According to WordPress.com, there are currently more than 72 million WordPress sites in the world. This includes both WordPress.com hosted sites and self-hosted sites. Obviously that’s a lot of websites and you probably surf a few of them each day. The beauty of WordPress is that it’s very simple to use, customize and edit and you don’t need to be a developer to keep your site current and dynamic.
These are just a few of the reasons we do a lot of WordPress development and recommend it to the majority of our clients. As they have varying degrees of WordPress experience, we’re often in the position of training new WordPress users. With that in mind, here are our Top 5 Tips for WordPress users to keep your site looking good to visitors and search engines and to increase your website traffic.
Tip #1: Focus on Flexibility of Design and Layout
Whether you’re developing a custom design or selecting an existing theme, you want to choose one that is flexible and will allow you to grow and change. This means you’ll have a variety of options with regard to colors, layouts, plugins and widgetized areas. If you’re not a developer, there are a number of excellent premium WordPress themes available that have this flexibility already built in. We’re not theme developers but we’ll be happy to recommend a few of the better ones if you ask.
Tip #2: Build Smart URLs Using Permalinks
Whether it’s pages or posts, you’ll be well served to make the most of your URLs. WordPress utilizes what are called “permalinks” and you can change the structure of these permalinks to your liking. We recommend creating a shortened URL with your target keywords directly in the URL for best SEO practices. WordPress will automatically assign URLs as you build pages and posts but you’re better off using the built-in capability to customize them. For example, based on the title of this article, WordPress would automatically create a URL that looks like this (depending on your settings): http://fronterahouse.com/blog/2012/03/21/top-5-tips-for-using-wordpress/
While this isn’t too bad, it might be beneficial to eliminate words that won’t help with search and make the URL a little shorter and more like what the search query would say. In this case, we changed the URL to this: http://fronterahouse.com/blog/best-tips-on-using-wordpress/
The good news is that you can shorten and better target the URL without compromising the readability of the title. This, again, makes it equally friendly to visitors and search bots. To change your permalink structure, click on Settings > Permalinks in the WordPress admin menu.
One of the major benefits of WordPress is the fact that it’s open source and there are literally thousands of useful free plugins and widgets. You can load your website with all kinds of fancy bells and whistles for many different functions. Unfortunately, this often results in a lot of clutter in your sidebars and footers that makes it difficult for your website visitors to find the 2-3 pieces of information that you really want them to find.
For that reason we recommend you limit information in your sidebars and footers to only the essentials. A good rule of thumb in defining “essential” is that it meets one or more of the following criteria.
- It creates a compelling reason for them to contact you or provide you with their contact info,
- It represents an easy means for them to contact you or you them, or
- It enables them to give money to you.
Tip #4: Make Image Titles and Alt Text Tags Work for You
Images provide graphic appeal and can draw people to your website and keep them engaged once they’re visiting. The value of images doesn’t end there, though. If you properly title and tag your images they can also add value to organic search. We recommend including at least one image in every page or post and including relevant keywords in your image title and alternate text. The title tag is what will show up when someone hovers over that image. If for some reason the image doesn’t load, or your visitor is using an assistive device to view your page, the alternate text tag is the text they’ll see in place of your image. These are also searchable and are a good vehicle to help search engines understand what your website is about.
Tip #5: Structure Categories and Tags for Easy Search
If you’re using WordPress it’s pretty likely you have a blog, news or articles page where you’re posting new content. One of the common mistakes we see is that people fail to use their categories and tags as effectively as they could. Like the image titles and tags above, this is a great way to let the search engines know exactly what your website is about. It’s also a great way to keep visitors on your site engaged so they stick around longer. Categories and tags allow them to easily find similar and relevant content with a single click. They’re also a great source for internal linking which is helpful for SEO.
Traffic is Fundamental
There are many good reasons to use WordPress and there are many more tips on how to use it effectively. In our experience, though, if you follow the basics listed above and keep your content fresh, you will quickly build traffic and interest on your WordPress website without spending time or money on custom code. If you’ve got some other favorite tips, feel free to share them with a comment.