The online marketing world and the WordPress world are always evolving. 2016 will have different trends than 2015, meaning your website might have to change a little bit.
With this post, I want to share 6 WordPress tips with you, that I think will become vital in 2016. I see these WordPress strategies more and more often in my projects, and in the work of other developers.
Some of them are marketing oriented and intended to help you get more leads from your website; others are meant to protect your site from data-loss. My list contains tips on making your website load faster, and also on enhancing the usability of your site. Ready?
1. Protect Your WordPress Site From Hackers.
WordPress is powering around 25% of all websites online, which makes it one of the most popular targets for hackers. Hackers have automated scripts they run at randomly picked WordPress sites to identify weaknesses.
While years ago you were safe if your site was small, this isn’t the case anymore. Instead, Hackers try to crack as many sites as possible. When they hacked a site, they try not to get noticed by the site owner (you!), so they can run their spam email servers of your web hosting account, include it into a botnet, or do other harmful things.
That’s exactly, why you need to protect yourself. I’m not telling you this to scare you, but to wake you up. Here’s what you can do:
- Update your WordPress installation, themes, and plugins.
- Use a strong password for all user accounts. WordPress 4.4 makes this incredibly easy.
- Never use the nickname or email address as public username. Hackers scan WordPress sites for public usernames and use those to crack your login.
- Install a plugin like WordFence or iThemes Security, to eliminate the most frequent attacks.
- Use a professional web host who cares about security. Ask the support about their IT security measures. If they can’t explain it in simple words, consider switching the host.
These tips aren’t too difficult to execute, but can dramatically enhance your website’s security. If you take action on any of the tips in this post, make sure it’s this one.
2. Create Automated Backups
This tip goes hand in hand with the first tip. Regardless of your site gets hacked or not, it’s always possible to lose all the data.
Imagine that, when you’re waking up tomorrow morning, your site isn’t online anymore and you can’t login to the WP-Admin interface. All the blog posts from the past two years are gone, all the backlinks to your site now return errors (and thus harm your rankings), and the money you spent on the custom design is lost.
That’s nothing you want to become reality, do you?
Luckily, it’s quite straightforward to protect yourself from data loss. That’s why it’s a mandatory tip to make your WordPress site ready for 2016!
You can use services like CodeGuard or BlogVault to automatically backup your site at a very low price point. They store the backups in a cloud, so that they’re secure and accessible, even when your web host stops working. Keep in mind that both BlogVault and CodeGuard are designed for non-geeks, so you won’t need any technical understanding to set them up.
If you can’t afford a paid backup service right now, you can still run WordPress backups yourself. Again, you won’t need any technical knowledge, if you follow along the video tutorials in my post on automated WordPress backups.
3. Simplify Your Website Design
You’ve probably already heard it, the days of fancy 3D background graphics and choppy animations are over.
In 2015, we saw a massive shift towards “flat design” which meant that websites now should look more elegant and simple. The focus is now on the content, and the design should make it easy for your visitors to go through your content.
Even if you’re not a web designer, you can simplify your site design and thus enhance the usability of your site.
Open your website and see it through the eyes of somebody who’s completely new to your site. Then ask yourself the following questions:
- What information do I see within the first 7 – 10 seconds?
- Do this information give me a clear idea of what the website is all about?
- Does the design look professional and trustworthy? Or do the graphics scream “I’m self-made, and I’m no designer”?
- Is the website overloaded with information? Do popups or the sidebar distract me from the content?
Now, with this information, create an action plan to make your site more efficient. Let me give you an idea of what this plan could include:
- Declutter the blog sidebar and remove unnecessary elements.
- Set your popup to a less interrupting time setting, so that your visitors can read your post before seeing the popup.
- Change colors and fonts to a professional combination (a red Pacifico headline is NOT professional).
4. Implement The Jetpack Photon CDN
In 2016, websites need to load fast. They need to show up almost instantly because people become less patient with slow sites.
Images often cause slow loading times, because they’re uploaded in the wrong dimensions or resolution. And because your web host likely isn’t doing the best job to have images load fast (and often that’s OK).
The JetPack Photon CDN will help! It’s included in the free JetPack plugin, and it will help your images load faster.
It adds all your images to the WordPress content delivery network (CDN) automatically. That CDN does an excellent job of serving images so they load fast, which can drastically improve your loading speed.
Note: Using Photon means your images get uploaded to WordPress.com. As Automattic (the creators of WordPress and Photon) say, there’s no way to delete the images from WordPress.com. If you’re not comfortable with that, don’t use Photon.
5. Speed Up Your Website Using A Caching Plugin
Some of you will now say that’s an old tip. And yes, using a caching plugin hasn’t come up in 2016, or even 2015. However, today it’s more important than ever!
The truth is that we all expect websites to load instantly. Especially when we’re on our smartphones or tablets. Statistics show that the conversion rate of lead generation is directly related to the loading time of a website.
With this background, let me explain what a caching plugin is and how it works:
The online marketing world and the WordPress world are
When someone opens your website, and you don’t have a caching plugin installed, your website first has to retrieve information from a database, feed those into the layout of your site and assemble everything. Sounds complicated? Well, at least, it can take up quite some time.
With a caching plugin, however, this process is done only the first time a visitor comes to your site. Then, the caching plugin creates a copy of your website and shows that copy to your visitor – without the fancy database and assembling stuff in the background.
Sounds way easier and faster, right?
6. Test Popups, Even When You Hate Them
Popups cause passionate discussions in the web, not just amongst online marketers. Some hate them while others love them.
My personal view is two-fold: I like popups as they’ve helped me to get more leads from my website. But I hate them when they’re overused.
For some sites, popups just work. Regardless of whether you hate or love popups, getting more subscribers from your site should be one of your most important goals.
Plugins like Thrive Leads or OptinMonster make it incredibly easy to add stunning-looking popup forms to any WordPress website. And both plugins are quite cheap compared with the growth they can bring to your business.
If you avoided popups because you don’t like them, I would urge you to at least try running them on your site for a few weeks.
Maybe your anticipation was right, and they won’t bring any more subscribers to your list. But chances are, they will.
Personal note: Don’t use a “this can’t work” mentality in the tests. Be open and objective. Use the design templates given in the plugin and try your best to write good copy. In the end, it’s about growing your business!
2016 will be a fascinating year for online marketers. We see new trends evolve, and new challenges arise.
Smartphones and tablets will establish themselves even more in the market, making responsive and fast-loading sites more relevant than ever. On a side-note: if your website still requires pinch and zoom on smartphones, get a new design!
This post is by no means a complete list of WordPress tips, but it can serve as a great start. Optimizing a WordPress site also includes working on conversion rates, building a unique design, and following a solid content marketing plan.
There’s lots of work for all of us, so let’s make 2016 one of the best years ever!
Jan Koch – WordPress Specialist
Jan Koch is the founder of WP Mastery and helps online business owners grow their businesses using WordPress. He teaches implementing lead generation funnels and sales funnels on WordPress websites. Connect with him through his website wpmastery.club or on Twitter @iamjankoch.