Everyday website optimization for WordPress

Everyday website optimization for WordPress

Last update: 08 August, 2017

You might be a WordPress developer, WordPress plugin developer or WordPress theme developer. You may have worked with WordPress for over a decade. But have you ever wondered what it’s like to purchase a website without any knowledge of WordPress or whatever other CMS? Still, that’s probably true for the vast majority of all WordPress users.

holistic SEO everyday website optimization

The discussion was triggered a couple of weeks ago in this brilliant post by Morten Rand-Hendriksen about the average WordPress user. You know, when WordPress pushed an automatic update of our WordPress SEO plugin to cover an unfortunate security issue. This post is about making everyday website optimization super easy for your customer. And yourself. 

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Everyday website optimization

WordPress is the Word-like tool a website owner can use to update text and images on the website. That is basically it. The rest, so will your customers assume, is taken care of. Plugins? Post Types? They don’t know and don’t care about these. They just want to change the content. That’s their everyday website optimization. So what are the things you should or could take care of?

Logging in and security

It’s already hard to remember that login URL for your customer, to be honest. /wp-admin/ you say? What does that stand for? Can’t that just be /login/? And that customer hasn’t even logged in yet. You might want to create a 301 redirect from a simpler URL. Don’t just add that WordPress meta widget in the footer – don’t you think that looks lame as well? It’s just not that professional.

Luckily, you have already changed the default admin username to a client specific one. Note that I’ve seen my share of Brute Force attacks over the last few weeks that target my exact first name instead of the admin user. Perhaps that has something to do with my login name being the same as my first name… I could have done that differently. I did just update the password again, something I do on a frequent basis.

Of course you have also installed the Sucuri plugin and configured that for your customer. They don’t even need to know it’s in there. Your main job towards your customer is to inform him that trustno1 isn’t a password. Make it CLU: Complex, Long, Unique.

tony perez sucuri smallTony Perez is one of the Co-Founders and CEO at Sucuri, a globally recognized website security company focused on providing security services to website owners. Sucuri is known for their ability effectively clean hacked websites, and protect them from malicious actors.

Did we mention Tony Perez of Sucuri is speaking at YoastCon? I’m sure we did! Be sure to join us on the 27th of May in Nijmegen (The Netherlands).

Writing and editing

Now that the user is able to log in, he or she just wants to write posts or pages and add images. Posts or pages. Explain the difference. If the client doesn’t want to add news articles (posts), explain that dynamic content really helps the website’s rankings in Google. Besides that, regular posting will also make sure the client visits the website itself on a frequent basis. That will help keeping the website up to date, of course. Your job in this is to make sure there is a news or blog page that will display the blog posts in WordPress › Settings › Reading:

WordPress > Settings > Reading

WordPress > Settings > Reading

 

“My customer still doesn’t want a news section on his website.” Consider it a service to set this up anyway. It’s a minute’s work. I have seen agencies charge hundreds of dollars to create a news section that is just two templates in WordPress. Especially when you’re creating a child theme, this is a no-brainer to me.

Just to be sure: there is a catch. If you do this, the blog page will probably display entire posts and that means duplicate content: a post is available via the blog page (in the list of posts) and on the actual page of the article itself. Just a few weeks ago, I took Easy Custom Auto Excerpt (plugin) for a spin. Found some room for improvement for a personal project I was working on, and the guys at Tonjoo fixed these within a few days. Try it for yourself.

SEO

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Do I have to go there with you, frequent visitor? Probably not. But you should tell your client about our free Page Analysis (in WordPress SEO). It’s the easiest way to optimize a page and at least give some guidance to your client. Just a few things you really have to mention:

Perhaps most important, as mentioned on our blog earlier this week, that you should develop an Holistic SEO approach. Our blog helps you fill in the blank, and I think most articles are written in a way that even the less tech-savvy (WordPress) user will understand how to optimize his website.

Internal linking

We’ve been discussing internal linking a lot. Internal links help your visitor navigate the site and search engine to find valuable connections between pages. These links are almost always relevant. Besides related posts, you should also focus on adding internal links in your texts itself.
There are a number of plugins that automatically link certain words in articles and pages, but at Yoast, we prefer a less automated approach. If you feel a topic needs background information, add an internal link.

