One of the most satisfying parts of my job is helping business owners overcome common WordPress mistakes. Normally, these mistakes result from owners (or their web designers) not fully understanding how WordPress works. Also, they don’t follow the best practices for using WordPress as a Content Management System for their website. Read on to discover the most common WordPress mistakes business owners make.

Use a child theme

The first common WordPress mistake is not using a child theme. Let’s say that you found and installed a WordPress theme that does about 90% of the things you like. You edit the theme files to give you the last 10% of the functionality/look you require. Then one day, the theme developer releases an update. You install the update only to discover that the 10% customization to the theme files are lost and your website does not look or function the way it did before the update. Using a child theme solves this issue by separating the core look and functionality (the 90%) from the changes you require (the 10%). By using a child theme, whenever the theme developer updated the core theme files, the customized functionality will never be overwritten.

Use SEO friendly links

The next mistake is not making the links on your website search engine friendly. By default, WordPress sets the permalinks to ‘plain’ links. This means that web page links use “?p=123” in the URL. Search engines don’t know how to rate these links. A better solution is to use the page/post name to display a human-readable page link (i.e. common-wordpress-mistakes”. To set this up, from the admin dashboard go to “Settings > Permalinks” and choose the “postname” option. Don’t forget to save your changes.

Optimize images

The third mistake deals with images. Website owners upload new image files before taking time to optimize them for the web. The camera on my iPhone saves pictures that are 4032 pixels x 3024 pixels with a file size of several megabytes. None of the websites I design need images that big. Reduce the size of the images to the largest size required. Out of the box, the WordPress large size is 1024 pixels x 1024 pixels. You can change the default image sizes from the admin dashboard “Settings > Media”. Change the default image settings to match those required by your website design.

Create a backup plan  

The biggest (and most common) mistake is not having a backup plan in place. WordPress is stable but having a backup plan is crucial for protecting your website. Often, I get a call from business owners who just updated their plugins and suddenly their website stopped working. The update was not fully tested (by the plugin developer) and caused a conflict in the system that caused the website to stop operating. Having a regular backup plan in place allows one to restore the website using a previously saved backup. Also, create a backup before updating plugins. This way, you will have a recent operating copy of your website. As a bonus to my clients, I run a mirror version of their website on my local server and test all updates there before installing the updates on the live website server.

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