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The 15 Most Common WordPress Mistakes to Avoid

The 15 Most Common WordPress Mistakes to Avoid

A very old and famous saying, “to err is human and to forgive is divine“, is absolutely true. We all make mistakes, because none of us is perfect. Whether it’s real life or WordPress, mistakes happen everywhere. To commit a mistake is not a crime, however, not learning from it and not trying to repeat it again definitely is. Everyone learn from their mistakes, but it’s much better to learn from the others’ mistakes.

In the case of WordPress, the primary focus of a novice is to set everything up and get things running as soon as possible. In this hurry, there are quite a few things that are ignored which may lead to numerous security vulnerabilities and affect your blog/site in the long run. In this article, we’ve outlined 15 of the most common WordPress mistakes that almost every one of us makes in the beginning.

Hopefully, everyone will use this guide to avoid the same blunders and make their WordPress site better, faster and more secure and of course a success.

#1. Choosing the wrong platform

Free WordPress.com or self hosted WordPress.org? Most of the WordPress beginners often get confused between these two, and it’s one of the most common mistakes, which is seen among beginners. While you’re going to start out as a beginner, it’s extremely crucial to know what’s the difference between them and which one can be the right choice for your new WordPress blog.

As both of them have their own pros and cons, it’s a big challenge for you to decide which option is perfect for you. WordPress.com (run by the folks at Automattic) is most suitable for bloggers, photographers, and artists – almost everyone. On the other hand, WordPress.org is made for those who like to have total control over their websites. Whatever option you choose, be careful.

#2. Forgetting to change the default admin username

When you install WordPress, it automatically creates the username “admin” with administrator privileges. It’s the username that is obviously predictable to hackers. Using the “admin” username, they can easily perform a brute force attack to crack your login and take control over your site.

As WordPress gives you the option to change the username during installation, it doesn’t make sense to stick with the default one. Therefore, while installing WordPress, make sure to change your default WordPress admin username to a different username. Also, use a combination of numbers, letters and special characters in your username and password.

#3. Using an inappropriate or defective theme

Choosing the perfect theme is a crucial thing that decides the future your WordPress blog. You wouldn’t believe that the structure of your design plays a vital role in search engine rankling. There are three things you should keep in mind while picking a theme – the ease of use for you, a reasonable price, and a reputed company.

If you’re looking for a free WordPress theme, then there is no better option than WordPress Themes Directory. But if you’re interested in purchasing a commercial theme, we recommend you to give a try to any one of these trusted theme providers: Elegant Themes, StudioPress, Headway Themes, Themify, or ithemes.

#4. Staying with the default tagline “just another blog”

A tagline is a one-line description about what your site is. By default, WordPress adds “Just Another Blog” tagline to every WordPress install. Most of the WordPress newbies forget to remove/change it and get it indexed by Google, which is not a good practice.

Hence, it’s advisable to choose a unique and witty tagline that has some relation with your blog niche or content. You can change the default tagline by going to Settings >> General in your WordPress dashboard. Also, don’t forget to delete the sample page that ships with WordPress install.

#5. Using the default favicon

The Favicon is considered as the identity card of your website. It’s a little icon associated with your site, typically displayed in the browser’s address bar or next to the site name in a list of bookmarks. Mostly WordPress newbies ignore their favicons, so their blogs/sites usually have favicons displayed by WordPress as default, or provided by their Theme Company or Web Hosting Provider.

To look more professional, you really need to change your favicon right now if you haven’t already. You can either make a favicon by yourself, or create one using one of the free favicon generators available around the web. Once you’ve generated your favicon, you need to upload it in the images section of your theme in order to replace the default one.

#6. Complicated categories & tags

One of the best features of WordPress is the capability to categorize content with tags. Taking advantage of this great feature, most of the people create too many categories and tags, as they think this will make ease for users but in fact, it isn’t so. Instead, doing so can affect your site in a negative manner.

Too much and complex categories not only make your site ugly and difficult to navigate, but also influence users to leave your website and affect everything from SEO to load time of your site. So, try to limit tags and categories in order to stay hold your visitors for a long time on your website.

#7. Using the default permalink structure

A permalink is a permanent static hyperlink to a specific blog post in your WordPress blog. You would probably have noticed that WordPress default permalink structure is something like www.yoursite.com/?p=123. Not only does this look awkward, but also bad for SEO and users.

