Protect your website from attacks by ensuring a proper security system.
WordPress, by nature, poses some security risks. Due to the crowd-sourced nature of how plugins and themes are added paired with the fact that it’s the world’s largest CMS, it’s a big target for hackers.
You can take some simple steps to ensure your website is safe from most of the vulnerabilities.
Install Website Security
There are many security options to choose from, some hosts (like Kinsta) even provide high-levels of security for you. Most WordPress users choose a security plugin like Wordfence, iThemes Security, or WebARX.
These pieces of software (which come in paid and free options) harden your website, help protect from brute force attacks, and regularly scan your website for vulnerabilities.
Ensure that your website security software is up-to-date and make it a habit to routinely check the logs of any scans to make sure nothing has gone wrong. You’ll likely get notifications from your security software letting you know when a plugin or theme you have installed has a known vulnerability. Make sure to prioritize fixing any of those issues, as well as keep good backups of your website.
Keeping your software up-to-date helps protect against security vulnerabilities and gives you enhanced functionality.
Chances are you already know how to update WordPress… but I promise, if you Google it you’re going to find a lot of different opinions on how it should be done. You’re also going to find people that tell you that it has to be done this way or that.
I have no desire to lecture you one way or another— here are some simple tips I’ve found useful. Find what works best for you, and how you feel comfortable. Just whatever you do, keep all your software up-to-date! You shouldn’t be going weeks (or months, or years!) without running updates. Once a week seems to be my personal sweet spot.
Tips for running WordPress Updates
There’s are my personal recommendations.
Use a staging site for updates (or don’t). If you want to be extra careful, and you have all the time in the world, you can clone your website to a staging environment, run your updates, check for any errors and then know if it’s safe to update or not. But, I’m going to be honest— who the hell has time for that? I’ve generally found updates to reputable plugins to be fairly reliable… And in a worse case scenario I have backups to restore.
Make sure you have backups before updates (especially major ones). If you’re running regularly scheduled backups (at least once a day) you should have a backup that’s no more than 23 hours and 59 minutes old at worst. Chances are it’s fresher than that. Might be a good idea to double check first that your latest backup was completed.
Update WordPress Core, then your Themes, then your plugins. This is the best consensus I could find between everyone’s different strategies. It makes sense— if you think of these things in terms of hierarchy, then you’re updating the biggest bit first and the smallest ones last.
Tools like MainWP or ManageWP can help you do WordPress updates faster by connecting in all your (or your client’s) websites into one central dashboard where you can run updates all at once.
Routinely browse the website to make sure crucial elements look and function properly.
When you perform regular maintenance on your website (like plugin, theme, and core updates) you might be affecting the functionality and/or the aesthetics of your website. These could be unwanted changes that negatively affect visitors experience on your website.
These things can be hard to detect with any automated systems, however there are some cool visual regression tools on the market.
The easiest solution is to just browse the website after major updates to ensure key components are functioning properly. A quick visual inspection of the most important pages will help give you peace of mind.
If you’ve updated a specific plugin, visit the areas of the website where that plugin is used and ensure they still look and function as intended.
It’s my experience that most updates don’t cause problems— but it’s better to be safe than sorry!
Identify and investigate any downtime for the month to ensure stability.
Uptime monitoring is simply checking to see if your website is online or not, and alerting you when it goes down. For your care plan or maintenance clients, you’ll want to make sure you know if their website is down before they do (so you can fix it before they find out!)
Free solutions like Uptime Robot will check your website every 5 minutes for free, and send you an email alert if your website does not respond. The free account allows you to add up to 50 monitors.
In my experience each platform will have pros and cons— and one might report outages faster than others. Do yourself a favor, try out a few (on the same website) and see what works best for your needs.
Another thing you’ll want to keep an eye out for are false positives. Any uptime tool I’ve tested has always sent me “down” reports when the website (to the best of my knowledge) never went down. It can be an annoying waste of time… But checking in on these alerts can save you from a website being down for a long period without your knowledge.
Ensure your scheduled backups are being completed and test their validity.
The best fail-safe you can have for your WordPress website is regular backups. No matter if your website is hacked, compromised, or if an update just goes awry— a backup can be there to save the day! Some sort of failure is inevitable. A backup is your first line of defense!
Simply deploy a backup to before you experienced your issue, and poof— the problem is gone.
How to setup automatic backups
There are a ton of ways within the WordPress ecosystem that you can setup automatic backups, but before I share some of my favorites with you I want to key in on something… These need to be automated backups!
You want your backups running on an automatic schedule (most brochure websites can get away with 1 backup a day, while some ecommerce websites require them even more frequently).
This gives you a set-it-and-(almost)-forget-it system that happens without you having to think about it.
Use a host that provides automatic backups
Most decent web hosts will provide automatic backups of your website and database. Before investing in a hosting account, make sure this is the case. At a bare minimum they should be creating daily backups of your websites on their server.
While this is the easiest backup solution (because it is done for you), it’s not always the most reliable. You don’t want this to be your only website backup plan.
Use a backup service and/or plugin
There are plenty of backup solutions to choose from that offer both free and premium plans. With most free backup solutions you’ll have to provide some kind of storage for the backups (like Dropbox or Google Drive). Premium backup plugins often will provide storage for you.
One great feature you can look for when you’re making your decision is “incremental backups”. Incremental backups start by taking a full backup of your website, then only backup items that change between your scheduled backups. This reduces the load on your server when creating a backup.
Here are a few backup solutions you can take a look at:
It’s not enough to set your backups and forget about them. Backups do fail!
Each month you’ll want to take stock of your backups to make sure they are going through successfully. Beyond that, it is a good idea to regularly test your backups by trying to deploy one onto a development install. Even when a backup shows its successful, sometimes there can be corruption that keeps it from restoring properly.
It would be time consuming to test your backups each and every time, but you can set aside a few minutes each month to test a few at random to see if you have any issues. If everything works fine, you’re probably okay. If you experience issues, you might want to test more and try and determine the problem.
Tell your readers what to do next by adding a strong call to action, an opt-in, or a content upgrade.
Want to instantly start increasing conversions on your website? Then start asking for them!
Users are much more likely to take the desired action you want them to if you simply ask them.
Any post on your website, and any content you write in general, should have a purpose. You may want to collect the user’s information (like their name, email, phone number, address, etc.), you may want to get them to contact you (by calling or filling in a form), or buy from you.
Every post on your website should ultimately lead to this goal. Let’s discuss calls to action, opt-ins, and content upgrades!
Calls to Action
A call to action (or CTA) could be a button, a link, or any other action you want your visitor to take. You might hope they take it by coincidence, but you’ll have a lot more success by putting a persuasive call to action on your post.
Let’s say, for instance, you write about the importance of smoke detectors in your home. You could add a call to action on your page that says “Find out if your home’s smoke detectors will save your family from a fire. Call today for a free consultation”.
Persuasive copy (like keeping your family safe) coupled with an action people can take is a great incentive for them to follow through. Of course, you probably already have a contact page— but what’s the chances they will navigate there next and call if you don’t ask them to?
My rule of thumb: Every post should have a call to action.
Another popular goal for your blog post might be to have some sort of opt-in to your email list. Growing (and actually utilizing!) an email list is still a very powerful form of marketing. A great way to grow your list is to get people to opt-in from content they are already engaged with.
