So you’ve chosen WordPress to start your new website. What do you do now? Every WordPress website starts out the same with a basic WordPress installation. From there the possibilities are endless. In fact, it can be overwhelming how many choices you have when it comes to the amount of themes and plugins that are available, some are free and some are not. For those of you that are building a WordPress website for the first time, I’ve put together a list of 5 essential tips to help you out.
Tip #1 – Secure your website
WordPress is a popular CMS. That popularity can come at a price. Since WordPress accounts for almost 20% of all websites now it is a popular target for hackers and malware.
- The most basic way to secure your website is to pick a username other than admin. By default, WordPress sets up the initial user as admin. Hackers know this and use this to their advantage. Always choose your own username.
- Pick a really secure password. Your password should always have a combination of upper and lower case letters, numbers and at least one symbol. If you have a hard time keeping track of your passwords, you should check out LastPass one of our favorite apps.
- Stop bots from trying to log into your site with Limit Login Attempts. The plugin simply does what it says. After a set amount of failed login attempts the person/computer gets locked out of trying to login for a certain amount of time. Here are a couple of failed attempts to login to a website. Notice they tried logging in with ‘admin’ as the username?
Tip #2 – Choose a good theme
Almost everyone that starts with WordPress goes for a free theme to start out. There’s nothing wrong with getting a theme for free. Free themes and plugins are a huge plus for WordPress users. Just know what you are getting into with a free theme.
- You may not get any sort of support from the developer
- The theme may never get updates that fix possible problems
- You might not be able to make it work the way you want
- The theme might have poorly written code that doesn’t perform well
There are many paid themes out there that will give you a much better overall WordPress experience and are worth the minimal investment. With paid, or premium, themes you will also get support from the developers in case you come across issues or need help with setting it up. Some of our favorite themes come from Elegant Themes, Themify and cssigniter. All of these theme developers make beautiful themes and have great support if you need it. (Note: these links are affiliate links but I wouldn’t recommend them if I didn’t believe in their products.)
If you’re more familiar with basic PHP and coding you should look into a bare bones starter theme like Underscores or Roots. These starter themes give you the basic skeleton of a WordPress website for you to develop into a custom theme of your own.
Tip #3 – Optimize your images
Pictures are an essential part of your website. Make sure you optimize your images so that they load quickly and give your visitors a great experience on your website. Optimizing your images can also help your ranking. Google does not like slow loading pages and will hold it against your site. A lot of people think “I took the picture with my phone, so it shouldn’t be too big.” This isn’t the case anymore with more and more phones taking really high resolution photos.
Here are some ways to optimize your images:
In Photoshop use “Save for web and devices” in the File menu. In the pop-up box that opens set the size and quality you want for the image. Choosing 80-90% will dramatically reduce the size while retaining good image quality. Changing the size to a more reasonable size for the web can be done by simply changing the value in the image size box.
- There are some really great online photo optimizers if you don’t use Photoshop. We covered some of those in a post about optimizing images. Check out TinyPNG for optimizing .png files or jpeg-optimizer for optimizing .jpg files. In both cases you just upload your file and download the newly optimized version.
- Add a plugin like Resize Image After Upload or WP Smush.it. The nice thing about WP Smush.it is that you can bulk compress images you already have on your website. The downfall is that it can’t compress images larger than 1MB so the latest pics from your iPhone won’t be able to be compressed. Resize Image After Upload can handle larger files and it also automatically resizes your images as well as compressing them, but it can’t do anything with already uploaded files. This means you’ll have to re-upload any images you want optimized with this plugin.
Tip #4 – Use SEO friendly URL structure
WordPress is already very SEO friendly, but it’s URL structure isn’t right out of the box. By having SEO friendly URLs you increase your chance at higher ranking in Google or Bing. SEO friendly URLs are also easier for your readers to understand what the page is about. By default, a WordPress URL has your domain and then some numbers. Something like this:
To change the way your URLs look go to Settings>Permalinks in your WordPress dashboard. This screen will allow you to pick the style of URL you want your website to have. Simply picking “Post name” is the easiest way to get better looking URLs.
Changing this setting will make your URLs look more like this:
Tip #5 – Read, Read, Read
Since WordPress is so popular there is a ton of great information online for you to use while you’re learning the ins and outs of WordPress. Find some WordPress blogs you like and you’ll find a wealth of knowledge. A lot of theme developers have great blogs as well that feature tips and tricks for WordPress as well as how to best utilize their themes.
It doesn’t end there
You could read for days on the best WordPress plugins or themes. These tips are really just a few to get you started. Let us know if you have any other great tips for WordPress beginners.