While there are a ton of introductory articles and free tips for WordPress websites online focusing on the getting started options, it’s often the intermediate to advanced tips that get left out. I am entirely focusing on professional-grade WordPress website tips for this series of articles. While not all of the WP tips mentioned below may pertain to your site, a single upgrade or switch-up in just one aspect of your online presence can make a world of difference. Enjoy!
It’s important to keep up to speed on the internet. With an open-source system like WordPress you realize very quickly that it improves constantly and you’re along for the ride. Personally, I love the changes in workflow and functionality. Each new method simplifies how you work while building on something you’ve experienced in the past. Each year comes with a new set of tools to optimize your website, simplify your workflow, make your website more more effective for end users and gives you the cutting edge in search engines.
While You Are Reading these WordPress Website Tips:
- Look at each of the following tips as a heads-up or introduction. I’ve provided links to dive deeper into each recommendation.
- I consult directly for WP Engine, which is the leading WordPress managed hosting platform. Since I work on websites daily within their infrastructure and most of my clients are hosted at WP Engine, some examples throughout this article will show their platform as an example. Feel free to try any of the recommendations on the hosting platform of your choice. (Consult your hosting company prior to doing so to make sure the options are available.)
Let’s get to some tips on improving your WordPress website for 2017!
WordPress Website Tip #1: Get A Free SSL
If you’re looking for WordPress website tips that are security based and currently don’t have an SSL, start here. An SSL encrypts and protects the information on your website. A site that is SSL-protected is identifiable by the green lock in the address bar.
- If you depend on advertising through an ad network like AdThrive or The Blogger Network, they don’t support SSL. (Other ad networks such as MediaVine and DoubleClick by Google are SSL compliant.)
- If you’re using a third party product that doesn’t support SSL. For example, an IDX solution for a real estate website.
- You don’t have the ability to communicate with your hosting company or a knowledgeable SSL installer. Keep reading if this applies to you because some companies are great at walking you through the process and making any necessary changes.
Reasons why most websites should use an SSL:
Google Recommends & Rewards It: In June 2014 Google announced the start of using SSL as a ranking signal. They mentioned that websites with an SSL would receive a slight increase in search engine visibility. Below is a lengthy video where they explain how it works and how to integrate it.
SSL Is Free: Previously an SSL cost about $75 per year. Recently Let’s Encrypt started offering FREE SSL certificates. I recommend Let’s Encrypt certificates for most sites. Let’s Encrypt does require some simple installation and maintenance steps. Fortunately a few hosting companies (including WP Engine) have this built into their infrastructure with a one-click install plus automatic renewal.
Installing Let’s Encrypt SSL: I’ve included the step-by-step process for installing an SSL at WP Engine as an example of how simple the setup is. If you’re on another hosting platform, here are the install instructions from Let’s Encrypt.
Steps For Installing a Free SSL on WP Engine:
1: Log in – Log in to your my.wpengine.com account and click on SSL. Click Add Certificates.
2: Select Get Let’s Encrypt
3: Select the domain, agree to the terms, and click Request SSL Certificate
That should do it! You’ll get a confirmation when it’s ready with the final step of adding it to your domain via email.
(If you need someone to finalize it and make sure your getting the green check box throughout your website, you can call into their 24-hour phone support or use their live chat. It usually takes about five minutes to make the necessary changes.)
WordPress Website Tip #2: Move Your Website To HTTP2
** If SSL wasn’t an option for you, skip this recommendation entirely. SSL is required for HTTP2
The Benefits Of HTTP2:
While there are a fair amount of improvements from HTTP to HTTP2, here are a few immediately noticeable upgrades:
- The website is loaded once, and as long as the website stays open, the additional information on the website doesn’t require secondary calls to the server. This speeds up transfer of information.
- It allows for priority requests so that the most important information is used first.
- Multi-request is used, allowing multiple requests at the same time rather than one after another.
For a detailed outline of HTTP2 visit the HTTP2 Github Resource
How To Move A Website to HTTP2:
I called my hosting provider and asked to be moved to an HTTP2 server. It took them one support ticket volley to complete and required a DNS change.
GoDaddy Does Not: According to this post, they don’t seem to support it yet.
Bluehost Does Not: I couldn’t find any information on it being supported.
HostGator ??: HG is currently TBD. I couldn’t find any support information. Since they are owned by the same company as Bluehost, my guess is they don’t.
Media Temple Does: Media Temple mentions in this article that they support HTTP2.
LiquidWeb Does: I called LiquidWeb’s support team and they support HTTP2.
WordPress Website Tip #3: Use PHP7
What is PHP? If you’re using WordPress to power your website, then you are using PHP. Simply put, PHP is a programming language that creates loops. For example, you may want to show all items that are in a category. PHP will loop through a function until they are all displayed.
