Best Practices for Your WordPress Website

By Garrett Nafzinger

Creating a standout WordPress website involves more than a sleek design and engaging content. Understanding the best practices will elevate your site’s performance, security, and user experience.

In the digital realm, your website is your first impression, and with WordPress powering over 40% of the web, it’s crucial to make that impression count. From optimizing your site’s speed to ensuring it’s secure against potential threats, we’ll touch on practices that will enhance your site and boost your online presence.

Choose a Reputable Managed WordPress Host

Opting for a reputable managed WordPress hosting provider like WP Engine, Kinsta, or Rocket.net can dramatically affect your website’s reliability and speed. Managed hosting ensures your site is optimized for WordPress, offering features such as automated backups, advanced security protocols, and expert support that’s versed in WordPress. Premium hosting often includes:

  • A form of automated WordPress Updates to keep WordPress, themes, and plugins up-to-date, though most now charge an extra fee for updates.
  • Daily Backups that are retained from 14 to 30 days.
  • Built-in Caching tuned for WordPress.
  • CDN and Firewall for improved site speed and security.
  • Support that knows WordPress well.
  • An easy to use control panel, to simplify site administration. If you’ve ever used Cpanel hosting, you’ll understand why this is important.

Keep Your WordPress, Plugins, and Themes Updated

Keeping your WordPress core, plugins, and themes up to date is crucial for security and functionality. Updates often address vulnerabilities, add new features, and optimize existing code for speed and efficiency. Remember, outdated plugins and themes are among the top reasons WordPress sites get hacked. Most premium WordPress hosting offers this now, but it sometimes is an add-on and requires additional configuration. To ensure this is installed and configured correctly, consider a WordPress host with a maintenance package.

Follow User Experience Design Best Practices

User experience (UX) is pivotal in how visitors interact with your site. Ensure your WordPress site adheres to UX best practices by focusing on the following:

  • Readability: Use web-friendly fonts and plenty of white space.
  • Navigation and Information Architecture: Ensure your menu and IA are intuitive and users can find the categories or content they are looking for.
  • Cross Device Functionality: Test your site on desktop and various mobile devices to ensure compatibility.

Use a Theme That is Well-Documented and Updated Regularly

Selecting a WordPress theme isn’t just about aesthetics. A well-documented theme that receives regular updates ensures compatibility with the latest version of WordPress, reduces the risk of security vulnerabilities, and fixes browser compatibility issues when they arise. Consider using a Child Theme to customize your site without affecting the ability to update the parent theme. At Garrett Digital, we use the following themes and page builders, depending on the site requirements.

WordPress Themes and Page Builders used by Garrett Digital

WordPress ThemePage Builder
GeneratePressBeaver Builder or GenerateBlocks
KadenceKadence Blocks

Use Premium Versions of Plugins

While many WordPress plugins offer robust free versions, investing in premium versions for plugins you rely on heavily can offer advanced features, better security, and priority support. Premium plugins often include:

  • Enhanced Functionality
  • Regular Security Updates
  • Support

If your website is hosted by Garrett Digital, we pay all licensing fees for premium plugins and themes.

Install Google Analytics to Understand How People Use Your Site

Integrating Google Analytics with your WordPress site offers deep insights into website traffic and user activity. These insights allow you to make informed decisions to optimize your site for better user engagement and retention. If you’re not a fan of Google, consider an alternative like Fathom Analytics.

Schedule Regular Backups

Despite taking all security precautions, unforeseen issues can still arise. Regular backups ensure that you can quickly restore your WordPress site in the event of data loss or malware. Most premium WordPress hosting providers offer integrated backup solutions, making this something you don’t need to think twice about.

Optimize Your Website for Speed

Ensuring your WordPress site loads quickly isn’t just about keeping your visitors happy; it’s also crucial in SEO and improving your search engine rankings. Here are the best practices you need to follow to boost your website’s speed.