Today, most marketers use some sort of incentive (like a free gift—which we’ll discuss in a minute), but you don’t have to. You could simply have a box that says “Want more great content about X? Sign up and we’ll send them to you” followed by a form that puts the user into your email marketing system.
An opt-in is a specific form of a call to action, and one that can be highly beneficial in being able to market to your visitors long after they’ve left your website… At least you know they are already interested in your content!
A content upgrade is a incentivized opt-in where you offer your visitor even more valuable by giving them some sort of free gift (like a PDF, a slideshow, or a series of emails) for opting in to your email marketing list.
An opt-in (like we discussed previously) has lots of advantages, and a content upgrade gives your user a reason to opt-in.
Your content upgrade doesn’t have to be extravagant… It could be a cheat sheet that covers the information in your post, a case study of how to put your lessons in use, or a series of emails that cover a topic more in depth.
Anything that could add value to the content you’ve already provided is a great content upgrade!
Using categories and tags can improve your website’s organization and help readers find the content they are interested in.
Do me a favor… Go see how many posts you have in the “Uncategorized” category. It’s fine. I’ll wait.
If you answer is any more than “Zero”, then you can instantly improve your website by simply categorizing your posts!
Categories (and tags for that matter) help organize the information on your website, allow you to quickly show readers relevant content, and help search engines understand the structure of your website.
How to Add Tags & Categories
Categories and tags are taxonomies that are built into WordPress core— assigning them to your posts is simple!
In the right hand side of your post editing screen you’ll see a meta box for both Categories and Tags.
Categories come in the form of a selection box, you can assign as many categories to a post as you’d like (but, really… don’t add a ton), and categories can have parent/child relationships.
Tags work by entering a tag by typing in a word. Like categories you can add as many tags as you’d like, but tags do not have any parent/child relationship capabilities like categories.
It’s likely you’ll want to use both categories and tags on your posts.
Once you have a nice collection of posts on your website, you can create category archive pages which will display all the posts within the same category. This is great for users, because they will have the ability to spend time on the content they are interested in— so long as you categorize and tag it logically.
Category & Tagging Strategy
The theory and strategy behind effective categorizing and tagging can get really deep— that’s not the purpose of this tutorial though.
Instead, I’m going to give you a basic overview of the best practices.
Use categories for broad groupings of topics
Categories are generally used for broad groups of grouping. For instance, if you had a blog about the music industry, you might use categories for the genre of music.
Fine-tune with tags
Tags typically get much more specific than categories. Using the same music industry blog example (where the category was the genre), you could use tags for a band name, a record label, or even the year music was released.
Hand-crafted manual excerpts help visitors skim your page as they look for relevant content.
Excerpts are hand-crafted summaries of your posts which work great in your blog feed and give the user an idea about what they can find inside your full post.
By default WordPress will use the first 55 words of your article as the default excerpt— but you can do better than that! I believe in you! The first paragraph of your post likely isn’t the best description of it you could put together.
The post excerpt might be your only shot at getting someone to read your post— so it’s worth the effort.
You’ll find the meta box for your excerpt in the Document tab of the right hand column of the post editor.
If you don’t see the excerpt box, you may need to change your screen options to include it.
Relevant outbound links to high quality websites can improve your website’s relevance.
Some people are hesitant to link to other websites… Afraid they will send traffic away, damage their rankings, or cause confusion.
But let those fears go— because outbound links are a great thing for your website!
Let’s take a look at a few reasons why outbound links can be beneficial for your website.
Build authority and become a trusted voice for great advice
No matter how big of a website you create, you’ll never cover every topic possible— it cannot be done! However, you can provide your visitors with a wealth of information (and become an authority on the topic!) by sharing your sources and sharing other places online where people can learn more.
Think about it this way… If a friend recommends a new restaurant to, then you try it and love it— you’ll be thankful to your friend for sharing that with them. You might even call them back to tell them about your experience and thank them for the great recommendation.
Best of all, when your friend recommends something new again, you’ll trust them!
Wouldn’t it be great if your website visitors trusted you like that?
Give links to get links
Getting backlinks to your website is an important ranking factor in SEO. But where do all those links come from?
Your much more likely to get links if you are the kind of person that also gives links. Remember the golden rule? Treat people how you want to be treated…
By linking to someone’s website they just might be thankful enough to find a way to link to you too!
One neat thing about creating external links is the data you can extract from it. When you link to a great resource, you can track how many people on your website click that link. A link that gets a lot of clicks might be worthy of creating similar content on your own website, since you’ve already proven your audience is interested!
This is a nice way to test the waters and see what your audience is interested in before having to invest the time to create all the content yourself.
Including links to other articles or pages on your website improves your authority and keeps your reader on your website longer.
Since both visitors and search engines use the links on your website to jump from page to page, a purposeful internal linking system will help make navigating your website (especially for relevant content) easier.
You probably already do a lot of internal linking (like your navigation menus, footer menus, blog archive pages, etc.), so for the purposes of this article we’re going to talk about contextual linking.
What is contextual linking?
Contextual linking is creating links within the content of your pages or posts that link to other, relevant, pages or posts on your website.
For example, the article you are reading right now is on our blog, where we write a lot of tutorial articles just like this one.
See how I linked the words ‘our blog’ to our blog page? Contextually it makes sense, and it’s right here within the body of the post— making it a perfect example of an internal, contextual link! Now visitors can click through to see what other articles we’ve written!
Why should I use contextual links?
There are a few good reasons to include internal, contextual links within your blog posts.
First, it helps point users to other articles that they may be interested in— keeping them on your page longer.
Second, it helps Google understand how different pages on your website relate to each other— and even which pages have more importance.
If your ‘Services’ page is linked to many times from lots of different pages within your website, that will tell the search engine that your ‘Services’ page must be important.
How to find contextual link opportunities
I’ve found the easiest way to add contextual links to my posts is during the editing and publishing process— not while I’m writing. Anywhere you’ve already expanded on a subject, have a service or product that you reference, or where it makes perfect sense, you can add a internal link.
Some SEO tools, like Yoast SEO, provide internal linking suggestions. It’s a handy feature, but will still require some manual work as their suggestions are not always perfect.
What you want to avoid is creating irrelevant internal links by linking to things that don’t fit in the conversation just because you want to link to it. Irrelevant links don’t help the user, and will only confuse the Google bots.
Your heading tags should follow a hierarchical order. Refrain from skipping around randomly.
A common mistake new web designers make is using the heading tags (like H1, H2, H3) primarily for styling purposes instead of maintaining a proper structure.
Of course you do have to take both things into consideration, but it’s better to restyle a proper heading tag with CSS than to start skipping around “levels” (1, 2, 3, 4, etc.) of tags for aesthetics.
Search engines use heading tags to determine the structure and content of your website— and users rely on this too.
Each blog post should have just one H1 heading (though there are contrary theories on this), but can have as many H2, H3, H4, H5, or H6 titles as you need— so long as you keep them in order!
How to organize and structure your heading tags
Each heading tag carries weight, with H1 being the largest, and down from there. This means that H2’s are more important than H3’s, H3’s are more important than H4’s (and so on). A typical blog post will use H2 headings to separate complete ideas, with “nested” H3’s, H4’s, etc. within an H2 section.
