If you’ve been using WordPress for a while, you’ve probably made some mistakes.
Maybe you haven’t made many mistakes however you may look back at when you first started and know you could have done things better.
Personally, i know i could have done better which is the reason why i’m going back over my first 500 posts and improving them in many ways.
This presents a great opportunity to look at the mistakes which i am fixing and share the solutions to beginners so they can at least learn from mine.
Let’s take a look at some of the most common pitfalls many newbies may not be aware of. We’ll also look at some of the best solutions to help avoid the frustration technical problems can cause and help save time down the track.
Width of Content Area
Your site visitors will find it easier to focus on your content if they don’t need to read from one side of the screen to the other.
Its best to try and keep your content area between 500-600 px max for this reason.
Changing the size of your content area after you have already written hundreds of posts and inserted images and video’s can be a lot of work and very time consuming.
Read more about the perfect content width for your blog posts.
Generally, your blog page or home page which displays a list of your 20 most recent posts also includes a featured image.
If it doesn’t, your theme may include a feature so you can use a default image if you haven’t set a unique one which paints a picture of each particular post.
Unique images which are pleasing on the eye should be descriptive of the content of each post which brings in more traffic to your site.
On top of this, Google images will index each featured image and send you free traffic.
If you don’t design & include a featured image for your posts, it can be very time consuming to go back and find or create an image for this purpose.
Your post archives for tags, categories and months all display a featured image if you have added one to each specific post.
Image ALT Text
When you insert an image in a post or page, you also have the opportunity to add some text which displays if the image doesn’t for some reason.
Another benefit of adding what is called “ALT Text”, is that it will optimize your images to rank higher in the search engines as they can’t read images. This will help bring more traffic to your site and create a better optimized content.
If you don’t add ALT Text from the start, going back over hundreds or thousands of images can be a huge job which isn’t much fun.
The Correct Sub Heading Size
Sub heading within your content help break up large chunks of content into more specific bite size chunks of information.
If you don’t use the correct size for your sub headings, it can be a lot of work to go back and change them all. Another benefit of using the right size is search engine optimization.
Your sub heading shouldn’t be larger than your post/page title’s size or be smaller than bold text.
Use h2, h3, and h4 tags. As the number gets bigger, the size of the sub heading should grow smaller as well as the focus on the content under that sub heading.
Your new site visitors generally scan your content for the exact information they are looking for or for something that draws them in.
Most of your readers will find your content more attractive if its spaced out with paragraphs which are around 2-4 lines max.
It’s a lot of work to go back over hundreds of posts and make your posts more scannable if you have large chunks of text that require your readers to concentrate heavily in order to understand what you have written.
Choosing Essential Plugins
Plugins are one of the most popular features for WordPress users.
If you want to try out a new plugin, its better to install it on your local installation rather than your main site.
The reason for this is every time you add a new plugin, it will add data to your database which stays there even after you deactivate and delete the plugin.
This causes your database to become larger and therefore less efficient which can slow down you site speed.
Removing tables from your database leftover after you delete plugins can be very tedious and time consuming.
This generally needs to be completed manually in phpMyAdmin and also requires some level of technical experience and understanding of database tables.
Only install & activate essential plugins which add the most important functions beginners generally need.
Tracking Affiliate Links
Many people start a blog to drive traffic to their website and make money online using affiliate programs.
The owners of the products and services you choose to promote tend to change the affiliate software or manager they use for their program, many, on a regular basis.
When this happens, most of the time your links will not continue to be tracked and even fail to work altogether.
The best way to avoid having to go back and find the posts which contain your affiliate links is to use a link manager plugin.
You can choose to use a free link shortening service like Bit.ly or Goo.gl however its still requires you to change these links when the affiliate program changes managers.
Therefore it’s best to use your own self hosted link management tool or plugin where you can simply change your links within the interface of the tool rather than find each link individually.
