5 WordPress Mistakes Even Experts Can Miss

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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 …

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Reader Comments (69)

  1. says

    Hi Sherice,

    I have read many WordPress mistakes posts. But this is a awesome. I also didn’t backup my CSS file. But I will bauk up it today it self. Thanks

  2. says

    Thanks for this info. I think I can use #2 and #5. My permalinks are simply short number and letter sequences like “/?p=2341″ or “/?cat=682.” The advantage to these is that they are short and simple for me to use. The disadvantage is that they don’t give a clue to what the post, category, or page is about.

    • says

      Hi Dan,
      Yes, I’d definitely recommend changing those. You still get all the organizational benefits of WordPress, but with added SEO benefit (and a much higher likelihood that visitors will find their searched-for keywords in your post link title). Good luck!

    • says

      Also, FWIW, if you change from those default links to something cleaner, any existing links will automatically redirect to the new ones (since that’s the default underlying URL structure). No plugin or setting required.

    • says

      Yea, pretty urls are much better! And the good news is that the short url you have now will still work…so you can still give them as short links if you want!

  3. says

    I can’t stand ugly permalinks! Keep it short and sweet. No need for the whole date AND title in the URL. I see a lot of clients do that and it just looks too messy, in my opinion.

  4. says

    I’ll admit to too many categories not enough tags on one of my sites and that’s because it has many users. And because I personally dislike tags, sure they’re helpful but someone will want an ugly tag cloud slapped on the front page of the site :(

    • says

      I have a love/hate relationship with tag clouds. The more popular stuff percolates to the top but then some of your best posts don’t get the attention they deserve…

      • says

        There are some other good reasons why you need tags:
        1) If you have a “related posts” plugin, it often uses tags to tie together content,

        2) You may not realize it, but the tags you put in your post go into the big Google-ator; your tags will help you rank in the search engines. Your best bet is to do a quick search using Google Keyword Tool, and find the terms people are using to find out about your topic. Then just take the top 10 and add those to your post.

        Add these not only to the post tags that are part of wordpress, but also to the SEO section of your post. Thesis, Studiopress, and probably other theme designers list this as “metakeywords.” There are also SEO plugins that let you add SEO stuff too.

        3) Don’t forget to add a custom title tag, and meta-description when you write a post. These are also found in the SEO details when you write a new post. These will show up in the search engines when people search for that topic.

        Think of the custom title tag as a good lede, one that will entice searchers into reading your post.

        4) Make sure your category names make sense. For example, “blogging” is too general. Better: “make money with blogging,” “setting up your blog,” or “how to write blog posts.” I’ve found that often the “search” function doesn’t do a good job of listing relevant posts. Good category names means it’s easier to find the information they want.

        [ Having said that, I don’t use category names on my blog; instead I’ve chosen three “category” names, and turned those into landing pages with several get-started posts for people to sink their teeth in.]

        • says

          Having a similar set up with landing pages for specific topics is also on my to do list. Roll on Christmas when I’ll have some time to sort them out. How many posts do you have on a page Rachel? Am thinking of limiting it to just five per topic.

          • says

            I have about 5 or 6 links per page. But sometime in the next few months I plan to change to a home page-as-landing-page, ala Copyblogger style :). Using category tabs as landing pages means people have to click through to a second page.

            I’d rather have my traffic land on a landing page (with a link to my posts), and hopefully that will give me better clickthrough rates. It’s just a pain in the neck to configure.

  5. says

    Thanks for the great post.

    Number 4 is something I can relate to. I definitely need to think about getting a mobile responsive theme. I am pretty sure I have seen plugins that do the same thing.

    I also agree with the ugly permalinks. In one of the more recent WordPress updates they have included the option to use your post name (rather than having to type %postname%). Therefore, there shouldn’t be any reason for bloggers to have ugly permalinks any longer.

  6. says

    Since I run a food blog, I use categories to designate types of recipes (breakfast, lunch, chicken, soup, etc.) and then I use tags to tag specific ingredients (onions, cheese, etc.) This allows me to create a cool page where all my recipes are indexed by ingredient.
    It’s one of my favorite pages on my site thanks to a well-organized tag structure.

  7. says

    Rightly said. Most of the bloggers still haven’t applied for Google Authorship. Once approved by Google this may take your blog up to next level and can help to get more traffic.

  8. says

    Recently I discovered Copyblogger and I have to say congratulations, it’s fantastic.
    Regarding the article today thanks for teaching a little more each day.


  9. says

    Yeah, more and more people are inserting Google Author meta information into their web pages/blog posts. But it doesn’t look like you have that on copyblogger.com – Is there a specific reason for that or have you just not implemented it yet?

  10. says

    I tried a lot to get Google Authorship! But no use! Google never display mine! This is one of the most annoying problems i face now! And the rest can be managed and taken care of:.. I hope i get my authorship pretty soon. Thanks for the wonderful post :)

  11. says

    Smart advice! I made mistake #3 big time when I started my blog and created new categories for everything (I was a bit mixed up on the difference between categories and tags). It was interesting to clean up but made a huge difference in how clear my structure was and in how visitors navigated through my site.

  12. says

    This is good advice for me because I plan to redesign my websites this month. I am switching over to a couple of new and beautiful themes by Studiopress (yeah!), That should take care of being mobile responsive and the CSS issue. But I can add changing the categories and tags to my list of things to fix.

