WordPress with its unlimited capabilities, tempts any beginner user to play around with settings and database. In fact, it is a good idea to play around with WordPress themes, plugins and other features before you decide upon building a solid site. But the problem is most of the beginner users will directly play with their live sites instead of practicing on dummy sand-box site. This will result in lots of problems and finally you may end up giving up the complete site or loosing existing traffic. Based on our decade long experience, here are the top 10 WordPress beginners mistakes you should avoid when starting your online journey.
Top 10 WordPress Mistakes to Avoid
Remember, making mistakes is a good sign that you are trying to learn something new. There is also a popular quote from Albert Einstein that says, “A person who never made a mistake never tried anything new”.
However, you can’t make a deadly mistake like allowing hacker to take over the control of your admin panel or deleting database table without backup. The best option is to refer other’s mistakes, learn from them and try to avoid the same happening to your own site due to lack of understanding.
1. Not Reading WordPress Documentation
Learning is the first thing before practicing, like we all learn in school before starting a career. Not reading the WordPress support documentation is the top most mistake a beginner does. Most of the problems will never arise if you write down the activities and read the documents before doing it. The real advantage of WordPress is the community base it has which reflects in the form of codex tutorials and forum responses. How much you make use of it will decide the success factor behind your WordPress site.
2. Installing WordPress in a Directory Named “WordPress”
When you download the WordPress installation ZIP file, it will be extracted to a folder named “WordPress”. Most of the beginners will upload this “WordPress” folder to the server instead of uploading the content inside the folder. This will result in creating your WordPress installation under a sub-folder like www.yoursitename.com/wordpress instead of www.yoursitename.com/.
Though you can install WordPress in a subdomain or subdirectory, before uploading the files to server you need to understand where exactly you want to install and what exactly is the URL you want for your site . If you have single site hosting plan, then you need to upload all extracted files under “/public_html” folder which is a root of your site.
3. Publishing Under Maintenance Pages
Publishing incomplete page or post is no difference than killing your own site. How will you feel when clicking on a link and end up with an “Under Maintenance” or “Coming Soon” page? This is a clear indication to visitors that you are not serious about your site. Avoid the followings in general:
- Do not link incomplete page or post to any of your existing content.
- If you are launching a new site or section in your site, display the complete details like when it will be launched and the what is to be expected by the visitors.
- Display “Maintenance Mode” message if you had taken down your site for overhauling. Remove the message promptly when your site is up and live.
Ensure to cleanup all the dummy content like sample page, comment, etc. created during WordPress installation. Here is a checklist for launching a new WordPress site for your reference.
4. Choosing Default WordPress Theme
Never go for free themes including the default twenty-twenty two theme from wordpress.org. WordPress installation package comes with a default free theme – at this moment it is a twenty-twenty theme. This is a kind of sand-box theme for developers to practice and build functions that works. Many beginner users tend to use the default free theme resulting your site looking similar to millions of others. Also, the first impact of any security breach will be on the default theme, so avoid using default theme for building your site.
Installing a free theme and adding hundreds of plugins is one of the worst mistakes beginners will do. At the end you will be spending lot of time in adjusting plugins to suit your theme instead of building content for your audience. Choose a theme that comes with default features like shortcodes, login module, integrated shopping cart, etc. from a reputed company and always check the demo before buying it.
5. Installing Many Plugins and Themes
Try out plugins and themes with your development site. Installing unnecessary plugins and themes on live site will slow down the loading speed.
Here are some general guidelines for installing plugins and themes:
- Ensure only needed plugins are active and available in your live site.
- Delete all unnecessary plugins and themes you installed for checking purpose.
- Even deactivated plugins and themes will occupy server space and increase the file count of your hosting account.
- Plugins not used but still active on your installation may cause conflict with the functionalities of your theme or another plugin, which you really need for the success of your site.
Create a local WordPress setup using MAMP, WAMP or XAMPP and play around installing plugins and themes that you want to try out. Alternatively, you can also create a staging site if your hosting provider offers this feature. For example, you can create a staging site in SiteGround with single click to duplicate the live site. It is also possible to push all changes you made in the staging environment to live site back if needed.
6. Missing Permalink Settings
WordPress by default generates the URL of a page or post as http://www.yoursitename.com/?p=123 where 123 is the unique identification number. This is the permanent URL to access a particular post but this can be masked with the user friendly URL with descriptive content like http://www.yoursitename.com/contact-us/.
Beginners forget to change this setting to the required structure and make the URLs more difficult for the users to remember. The option for setting permanent link structure for your site is available under “Settings > Permalinks“. Make sure to choose the correct permalink for your site. Changing this setting after launching your site will impact search engine ranking and the traffic to your website. Learn more on setting permalink on WordPress site.
7. Not Choosing Correct Commenting System
Like your themes and plugins, failed to choose correct commenting system for your site will result in spending lot of time in moderation. Though it really depends on your need to choose default WordPress commenting or any specific plugin, ensure to install and activate Akismet spam protection. Also disable comments for pages like contact us, thank you page, newsletter page, etc.
8. Not Installing Updates
Beginners generally do not understand the importance of keeping plugins, themes and WordPress installation up to date. Ensure to install latest plugins, themes and WordPress installation, keeping your site’s resources up to date is as important as building your site. This is not only required for proper functioning of your site but also to avoid someone hacking your site. Outdated WordPress version is more prone to hacker’s attack thus spoiling all hard work you invested on your site.
9. Not Following Simple Security Rules
Hackers mainly attempt to login to your site by guessing the password. Beginners generally keep the same password as the site name and makes the hackers work easy. Ensure to have strong passwords for your database, FTP account and site login. At any case do not use “admin” as username for login to admin panel.
Remove new user registration button from the login screen easily by disabling the option “Anyone Can Register” under “Settings > General“. This will avoid anonymous users registering your site without your approval. You can also use plugins to disable login from an IP when multiple login attempts are failed.
Also, ensure appropriate role assignment for new users to avoid someone getting admin access and delete or modify your content.
10. Not Taking Site Backup
Like security of your site, regular backup will really help you to avoid loosing data in case of emergency situation. Beginners do not understand this until the site is hacked or the database is completely deleted or corrupted with their own actions by mistake.
Ensure to regularly backup your site either manually or using plugins. Save all WordPress installation files and SQL database in your local PC or Mac, which can be restored in case of data loss. Most of the hosting service providers offer site backup option for free or for a nominal fee, but the problem is they store your live site and back up in the same server. When the server is not accessible for any reason then the backup also will be gone along with your live site. Hence, it is recommended to store your backups regularly in multiple places where you can access it easily.
Now that you will be wondering how to do all these things for free. As mentioned, you need to purchase premium theme and plugins to get quality product and good support. When you plan to launch a site, make a budget planning and keep the budget for two to three years. Avoiding the above mentioned mistakes and keeping sufficient budget will help to manage things properly and focus on creating content.