It’s a little bit easier to visualize it…
Here’s a proper structure:
See how as the heading numbers get “higher” they all go in sequential order? That’s how you want to structure your blog posts!
When you finish a complete section you can jump back to an H2, even if you’re on an H4 or H5— just avoid skipping numbers as they go higher, like this:
You can see how messy this looks, and it’s just as confusing for search engines trying to understand your website content— it’s like you’re all over the place!
Visitors might not phrase things exactly like you do. Try using semantic words related to your keyword(s) within your headings and body copy.
Semantic keywords are fancy speak for “related keywords”. For example, you might call a shape with 4 equal sides a square, others might call it a block or a cube.
When you are writing a blog post, and trying to rank for a specific topic, it’s important to take a few minutes and think about other ways your topic could be phrased. By including these terms you can paint a more complete picture of your topic, and also include keywords your target audience might use in place of the one you chose.
A good keyword research tool (like SEMrush or Moz) will typically provide you with a list of related (or semantic) keywords… but you don’t have to shell out dough to get the ball rolling.
For starters, start typing your keyword (or keyword phrase) into Google’s search bar. Google will automatically provide you with a list of ‘related queries’ based on what you are typing in. Scanning through Google’s suggestions can be a great way to find some semantic words and phrases for your post.
You can even search for your phrase (eg. ‘Used Fishing Gear’) and scroll to the bottom of the first page of results. Google will provide a list of related searches for you to consider.
In this example you can pick out things that could be useful to include in your post, like swapping out “gear” for “equipment”. Gear and equipment, in this example, would be semantic keywords.
Using the free “Google it” method can be helpful, but does not provide all the search data (like number of searches, search intent, etc.) that a paid tool would— but it’s a good start!
This is easy to do in a natural way, as the first 100 words is usually your introduction to the post topic, and working in the keyword or phrase can be done in a natural voice (eg. ‘I’m going to explain why I think you should buy used fishing gear online, instead of new from the store’ if your target keyphrase is ‘used fishing gear’).
To be sure and practice what I preach, you can see that this article (even though I don’t expect it to rank in search engines) uses the keyword phrase (the title of this post) in the first 100 words.
When you’re writing a blog post, it’s important to make sure your primary keyword (or phrase) is in the title of the post.
There’s a lot that can be said about keywords, how to use them, how important they are, or why they don’t matter… But there’s no denying the fact that the title of your article is often one of the most crucial parts.
For starters, the title is going to be the first thing the viewer sees and what they base their decision on as to if they will continue to read or not. It’s important that the title has some relevancy to what the topic is. In most cases, the topic has to do with the keyword you are trying to rank the post for.
Additionally, the title of your post is generally the only H1 tag on this page— giving it the most “weight” in terms of importance.
As an example, if you’re writing a post about the benefits of buying used fishing gear online, you’d probably want to rank for “used fishing gear”, and you would want your visitors to know that this post is about “used fishing gear”. It just makes sense to work this into the title (eg. ‘Buying Used Fishing Gear Online: Is it Worth it?’)
How to set the title of your blog post
From the WordPress dashboard, hover over posts and click ‘Add New’. The next screen will be the WordPress editor, and the first field is for the title.
Simply type your post’s title in that field, and you’re good to go!
Keep in mind that most themes, by default, will use the title of the post as the H1 tag and display it as the largest headline on the page. WordPress will also default the URL or “slug” of the post to match this post title. Of course, you can override all these things if you wish.
A good backup solution is the ultimate fail-safe against website problems.
Whether it’s a hack, malware, or just a plugin update gone wrong, having the proper backups in place can save you from a world of headaches.
A good backup is your best friend.
When something goes wrong with your website, having a backup that you can quickly deploy will solve your problem in most cases. Of course, you’ll want to keep plenty of backups so you can go back far enough to deploy a copy of your website from before the problem existed.
The downside is you’ll lose any content or updates you’ve done between the backup you deploy and today, but that’s often a much easier pill to swallow then losing everything.
Backup solutions can be found for free, and cloud storage space is cheap these days. For a few cents a day you can have peace of mind knowing the worst thing that can happen to your website is you have to revert it to an older version.
Automated backup solutions for WordPress.
As your first line of defense, your hosting company should be doing at least some form of backups on your websites. If they aren’t you might want to consider another host.
Sadly, while these server-side backups are common (and you’re likely already paying for it one way or another) they aren’t known to be the most reliable. That’s why it’s good to have those backups plus another off-site solution.
Optimize the visibility of your website in the world’s largest search engine.
While your website doesn’t have to be connected to Search Console to appear in search results, connecting to this free service can speed up the process of getting index and provide you with useful insights as to how your website is performing in search.
How to setup Google Search Console
If it’s your first time using Search Console (formerly known as webmaster tools), head over to the Search Console website, and click the Start Now button.
Note: You’ll need to have a Google account (like Gmail) to proceed.
After you’ve logged in, you’ll be greeted with a Welcome screen (pictured below). You’ll put your domain in the “Domain” field on the left hand side.
From that point, Google will walk you through the process of verifying your domain. If you’ve already installed Google Analytics with the same account the verification process is much quicker.
What can I do with Search Console?
Inside search console you can submit URLs for indexing, submit your XML sitemap, and monitor your presence in search engines.
The ‘Performance’ tab in the menu on the left will show you what queries your website is ranking for, how many times people have seen it, your average position, and how many clicks you’ve received. All of this can be very useful data as you improve the SEO of your website.
Keep in mind that a brand new website won’t be getting many (if any!) views or clicks. Your best bet is to set this up as soon as you launch a website and give it time to start collecting data.
For additional information on how to setup and use Search Console, check out this great tutorial:
Google Analytics is a free, and powerful tool to see how users interact with your website.
You’ll want to start collecting data as soon as you possibly can, so having the analytics integration setup at launch is key.
How to install Google Analytics
The first thing you’ll need to install Google Analytics is to setup the analytics account from within Google Analytics’ dashboard. Visit analytics.google.com, sign into your account (you’ll need a Google/Gmail account for this) and follow the steps to setup a new property.
If you need step-by-step instructions on how to setup a property in Google Analytics, follow this tutorial provided by Google.
Once your property is setup, you’ll need to copy a short script (tracking code) that will go into the code on your website. The optimal place to install this code is in the <head> tag of your website. This way it fires on each page of your website.
You can refer to your theme’s documentation on how to add this type of code. Often theme developers will provide “hooks” where you can easily add this information.
The easiest way to test your analytics is to use two browser windows (or tabs). In one, you’ll log into your Google Analytics account and go to the “realtime” report located on the left side of the screen.
From there you’ll be able to see any “live” traffic on your website.
In your second browser window, simply visit your website.
Within a few seconds you should see the number on your live report change from 0 to 1 (that’s you in the other tab!). This means that Google is now tracking activity on your website. To be sure, try navigating to another page and see if your analytics report shows you that the user has moved.
What should I be looking for in Google Analytics?
Google Analytics gives you enormous amounts of data to analyze how people are using your website. Sometimes it can just be too much!