A user and search-engine friendly permalink structure doesn’t only help you get ranked higher in search engines, but also shows your professionalism to your readers. After you’ve installed WordPress, never forget to make changes to your permalinks structure, by going under Settings » Permalinks. To get the most out of your SEO efforts, use appropriate keywords in your permalink structure.

#8. Not having a contact form

Another common mistake made by many beginners is not adding a contact form on their blogs. Instead, they create a contact page and simply mention their email there. That’s not the right way to get your audience in touch with you, as after a few months you’ll notice that your inbox is getting flooded with insane amount of SPAM.

The best solution to this problem and way to allow your audiences directly interact with you is adding a simple contact form to your site. For this purpose, you can install Contact Form 7 or Gravity Forms plug-in. We recommend you to try Gravity Forms plug-in, because it allows you to create any type of form using a simple drag-drop interface.

#9. Forgetting to install a caching plug-in

A lot of beginners ignore to install a caching plug-in, as they don’t know that website speed plays a major role in getting higher rankings on Google. In order to make sure that your site can sustain a lot of traffic at once without crashing, you should use a caching plug-in and Content Delivery Network (CDN) as well.

Caching is used to increase efficiency, prevent downtime, and decrease load time of your site, whenever it gets huge loads of traffic. There are two best free plug-ins that you can use to speed up our WordPress blog: W3 Total Cache and WP Super Cache. Additionally, we recommend you to get started with a CDN such as MaxCDN or Cloudflare.

#10. Forgetting to create backup

One of the big mistakes that we all usually make is not creating a backup of our WordPress site. We realize the importance of WordPress backups, only when we lose our years of hard work within a few seconds, and then need a backup to restore things back to normal at that time. Therefore, it’s highly recommended to have a manual/automatic backup of your WordPress site, especially when you’re going to perform an update.

Having a proper backup of your WordPress site is a must, as crashes may happen any time. As nothing is 100% foolproof in the world of technology, make sure you’re prepared to avoid that painful situation – loss of your valuable data. If you’re using WordPress.com platform, you can easily backup your blog by going to Tools, and then “Export” in dashboard. For self-hosted WordPress.org, you can use phpMyAdmin tool, or an online service such as VaultPress, or a backup plug-in such as BackupBuddy and BackWPup.

#11. Ignoring WordPress updates

WordPress has got updated more than 20 times, since it’s launched. WordPress core developers and contributors are constantly working to improve its speed, efficiency and user-interface. Whenever a vulnerability or bug is found, it gets a new update. Ignoring a WordPress update can result into a security vulnerability and make hackers’ lives easier as well.

Many people think that their WordPress site may break while performing an update, but that’s just a myth. If your theme and plug-ins are coded in a proper way, then your site will never break. Never forget, a newer version is created for a genuine reason. Therefore, you should never ignore a WordPress update.

#12. Not using Google Analytics

Would you like to drive a car that doesn’t have headlights? Absolutely not! Then why would you run your blog without using an analytics program like Google Analytics. As WordPress dashboard is not enough to get detailed insights about your site, you should use one of the best web analytics services: Google Analytics.

Google Analytics offers you a wide range of free services that you can use to monitor your website traffic, keep track of visitor’s behavior on your site and know about the keywords that can generate more traffic to your site. Apart from this, we also recommend you to sign-up with Google Webmaster Tools to keep track of your website health.

#13. Making life difficult for mobile users

Nowadays, everyone moves between multiple devices, like smart-phones, tablets, laptops, PCs or TV, to browse or purchase something via internet. As people are rapidly adopting multi-screen devices, it has become a must to make your website either fully responsive or mobile-friendly.

If you still haven’t adopted this trend, you have two options. First, you can use a Responsive WordPress theme that automatically adapts to whatever the screen size or device is. Second, you can make your site mobile-compatible by using a mobile plug-in like WPtouch or WPTap. The choice is yours!

#14. Ignoring gravatar & Google authorship markup

Have you heard of Gravatar? No! Well, a Gravatar (Globally Recognized Avatar) is a small picture that represents you throughout the World Wide Web. It appears next to your name when you comment on a blog post or discuss in a forum. We suggest you to start using it right away to get identified and build a brand around web.

