I hope you’ve gone through your WordPress website with a fine-toothed comb and fixed all the most common mistakes you could find.
If so, you might be feeling pretty confident. But before you relax, there might be a few more fixes that can make your site perform even better.
How do I know? Because I’ve found (and fixed) them for many of my own clients.
Keep in mind that even though I’m labeling these tips as “advanced,” there’s absolutely no reason why you can’t tackle them.
For example, did you know that you can make your Google ranking stand out by implementing tip #2? Or that tip #4 is essential to making sure your content reaches all of your audience?
Let’s take a closer look at these opportunities for improvement …
Mistake 1: Forgetting to back up your CSS
Whatever WordPress theme you may be using, it’s common to want to make some changes to your CSS stylesheet.
Unlike plain HTML, stylesheets are more finicky. The slightest misplaced semicolon or number can make your layout look like a toddler attacked it in the middle of a temper tantrum.
Fortunately, there’s an easy fix, and that’s to back up your stylesheet file before you make changes.
The file is usually located in your wp-content / themes / themename folder and is generally called styles.css or stylesheet.css. Save a copy of this file to your desktop. Then, you can set about editing your stylesheet within WordPress or your favorite editor, confident that you have a backup you can restore if your page goes topsy-turvy.
Of course, the best fix for this is to use a WordPress framework that supports and carries over custom CSS from update to update.
Mistake 2: Ignoring Google’s AuthorRank
You’re probably starting to see pages in Google’s search results that include a Google+ profile showing how many circles that particular user is in, as well as links to other content they’ve written.
It’s eye-catching and tends to rank higher than ordinary results.
There’s an easy way to connect your WordPress site to Google, as long as you also have a Google+ profile for yourself (which you absolutely should) — it’s called the Google authorship widget. Just enter your name, a bio, and your Google+ profile URL and the plugin does the rest, making sure that Google knows that this content is owned by you.
And looking good on the search results page is just the tip of the iceberg. Keep reading Copyblogger for more about AuthorRank, because it’s promising to be a huge development in search engine optimization. AuthorRank will touch on a lot of different factors — and it’s going to be great for writers and other high-quality content developers.
Mistake 3: Too many categories, not enough tags
This is a really common error that even proficient content publishers can make — especially once your site starts to outgrow its original purpose.
It’s easy to just assign another category and dump posts into it, but that starts to create a very cluttered category structure. This is where tags can step in to do the job of tying together your posts.
Think of it this way: Categories are best for segmenting your content into broad sections. Tags help further refine and filter each post into specific sub-sections.
Mistake 4: Taking an outdated approach to your mobile readers
Here’s another very common mistake — forgetting about the huge (and growing) segment of your market that views your content on a mobile device.
You can go with a WordPress theme that’s mobile responsive, or you can have one that’s merely mobile-optimized. The solution you ultimately choose will depend on how large of a segment of your audience is browsing your site on a mobile device. When choosing a theme, remember the following:
Mobile Responsive — These designs are equally at home on a desktop or laptop computer as they are on an iPad or smart phone. They automatically respond to the size of the device your audience is reading your content from, and are generally the fastest, easiest, and most inexpensive way to ensure your site looks its best across multiple devices. By the way, this is also the approach that’s recommended by Google.
Mobile-Optimized – These themes are designed specifically to work best on mobile devices. With this in mind, they may not look as put-together on a laptop or larger screen. You’ll often find that e-commerce themes have a mobile-optimized counterpart for online shopping.
The no-brainer choice? Set yourself up with an out-of-the-box mobile responsive WordPress theme, and forget it.
Mistake 5: Ugly permalinks
There are some great WordPress sites out there that still have some pretty bad permalinks. (A permalink is just the link to your individual post, rather than to the blog home page.)
You can do better than posts whose URLs end with “/2012/12/10/a-thing-that-happened-on-my-way-to.”
Right after you set up your WordPress blog, edit your permalink structure to reflect a cleaner, more keyword-rich URL. A simple, classic way to do it is just %postname%, allowing you to create a short, simple, user-friendly URL. (Look through the individual posts on Copyblogger for examples of how this looks.)
You can also use the %category%/%postname% structure, if you want categories to show in your URL.
But after doing that, what if you want to reorganize your content? What if you need to rename a post, or want to change categories? How do you move posts and pages around without losing all those valuable backlinks and search engine clout you’ve built up already?
Try to leave your URLs alone when you can, But when you can’t, the answer is 301 redirects.
Traditionally, this would require some knowledge of editing your .htaccess file, which, if done wrong, could cause your entire site to become inaccessible. Thankfully, things are simpler now. Your WordPress framework may well have a redirect function built right in. If it doesn’t, there’s a 301 redirect plugin that handles it all for you, and even keeps track of “Not Found” errors that could crop up once you’re done restructuring your site.
Now that you’re armed with even more WordPress optimization knowledge, you can start making sure your site is functioning and performing at its best without losing that valuable traffic you’ve worked so hard to earn!
Any other advice out there for WordPress publishers? Leave yours in the comments below …