You can use the internal link creator in WordPress (Add link > ‘Or link to existing content’), but that one tend to flood you with suggestions and the most relevant ones are not always at the top. We have been testing Better Internal Link Search:

The most basic feature limits results to posts and pages that contain your search term in the title, rather than returning every post that contains the term in the title or content field — this greatly reduces the number of results on sites with a lot of content and should improve accuracy.

Simple features make this plugin really nice, like the option to just type ‘home’ to quickly link the homepage. You should give it a try, as this will really help your client to create valuable internal links.

Mobile friendly

Responsive webdesign / mobile friendly websitesLet’s not forget that one. With Google’s clear focus on mobile friendly websites, this is a no-brainer. The website needs to be responsive, and easy to visit and browse on a mobile device.

A common question is if a website should be responsive by default or if a web developer can charge extra for that. Tough question, but from a website optimization point of view not really relevant. That’s up to you and your customers budget. The least you can do is point them to WP Touch, just to have that covered. Be sure to tell him mobile friendliness is an important factor for Google these days.

Responsive images

I’ve seen more than one responsive website that breaks on images. A couple of weeks ago I attended WordCamp London and visited an awesome talk by Bruce Lawson about responsive images and the use of the picture attribute. He also brought this plugin to our attention as an alternative: RICG Responsive Images For WordPress. The plugin adds the srcset attribute to your images, making it possible to serve a different image per screen width. This already improves the mobile user experience a lot.

Social

Back in the days (4-5 years ago) when I was building (WordPress) websites myself, most clients did not care much about social media. Only the larger ones did. Nowadays, everybody seems to understand the ease and importance of social marketing. There are two things to consider:

  1. Social sharing: What platforms is the target audience using and is the client already on this platform?
  2. Subscriptions: What platforms is the client on, and which of these are easy to maintain for him.

Social sharing is nice, but too often the client wants to be on all social platforms, where only a few are appropriate for his business. If the social sharing options below an article or post are for more than say three or four platforms, chances are that the reader will only use one or two of these. For us, Facebook and Twitter work best. That is why we decided to cut down social sharing options to just these two.

Subscription options also vary per website and per website owner. One thing I really dislike when reviewing the use of social media in our site reviews, is adding social buttons to a site that link to a Facebook page that has not been updated since 2010. Just don’t link that Facebook page, see what IFTTT can do for you and only add that link back when you are adding content to your Facebook page on a regular basis. Replace ‘Facebook’ with any other social platform in the previous sentences.
Bottom line is that your social effort should make that subscription valuable. It’s not just about linking that social website. 

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Next to that, make sure to leverage a newsletter. Newsletters are great for both return traffic and bringing current events, breaking news and other interesting stuff to the attention of an interested visitor. Double opt-ins will make sure the subscriber really wants your news in his or her inbox. We send ours using Mailchimp.

Speed

The cherry on the icing on the website and SEO cake is of course speed. Speed is really important these days, both for Google and visitors. Although this is a really technical subject, WordPress plugins make it really easy to optimize the larger part of your site’s speed.

A rather new, but promising kid on the block is WP Rocket. After meeting Julio Potier of WP Rocket, we had the pleasure of testing the plugin and the simplicity of it is really appealing. Just by clicking some simple checkboxes, this happened in Google PageSpeed:

Google PageSpeed before and after WP Rocket

That a lot, right… Took me about 5 minutes to configure WP Rocket to achieve that result.

Now speed optimization isn’t just about optimizing it once, but you really want to do that on an ongoing basis. Clients adding images of multiple MBs in size in a blog post happens every day, right? A plugin like EWWW can help. If you have a steady relationship with your customer, you could check, or have him check this on a monthly frequency, for instance. That way you can easily monitor if anything has a negative effect on the site’s speed.

That pretty much rounds it up for your everyday website optimization. There’s just one more thing regarding your WordPress website that you should do everyday: update your WordPress install and all plugins whenever there is an update available. It’s helps a lot in keeping your website secure. But we have written quite a lot on that subject this week already! Managed WordPress hosting could be a solution to this issue.

Read more: ‘Site speed: tools and suggestions’ »

 



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