But there are a few metrics that are universally important…
Pageviews. Page views will tell you exactly how many views you’re getting on your pages (catchy name, right?). You an also measure unique page views which will show you how many individual users looked at a page (vs those who might have looked at a page multiple times.
Source. Where is your traffic coming from? The Acquisition tab will help you monitor how people are finding your site: organic search, direct, email referral, or social. This helps you determine which marketing efforts are driving the most traffic.
Bounce rate. Bounce rate is measuring how many people land in your site and view a single page without taking any further action. In most cases you want to see your bounce rate to be low… However, some pages (like landing pages with no menu) will naturally have a higher bounce rate— and that’s okay.
Locations. Location data helps you understand where your audience is at on the map. You can view which countries, states, and even cities are visiting your website.
Devices. Mobile viewing has quickly become the most popular way for people to browse websites— but that’s not the case 100% of the time. Google Analytics will help you understand what devices are visiting your website so you can optimize for them.
Site Content. Which pages are most popular on your website? Viewing your Site Content data will help you understand what content on your website is most popular. This is great for measuring how changes might increase (or decrease!) visits to a specific page (or pages).
Conversions. Google Analytics allows you to setup ‘Goals’, which often are some sort of conversion metric (like a sale or sign up). You can give your goals monetary value and see how well your conversions are performing at a glance.
Demographics. Demographic data isn’t on by default, but if you opt in you can view information like gender, age, and interest of your visitors.
Make sure to connect your Analytics and Search Console accounts
Google provides both their Analytics software as well as the Search Console. Both of these are highly valuable on their own, but when integrated together you can get much more interesting data that communicates between the two platforms. Here’s a tutorial on how to connect the two platforms.
WordPress’ built-in feature to keep your website from showing up in search.
Never in the history of websites has one tiny checkbox caused so many “oh shit” moments.
Inside your dashboard, under ‘Settings’ > ‘Reading’ there lives a small checkbox labeled “Discourage search engines from indexing this site”. When checked, bots/crawlers/spiders will be turned away from indexing your website.
This is a great feature while your website is under development (and you don’t want it to be found) but forgetting to uncheck this once you go live can cause quite the embarrassment.
It’s always best to double (if not triple) check this box is unticked once you’re website is ready for its big debut.
An XML sitemap is a digital roadmap to tell search engines where to find your pages.
Eventually, by clicking every link on your website, Google (and other search engines) can put together their own map, but creating an XML sitemap provides all that data to search engines up front. This makes your indexing process much more simple (and quicker!).
What does an XML sitemap look like?
The designer inside you won’t be very excited— the XML sitemap is a pretty simple table with text providing the URL of each of your pages (and posts) as well as the last modified date.
While it might not be much to look at, your sitemap gives search engines the exact coordinates of all of your webpages, which is extremely valuable in getting your pages indexed (so they can be shown in search results).
How to create an XML sitemap
Creating an XML sitemap is as easy as installing an SEO plugin (like Yoast, SEOPress, or RankMath to name a few). If you already use an SEO plugin, reference your plugins documentation to find out how to enable your sitemap (often, this is done by default).
If you’re unsure if your sitemap already exists, try typing in your domain to the omnibar, followed by ‘/sitemap.xml’ or ‘sitemaps.xml’. If your sitemap already exists, it will likely be in one of those two places.
I have a sitemap, now what?
After your sitemap is created, you’ll want to let the search engines know it’s there. Your sitemap can be submitted to Google through Search Console, or with Bing through Webmaster Tools. You should get some sort of validation after submitting your sitemap that the search engine has it, but it might take a few days before they crawl the whole thing.
Over time, search engines will continue to reference your sitemap to crawl your site more efficiently. This is key for a website that regularly publishes new content they want available via search quickly.
Some people choose to link to their sitemap in their website’s footer, but as long as your sitemap has been indexed it isn’t necessary. It’s unlikely visitors will get much use out of an XML sitemap, and implementing proper navigation will create the best user experience.
Your open graph data determines the link preview shown on social media.
I hate it when I launch a new website and share it online only to find out that the title isn’t set properly and it’s just pulling in a random image from the page. You can fix this by setting the correct Open Graph (OG) data right inside WordPress— it’s easy!
Look great on social media
Social media is a great way to drive traffic to your website, but when you share a link, you’ll want it to look like a great page to visit. You can do this by setting appropriate titles, descriptions, and (most importantly) the right image.
This is done by setting the correct open graph data, which we’ll cover below.
Setting your open graph data
Most SEO plugins come with this functionality, which you can see here as shown in the SEOPress plugin:
Here you can enter the data you want to be shared on Facebook. This is the most important section as most social media platforms (LinkedIn, Instagram, Pinterest, and Twitter) will adopt the Facebook settings if their own aren’t present.
The ideal ratio for your image is 1.91:1, but keep in mind that when your URL is shared in comments it will be shown in a 1:1 ratio so try to keep any vital information inside of a square in the middle of your image.
By default, social media will take your default page title and featured image if open graph data is not set. If there is no open graph data, and no featured image, typically the first image on your webpage will be used.
Using the Facebook Debugger tool
To test what your page(s) will look like when shared on Facebook you can use the Facebook Debugger tool.
Pop your URL into the search field, and hit the ‘debug’ button.
In the next screen you’ll see the results of your test, including the Link Preview.
Here you’ll see the image, title, and description Facebook will show when previewing a link to your website. In the example above, we set all those things manually using our SEO plugin.
Note: If you’re not seeing the changes you made reflected in the Facebook debugger tool, sometimes you have to hit the “scrape again” button 2 or 3 times to get Facebook to manually fetch new information. Also, make sure that you clear your cache after you make any changes.
HTML validation provides quality assurance that your HTML is free from syntax errors.
Before you make your website public for both users and crawlers, you’ll want to make sure there are no hidden issues in your HTML files that provide the structure for your website.
What is HTML validation for?
HTML validation tests comb through your website looking for syntax errors like extra spaces, omitted quotation marks, or tags that weren’t properly closed. These issues can cause your website to function incorrectly, or even cause visible issues.
The process of validating HTML by hand is tedious and repetitive, however there are great tools freely available that can help automate this process for you and bring any errors to your attention.
An easy HTML validation tool
W3.org provides a validator tool that is as easy as inputting your website address.
Once you pop in your domain and hit “check”, the validation scan begins working giving you a list of ‘Warnings’ and ‘Errors’.
Each item listed on your report will tell you where the error was found, and why they’ve flagged it as an error.
How to fix HTML validation errors
If you use the W3C validation tool, many of the errors will link to articles that discuss the error in more detail. Because of the long list of errors that can occur, this article can not go into detail about each one.
Start by focusing on the items listed as “errors” (shown in red) first, as those could be causing the most amount of issues.
Don’t be alarmed to find validation issues, even large, popular websites (like Wikipedia) have errors. You’ll likely need to work with a developer to fix all the issues you find.
Accessibility refers to the ability for all people, regardless of disability type, to use your website effectively.
As time has gone one, the importance of accessibility has exploded— in some cases even leading to lawsuits due to inaccessible websites.
How to test your website’s accessibility
It’s important to know that website accessibility is a spectrum, not a binary test. There are hundreds of factors that go into how accessible your website is— but there’s no denying the more accessible it is, the more widely used it can be.
