WordPress is a powerful content management system (CMS) that meets the needs of countless small businesses.
Many small businesses launch the first version of their website themselves. You slave over it, tweak it, launch it, and sit back basking in your shiny new website’s glory. Yet we all make mistakes from time to time… and too often, with the Web, we don’t realize our mistakes until they’ve come back around to hurt us.
We at Rystedt Creative have worked on small business WordPress websites for bloggers, dietitians, restoration contractors, and more. Throughout our work we’ve come to just expect some mistakes on websites we stubble upon, review, or work to improve.
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Here they are! The 15 most common WordPress mistakes small businesses make. Try to avoid these mistakes as you build your site or improve upon it.
#1. Starting With the Wrong WordPress Platform
There are two ways you can build a WordPress website:
- WordPress.com‘s hosting service or
- WordPress.org‘s open source software hosted on a server of your choosing.
Many small businesses looking to launch a WordPress website assume that these options are identical… they aren’t.
WordPress.com is the official WordPress hosting service and thus wants to provide their customers with the smoothest experience possible. In order to do so they limit what you can do with your WordPress website.
Want a custom domain name? You’ll need at least the Personal tier for $4/month
Think you may need to edit your website’s look with CSS (or have a web designer do so)? You’ll need at least the Premium tier for $8/month.
Want to be able to install third party plugins or themes (or have a developer create some for you)? You’ll need the Business tier at $25/month.
This pricing is more than reasonable but small businesses should be aware of the limitations. Even at the Business tier you never have access to your server and so will always be limited in some customizations and maintenance. Furthermore, if your business ever has unique and custom e-commerce needs WordPress.com‘s service will fall far short.
Instead, small businesses should use software from WordPress.org. The cost will be lower or comparable to the Business tier of WordPress.com but the customization, maintenance, and scalability options are unlimited.
#2. Ignoring Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Settings
Myth: Install _____ plugin and your website’s SEO will be golden.
Fact: SEO requires strategy, follow through, and attention to detail – even with the best plugins.
Too many small businesses install an SEO plugin on their WordPress website but ignore their SEO settings.
Make sure not to forget the following SEO settings:
- Ensure that the option to discourage search engines from crawling your website is unchecked
- Double check every setting page of your SEO plugin to ensure that the settings fit your goals
- If your SEO plugin provides options when drafting blog posts and pages actually fill out those options and read the recommendations. An SEO plugin only does half its job if you don’t use its tools and follow its recommendations.
#3. Not Keeping Regular and Thorough Backups
Oops! You tried something new and everything broke! It happens to the best of us.
But if you don’t have a backup of your website getting back to a usable version of your site may be difficult. If you’ve been hacked getting your site restored to a safe state can be even more difficult. This can mean lost sales, visibility, and trust for a small business.
Part of the solution is to backup backup backup.
Use a backup plugin or service (or use a hosting company that will do it for you) so you can restore your website anytime you need to.
#4. Failing to add Local Business Metadata
Structured metadata is an essential part of a well optimized website. Structured metadata, such as Schema markup, helps contextualize your webpages for search engines.
Yet many business fail to add local business metadata to their webpages. Make sure you use an SEO plugin or ask a web-developer to add metadata that includes your address, geographic location, opening hours, and contact info.
This may give you a boost in some local and map searches as well as provide more info about you in search engine results pages (SERPS).
#5. Not Updating WordPress or Plugins for Months (or Years)
That update symbol with the obscenely large number next to it? It’s trying to tell you something. Well, a few somethings really:
- Your WordPress website isn’t as secure as it could be
- You are missing out on new features
- Bugs aren’t getting squashed
Update your website. Sure, there are times you should hold off on an update for a little while but usually you should be installing updates to the WordPress core, your plugins, and your theme on a regular basis. If you do you will stay more secure, get new features as they are released, and squash bugs as they’re found.
#6. Forgetting to Check for Broken Links
Too many small businesses never check for broken links. Broken links can increase bounce rate and damage your visitors’ experience. You put the links there to take the visitor somewhere after all!
Your bounce rate (and your search engine ranking) will thank you later.
#7. Using the Default Favicon
A website favicon is the little image next to your page title in your browser tab. See our logo up there? ^ That’s a favicon.
