are happy with your current visitor numbers and haven’t seen a decline then you don’t need to rush but I suggest penciling in a call with your web developer to discuss the cost to make the changes required to pass.
Google Search Console can notify you of any search indexing problems Google may have with your website including any pages present in Google’s database but not available on your site, known as Crawl errors.
If these page URL’s have changed, perhaps you migrated to a new site recently, then its important to get every old site address permanently redirected to the new one. For example ‘/blog/deleted-blog-post/’ would change to ‘/blog/related-blog-post/’. For WordPress sites we often use a plugin called Safe Redirect Manager.
As a bonus Search Console allows you to see which keywords people use to find you and what page you show up on in search. This can help you monitor your keyword ranking snd improve them over time.
Keywords or key phrases are a word or set of words people use in a search engine to find a product, service or information. For example people looking for a case for their iPhone might type ‘iphone case’ in to a search engine but this general or broad term could bring up a lot of results and therefore people are likely to refine their search and look for something more specific such as ‘blue iphone 6s case’.
List out all words or short phrases your ideal customer might use to find a service or product like yours online, then conduct a little research.
Moz Keyword Explorer is a free tool where you can find out how many people are searching for your keywords each month and how much potential competition there might be. Add all you keywords into it to find out which are search for most frequently and focus on incorporating them into your page titles and content.
Note: We used to recommend the Google Keyword Planner but this is now only available to Google Adwords users with an active account.
If your business relies on customers from the local area then add your local town or city into your keyword list can make it easier to get found. A vets might use ‘swindon vets’ for example.
Finally a Google+ Business page is another opportunity for local businesses to show up in Google’s results when people are searching locally. Whether your listing is shown may depend on how close you are from the centre of the local search and how many reviews you have.
Get stats from your WordPress website
By understanding how people use your website you are better able to write more popular blog posts or provide the information visitors need to make a decision more quickly. To round of this series of posts I want to focus on setting up a simple Marketing dashboard in Google Analytics.
Install Google analytics
Google Analytics is a free tool to help you understand how many people visit your site, how they find you and what pages they are looking at. Once setup, Analytics is an incredible resource.
Google’s set-up process is reasonably painless and if you don’t have access to your website files or content manager administration it guides you through sending these to your web developer.
Focus on goals
If you can pin down important pages on your website that convert people in to action, filling out a contact form or purchasing a product for example, then you can setup goals in Analytics to track not only how many people visit these pages but also where they came from originally.
Google has instructions how to setup goals and I recommend keeping them simple to start with.
Setup a dashboard
Regularly reviewing Analytics can help you make sure the number of visitors, known as ‘Users’ in Analytics, are increasing but more importantly understand how they find your website i.e. what ‘Channel’ they use
To prevent being overloaded by the depth of data I recommend setting up a dashboard to show you only the numbers that are important to you.
You can get a head start by adding my Marketing Dashboard to your profile or jump in and start creating your own.
Review and feedback
Another useful view in Analytics is the Behaviour flow. It visualises the pages visitors land on (from a social media link or Google search) and then tracks the pages they went on to. Combine this with goals and this can give you insight on your websites usage and how to improve it.
So you don’t forget to review your Marketing Dashboard each month setup an email report to be sent directly to your email inbox. You can schedule a report from most views within Google Analytics.
For more information see beginners guide to using Google Analytics.