W3 provides a great introduction to accessibility, which for the sake of this article we’ll point you there for more information on what determines accessibility and the different standards.
If you’re looking for a quick and easy way to test accessibility, that provides easy instructions on what improvements you can make, there’s no better free test on the market.
Once you landing on the testing tool page, pop in your URL and hit the arrow to begin the test.
In the following screen you’ll see your website on the right hand side, along with results from the test in the left hand column. Each test will have an indicator on your website with some great tooltips that will tell you what you’ve done right, or what you need to improve.
Don’t let the number of tips on the page overwhelm you, they are extremely helpful in giving you guidance on each and every asset on your page.
Focus on the errors first, then the alerts. You’ll likely find that many of these suggestions can be implemented easily and quickly.
Keep in mind that you’re not testing your entire website, just the specific URL you entered in the search field. You’ll want to test all of your key pages to make sure you’re not overlooking any issues that could be easily fixed.
Here are a few more resources if you’re wanting to learn more about accessibility standards on the web:
The time it takes your website to load has a major impact on your website’s success.
As time goes on, internet users become less and less patient. Today, a website that takes 5 seconds to load will be abandoned by 90% of people! To ensure delighting your visitors, and keeping the Google-Gods happy, you need your website to load in less than 3 seconds (but the shorter the time, the better).
How do I test my website speed?
There are three popular free tools for testing your website’s loading time, and we’ll go over the benefits and drawbacks for all three below. In most cases, it doesn’t hurt to go ahead and test your website using all three of these tools in case one picks up on something the other didn’t.
GTMetrix offers free testing using multiple server locations and across several different browsers. In order to access all the options you’ll need an account, but the free account seems to do just about everything you need in my experience.
Once you landing on the GTMetrix page, sign in (or sign up for an account) and pick the testing location nearest you (by default it’s set to Vancouver, Canada).
Type in your URL into the search bar, and then hit “Test Your Site”.
After a few seconds you’ll be taken to a new screen that gives the results of your test.
From a high-level overview, you can check the ‘Performance Scores’ (given in letter-grade format) and the ‘Page Details’, which cover the fully loaded time, page size, and number of requests (all of which you want to be as small as possible).
What makes GTMetrix great is all the information and data you can collect underneath that overview section.
Their reports will give you suggestions on optimizations you can make, a waterfall chart showing the loading time of each request, and even the timings of each stage of your page load.
Because of all the data they provide, I tend to lean on GTMetrix most often. However, keep in mind the “Fully Loaded Time” is typically higher than what a user will likely experience. This accounts for loading external scripts (like Google Analytics or Facebook Pixels) which your visitors will never see.
Pingdom is another popular choice for website speed tests. Just like GTMetrix, simply plop your URL in the search bar, select your testing location (nearest where you expect traffic to come from) and hit ‘Start Test’.
Within seconds you’ll be given your results.
While Pingdom doesn’t offer as many testing results as GTMetrix, I do often find their Load Time to be more representative of what the user sees in the browser.
They will provide you with basic steps you can take to improve your performance and the loading time by content type.
This test is arguably the most important (because it most closely represents what Google will determine about your website’s performance), but also the most frustrating to use.
Using WordPress, and especially with a Page Builder, you should expect to see worse results here than the two previous tests., and unfortunately their instructions for making improvements isn’t a lot of help either.
What’s nice is that they test both the mobile and desktop versions of your website since Google places a high importance on mobile speeds.
Neil Patel has a great article on improving your scores on PageSpeed Insights, which I’ll point you to as a reference. Personally, I just haven’t had much luck improving these scores— but I wanted to include them because of their importance.
There are tons of statistics on how the loading time and performance of your website has dramatic effects on the amount of traffic you’ll get, your bounce rate, and even your rankings. Because of this, it’s important you take the time to try and optimize your images and code so that they perform their best.
When performing the tests listed in this article, try running the same website 2 or 3 times on each platform. You’ll likely notice that the results vary each time and you can take an average of the tests.
Caching stores temporary copies of your website to help it load faster and reduce server load.
During any kind of development work, you’ll want to have all caching turned off so that you are always seeing the most recent changes. Once your website is approved and ready to go live, you can activate your caching to improve speed and performance.
If I ask you what the result of 5 x 3 is, you’ll know the answer is 15. You didn’t need to calculate it, you’ve done this multiplication so many times in your life that you no longer need to — you simply remember the result without having to do any mental processing. Well, that’s kind of how caching works.
Websites are generally viewed hundreds, thousands, or sometimes even millions of times per month. Normally, each time a browser requests a web page, the server has to do a bunch of complex (and time consuming) calculations. It retrieves the latest posts, generates the header and footer, finds your site’s sidebar widgets, and so on. However, in many cases, the result of all these calculations will be exactly the same. Wouldn’t it be great, then, if we could simply make the server remember the final result, instead of processing each request separately? This’s exactly what caching does!
Unfortunately, answering the question “which one should I use?” gets to be a little complex. Each caching solution, and caching in general, comes with some trade-offs. Some caching plugins might work better with your stack than others, or you just might feel more comfortable with one over the other.
Your best bet is to try a few, test their performance, and ensure that they are not affecting your website in an adverse way.
The other thing you need to consider is your hosting environment. Some hosts, like Kinsta, provide all the caching you need at a sever-level so there is no need for a plugin. Cloudways, for instance, provides both a plugin and server-side caching.
Never forget your cache!
Caching is notorious for causing issues.
Not seeing the latest update you made? Probably because of caching!
Something stopped working that was fine a minute ago? Check your cache!
Seeing different versions of your website from different machines? Yep, that’d be the cache!
When you implement a caching solution, you’ll need to be aware of it at all times and make sure to manually flush it any time you make changes to your website. It can take a little getting used to, but the benefits in speed and performance are generally worth the headache— especially once you find a caching solution you’re comfortable with.
Do I have to use caching?
No, you aren’t forced to use caching, and in some cases (on very small, lightweight websites) I’ve actually seen better results without it. It’s a good idea to test your website’s loading time and performance both with and without caching. You can use speed tests like GTMetrix or Pingdom to test your loading time and run several tests with and without caching to make a determination.
Speed tests aren’t everything though. Take the time to view the website manually and see how fast it feels as you use it. If caching isn’t giving you a noticeable boost in performance, it may not be worth the trade off.
Ensure that your website works on the most popular web browsers.
We all have our favorite browser… but the users of our new website could be using just about any browser on the market. Each browser handles things like CSS and scripts a little bit differently, so it’s important that you test your website across multiple browsers to spot any issues before you go live.
The Google Chrome browser accounts for about 62% of the browser market, making it the most important one to test.
The most effective (and least expensive!) way to test your browser compatibility is to simply do it manually. It’s a good idea to have a copy of all the major browsers installed on your computer for testing purposes.
You don’t have to get extremely scientific to perform a decent test. Simply visit the site just like a user would, click on buttons, test popups, examine hover effects and animations, and most importantly check any submission forms.
It’s also important to look to ensure your colors and fonts are rendering properly.
Software Testing Help provides as a cross-browser testing checklist that may come in handy if you are diving in a little bit deeper:
In most cases, testing manually is sufficient for a small business website. However, if you have a mission-critical website that needs to be put through every test, you can pay for automated testing services, which we’ll talk about next.
