Left to its own devices, WordPress (WP) can be a slow & cumbersome old hector. Thankfully there’s a bunch of things we can do to resolve this.
We are not just talking about Google SEO so that your site is search engine friendly, but also the optimization of the WordPress backend to streamline how your site loads & performs.
When you optimise WordPress, you are not just addressing the needs of search engines. You also need to address the handful of shortcomings that WP will deliver if left to it’s own devices.
Before your build your site on the WordPress platform, there are a few important considerations.
These can be resolved on existing websites. However, it’s generally faster, easier and therefore cheaper to get these WordPress basics right before you create your site.
Fast hosting is a necessity if your WP site is going to load quickly. Free and low cost hosting options are a mistake that many business owners make, thinking it isn’t important.
Think of your web server as the engine in your car. You wouldn’t put a diesel van engine in a Ferrari would you? Not if you expected it to perform when you pressed the pedal hard.
A website is the same, if you want a high performance site, you need a high performance server.
Some themes perform better than others. Make your decision based on more than simply appearances alone. Your theme needs responsiveness for mobile displays & to use html5 coding.
Themes that state they are SEO friendly are a good starting point, but that still isn’t a guarantee.
Recommendations of the best WP themes to use for different business niches can be beneficial & save you a lot of time and money in the long run.
WordPress websites are driven by a colection of page templates, CSS files and a MySQL database. To display a page, the relevant page template, style sheet and database content are combined.
WordPress uses ‘Themes” of which there are thousands, both free and paid to choose from. Different themes provide different styling, layouts and functionality.
Different business types often need different ways of displaying their web content. Therefore, theme designers create themes for a huge range of differing business sectors.
Choosing a suitable theme for your site is important, but additionally, there are good as well as badly designed themes, that work better than others.
Paid themes tend to offer a better quality of coding as well as increased flexibility.
Even in 2017, some themes still don’t include mobile responsiveness, which is an essential to allow all your potential users to easily view your content.
The use of a child theme is highly beneficial. On occasion, theme developers provide updates for their themes. When this happens, they provide a complete set of all the files your site needs.
These files will automatically overwrite your existing theme files. If you have made any changes to the styling, layout or theme structure, these will be lost during the update.
A child theme prevents this from happening, so your theme personalisation is protected. A child theme only needs to include a functions.php file and a CSS style sheet including your modifications. All the standard styling will still be taken from your main theme style sheet.
You can add a child theme using the “One Click Child Theme Plugin”
WordPress uses pieces of code called “Plugins” to provide website functionality. Plugins can be free or paid. In many instances, the free versions offer limited settings and options. You will need to upgrade to a paid plugin version to access all the available set up options.
Because Core WordPress is updated on a regular basis, many plugins will also require updates to remain compatible. Free plugins are often updated less frequently. This can cause them to fail or cause you problems.
While many plugins provide complex functionality, others add basic useability for your site.
Yoast is in our opinion the best WordPress plugin for search engine optimisation. It allows you to optimise each element of your page content. Additionally, Yoast also incorporates the Flesch Reading Ease Test so that your written content passes search engine readability examination.
This really is a great compression plugin to speed up your website. If you see a message In Google’s Web Load Speed Tool saying “Enable GZip Compression” then W3 Total Cache is the tool for you.
Many elements of your site such as the header and footer are the same on all pages. Because of this, it isn’t necessary for these to be downloaded by a visitor for each new page they visit.
Instead, a cache of common content can be used instead, saving download DNS requests & thus time.
This basically means that there are elements of your site which are loading before the page can be displayed.
Many of these don’t need to load instantly (Google Analytics code for example) so can be deferred for a second or two, allowing the page to display faster.
“Above the Fold” & “Autoptimise” work together offering all the settings you need to achieve Google page load speed scores in the 90’s.
Your WP site has a load of files that it needs to work properly, as well as the database that contains your content.
If either of these fails, gets hacked, becomes corrupted etc. you will need to reinstall your whole site.
If you don’t have an up to date backup then you will have big problems restoring everything to the latest version.
Updraft Pro will backup everything you need automatically to many cloud storage locations, including DropBox which is our Storage of choice.
Problems occur with websites, no matter how well you maintain your online security, so be prepared for any eventuality and keep a current backup of all your WP site files.
Images will have a huge impact on your sites performance.
By default, WordPress uses raw files as you upload them.
This makes it quite common to see slow loading sites waiting for massive file size images to download.
There are several ways to reduce the file sizes of images.
You can use one of the available plugins to crunch files once you have uploaded them to your server. We like Smush & TinyJPG but there are others.
Alternatively, you can compress images for the web before you upload them.
There are several advantages to this approach.
We use Photoshop to compress images and graphics so they are web ready.
One advantage is that image compression plugins can sometimes fail.
If a plugin were to become incompatible with your version of WP or your MySQL database version, or your PHP version your server is running then all your plugin compressed images will revert to full size.
The consequence of this is that your site will slow down, causing Google to reduce all your rankings and you will lose traffic.
Compression of your source images removes this issue, permanently.
WordPress is a flexible platform, allowing you to create anything you can imagine beautifully, with minimal coding.
Widget areas are common areas such as sidebars, footers etc. If you want to display similar content across a range of pages, widgets are the best solution.
Widgets allow you to update these areas of pages, sitewide by changing just one file.
Widget areas have a wide range of functions & plugins can extend the functionality further.
These are the WP basics you need to have in place;
These will ensure that your WordPress website is optimised for performance.
You still need to optimise your site for search engines.
On page optimisation refers to everything you need to do to the pages of your website.
Install the Yoast SEO WP Plugin. When you add a focus keyword the plugin will show you how well optimised your page content is for that word or phrase.
If you need to find a list of suitable keywords to optimise for, see here for keyword research information.
The second important feature Yoast offers is a readability analyser. This provides information as used by Google to determine if your content is easy to read.
In an ideal world, each of your pages needs a Green tick for SEO & Readability.
Off page SEO is the same for wordpress as it is for other website platforms.
Backlinks at the fuel that powers search engine rankings and building these links is at the heart of off-page SEO. It is everything that you do to your site off-page.
This also includes social media activity.