Use caching, a CDN, and/or a Premium WordPress hosting provider

Caching is vital in speeding up your WordPress site. It stores a version of your web pages in the visitor’s browser, significantly reducing load times on subsequent visits. WordPress offers various caching plugins that can handle this job efficiently, ensuring your pages load faster without requiring a fresh server request each time.

A Content Delivery Network (CDN) like Cloudflare takes caching a step further by storing your site’s static assets on servers around the globe. This means that whether your visitors come from New York or New Zealand, they’re downloading files from a server geographically closer to them, decreasing loading times.

Choosing a WordPress-specific hosting provider is another critical factor in optimizing site speed. Premium Managed WordPress Hosts specialize in WordPress, offering a hosting environment fine-tuned for optimal performance. They often include features like automatic backups, enhanced security, and built-in caching.

Optimize Images & Use a Theme with Low Bloat

Images often account for the bulk of a web page’s size, making them a prime target for optimization. Here are some steps to ensure your images are not slowing down your WordPress site:

  • Compress Images: Before uploading images, use tools like TinyPNG to reduce their file size without sacrificing quality.
  • Use the Right Format: JPEG is generally best for photographs, while GIF or PNG is preferable for graphics with fewer colors.
  • Lazy Load Images: This technique loads images only as they’re about to enter the viewport, reducing initial page load time.

When selecting a WordPress theme, you can choose one designed with performance in mind. A theme with minimal bloat (unnecessary code, features, or plugins) will load faster and offer a better user experience. Consider using a lightweight theme or building a custom one to eliminate unneeded functionalities and scripts.

A well-optimized theme should:

  • Include only the necessary PHP and JavaScript.
  • Avoid excessive use of large fonts or external font libraries.
  • Be built with clean, concise HTML and CSS.

Garrett Digital, having crafted WordPress websites for over a decade, understands site speed’s impact on user experience and SEO. While we handle much of the optimization process, we encourage our clients to stay informed about these best practices. Optimal website performance enhances your user’s experience and significantly contributes to your site’s visibility on search engines, ensuring higher website traffic and better engagement.

Optimize Your Website for SEO

Optimizing your WordPress site for SEO is crucial to enhance your online visibility and rake in the website traffic that comes with improved search engine rankings. This section will explore tactics and strategies to ensure your site is primed for search engine success.

Use an SEO Plugin

One of the first steps in optimizing your WordPress site for SEO is to install a quality SEO plugin. These plugins assist you in managing and improving various aspects of SEO across your site, from generating XML sitemaps to optimizing your content with targeted keywords. Rankmath and SEOPress are two popular options that offer a comprehensive set of tools to get you started. They help by:

  • Providing real-time content analysis to optimize blog posts and web pages.
  • Generating sitemap.xml files automatically to submit to search engines.
  • Offering suggestions for internal linking to keep users engaged.

Hire an SEO Expert to Build Your Site and Configure an SEO Plugin

While SEO plugins offer great functionality, configuring them appropriately for your specific needs can be challenging. Hiring an SEO expert can ensure that your site and SEO plugin are set up for maximum efficiency. Experts bring a depth of knowledge on:

  • Current SEO best practices.
  • Specific configurations that align with your business goals.
  • Advanced tactics for competitive niches.

This tailored approach can significantly increase your chances of climbing search engine rankings.

Set a Proper Page Title and Meta Description for Each Page on your Site

Page titles and meta descriptions are pivotal in SEO, impacting your search engine rankings and click-through rates. Ensure each page on your site has a unique and descriptive title and meta description, incorporating relevant keywords without sacrificing readability. This practice boosts SEO and improves user experience by clearly stating what each page is about.

For example, a well-optimized page title and meta description could look like this:

  • Page Title: Ultimate Guide to WordPress Security – Protect Your Site Today
  • Meta Description: Discover top WordPress security tips to safeguard your site from hackers and malware. Comprehensive, easy-to-follow guide for all users.