Automated browser testing
There are many products on the market that will perform browser compatibility tests for you. BrowserStack offers this service for $29/mo, while Lambdatest has a limited free plan and paid plans starting at just $15/mo.
With automated testing services you’ll be able to cover much more ground quickly— Giving you the ability to not only test different browsers, but different computers and combinations as well.
Google provides a free tool to tell you if your website is mobile friendly.
And since you’ll likely want your website to rank high in Google’s search results, you’re going to want to make sure you website passes the test. Being ‘mobile-friendly’ is a ranking factor Google takes into consideration when determining how to rank your website.
How to test your website
Testing your website with Google’s mobile-friendly test is easy! Just head over to the Google test and drop your URL in the search bar and hit ‘Test URL’.
It will only take a few seconds and Google will give you the results, giving you either a passing or failing grade.
If your website does not pass Google’s test, they will provide you with some specifics on what needs to change in order to pass. Click the ‘View Details’ button located at the top left to get the full list of results.
Keep in mind, Google is not testing our entire website, just the URL you entered. You might want to test all of your key pages to make sure they all make the cut.
Testing your website across multiple screen sizes will help you catch possible errors in layout and user experience.
With so many different screen sizes and resolutions on the market today it can be nearly impossible to design for every possible scenario… but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try!
How to test responsiveness
While there are plenty of tools on the market to test your website at different resolutions, I’ve almost always found testing by hand to be most effective.
If you have different desktop/laptop computers, you can test from all available. If you have a tablet and/or mobile phone you can test layouts from those too just by visiting the website on those devices.
While that doesn’t account for every possible scenario, it will give you a first-hand impression of how your site looks and behaves on different devices.
If you like to take that testing further, you can try something like What is My Screen Resolution, which will give you the option to test at virtually and size screen under the sun.
Here are a few things to keep in mind while you’re testing on different devices:
Do my menus behave properly as the screen size decreases?
Do clickable elements still appear ‘clickable’ when there is no hover state (touchscreen devices)?
Is the text too large or too small?
Are clickable elements too close together to easily tap to click?
Do multi-row columns stack in the right order?
When the screen size is small, is there any horizontal scrolling (there shouldn’t be)?
Your robots.txt file tells web crawlers if they are allowed to crawl your website or not.
During the development of your website, you likely turned off any options for indexing your website so Google (and other search engines) wouldn’t index it before you were ready.
People will most often do this from the WordPress dashboard under ‘Settings’, ‘Reading’, “Discourage search engines from indexing this site’.
Of course, you’ll want that off when it’s time to launch your website, and testing what you robot.txt file says will tell you if you’re still blocking or not.
How can I see my robots.txt file?
The easiest way to get to your robots.txt file is to type in your root domain into the address bar, followed by ‘/robots.txt’. Here’s what a typical robots.txt file looks like for reference:
How do I edit my robots.txt file?
You have a couple of ways of editing your robots.txt if you need to.
First is with your SEO plugin.
Most SEO plugins (free and paid) allow you to edit your robots.txt in an easy way right from your WordPress dashboard. If you can’t find it in your plugin, try searching your SEO plugin’s documentation.
The other option is to go in and edit the file in your hosting file manager or via FTP.
If you are comfortable, you can jump into the files on your server and open and edit the robots.txt file by hand. The robots.txt file is located in the root directory of your domain.
What should be in my robots.txt file?
This ultimately depends on what you want to have indexed on your website and what you do not.
Here’s a brief understanding of how the robots.txt file works (using the example from above).
The ‘User-agent:’ line in the example is marked with an asterisk (*), saying that the following rules apply to any crawlers.
The ‘Disallow:’ line is telling the user agent to not visit ‘/wp-admin/’ so that it does not crawl the back-end of your website.
The ‘Allow:’ line in the example is making one exception for a specific URL after the ‘/wp-admin/’ that we just told it not to visit.
Some plugins or features of your website might add more lines of code than the one in this example, but typically you are safe to use this (which comes standard in WordPress):
If you want to restrict certain pages from indexing, you can list them after the ‘Disallow:’ line. However, this is most commonly done using your SEO plugin by giving a specific page a ‘no-index’ tag).
Privacy policies are required on most websites by international, federal, state, and local laws.
Here’s a video by Termageddon (the people who provide our policies) about how the laws work.
The author of this article is not a lawyer, and this information does not provide legal advice. For any legal advice, please contact your attorney.
Hire an attorney to draft up your policy for you.
Use a policy generator.
Hiring a privacy attorney
The downside to this approach is the expense. It could cost hundreds, if not thousands of dollars to draft your policy. Beyond that, any time you make significant changes to your website that affect your policy, or laws change regarding privacy on the internet, you’ll have to go back to your lawyer to have it revised.
Use a policy generator
If you are searching for alternatives, Iubenda and Termly offer the same type of service (but I have not used it).
A simple copyright notice lets visitors know your work is protected by copyright laws.
Let’s start this article by pointing out the fact that I am not a lawyer. For any legal advice, you’ll need to contact your attorney, not rely on some random website. This information is not legal advice.
Okay, with that out of the way, onto the copyright notice.
There is some arguments that a copyright notice isn’t necessary today, but it’s still generally accepted as best practice. If nothing else, it’s a simple thing to implement, looks official, and can’t hurt.
Some themes will give you a shortcode for the current year (something like “[current-year]”) that will automatically update when the new year comes around. It’s always a good idea to keep the last date as the current year unless the website has gone completely dormant. If you can find a way to automate updating the year, it will save you from having to go back and update it with a hangover on January 1st.
Manually test any submission forms to ensure the proper user experience.
Want to make a customer fighting mad? Leave a broken form on the website you just built for them!
Forms are generally one of the most common “conversions” website owners want visitors to make. It can be tempting to assume they are working just like you intended, but it’s important to test each and every form before you publish it live on a website.
Simple Form Testing Procedure
To test your forms, make sure they set to submit to an email address you have access to (you’re going to need 2 email addresses for these tests, so we’ll call this email address ‘Email A’).
After you’ve set ‘Email A’ as the “to” address in your form, navigate to the front end of your website and fill in the form as if you were a customer, this time using a different email address (‘Email B’), and submit the form.
You’ll want to check the inbox for ‘Email A’ and make sure the form submission make its way to the inbox.
If you are sending any kind of receipt to the customer, check the inbox for ‘Email B’ and make sure that arrived too.
Advanced forms, automation, and e-commerce
Sometimes you’ll have forms that are more complex than a simple “contact form”. In this case, you’ll want to make sure any automations are firing correctly, or that transactions are going through.
Again, the best way to test this is to do it manually and submit the form as a user would. With access to both ‘Email A’ and ‘Email B’ you’ll be able to see exactly what the website owner and the customer will see.
Test it again!
It’s a great idea to test your forms before you go live, but you’re going to want to test them again after the website is published. This ensures everything is still working as expected after the go live.
If the website your building is for a client, you’ll want to get them involved in the process by submitting the form to their email address, and ensuring they get the notifications they need.
Depending on how your transactional emails are setup, your customer might not know what to look for. It’s important that they are on the lookout and recognize these emails as these are often new leads or orders from their website.
Appropriately sized and compressed images improve loading time, user experience, and SEO.
