Let’s talk about how can boost your WP site’s performance now and make it a great experience for users, a fantastic way to monetize your audience, a professional virtual home for your brand, and more.
Here’s what you need to succeed on your journey:
Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate. Meaning, I like these services or products so much that I’ve signed up with them and when a sale is made through my links, I get a small commission. That in no way adds costs to you, but helps keep Let’s Reach Success sustainable.
To get a real site (wordpress.com is not self-hosted and you don’t have full control over it, so wordpress.org is the solution), you’ll also need to use the help of a hosting company.
They are the ones who’ll make sure your site is always up and running and loads fast. Your site’s data is stored with them too.
Just as you need a place to live, so does your site need a host.
Using this metaphor, your domain name would be your home address.
So, the choices are many, of course.
For those starting out, who wouldn’t have much traffic and want to give blogging and online business a try for a year before they will need more expensive services, Bluehost is the way to go.
They give you a free domain name for the first year, their WordPress installation happens with one click, and they power most of the websites you’re already visiting anyways.
There’s also GoDaddy, Hostgator, DreamHost, SiteGround, WPEngine (a premium one), InMotionHosting, and many, many more.
Once that’s settled, and you’ve got a WordPress.org site installed on Bluehost with your own domain name, your next step is choosing a theme.
The WordPress theme directory offers thousands of choices for free. All look extremely good, and none of that was possible decades ago when everyone needed to use html and css to create a basic page and design templates for their websites.
Now, however, it’s all a matter of clicking a button and giving your site a whole new look.
You could make it look like a magazine, news blog, a portfolio site, or just use a one-page template to present your business.
While getting a free theme is alright in the beginning, when you’re still getting to know everything that goes together with owning a WordPress website, a premium one is what you’ll get your hands on eventually.
The main reason is simple. Cleaner code is guaranteed, and that’s yet another factor Google uses when deciding if a site should be ranked high and if a domain deserves to be given more authority.
If you want to check out some premium themes, ThemeForest are killing it.
If you’re wandering what theme I’m using for this site and want something similar, it’s this one.
After going through the steps above, your WordPress site is now up and running, visible in search engines, and you can even start writing some posts on it.
But to make the most of what the open-source platform offers, you’ll need to install some plugins.
Now, the possibilities here are almost endless. These little helpers are what can help you turn your site into a membership program, add a store, place social media buttons, put ads to start making money, optimize it even further without touching anything after installing this piece of software, and so much more.
And all that is done without writing a line of code, as smart and hard-working developers have already done that and shared their products with the world for free.
Here are some to consider (the rest depends on the features you want your site to have):
Wordfence – #1 security plugin for your WordPress site.
You might need to play a little with the settings, as it’s got many options. I even got locked out of my own dashboard due to making it too secure.
It will scan your site frequently, give you reports, block IPs that try to sign in your site as an admin, etc.
AddToAny – add social media buttons anywhere in your pages.
You want to give your visitors and readers a super easy way to share your content with their audiences, and that plugin is one of the most popular ones.
WPtouch Mobile – make your site mobile-friendly.
Chances are, you’ll get half of your visitors through mobile devices. And that percentage is getting higher every day.
So you want to give them a unique experience.
What works for a desktop doesn’t really feel nice on a smaller screen.
They shouldn’t need to zoom in to click a button, or scroll too much to see key information.
A plugin like WPtouch Mobile can let you have a separate theme for mobile users, another menu, and all types of other options.
Caching is the process of data being stored on your website, after each page request a visitor makes. A cache is a temporary storage area.
The 2 types of caching are browser (the user does that), and server.
To make your site faster and boost performance, though, you’ll need a plugin for that.
When caching is turned on, not too much information is saved on your site and it’s easier for anyone, anywhere in the world to open each page in less than a few seconds. It works because you skip server load and your site now shows cached copies of pages to people.
Here are the 3 best caching plugins compared.
I’m currently using WP Super Cache.
I use this one to remove anything unnecessary from the WordPress database.
In my case, with a ton of content and constantly adding new pages and updating existing ones, it means having tens of revisions saved in the database. There’s also post drafts, and all these take up space.
With this plugin is’t a matter of clicking ‘Run optimization’ to clean them.
This is without doubt the #1 SEO WordPress plugin.
I won’t go into details what SEO is and why you need it on your WordPress site, as that’s a huge topic. But here are some free options this tool has prepared for you:
- Verify your site with Google and other major webmaster tools;
- Decide what pages to index and what to not let Google crawl;
- Create an XML sitemap;
- Add your social profiles so that search engines associate them with your site;
- Add Open Graph for Facebook, Twitter Cards, confirm your site with Pinterest, and more;
- Handle redirects;
- On-page SEO – while writing a post, you can enter a keyword in the box below the content area and the plugin will immediately give you a detailed report on how well this piece is optimized for it, and what else you can do to have better chances to rank for that exact keyword.
MonsterInsights – best Google Anlytics plugin for WordPress.
Connect to Google analytics easily and see stats in your site’s dashboard.
Smush Image Optimization and Compression
The name of the plugin pretty much says it all.
Eventually, the images on your site will take up a lot of space and make the pages load slower. A tool like that will handle the compressing for you automatically, when you upload new files.
I use that, and also have installed Lazy Load (because of this images on my site load only when you get to that part of the page).
A powerful WordPress site means many things. And one of them is eventually having an audience that’s signed up for your newsletter.
For that, you’ll need to work with a third-party platform.
My choice is MailChimp and it’s free for the first 2000 subscribers. I sent my free newsletter every Monday. It’s set up to show anything that was published on the blog the last 7 days, together with a custom intro I write for my readers every week, sharing what’s new.
They have a pretty good WordPress plugin to integrate your email list with your site and place forms in different places.
Email is still the best way to connect with people, as they’ve given you access to their email address. So stay away from being too promotional. They want to see what you promised to share.
If you want a more professional email marketing service, you might want to check out ConvertKit.
There’s also Infusionsoft, which is not just an email provider, but a sales and marketing software, and a solution to automate your small business by combining it all in one place.
Monitor Your Website
You will set up Google Analytics, but it’s also important to do the same with Google Webmasters Tools and connect these two.
This is what Google uses to connect with site owners and let them know about potential errors in their pages or non-indexed content.
There you can also choose the preferred domain. If you don’t do that, your site will basically have 2 possible destinations and traffic will be split (to both letsreachsuccess.com and www.letsreachsuccess.com, for instance).
When I got https, these were 4 options for me. When setting one, though, all others get redirected to it and you can be sure that however your url is typed in search engines, people will land on the same place.
Then, there’s Google AdWords – Google’s main source of revenue that allows you to promote your site/product with ads. I have it, but only use one of its free tools – Google KeyWord Planner when deciding on the primary keyword to create a piece of content around and also wanna check all related keyword phrases.
If you want to put ads on your platform, then you’ll sign up and wait for approval from Google AdSense
Other ways to keep your site’s performance under control are to run tests every now and then.
These are mostly free, such as:
- The Google Mobile-Friendly Test
- Pingdom Speed Test – Test your site’s speed and see what can be improved
- Alexa – Check your rankings, together with some basic demographics and keywords info
- Test your site with all browsers
- Domain health report
Such monitoring should become a habit of yours. Run such tests every 2 weeks or once a month, see exactly what data the reports give you, and do your own research on any issue your find. Then, take action.
I’ll leave you with these tools, as they are enough to help you not just get started, but have a powerful WordPress site that can do many things.
Growth takes time. Ranking high takes time.
But if you keep doing these, and explore new services that can help you out all the time, you’re guaranteed to make your site popular and trusted by visitors, clients and search engines.