I’m not sure who originated what I’m paraphrasing, but one of the reasons I’m so good at WordPress is because I’ve made so many mistakes.
I’ve been using WordPress since 2004. Experience is a great teacher, and here I will share twelve WordPress mistakes that I’ve made, in hopes that you might avoid them:
- Not keeping WordPress up to date. This used to involve manually downloading files and uploading them via FTP every time a new version of WordPress was released. I, like many site owners, wasn’t always diligent, leaving my site at risk for security vulnerabilities or “getting hacked.” Thankfully WordPress now includes one-click updates for major versions (and automatic updates for minor version security patches) which makes keeping your site up to date easier than ever. Want to ensure your site is updated without effort from you? A managed host such as WP Engine can handle site updates.
- Not keeping plugins up to date. For the same reasons you want to keep WordPress current, you want to ensure your plugins aren’t out of date either. New updates often patch security vulnerabilities, so be sure to install them from your WordPress admin dashboard.
- Leaving the “Discourage search engines from indexing this site” option checked after I made a site live. This is a useful way to help prevent a site from being indexed prematurely, but if you leave this checked, you may wonder why nobody is finding your site from Google or Bing. It’s found under Settings➔Reading.
- Not having a reliable backup system for my site. If something goes wrong, having a current backup can ensure you’ll be online and back in business in a relatively short amount of time. If you don’t have a backup of your site (both the database and the site files) you’ll be in a world of hurt if something goes wrong. See a previous article I wrote about how to back up a WordPress site.
- Using “admin” as my admin username. This used to be suggested by default, but now it’s a horrible practice. Why? Because there are a ton of malicious site attacks that start by assuming there’s an admin user with admin rights. Choosing pretty much anything other than admin will make your site more secure.
- Forgetting to change the default permalink structure. Ideally you’ll get your permalinks in order before you start publishing on your site, but you can change it later. The permalink settings (found and changed via Settings➔Permalinks) control how your URLs are generated. By default, WordPress will use Plain permalinks which look like:
http://yoursitename.com/?p=123. That’s neither user-friendly nor search engine-friendly. Unless you have a reason not to, go with the Post name style permalinks:
- Ignoring comment spam. People (and automated bots) leave spammy comments in hopes of gathering links back to their websites. There are several options to help fight comment spam, including the Akismet plugin that comes bundled with WordPress.
- Going to WordCamps and simply attending talks. Sure, the talks at WordCamps are often quite good, but the real value is in meeting people and networking. As an introvert, conferences can be overwhelming, but meeting even just a few people will greatly increase your likelihood of making meaningful long-term gains from attendance at the event.
- Not reading the release notes with new versions of WordPress. Each time there’s a new release of WordPress, the core team prepares an announcement blog post and that information also appears in your admin dashboard after you upgrade. Take five minutes and read what’s new. If you don’t, you could be missing out on some great new features.
- Not spelling/capitalizing WordPress correctly. This is a minor one, but when you write for support or otherwise talk about using WordPress, you can make yourself look like you’re in the know by properly writing “WordPress” (one word, capital W, capital P).
- Assuming that WordPress tags help with SEO. They don’t. They can help you by creating links to similar articles on your website, but if you think assigning tags to your posts will help them rank in search engines, you’re not going to find this is a useful endeavour.
- Skimping on web hosting. When I first started using WordPress, I didn’t pay much attention to choosing web hosting. I went with some random host that was really cheap, figuring they were all about the same. Those experiences in my early years of WordPress, along with what I’ve seen recently from some consulting clients, have reinforced to me that it’s worth investing in quality web hosting. I’ve written a long article on web hosting for photographers but if you want the short version: I recommend WP Engine and SiteGround.
For those of you with a bunch of WordPress experience, what other WordPress mistakes have you run into? Leave a comment below.
Some of the links above are affiliate links where I get a small commission if you purchase a service. I received zero payment or commission for making WordPress mistakes for the last fifteen years.