Common Mistakes for New WordPress Users – Part 3
Updated April 23, 2021
This is part 3 of a 4 part series. To go back to parts 1 and 2 before getting started, click here.
Management & Maintenance
About Us – No Detailed Brand Story
The site About Us page isn’t a place to stuff a single paragraph of basic fluff about you and the company. Visiting this page is often a critical step in the buy process. When the About Us page doesn’t draw people in and make them like you, appreciate what you do and feel like you can be trusted to deliver on your promises, you end up losing money, bigtime.
Take the time to develop the page with a direct explanation of what you do and how it will meet the needs of visitors. Use text and images. Be clear and don’t be afraid to use a strong sales message, complete with call to action.
Copyright Infringement – Using Text or Images Without Permission
If in doubt, don’t! Copying text, images, music or other intellectual property, for use on your site, can cost you dearly. There are entire companies whose sole purpose is to find infringing sites and send them invoices for the privilege.
Take the time to write your own words (or hire someone to write for you). The same goes for images and music. When visitors see that you’re unique, they’ll appreciate you – especially if half your competition relies on stock photos or copied works.
Direction – Creating a Blog Without Passion
Starting a blog about something you aren’t passionate about, or something you aren’t very familiar with is a recipe for disaster. There are plenty of things that will compete for your time, particularly being a new WordPress user.
You need energy, drive, commitment and genuine pleasure in just being immersed in your blog niche. In charting your direction for the months (and years) ahead, pick something you are interested in, care about, know something about and enjoy being surrounded by – be where you want to be.
Focus – Failing to Target a Niche
Why not blog about anything and everything? Because people are searching for solutions to problems, answers to questions, advice and expertise. It’s just not possible to be an expert about everything. Even if you could, why would someone coming to read about VPS servers want to see navigation cluttered with unrelated topics like Hollywood gossip or cheap train fares in Thailand?
Pick a niche big enough that there will be many visitors you can target (attract) but not so big that you become too general in nature. Just like doctors, where a general physician earns much less than a brain surgeon, WordPress based sites should focus on an area of specialty.
Frequency – Posting Too Infrequently
If your aim is to build a loyal fan base where visitors come back time and time again, fresh content is essential. That ideally means budgeting enough time to create quality content at least once a week, or more. However, it’s better to post once a month and be remarkable than it is to post once a week and be quickly forgotten.
One of the best ways of keeping your content flowing is to use an editorial calendar. Plan out the next few months so that you know what you’ll be publishing and when it needs to be finished. By having deadlines, you’ll be able to budget time and not be wondering why no one is visiting your site (from a lack of fresh content).
Learning – Not Continuing to Learn More
Relying on a CMS like WordPress can save you time and effort in some of the more common content publishing tasks. However, there’s so much that can be done to extend the functionality, customize the look and feel, optimize for search rankings and page speed, plus 100 other reasons you’ll want to learn more on an ongoing basis.
The costs of failing to continue learning can be witnessed on sites where the owner hasn’t progressed beyond the basics, particularly when compared with competitors who have added online chat, ecommerce, event calendars, galleries, lead capture form, etc.
Everything you don’t do to improve conversion rates, boost rankings and grow a loyal audience leaves money on the table. Whether you use free learning from WordPress.org or paid courses from Lynda or Udemy, just take the plunge and invest in your future.
Link Checking – Failing to Regularly Check for Broken Links
Links to external resources can fail over time as sites remove content, go offline or make unexpected changes. Linking to 404 resources is a sure-fire way to upset users and disappoint search engines, resulting in higher exit rates, reduced traffic and less repeat visitors.
New WordPress site owners are likely to overlook this minor bit of site maintenance – link checking, which should be done on a regular basis.
Installing software like Xenu LinkSleuth (or Screaming Frog) and setting a recurring reminder task to run one of them on a regular basis is the way to overcome this hurdle and avoid the problems associated with broken links.