    I am wondering how it could affect your SEO or Google rankings to delete categories or tags.

  13. says

    Wow! Great article. I’m just learning about Google Authorship but haven’t taken the plunge yet.

    I don’t handle most of these issues on my blog – my son does. So I forwarded the link for the article to him! Thanks for the info.

  14. says

    Thanks for awesome content Jacob ,

    I don’t have my css backup now i will do it.

    I have a question about category .If i use same post of my blog in different 2 categoris for example .. 10 social media tips is a post and i have 2 category say — Social media and Top 10 .. Can i use 2 category for single post?

    Can i use my google+ page in that? or should i have to use my profile urls only.

    Please guide .

    • says

      Yes, you can definitely use more than one category for one post. Perhaps more than that is too much and should be avoided. I’ll have to take my own advice and clean up my blog a bit making sure the steps are better categorized :)

  15. says

    Great post. I love the input on Responsive Websites. A lot of people nowadays overlook the fact that a high percentage of their viewers come from mobile/tablet platforms. Currently I am moving all my clients to responsive websites and have noticed a positive difference in website analytics.

  16. says

    Thanks for the reminders, especially about tags and categories. In my experience, I’ve had to counsel folks on too many tags.
    Because tags are so open ended, I’ve had clients add tags liberally, then end up with some tags that only related to one post. It’s too easy to treat tags as an alternative to the keyword meta and just throw lots of words in. I can’t think that this wouldn’t dilute the value of tags overall.

  17. says

    Incredibly useful, Sherice. I leave #1 to the tech guys. I think I’ve solved #4 with the Genesis framework and one of their child themes. Will definitely give some attention to the others. This is worth a bookmark. Many thanks.

  18. says

    I can’t lie, I’ve definitely made every one of these mistakes before. I’m just starting to make use of the Google Author Rank system because it’s not something I was privy to.

  19. says

    Thank you for #3 and #5 :)

    #3 My blog categories and tags are a bit overlapping and so I need to go back and cleaned them up while my blog is still young and it does not require a lot of rework :)

    #5 I’ve been using %postname% but just going with the default URL. Now I see what you are saying about cleaning it up so that it’s not “ugly” anymore. Something to do with future blog posts.

  20. RA says

    Very much looking forward to the Google Authorship discussions. I blog in my free time, and I also blog at my day job. I enabled Authorship for my personal blog, but when I did it for my profesh one, all the results for “more by RA” changed to the profesh one (it’s updated 3x a week vs. my 1x personal/side business blog). Being as how it’s a corporate blog & I won’t be there forever, I disconnected it and am waiting to see if Google changes. I’d be curious to see if it’s better to be seen as a prolific writer, if you’re building a blog in your spare time, or if it’s better to be seen as dedicated to your topic (so encourage the authorship on the corporate blog to disappear?)

  21. says

    A good insight into AuthorRank and its future anticipated development, thank you Sherice. Also good points about CSS and explanation as to what a permalink actually is. The comparison between mobile responsive and mobile optimized is very useful and the out of the box choice you provide is a bonus. A bit of work to do on my site then!

  22. says

    So much useful information in this post for me and my WP devs team.
    We’ve been designed and developed WP jobbboard theme for users. In the past, we usually made the 1st and 3rd mistake, but now everything is fine.Really appreciated your for writing them out.

    Am looking for another post like this.

  23. says

    “…as long as you also have a Google+ profile for yourself (which you absolutely should)”

    Aha! And just a few months ago, everybody was wondering what fell on top of Google’s head to make them create Google+.

    Anyway, nice post. I’m definitely going to do something about my permalinks.

  24. says

    I think you permalink tip is the most powerful of the 5. I like to use /%category%/%postname%/ personally.

    There are a bunch of standard mods I like to make on a fresh WP install, however, I’d like to piggyback off your category tip. Rename the “Uncategorized” category. It’s set as the default out of the box and I see so many blogs posted under “Uncategorized”.

    Nice article, thanks for sharing.

  25. says

    The number 1 WordPress offence I see is not having any system in place for backups.

    Lots of great plugins worth checking out. As it stands now, my WordPress is backed up, along with all content and all media, to an external server, once a week. And I don’t even know it has happened.

    Don’t learn the hard way what happens when you lose your data.

    • says

      Stephen, great point. I use the “Simple WP Backup” plugin to quickly create a database backup manually, however, I’m interested in learning which plugin(s) you are using to back up the database & files on a schedule.

      • says

        It’s just happened that I’ve been hearing a lot about WordPress backups lately everywhere on the blogs that I’m reading (it’s a holiday theme :) and I heard great things about the BackWPup plugin. I will have to look into that myself.

  26. says


    I’d also recommend watching the plugins you add and the updates to them. I updated a plugin and my theme went haywire.

  27. says

    Excellent tips. In addition to backing up my css, I also download a plugin to backup the database, which should definitely be done for obvious reasons. I also change the media settings so that it doesn’t include the month, day, and date of when files are uploaded. Having your logo image tag display the date of when you uploaded it is terrible in my opinion.

  28. says

    And don’t forget to backup your wp-config.php so that all of your database connection string info is backed up in case you lose it. I’ve had multiple times where this tip has personally saved me. As a matter of fact, there’s multiple plugins you can download to backup your database, configurations, stylesheets, themes, etc. Regular backing up is the safest way to develop in anything, especially wordpress.

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