Fun Fact: the looping aspect of PHP is such a big part of the programming language that the first P in PHP stands for PHP causing the acronym to create a recurring spiraling loop of PHPs.
- Nearly 82% of websites online use PHP. Only 2% have upgraded to PHP7, according to w3techs.com.
- PHP7 offers a 100% improvement in performance over the most recent version of PHP5.
- PHP7 reduces demand on servers allowing higher performance at a lower cost.
As programming languages change over time, getting on board at the right time ensures that you’re at the front of the pack regarding speed, quality and performance. Jumping on board with the new iteration of a programming language too early could potentially cause more problems than it’s worth. I reached out to both LiquidWeb and WP Engine, and, as of Jan 1st 2017, both said the move is generally safe for websites that have up-to-date plugins.
To Confirm Your WordPress Website Is Ready For PHP7: I recommend trying this plug-in to test for compatibility. The plug-in is issued by WP Engine but works on websites hosted elsewhere, according to this article. In the event that the plug-in shows an error, I recommend reaching out to the plug-in developer to make sure that it’s safe to upgrade to PHP7. I had a membership plug-in fail the test; however, a simple support ticket to them confirmed it was okay and that they were internally using PHP7 for their own websites.
To Move To A PHP7 Server: If the test indicated that your website was good to go, I recommend calling, chatting or opening a support ticket with your hosting provider and having them migrate your website to PHP7. I did this recently with WP Engine, and it only took a few minutes.
WordPress Website Tips –
#4 Don’t Get Penalized Using The Wrong Pop-Up Plugin
You’ll often find the pop-up mentioned (or used) in a WordPress website tips article. While they annoy some (including me), they continue to be used and recommended because the statistics of how well they work are undeniable. The exception is on mobile browsers. On a mobile device pop-ups are tremendously annoying and often wreck the page layout of the website—or at the very least cover up the entire mobile devices viewing area. This does not increase end-user interaction.
Google dislikes pop-ups so much they mentioned that they will start penalizing for websites that are using pop-ups on mobile devices (article).
This doesn’t mean you should stop using them all together. Just stop using them on mobile devices.
The Fix: Find a fly-out or pop-up solution that is mobile-friendly and has the ability to be turned off when a mobile device is being used, or simply stop using them all together. Our best recommendation for this is OptinMonster.Read their article about it here.
WordPress Website Tips – #5 Get To Know The New Royalty-Free Markets
While the majority of these WordPress website tips are geared towards the technical side of WP, it’s important to keep up with the aesthetics as well. Finding affordable and free images that you can legally use for your WordPress website articles, art and design is challenging. For the past 5–10 years companies like Getty (iStock), Shutterstock, Dreamstime and Corbis have been the place to go for getting good illustrative and photographic resources with royalty-free licensing. Their content is awesome, but at the same time it’s pricey and overused. In the past few years a new market has emerged and it’s worth checking out.
Meet Creative Market
Creative Market is my new favorite go-to for illustrative and photographic resources. I always check CM before I go to any of the larger more costly providers. Often the same items are offered at Creative Market for a fraction of the price.
- Designers, font creators and photographers can add any content they want without it having to be approved by the curators. This creates an abundance of options. While there are some contributors that create subpar work, many of the people contributing to Creative Market produce some amazing resources to use on your commercial projects.
- Contributors have the ability to price their products for whatever they want. They also keep a higher percentage of the final sale. This creates a ton more affordable resources to use on your projects.
- It has ridiculously affordable bundles of products. Bundles that would/do cost hundreds through iStock.
Example: Here’s a set of 5,700 icons provided as PNG and SVG files for $65. Not bad.
WordPress Website Tips – #6 Understand and Integrate Schema
Like the rest of technology, search engine functionality is constantly improving. Schema is part of that evolution. In my opinion this is the most powerful of the six WordPress website tips mentioned in this article.
What is Schema?
Schema is the organization of information into a model. It’s not a term specific to search engines.
How does schema relate to websites and search engines?
Schema.org is an initiative launched by Google, Bing, and Yahoo (read the wiki here). While you can get a pretty technical writeup there regarding what schema.org does, here’s a few simple scenarios to clarify:
The initiative proposes that people use specific indicators for specific content. For example:
Local Business: You may have a local business, and mentioning your address properly with schema will ensure that it comes up properly on Google maps, mobile devices, and GPS. Here’s how it works:
You visit schema.org and check out the section on local business: Through this page you’ll be given tons of options on what types of microdata to use for your business. You can also see how often it’s used and if it’s the recommended method:
From Here You Can See Examples Of Content With and Without Schema:
To test the schema used on your WordPress website:
To test if the markup is correct on your website, use Google’s structured data markup tool.
Hopefully, a few of the above WordPress website tips helped catch you up to speed on the current methods for running a professional WordPress website.