No one likes a slow website, not even Google! Images, and other media, often account for much of the load time on a website. Optimizing your images is one of the easiest ways to speed up your website. A lightweight website gives users a better experience, and websites that load fast are favored by search engines.
How to optimize images
This topic can actually get pretty in-depth, but for the purposes of this article we’re just going to look at this question from a high level. There are two things you need to do when adding images to your website:
Make sure the image is the appropriate dimensions for the largest size it will ever been seen on your website
Compress the images using your choice software
Sizing your images
Using a graphics program you can scale your image to the largest size it will be displayed on your website (typically the desktop layout as opposed to mobile or tablet sizes). By sizing the photo to the appropriate size, you wont have to add extra code that will resize and/or crop the images during loading (some page builders will do this automatically).
If your image is never going to be more than 700px wide on the screen, then there’s no reason the file should be 800px wide.
There are hundreds of plugins and online services that will compress your images for you (both free and paid). In most cases (unless you have a very high volume of images) the free solutions should be all you need.
If you want to use a plugin try ShortPixel or Smush. Both are available for free in the WordPress repository and have a great reputation. Either solution will scan your media library and compress the images you’ve already uploaded as well as compress any new images you upload after the plugins are activated.
If you want to compress before you upload (and not add another plugin), Optimizilla is a great choice. Their free service allows you to upload and optimize up to 20 images at a time and gives you some fine-grain controls over how much compression you want to add.
As you can see in the image below, Optimizilla was able to reduce this file’s size by 60% (from 20kb to 7.8KB) without any noticeable quality loss.
Saving just over 12kb on this one image won’t mean much, but if you’re able to reduce all of your images by 60% that could add up to a lot of savings!
Image alt tags (or “Alternative Text”) improve you accessibility and tell search engine spiders what your images are.
Imagine using your website with your eyes closed. Without the visuals, some key elements (like images) would get completely lost. Image alt tags provide a text description of your image for both the visually impaired and search engine spiders.
Alt tags can improve your SEO, and are considered best practice when publishing a website.
Do all of my images need alt tags?
As a simple rule of thumb, any image that you upload to your website need to have an alt tag unless it is purely for design purpose (like abstract background shapes) and serves the user no contextual value.
What should I write in my alt tags?
While having another place to add keywords to your website is always good, you need to focus on the user first. Best practice is to briefly, but accurately describe what is seen in the image. Imagine you were having to explain the image to someone on the telephone.
If, for instance, you were using this image on your website:
A good alt tag could be “two pigeons walking in green grass”. You don’t want to be too vague (using the word “pigeons” only), at the same time you don’t have to cover every detail. A simple description that clearly explains the image is perfect.
Where do I add alt tags?
WordPress gives you the ability to add alt tags by default, so there is no additional plugins or code you need to accomplish this.
If you view your media library (from your WordPress dashboard, hover over ‘Media’, then click ‘Library’) you will see a gallery of all your images. If you click on an image it will bring up the “Attachment Details” dialogue box. The image alt tag can be added on the right hand side in the field labeled “Alternative Text”.
Once you type in your alt tag, it is automatically saved, and you can use the navigation arrows at the top of the window to go through all your photos.
Best practice is to add your alt tag any time you upload an image. By getting in the habbit of doing this each time, you won’t end up with a long list of images without alt tags that you have to write all at once.
Broken links will send visitors nowhere and can cause damage to your SEO.
In the process of developing a website, it’s common to put in temporary links (like using only the number sign or hashtag symbol (#) where the link should go) as a placeholder until you have the right page to link to. You don’t want to take your website live with these links which can cause frustration for your user and damage your SEO.
How to check for broken links
The most thorough and effective way to check for broken links is to do it manually. You don’t have to click on every button or link on your website, you can simply hover you mouse over it and you should see a preview of where the link is pointed appear at the bottom of your browser, like this:
By only checking for the link preview (as shown above) you can make your way quickly through each of the links on your website.
An automated solution for finding broken links
A broken link checker, like Dead Link Checker, will scan your website and alert you to any broken links. However, this isn’t nearly as effective because a link with the value of “#” will not be seen as broken, even though it’s likely not what you want to be linking to.
If you change a page’s URL, a redirection will send traffic from the old address to the new automatically.
This is particularly crucial if you’re doing a website redesign and have made changes to the permalinks or re-worded some of the URLs in the process. Without redirects, people who find your old URL (through links, or search engine results) will ended up on a 404 page (“page not found”). A redirection simply points visitors to the right place.
An easy redirect solution in WordPress
There are several ways you can go about creating redirects, including editing your .htaccess file, the Redirection plugin is free in the WordPress repository and works like a charm.
Once you install and activate the Redirection plugin, all you’ll need is a list of your “old” URLs and the “new” URLs you want to point them to.
A great way to keep track of this, especially on a large site that has many redirects, is by creating a spreadsheet. In ‘column a’ put in the relative URL from the “old” URL (a relative URL is everything after your TLD), and in ‘column b’ put the full URL of where you want the user to be redirected to.
Using the Redirection plugin, you can import a CSV file of all of your redirects from your spreadsheet, or simply enter them in one-by-one.
For a full tutorial, check out this video from WPBeginner:
Meta descriptions are short summaries of each of your webpages displayed below the link (title tag) in search results.
Where do I set meta descriptions?
Setting your meta description is much easier with the use of an SEO plugin, which will give you the ability to set the meta description on a page by page basis.
The dialogue box for setting your meta description varies from one SEO plugin to the next, but most look similar to this:
What should I write in my meta description?
The purpose of your meta description is to give the viewer (often someone looking through the search engine results) a good understanding of the content they’ll find on your page. While your meta description doesn’t have a direct effect on your rankings, because it does affect how many people click through to your website, it has an indirect effect (better click through rate = better rankings).
You want to keep your meta description between 50-160 characters, and it should be written in a natural active voice. Since there’s no direct SEO benefit here, there’s no need to “stuff in” keywords.
Write the meta descriptions as a “marketer” making your description more compelling than others that rank for the same topic. The goal here is to be as descriptive as possible and entice people to click through to your website to learn more.
If you feel stuck, try researching what others have used in their meta description (by searching for the keywords you wish to rank for) and gather ideas.
Lastly, you’ll want each page to have its own, unique meta description. It can be tempting to “skip” this step, or copy and paste from one page to the next, but those who write unique descriptions for each page see the best results.
Your page title (also known as ‘SEO title’ or ‘title tag’) is the short title of your page that appears at the top browser window and in search results.
Where do I set my page title?
Setting your page title is much easier with the use of an SEO plugin, which will give you the ability to set the page title on a page by page basis, or set specific rules for how your page titles can be automatically formulated (e.g. “%Page Name% | % Website Title”).
The dialogue box for setting your page title varies from one SEO plugin to the next, but most look similar to this:
What should I write in my page title?
Your page title serves two purposes:
Tells people using a search engine what your page is about
Tells search engines what your page is about
Because of this, you want to make sure that the title is optimized for both bots and humans alike.
Here are a few tips to writing effective page titles:
Each page should have its own unique title
Write for humans first, often you’ll include SEO benefits naturally.
If there are keywords you’re trying to rank for, try putting those at the beginning of the title.
