WordPress is free software that powers 24.6% of all websites, and with almost a billion websites online at the minute, that’s a staggering number using the platform.
The problem for many businesses is getting started, or getting the most out of WordPress to make their website the best it can be.
Brian Duffy is a WordPress expert based in Dublin. He delivers online WordPress training courses, has recently founded the Digital Skills Institute, and is Head of E-learning at Ballsbridge College. So no better person to share some tips on for businesses on using WordPress.
Here’s Brian’s top 4 tips on what you need to know to run a successful website with WordPress:
- Don’t scrimp on web hosting
- Choose a good theme
- Find the best plugins
- Keep it secure and backed up
Don’t Scrimp on Web Hosting
Getting the right web hosting solution for your WordPress site can save you a lot of time, money and hassle.
When choosing web hosting for WordPress, most small business owners aim to strike a balance between:
- saving money (Price)
- saving time and hassle (Pain)
- getting the best site performance possible
The WordPress web hosting company I recommend to people depends on their requirements:
- if they run multiple small sites on a very tight budget then I recommend HostGator
- if they don’t care about money and just want an easy life then I recommend WPEngine
- if they are fairly serious about performance but mindful of budget then I recommend SiteGround
Get a Good Theme
WordPress themes are ready-made web designs that you can easily install to change the look-and-feel of your WordPress site.
A good theme will be fast and secure and look nice, a bad theme will be bloated, will slow down your site and create security vulnerabilities.
When you find a theme that you like, you can simply install it and start using it right away, or hire a developer to modify it – saving yourself a lot of time and money in web design fees, either way.
WordPress themes are dirt-cheap (ranging from Free to USD$99) and there are tens of thousands to choose from – with new ones being released every day.
Below is a list of my favorite places to browse and buy WordPress themes.
- StudioPress.com – Really high quality magazine-style themes for bloggers and publishers. 42 themes to choose from and over 125,000 happy customers. StudioPress themes are so well coded that many other WordPress designers use them as a platform on which to build their own.
- WooThemes – A large selection of excellent (blog, business and e-commerce) themes with great support and documentation. You can get all 52 themes for only $399.
- Graph Paper Press – Really beautiful themes for photographers, artists and creatives. Over 250,000 happy customers. If you’re a photographer then check these guys out. Get one theme for $79 or get all 51 themes for only $149.
- Elegant Themes – Nice looking business, blog and app themes. Each theme comes with plenty of options and features. You can buy access to all 87 themes for $69 per year.
- The Theme Foundry – 12 beautiful designs, great for bloggers and creatives. $79 each of the lot for $199. Really well-coded and well-supported so if you’re an artist, photographer, architect or blogger then go check them out.
- WPZoom – A strong collection of very popular themes for small businesses and publishers. Well coded, great support and always worth checking out.
- Organic Themes – Really nice looking themes – with some lovely ones in there for restaurants, photographers and people in the health and well-being business.
- Cr3ativ – Expertly crafted, stunningly beautiful themes for writers, start-ups and more.
- Obox Designs – Cutting edge designs – perfect for creatives and start-ups.
- Array – Trendy, tech-savvy looking themes for bloggers and creatives. Can’t decide which theme you want? Get all 14 WordPress themes for only $199.
Find the Best Plugins
Plugins allow you to add functionality to your website.
With so many WordPress plugins to choose from, how do you decide which ones to try? And which ones will really help you grow your business online?
I’ve been doing WordPress Training for over 4 years now – and these are my top 10 WordPress plugins based on the questions I get asked by real website owners on a daily basis.
Each of the plugins listed below will help you to drive more traffic, generate more shares, engage your visitors and make you money via your WordPress website.
Each of them is also covered on my WordPress course.
- WordPress SEO makes optimizing your posts and pages for search engines really straightforward. The plugin provides you with a checklist of things you need to do to give your content the best chance of appearing at the top of the Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs) and simply tells you if they are done or not for each individual page or post.
- Gravity Forms costs $39 and allows you to build complex forms for online applications and registrations on your website. You can easily add a form to any page or post and integrate with payment gateways or other online business systems.
- WooCommerce is a free shopping cart plugin that turns your WordPress website into an e-commerce store. You can list products, accept payments and there’s a tonne of cool add-on plugins to choose from. It’s one of the leading e-commerce solutions on the web and integrates with just about every third party payment gateway and business system you can think of.
- Affiliate marketing is a marketing practice in which a business rewards an affiliate for each visitor or customer brought about by the affiliate’s own marketing efforts. Affiliates is a free plugin that allows automated affiliate registration, the ability to integrate with virtually any E-Commerce platform etc.
- A very handy free plugin that helps speed up your site and can save you from a spike in traffic is WP Super Cache. WP Super Cache takes copies of all your pages and presents them to the user statically instead of generating them from the database each time they are requested.
- There’s no excuse for not having your website connected to Google Analytics: it’s free and offers you a wealth of data on how your website is performing. The handiest way of connecting your WordPress site is using Yoast’s Google Analyitcs plugin. Simply activate the plugin, verify your Google Analytics account and you’re ready to go.
- Fancier Author Box adds an author bio box below each of your blog posts. It’s a really good way of promoting yourself and whatever else you’re selling directly after your article.
- Monarch is another premium plugin that costs $69 but it is really good anyone who want to capture leads and grow their mailing list. Although popups are generally considered annoying by visitors, Monarch has been proven to increase the size of your email list – which then allows you to use email marketing to build relationships leading to increased sales. It’s really easy to customize your forms and configure it to pop-up only on certain times or on specific pages/posts etc.
- Bloom is another premium plugin from the same folks that make Monarch. The good news is that when you pay $69 you get to download all their plugins. The bloom plugin allows you to easily integrate your site with the various social media channels like Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube etc – so people can follow you and easily share your content.
Keep it Secure and Backed Up
Here’s some tips to keep your site secure:
- Delete unused themes and plugins
- Don’t use “admin” account to create or edit content
- Keep WordPress, Themes & Plugins up to date
- Choose strong passwords, and change them frequently
In the event that something does go wrong you’ll also need to have a backup.
Good web hosting companies do this for you, but if you go with one that doesn’t, you’ll need to do it yourself.
Performing a backup allows you to save your WordPress website and in the event of a problem, restoring it to a previously saved state.
The process of backing up and restoring your website is extremely important as it safeguards you from the possibility of losing everything!!
When backing up your WordPress site there are two separate things to consider:
- The Database – where all your content is stored
- The Files that make up your WordPress site
I recommend BackWPup which is a free plugin for taking backups.
So there’s Brian’s tips on getting the best from WordPress, and there are plenty more in his upcoming online course on WordPress with the Digital Skills Institute. It’s well worth checking out if you need any help in this area. Speaking to Brian, it’s very easy to see why he’s regarded as one of the leading WordPress experts in Ireland, so I’ve no doubt the course will be invaluable.