Too many small businesses leave the default favicon for their hosting company or theme.
This is important!
Many email inboxes grab your favicon to display next to your emails.
Countless visitors use the favicon to glance through their open browser tabs.
Popular bookmark managers and default browser start pages show your site’s favicon.
Make it fit your brand.
Use the WordPress Customizer (under Appearance in your admin panel) to update your WordPress favicon with your own branded logo.
#8. Not Welcoming Subscribers
You’re building your email subscriber list, right?
Whether you’re using pop-ups, slide-ins, sidebar widgets, banners, or welcome mats to invite subscribers you need to make sure you do one thing as soon as they subscribe:
Welcome them to your email list and thank them for trusting your brand!
If you have a subscription form on your WordPress website use your email service to set up an automated welcome email.
Engage your subscribers immediately. They’ve trusted you with valuable info – their name and email. They deserve a nice welcome email.
#9. Leaving the Default Social Media Links Unchanged
Most WordPress themes have social media links in the header or footer.
Countless small business websites have these links still pointing either nowhere or to the theme developer’s accounts!
Social media links are helpful. Some visitors will use them to follow you on other platforms which increases the likelihood that they will keep coming back.
But having social media links that point nowhere or point to somewhere you don’t intend will decrease trust in your brand and increase visitor confusion. Make sure these links accurately point to your accounts.
#10. Not Using Analytics
Do you know how your website is performing?
If you aren’t using analytics you don’t know as much as you could.
Sure, you may have a sale as your ultimate goal but if you want to increase your sales you need to know how many people are visiting your website, where they’re coming from, and where in the sales funnel you’re losing them.
That’s what analytics are for.
Too many small businesses fail to use analytics to evaluate their online presence.
#11. Formatting Blog Posts in Microsoft Word (or Another Word Processor)
Where do you write your blog posts?
Too many small business bloggers write their posts in a word processor (like MS Word) and then copy and paste into the WordPress editor. You can do this but you then need to change the formatting to use HTML headers with proper heading structure and ensure that all of your sizing and formatting is still correct.
If you write and format your posts in a word processor and copy and paste without paying attention you may end up with all sorts of HTML formatting errors. Just don’t do it.
Some better options for writing your blog posts include:
- Writing them in the WordPress editor itself (don’t forget to save your draft),
- Writing them in a word processor but pasting the content as plain text and doing all of the formatting in the WordPress editor, or
- Writing your blog posts in Markdown, exporting that to HTML, and copying and pasting the HTML into the WordPress editor.
#12. Not Deleting Template and Sample Pages
When you were getting started with your WordPress website you may have installed a professional theme with sample and template pages.
Perhaps you even found these pages helpful in drafting your unique content.
Yet countless small business websites have sample and template pages still live! They may not be in your menu but they are in your sitemap and Google has them indexed. They may even be showing up in searches.
These pages have filler content, fake contact info, silly stock images, and more.
Make sure you go through your pages and delete or un-publish any pages that you don’t want to be live.
#13. Failing to Optimize Images
Large unoptimized images are one of the biggest culprits of slow speed on small websites.
Too many small businesses upload their images without any thought to format or file size.
You can reduce image weight by:
- Trying to keep your images under 1MB
- Using an image optimization plugin to compress your images after you upload them
- Implementing caching either on your server or in your visitors browsers to decrease load time of large images.
#14. Ignoring Security
Ignoring your WordPress’ website’s security is just asking for trouble.
Like any popular software platform, WordPress has some security risks. Developers, hosts, and businesses are always trying to stay a few steps ahead of hackers and malicious actors.
- Using strong usernames and passcodes
- Disabling file editing from the admin panel
- Turning off PHP execution from the uploads folder
- Using two-factor authentication
- Changing your WordPress login URL
- and more
#15. Not Seeking Help When It’s Needed
Finally, many small businesses still try to do it all on their own even when they realize their online goals aren’t being met.
You may want to seek some help if:
- Your attempt at an e-commerce portal is buggy, doesn’t process payments the way you want, or has missing features
- You want to add a feature to your site and found a plugin that only partially meets your goals
- The features you have added to your site via plugins clash with your branding
- Or if you are just plain stumped
Giving up on your online goals or asking your visitors to just look past your website may be losing you sales. Sometimes a little help is called for.