Just like Gravatar, Google Authorship Markup lends credibility and maximizes exposure. Setting up Google Authorship Markup is a quite simple one-time process, which will show up your photo next to the Meta description in Google’s search results. Get started with it as soon as possible.

#15. Ignoring image optimization

One of the worst mistakes we all make is often forgetting to optimize images, while publishing an article. Specially, beginners don’t care at all about it. If you want to make your WordPress site load faster, then make image optimization your first priority.

Using HD images can have a tremendous impact on your site speed, while optimized images can improve the overall performance of your site in a dramatic way. So don’t forget to optimize images before uploading them to your WordPress site.

Guest author: Ajeet is a professional web developer, associated with the web development company SeoSemanticXHTML


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  • Leah Lambart

    Hi, wondering if you have links to do #14 and #15? Thanks!

  • Just an addition for #15. This is a problem actually and it can be hard to educate every editor/blogger/. Better to prevent it than curing it later. An easy way is to just install a plugin like Imsanity http://wordpress.org/plugins/imsanity/ . It will resize uploaded images on the fly before saving to your media library.

  • If you use Better WP Security plugin that has not been updated in a while, please be careful. It can lock you out of admin. If it happens, refer to their support forum, been helping people there restore their sites. Just FYI.

  • #11 is pretty funny, since Jeff’s WordPress is 3.5… and we’ve been on 3.8 since last fall and since 3.5 there were so many vulnerabilities and bugs fixed that he should definitely consider upgrading asap.

  • I love your blog and most of these tips are spot on except for the caching one: “…website speed plays a major role in getting higher rankings on Google.”

    That is not true. Speed only affects “the bottom 1%” of Websites, according to Google; and, in any event, caching plugins don’t help with the present worst cause of slow Website speed, which is brute force attacks by Botnets. There are plugins to help defend self-installed Websites against these attacks (free WordPress.com users don’t have to worry about that).

  • Excellent tips, Couldn’t be better

  • Rafael Granado

    Jeff, in regards of #13 I couldn’t agree more.

    Too bad I had to wait ’til I get to my PC to comment here, since Disqus doesn’t work well mobile-wise.

    Honorable mention to that awesome popup at this page. It’s very skill intensive to try and close it on Windows Phone.

    Please do not get my irony wrong. Just tryin’ to help.

  • Amazing post and indirect way to get things done

  • Wanda S

    Great information, Jeff! I admire and appreciate your work.

  • Great post, Ajeet! A few questions and pointers: 1. #6 What is the difference using categories / tags. Use both, or just one or the other? 2. Is Cloudflare free any good? 3. TIP: When using external links on your site, please have them open up in a new window. This way you don’t lose your readers to another website. Jeff could use this advice right here:) 4. #11 One of my sites actually did brake this morning when trying to update to WP 3.9. Make sure you update your active plugins BEFORE you update your WP site. Cheers, Kris

  • I am lucky enough because I am free from most of mistake. I can’t understand
    (#5. Using the default favicon). Is it can effect in my traffic or PR if I don’t use favicon? Or favicon is just a trademark or identity? Thank you.

  • Nickmarquet

    Thanks mate, seems what I need but just read a string of bad reviews on it…

  • Jay Croft

    Thanks, Jeff. Going back through all of these like a smart checklist.

  • #11 I am afraid of updating my site because I fear plugins will not perform…how do you check out this before carrying out an update?

  • #14 changed this week (no more thumbnail icon). Regarding #3, a trusted theme provider — check out http://www.templatemonster.com.

  • Great post Jeff. Most of us are too busy writing content or finding ways to make our blog as popular as yours. Many of us forget about backups, speed, passwords etc… it’s essential we do this first. BTW Jeffbullas(dot)com does not score very well using google’s insights speed tool.

  • Thanks for the tips! I am a new blogger and this looks like it’s going to be a checklist that I am going to have to go through. I was especially surprised by #6. I probably have way too many categories and tags…

    I was wondering… in regards to #5, how important is the design of your favicon? I just drew a heart for mine, which has nothing to do with my blog. Thanks!

  • Gabor Por

    Except that your photo would no longer show up in Google. See http://moz.com/blog/bye-bye-author-pics

  • One question I had in mind, I might sound wrong but it shouldn’t have side effects adding so many plugins to a blog? anybody?