Perseverance – Giving Up Too Easily
Having grand dreams, new users often forecast unrealistic gains and quickly become disillusioned when those dreams don’t come true in short order.
By giving up too quickly, new users can miss out on the long term benefits that come with having persevered. For some, it’s the satisfaction of building a popular site. For others, it is the income that only materializes when traffic grows to a certain point.
Before abandoning a site, take the time to engage with other site owners and see what types of gains they’ve made and what you might be able to do differently to speed things along. Popular places for such discussions are forums, such as those at KnownHost, Facebook groups and other dedicated online communities.
Posts vs Pages – Putting Everything in Posts
One of the most common, and painful, new WordPress user mistakes is putting all the content in either pages or posts, instead of using each as intended.
Humans expect to find static content in pages, and regular “blog-type” content in posts. Pages should be things like:
– about us
– contact us
– services / products
– terms of service
Putting page content in posts makes the site navigation confusing and risks getting commonly sought content bumped downward as newer content gets published.
The solution is to simply put static content in pages and blog-type content in posts. The navigation for the two should be different and easily distinguishable.
Publishing vs Saving – Publishing Unfinished Posts
Seeing an unfinished post appearing on site before it’s completed is like looking at a birthday cake while it’s still in the mixing bowl (before it’s baked and decorated). It’s not a pretty sight!
Avoid showing visitors your unfinished posts by learning to save drafts instead of hitting the publish button. You can always edit the drafts and continue saving until you’re actually ready to publish.
Keeping half-finished drafts from being published is a good way of keeping a positive image in the minds of your audience. Your reputation is worth it.
Updates – Not Updating Content
Search engines, and humans, want content that’s accurate, up-to-date and filled with references to recent happenings. The disappointment associated with landing on a page that’s totally wrong because its information is outdated cannot be overstated. Bounce rates go through the roof and rankings go into the toilet.
Regularly reviewing content, particularly key content that gets decent traffic and rankings is an important part of the site management process. Set a recurring reminder to go back and check pages, make updates and change the “Published” date at the top so that it reflects the “Updated” date.
Not Using Search Console
Google Search Console provides new WordPress site owners with a ton of information about how their site is performing in organic search. Of particular interest are reports that show which pages on site are indexed and how they are ranking, plus which ones have errors and what types of errors they have.
Failing to make use of this information, a site owner risks having pages not indexed, not ranking and giving visitors a bad (error-filled) experience).
Signup for Search Console and view the reports about your website property so that you can get maximum yield for your content publishing efforts.
Not Including Reviews and Testimonials
Building trust can be 10x easier when leveraging opinions shared by others. New users often don’t think to include reviews and testimonials or just don’t invest the time by including them on site.
Reviews and testimonials can both have a significant impact on the perception of trust by prospective buyers. Without them, there’s little social proof that the company will indeed make good on their promises.
With literally thousands of free plugins available at the plugin repository of WordPress.org, the obvious solution is to pick a popular plugin, get it installed and start showing the world what other people have to say about your site, company, products or services. Conversion rates will improve markedly once you do….
Not Using Permalinks
By default, WordPress installs have URLs that look like:
The problem, for new WordPress users, is that these URLs are instantly forgettably and don’t entice people to click on them in the least. The format of the URLs, or permalinks, can be changed so that people click them more frequently (a higher clickthrough rate) with minimal effort.
In the WordPress admin area, click on Settings -> Permalinks, select the new preferred format, and click Save Changes.
Changing the radio button from default to Post Name, then clicking Save Changes, will suddenly transform URLs into something more like:
Not Using Analytics
Not bothering to add Google Analytics to a new site is one way new users prevent themselves from knowing what’s working and what isn’t. Analytics help users know what pages are converting effectively, which posts are drawing in the most traffic and what marketing efforts are delivering the highest return on investment.
Sign-up for Google Analytics then add a plugin such as Monster Insights which will let you tap into the data.
As data accumulates, you’ll want to check in to see what pages and posts are performing well (and poorly) so that you can tweak them to improve outcomes.
