If you are reading this, you’ve probably done a little bit of research and concluded that the WordPress is the best bet for your new website. And you are definitely on the right track: it’s simple, highly customizable, SEO friendly and an open source (therefore free). Whatsmore, you can create a WordPress website without knowing how to code.
However, not knowing how to code and not knowing how to create a functional website are two very different things. You will need to grasp the basics before going “under the hood”. So, to cut the story short, here are 10 hacks every beginner should know before creating their first WordPress website.
1. Have a clear idea what your website is for: content or product/service promotion
Rare are those who build websites just for the sake of creating them. Websites have one purpose and one purpose alone: generating traffic which will later result in either revenue or desired outcome (whatever that may be).
As many people have trouble differentiating a blog from a website, the explanation is in order:
- If you are a blogger, your goal should be to have as many readers as possible;
- If, on the other hand, you’re focused on promoting a service or a product, your goal should be getting visitors to click the nice, colorful “Buy now” or “Contact Us” button.
However, keep in mind that different purpose implies different website structure. Blogs are focused on the content, usually have a simpler format, and often rely on posts rather than pages. Product/service promotion websites are more complex and carefully mapped-out, so creating them can be expensive as well as time-consuming.
2. Choose a WordPress theme for your website
WordPress is hugely popular. As a matter of fact, 29% of the entire internet is powered by this open source platform. How come, you may ask? Simplicity aside, it is highly customizable: you can choose from thousands of WordPress themes, and apply them nearly instantly to your website. Some of these themes are free. Others will cost you: premium WordPress theme costs 60$ on average – but it’s usually worth the money.
If you want to take it a step further and build your website from the ground up, you will have to be aware of the expenses. As senior WordPress Developers usually charge 50$/hr for their work, the cost of a custom website can go anywhere between $1,000 and $15,000. Therefore, it may be best to start off small, and then move up as your website grows.
3. Make sure that your new website is mobile friendly
Last year, mobile devices have taken over desktops in market share which only proves the necessity of having a responsive (or mobile friendly) website. So, how do you make it? Well, there are four basic principles of responsive design:
- Implementing design changes to ensure usability for non-desktop devices;
- Fluid site grid with proportionate measures (instead of fixed);
- Flexible images;
- Using CSS media queries to define breakpoints for design changes.
If you choose to hire a professional developer, you have nothing to worry about as they will take care of everything. However, if you take it upon yourself to create your new website, it may be best to consult step by step tutorial to create a responsive design.
4. Use FTP agent to upload files – just in case
FTP (or file transfer protocol) allows files transfer from user’s computer to website hosting account. To be perfectly honest, you wouldn’t usually need this service, as you can upload all the files you want from the admin page including photos, videos, PDFs. However, FTP enables you to upload files to the website even when something goes wrong (code is broken, and it won’t load).
There are several FTP clients available on the market (Filezilla is highly recommended) and some of them can be found for free. Most WordPress web hosting service providers give users access to FTP so that they can upload or download files from their web hosting server directly from within their control panel.
5. Make sure that you can find uploaded files effortlessly
When you upload files to your website (FTP or otherwise), they all end up in the WordPress media folder. And while given process is rather simple and straightforward, the pain begins when you decide to go back to files you’ve uploaded a week, a month or a year ago. Essentially, WordPress organizes newly uploaded files solely on the year and month they were added. You can search the media files through the admin menu, but there is no way to organize them into folders – not without a plugin at least.
There is a number of solutions available on the market – some are free, others may cost you a couple of bucks. However, if you want to keep control of your website for the years to come, making a small investment, in the beginning, may save you a lot of headache in the long run.
6. Manage content in sidebars the right way
Many beginners tend to add as much content to the sidebar as possible, simply because they can. However, poorly designed and structured sidebar will add nothing to your website. Whatsmore, if you take it too far, you can discourage your visitors from any further engagement.
So, try to avoid these rookie mistakes:
- Poorly managed widgets – either too many or placed in a wrong order;
- Poorly placed or non-existing email subscription option
- Filling the sidebar with Google ads and affiliate links
Of course, there are many guides to optimizing sidebars, and each one of them can help you get most out that extra space. No matter what you tend to add to your sidebar, always ask yourself these two questions: “What is the purpose of this element?” as well as “Do my readers/visitors somehow benefit from it?” If you have a clear answer, proceed with your plan.
7. Make your WordPress website secure
As it turns out, Google blacklists over 20,000 websites for malware and 50,000 for phishing every week. But how come these numbers, which only further emphasize the need for proper website protection, got so high? And are WordPress websites affected in the same way?'....Google blacklists over 20,000 websites for malware and 50,000 for phishing every week.'Click To Tweet
The answer is yes, and here is why. Once you create your site and fill it up with content, everything you’ve done thus far will be stored in a single place called WordPress database. If hacker or spammer decides to target your website, the database will be their point of entry. Every year, experts improve and adjust WordPress protection to help us defend against hackers, but ultimately it is up to you to implement their advice and protect your website.
8. Now, let Google know your website is live
Your website is ready. So, now it’s time to present it to the world. The first phase should be integration with Google Search Console which will allow crawlers such as Google Bot to analyze your website, and rank it accordingly. Higher the rank, closer the site will be placed to the top of the first page. Keep in mind that younger web pages (such as yours) will rank lower than other, older ones for the same set of keywords.
Additionally, you should add Google Analytics to your WordPress site. This tool will enable you to track traffic, visitors behavior, as well as their interactions with the website itself. You can determine which pages get most visits, what is the average time spent on each page and do visitors read your blog all the way. Another benefit is the low low price of free.
9. Then, let Google users know your website is live
Over 90% of people using Google never go past the first page and less than 50% percent of those who do make it to the third. So, unless your business or blog falls into a very distinct niche, it will be hard to get your website onto the page one right off the bat.
What you can do straight away is use the keywords you want to rank for in the website’s title, headings, and subheadings. For example, if you own a website for selling children’s books, having a category called “best gifts for preschool children” may be a good idea.
Also, make sure that your website’s URL is SEO friendly and that you utilize categories and tags correctly, especially if you are a blogger. Google loves unique, quality content as well as fast loading speeds, so make sure that you post original content regularly, and that your website has a loading time of less than 2 seconds.
10. Finally, you may need some WordPress plugins
Apart from its simplicity and customizability, WordPress is so widely popular because of its plugins. Essentially, a plugin is a piece of software containing additional functionality that you can integrate seamlessly into your website.
Even though WordPress has an abundance of features on its own, applying plugins is what can set your website apart from the rest and help you achieve the desired goal. There are more than 47,000 WordPress plugins available for download, and each has its own set of functions that can help you improve your conversion rate, load speeds as well as UX.
The most popular plugins (with over 7 million downloads each) are: WooCommerce, NextGEN Gallery, WordPress Importer, WP Super Cache, Google Analytics by Yoast, Google XML Sitemaps, Jetpack. Each of these can help you improve your website’s performance. Just, before you start, make sure you know how to install a WordPress plugin in the first place.
To wrap things up
WordPress is simple, functional, and highly customizable as well as very beginner friendly, so there should be no fear when you decide to step into the realm of web development. All it will take is choosing a WordPress theme, opting for the suitable hosting option, and installing few plugins. After that, it is up to you to keep things fresh and exciting – post original content regularly, and you should have a successful website in a matter of months.
About the Author
Tyler Stavola is an SEO Practitioner, Digital Strategist, and experienced Digital Director at OWDT with a demonstrated history of working in the marketing and advertising industry.