  • Lyn – A Hole in my Shoe

    Great post, thank you for sharing this info.

  • Jordan Kent

    Great advice, Jeff. I appreciated learning #7 and #12. I’ll put those two to practice immediately.

  • Hello Jeff, excellent content! This helped me a lot and actually did a few changes to my wordpress blog following your awesome tips, this is priceless, keep it up!

  • I couldn’t disagree more with #8. Nothing is more annoying and discourages contact than a form. Except maybe a photo of an angry clown attacking a lamb. Love the rest though. Wish I’d had this list about 5 years ago when i made every single mistake on there.

  • Hello Jeff, your work is of absolute value! Thanks for the backup reminder again, keep up the hard work! You’re one of the best bloggers i have seen to this day.

  • First of all thanks for reminding me these points. Appreciated because it is a nice read. Approximately 2 years back i was the one who lost backup of my website. After that i am the one who always make sure to install wordpress backup plugin. About #14 i am not sure as Google Authorship is no longer supported.

  • Maggie

    THANK YOU for the tips! Can you go back in and change the “admin” after you’ve already set up your blog?

  • Setting up optimization can be tricky. Here is a great article on doing W3 Total Cache the right way. http://john.do/w3-total-cache/

  • Wow, this should be like the handbook for beginning a blog on WordPress. a couple of your points I actually started handling while I was reading! I’m glad you mentioned the Permalink feature of WordPress, since I’ve seen it often but never researched it. Now I see its importance & it’s one of the things I’m handling right now. Thank you for your insight. It has helped me & I’m sure others as well.

  • Anne Marie Stephenson

    Awesome post – so helpful!

  • Some awesome reminders / best practices/ mistakes to avoid here. Nothing says, “Amateur Night” like using default permalinks. And using “admin” as the admin username is like walking around New York wearing a sign that says, “I’m from out of town; please rob me.”

  • So much information here… where to start. Great!

  • Chris Backe

    Highly recommend Imsanity (not a typo) for photo uploads. Once set, any photos larger than the size you pre-set will automatically be resized to that pre-set size and quality. That way the original images that would otherwise take up disk space and go unused now get used – and take up less disk space. There’s even a ‘bulk resize’ option that’s worthy.

    If you’d rather spend your time writing instead of fiddling with plug-ins, check out blogtuneup.com. It goes through a 20-point optimization plan for your site in two business days or less, making your site faster without changing themes, hosts, or content.

  • Chris Sharp

    Hi Jeff, great post as always. With regards to your second point, it is advisable to install a security plugin like Wordfence or even the default security settings in Jetpack. That way you can limit login attempts to prevent brute force attacks.

    This could be a useful tip for people who already have ‘admin’ set up (since you can’t change) or who get the ‘admin’ username as default from the hosting setup.

  • Great tips! I especially love the one about the too many categories. I tell my clients to think of it like a book: the categories as the table of contents and the tags as the index.

  • HostGator

    Thought all of these were super helpful. We did a similar post a while back. What do you think? Anything we should add or improve on? http://www.hostgator.com/blog/2015/06/24/5-common-beginner-wordpress-mistakes/

  • Regarding #11 Ignoring WordPress Updates – the information you provided is not correct. WordPress sites that have customization can have that customization overwritten if a “novice” just clicks the UPDATE button.

    For instance, our company website has all sorts of customized code built into WooCommerce for our ecommerce engine, and into the way in which site visitors add comments and engage on our site.

    It has happened where in attempt to be helpful somebody just clicked UPDATE and all that code was overwritten. It took many hours at great expense to bring the site back to original state.

    I would highly recommend that a novice with a site that is anything other than beginner not just update things and install plugins unless they know what they are doing. WordPress is great for beginners. However, large companies now also use it, and management likes to assume that non-trained people can serve as web administrators. It just is not true. It is far from the myth you state it is.

  • Demian

    I highly recommend using CDN for your blog. Guys from INXY.COM greatly helped me to cut expenses for CDN.

  • It’s like a checklist / point to consider for Website owners & Web developers.

  • #15 i couldnit agree with you.
    Beginner may not care about image but google consider it.

  • Jeswil Ouseph

    Best tips, I especially love the one about the too many categories.