Including Analytics More Than Once
It’s easy enough to add Google Analytics to a site. In fact, it’s so easy that many new users accidentally add it more than once. Doing so will mean that Analytics data is skewed, giving completely wrong information and thus blinding a site owner as to what is actually happening.
Load one of your site pages in a browser and view source. Since your Google account tracking ID has a standard format, you can search for UA- (the start of your account ID). If you find it multiple times on the page, it’s a bad thing.
Alternatively, search for “https://www.googletagmanager.com/gtag/js?id=”. If you see it multiple times, it’s also a sign that you’ve included Analytics too many times.
If you do have multiple instances, you’ll want to uninstall one of your plugins or edit the theme file(s), depending on how you got to this point. Flush cache, clear cookies and reload the page before searching again to make sure that you’ve only got it once now.
Not Creating a Sitemap
Sitemaps make it easy for search engines to find content and that translates into more pages indexed, ranking and drawing in site traffic. As a new WordPress user, this is just one more of those things that can slip through the cracks and get overlooked.
Installing a sitemap plugin can take just a few minutes, particularly if you choose one like XML Sitemaps. It really is worth the time and effort.
Putting Posts in Multiple Categories
Duplicate content happens when the same content appears on multiple pages of a site and results in pages ranking poorly for targeted keyword phrases. New users often try to put a post into as many different categories as possible, thinking it will get seen more often as a result.
Don’t fall into the trap of multi-category posting. Instead, pick one category where a post belongs and put it there – and only there. If you really want a post to get found in other categories, then make brief mention of it in other posts and put a small text link that signposts it from other content posts.
Not Naming Images
People love to search for images online and do so using words that describe the image, like “wood-grained tv stand” or “blue mountain bike”. When adding images to posts in WordPress, new users often leave the original image name (like DSC014191.jpg) and don’t bother with setting image title and alt text to more descriptive phrases such as the ones for which people are searching. Making these changes will improve image visibility in search results, thus driving more traffic to the site.
Instead of leaving those image file names as they came off the camera or phone, rename them before uploading to WordPress into something much more descriptive. Once uploaded, you can set the image properties, including alt text, title and caption in the Media -> Library and can also tweak these settings by selecting the image within a post and editing those settings there.
Not Optimizing Posts for Search
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) of content means adjusting titles, headings, first paragraphs and images, among other things, so that they target particular keyword phrases to improve rankings. Failing to optimize means poor rankings in organic search, lower traffic and ultimately less conversions.
Site owners need to know what to do before haphazardly attempting to optimize content. One of the best ways to approach this is through an online marketing course like the one at Fresh Bananas.
Not Optimizing Posts for Search
There are a number of tweaks to the default WordPress behavior which can make the difference between search engines seeing many duplicate copies of content or instead seeing a well organized and maintained site. Date archives, where posts appear back in the date ordered folder, are a classic example of what should be flagged as “noindex” so that search engines don’t treat them as original content folders.
The easiest way of sorting this is to install an all-around SEO plugin helper like Yoast. It only takes a few minutes to install, then quite a few more to learn about how to configure it properly. One such setting is to flag date archives as noindex, thus preventing search engines from seeing duplicate content.
Not Including Social Sharing Buttons
With millions of users spending billions of hours on social networking sites, failing to make it easy for visitors to share your content socially is a classic blunder of new WordPress users. Without social sharing buttons on posts, people won’t easily be able to spread the word about your great content, limiting reach and reducing your social popularity – which is good for social network referral traffic and organic search engine validation of your importance.
An easy way to include social sharing buttons is to use a plugin like AddToAny. Install and configure by adding your social network profile links associated with each network you wish to include, then voila – your posts will include easy to spot buttons that readers can use to quickly share their find (your post).
This wraps up Part 3 in our series on Common Mistakes for New WordPress Users. Be sure to continue reading Part 4 where we cover more common mistakes, and how to overcome them in areas of Performance, Security and Themes.