Give a clear and accurate representation of the contents of that page (no trickery!).
Try to stay under 60 characters in length (most SEO plugins will test this as you type)
Don’t be surprised if Google doesn’t always use the title tag you set in search results. While setting your title tag does give Google a suggested title, they will sometimes alter it to better match the users search query or what they’ve determined is most accurate for the page (at their discretion).
Well written, accurate, SEO-rich titles will help you rank higher in search results and give your website a better click-thru rate.
In an effort to provide the best user experience, it’s best practice to link your logo (in your header) back to the homepage of your website.
Most website users have picked up on the fact that the logo will typically take them back to the homepage. This small detail goes a long way in helping users understand how to navigate your website and gives them a quick and easy way to orient themselves.
How to link your header to your homepage
Most themes will provide this functionality by default, so if you’ve used your theme to setup your website’s header, before you do anything just test to see if clicking your logo takes you to your homepage. Chances are, it’s already done for you.
If you’ve used your theme to create your header, but it is not linking to your homepage, you’ll need to refer to your theme’s documentation or request support from your theme developer directly.
If you’ve used something outside of your theme to create your header (like a page builder) you’ll likely have to do this manually.
To make this edit, open up your header inside of your page builder. Click the image widget you’ve used for your logo, and link it to the root domain of your website, or simply put a forward slash (/) where the link goes. Both methods will link the image back to your website’s homepage.
Your favicon is a small image that displays next to your website title in the browser.
What this tiny image lacks in size it makes up for in putting a nice polish on your website, helping visitors distinguish your website from the other tabs they have open in their browser.
Where do I set my favicon?
Most WordPress themes will give you the option to set your favicon (sometimes labeled ‘site icon’) inside of the customizer.
Open the customizer from your WordPress dashboard by hovering over ‘Appearance’, then click on ‘Customize’— which will open up the WordPress customizer.
From there, look for ‘Site Identity’, which is the most common place to find the settings for your favicon in most themes.
In this website’s theme, GeneratePress, the favicon is labeled ‘Site Icon’. This is where you will upload your favicon image.
Creating your favicon file
Typically, companies will use their logo, or icon for their website’s favicon. While an .ico file can be used, more commonly people use a simple .png file.
Note: .jpg or .gif files will also work, but .png is preferred since it retains and transparency.
You’ll want to set your image up as a perfect square, the recommended size is 512px both in height and width.
Be sure to run this file through an image optimization service (I often use Optimizilla) before you upload it. You want to make sure to compress this file heavily, as you don’t want such a tiny detail to add extra load time to your page.
But wait, there’s more!
Besides showing up in your browser tab, your favicon will also appear when your website is bookmarked, or saved to someone’s smartphone as a shortcut. It’s a small detail, but it goes a long way towards making your website polished and complete.
WP Beginner provides a more in-depth tutorial on how to create and set a favicon if you need more advice.
Your website’s title and tagline serve as a brief description of your website that can be both displayed visually and in your website’s code.
Where do I find my title & tagline settings?
The easiest way to get to your title and tagline settings is from the WordPress dashboard. From there, hover over ‘Settings’, then click ‘General’. The first two fields are for setting your title and tagline (respectively).
What should my title and tagline be?
Typically websites will set the name of their website, or the name of their company as the title. As you can see in the screenshot below, our website title is set to ‘Docket WP’, the name of our company.
Your tagline should be a brief explanation that tells people what your website is about, or its purpose for existing online. Keep in mind, this should be a short description, no need to go into detail here.
Where your title and tagline live
If you set your title and tagline, but don’t see it being displayed anywhere on the front end of your website, don’t be alarmed. Depending on your theme, these settings might not be visible from the front end— that’s okay, you’ll still want to set them anyway.
Some themes set the title and tagline to be displayed in your header or in the tab of your browser. These settings can be overridden, and some themes turn off their visibility by default.
Even though you might not see your title and tagline (and there are other ways to override it), it’s important that you have one set. Bots, like the Google Bot, will see this information in the code of your website and it will help them understand what your website is about.
SEO plugins can help simplify the SEO process, and give you step by step instructions to set foundational SEO elements about your website.
Do I need an SEO plugin?
Technically, you don’t have to use an SEO plugin, but it sure does make life easier. Besides, there are plenty of great free options on the market, so there isn’t any added cost involved.
By using an SEO plugin you can apply the appropriate markup that will improve your rankings in search engines and drive more traffic to your website. SEO plugins make this easy for even a beginner to configure.
What SEO plugin should I choose?
While there are many SEO plugins in the repository, it’s usually best advised to stick with one of the popular ones. They will give you the most options, the ability to import or export data, and be the most user friendly.
Like many things in the WordPress ecosystem, which SEO plugin you choose comes down to your personal needs and taste. If it’s your first time working with an SEO plugin, try a few of the free versions out and see which one feels most comfortable to you.
Getting started with an SEO plugin
There are plenty of free options for SEO plugins inside the WordPress repository. From the dashboard of your website hover over ‘Plugins’ then click ‘Add New’. Do a search for one of the SEO plugins listed above (or any other you might want to try), then install and activate the plugin.
After you install and activate your chosen SEO plugin, most will provide you with a Setup Wizard that will get you started with the basic information, like: company name, contact information, social media channels, etc.
Beyond the basic setup, the companies listed above have plenty of documentation that will go more in-depth with all the settings you can apply using an SEO plugin, including: page titles, meta descriptions, sitemaps, and even Schema.
Do I need to pay for an SEO plugin?
This decision is up to you, ultimately. Many SEO plugins have both a free and a paid-for version. Typically some of the more advanced (and powerful!) features are locked away in the premium versions.
The price for premium SEO plugins can vary pretty dramatically, but in my experience the price does not directly correlate with the quality.
Rank Math, for example, has exploded in popularity starting in 2019— only offering a free version. Even though there is no paid option, the free plugin offers most (if not all) of the features of a premium SEO plugin.
More information on SEO plugins
Keep in mind a SEO plugin does not guarantee any results. It’s simply a tool that will help you apply some SEO techniques. Beyond needed some basic understand of SEO best practices, there are other factors that affect SEO that a SEO plugin doesn’t address (like page speed, content quality, traffic, etc.)
Your permalinks (or “permanent links”) determine how the URLs are structured on your pages and posts.
How to set Your permalinks
In your WordPress dashboard hover over ‘Settings’, then click ‘Permalinks’.
From there select the appropriate setting and press ‘Save Changes’.
What permalink setting should I use?
WordPress gives you several options on how to set your permalinks:
Day and name
Month and name
In most cases, the “Post Name” option is most appropriate, which will put the name of your page or post in the URL (this can be overridden on a case-by-case basis within an individual post page or post under the “Permalink” option).
Using “Post Name” is good for both humans, and SEO, as it will more clearly state what the URL is.
For example, if your about us page is called “About Us”, a typical URL for that would be www.yourdomain.com/about-us/.
Warning about permalinks
You’ll want to decide on your permalink structure before your website is live. Once your URLs are indexed, changing your permalinks could severely damage your SEO and break links pointing to your website.
Want to know more about Permalinks?
The purpose of this article was to give you a general understanding of permalinks. If you want to learn more, visit WordPress.org’s article: Using Permalinks.