Here’s a post on why you should be careful using link shortening services for tracking which also includes 3 solutions on how to control and manage your link tracking.
Shortcodes enable you to easily add different types of styling to your content area without having to write. add and/or edit php & css code to your themes files.
Many themes include now include shortcodes which is great for beginners however be warned.
Some theme developers use code which only works with their themes and stops working if you decide to change your theme down the track.
If this happens, the styling you added to your posts and pages will not work and the short code you inserted into those pages will also stop working and look very unprofessional.
The best solution is to add the css and php functions code that creates shortcodes to your child theme manually or use a plugin for shortcodes.
If you want to create your own shortcodes, make sure the code isn’t specific to your current active theme and can be used on any theme.
Here’s a post on how to remove invalid shortcodes if you do end up suffering this problem after changing theme’s.
Installing WordPress Locally
I’ve found that many WordPress beginners like to install WordPress on their local PC or Mac.
These days its very easy to do this and you don’t need a domain or web hosting account either so its totally free.
If you’re new to WordPress and not the geeky type, it can be very time consuming and technically challenging to move your site from a local setup to a live web server.
Better in most cases to install WordPress on your web server and build your site while it’s live.
If you don’t have any experience with search engine optimization then it may be hard working out how often to use different keywords in your content.
There’s some great free Seo guides for beginners which will educate your with best practices when optimizing your content.
If you make the same mistakes over and over again on all your posts, it can be very time consuming to go back and fix all these problems manually.
Another option is to install a keyword density plugin and try and keep your density below 5% in order to avoid a penaly from the major search engines like Google.
There’s several settings in WordPress that need to be configured before you even write your first blog post.
If you don’t setup your installation the right way the first time, you may find yourself in the deep end and have to start all over again.
The reason for this is some beginners allow anyone to register to their site without moderation. This allows automated spamming or url’s from untrustworthy sites which can cause irreversible damage to your credibility with the search engines.
Here’s a list of the 6 settings which are crucial to configure before you start blogging with WordPress.
Categories & Tags
I’ve already written about creating categories and tags in WordPress.
If you create dozens of categories when you first start and only add one or 2 posts to each category, its not effective and difficult to change.
If you delete unused categories, you’ll also suffer from broken links which can be a nightmare to fix and create a giant mess in your database.
When creating tags, keep in mind they should be used to group similar content together and you shouldn’t use more than 2-3 tags per post max.
Your posts should focus on one topic and not include content that’s not related to the title of each post.
Choosing a flexible permalink structure is crucial.
Any of these 3 are the best and you can still use categories and tags to group similar content together.
Be careful choosing a structure that includes categories.
A common mistake made by beginners is to create too many categories. You may find it technically challenging and very time consuming to consolidate them and reduce the number.
Changing your permalink structure can break all the links to the posts under every category.
If you choose a permalink structure which includes your postname and/or date, you can still use categories and change them at any time without breaking your permalinks.
If you’re looking for a way to change your structure, here’s a handy redirect tool that makes the job easy.
Free Hosted Blogging Platforms
Both Blogger and WordPress.com make it easy to start a blog for free.
When choosing from one of the free hosted blogging platforms, consider using WordPress.com
If you decide you want more control and flexibility down the track, you’ll find it easier to make the move. You’ll also have built up some experience using WordPress which you can use after you migrate to your own self hosted WordPress.org powered site.
Moving your images from Blogger to WordPress is not an easy task.
Titles & Meta Descriptions
Every unique page and post you create should also include an accurate, unique, descriptive title and meta description.
If you don’t do this you are leaving behind valuable targeted traffic which you could be getting from the search engines for free.
Getting these right the first time and save you a lot of pain and frustration not to mention the time it would take to go back and fix them all.
If you don’t get them right the first time, your permalinks will not be the same as the title once you correct them.
More Tips To Help Setup WordPress Correctly
Prefer an Ebook?
Check out the second version of my Guide to Getting started with WordPress.