Optimize Your Site Structure and Content

Users and search engines love a well-structured website with high-quality content. To optimize your site structure and content, focus on:

  • Logical Hierarchy: Ensure your site has a clear, logical hierarchy with a simple navigation menu. Pages should be organized under relevant categories.
  • Quality Content: Publish high-quality, original content that provides real value to your audience. This includes using appropriate headings (H1, H2, etc.) to structure your content and incorporating keywords naturally.
  • Mobile Responsiveness: With the majority of web traffic coming from mobile devices, ensure your site is designed to be mobile-friendly.
  • Fast Loading Times: Site speed is a critical SEO factor. Use Premium WordPress hosting and Cloudflare for CDN services to enhance your site’s performance.
  • Internal Linking: Create a web of content by linking to other pages within your site. This helps search engines discover new pages and keeps users engaged longer.

By diligently applying these strategies, you’ll set a strong foundation for your site’s SEO performance. Remember, SEO is a continuous effort that requires constant tuning and adjustments to keep up with the ever-evolving landscape of the internet. Garrett Digital has been navigating these waters for over a decade, ensuring clients’ WordPress sites are beautifully designed and optimized for search engine rankings and user experience.

Preventing Malware, Spam & Bots

Ensuring your WordPress site remains secure and free of malware, spam, and bots is crucial for maintaining a smooth user experience and safeguarding your site’s reputation. Below are some best practices to follow.

If you Must Use Shared Hosting, Use a Reputable Security Plugin

While WordPress hosting on a shared server is cost-effective, it comes with risks. Shared hosting environments are more susceptible to attacks because one infected site can potentially harm others on the same server. To reduce this risk, you can just install a reputable security plugin. Some popular security plugins include:

  • Wordfence
  • iThemes Security
  • Sucuri

These plugins offer a range of features, from firewalls and malware scanning to regular vulnerability checks, enhancing your site’s defense mechanisms.

Use ReCaptcha or CloudFlare Turnstile to Prevent Spam

Spam can significantly degrade user experience and affect your search engine rankings. Google ReCaptcha or CloudFlare Turnstile helps filter out spam by challenging users to complete a simple test that’s easy for humans but difficult for bots. This functionality can be easily added to your WordPress site through plugins or CloudFlare settings, ensuring that only legitimate user activity passes through.

Disable Comments

If comments are not essential for your website, consider disabling them. Comments can be a doorway for spam and malicious content. Disabling comments removes this vulnerability. If you need interaction, you can selectively enable comments on specific posts or use social media platforms as an alternative for discussions.

Use an SSL Certificate

An SSL Certificate encrypts data between the user’s browser and your WordPress site, adding an essential layer of security. It’s essential for e-commerce sites or sites that handle sensitive user data. Google also considers SSL a ranking factor, so using SSL can help improve your SEO. Premium WordPress hosting providers will offer free SSL certificates as part of their hosting packages.

If you have a Site with Many Editors and Admins, Limit Access

Restricting access and permissions for your site’s backend is vital for security. Not everyone needs full admin rights—limit permissions based on user roles and responsibilities. Regularly audit user accounts to check for any unauthorized changes or users. This practice prevents potential security issues from too many individuals having unrestricted access.

Use 2-Factor Authentication

Two-Factor Authentication (2FA) adds another layer of security by requiring users to provide two different authentication factors to verify themselves. This method effectively blocks many hacking attempts, as stealing passwords won’t grant intruders access. Implementing 2FA for admin and user accounts significantly enhances your site’s security.

Integrating these practices into your WordPress site management routine protects your site and safeguards your website traffic, user experience, and, ultimately, your brand. Remember, in today’s digital age, a secure site contributes directly to your site’s success, influencing everything from user trust to search engine rankings.

Garrett Digital Can Help with All These Tasks & More

Understanding and implementing the best website design and maintenance practices is crucial when you’re committed to ensuring your WordPress site stands out. With Garrett Digital’s decade-plus experience, we’ll walk you through essential steps that enhance your site’s performance and security and significantly improve user experience, potentially boosting your search engine rankings in the process.