Common Goofs in WordPress: How They Come About and How to Avoid Them

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WordPress is by far the most popular CMS in the market today. It is loved for its simplicity and a myriad of other benefits, though this is not the subject of today’s discussion. Because WordPress can be used by people who have limited technical knowledge/skill, there are plenty of little goofs which take away from user experience or expose your website to possible security issues.

Even for those who have been trained and are proficient with WordPress, it’s easy to become weary and forget to do the most basic things. Our list is by no means exhaustive, but it’s a start, giving you a few more to add to your checklist, together with explanations for how to resolve them when they occur.

Not making a backup of your site

It’s easy, especially for new webmasters and web designers of new sites, to postpone or completely ignore site backup, considering the content ‘too little’ to be backed up. It’s one of the gravest miscalculations because in the best case, you’re looking at loss of revenue and in the worst case, loss of everything you’ve put in place and worked hard to establish.

The internet is teeming with stories of bloggers, curators and other online entrepreneurs who have lost thousands of dollars just because of postponing their backups. As a webmaster, scheduling and overseeing site backups is at the core of your responsibilities, and being a ‘non-techy’ webmaster doesn’t exclude you from the rule.

Tech-savvy webmasters should be more concerned with site backups because plenty of things can go wrong once you delve into backend site changes, including theme modification or configuring advanced settings for some plugin.

For instance, in a single move, you could introduce a security vulnerability, interfere with how the site looks or works or do something that just wipes everything clean, leaving you a white screen. It’s common to make irreversible errors, making regular backups especially in the course of modification compulsory, not just necessary. WordPress doesn’t automatically backup your data – that’s your job.

How to avoid it

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There’s a host of WordPress backup plugins, free and premium, available depending on the features. VaultPress is a premium plugin designed and preserved by Automattic (WP’s mother company) and is ideal for webmasters operating multiple sites. Two other trusted plugins include iThemes’sBackupBuddy (premium) and BackWPUp (free).

Using a live site to test new products

It may seem harmless, but it could be potentially devastating to your site. Suppose you wish to install some plugin, say the above BackWPUp and you opt to install the plugin directly onto the live site to save some time and energy. What would happen if something goes awry and the site has to be taken down to fix this new damage?

In the time you’re down, you’re losing search engine-led organic traffic, traffic from direct referrals, leads, conversions and sales, as well as advertisement clicks, email subscriptions and other affiliate incomes. Worse still, should Google have to redirect a user to a different site because you’re offline, you lose SEO points and the resultant ranking.

How to avoid it

Make an experimental copy of your live website and use it to test any themes and/or plugins. For instance, in WPEngine, there’s something called a ‘staging area’ which creates a replica from the most current copy of your website for you to carry out experiments. If anything goes wrong, you need only go back to the most last functional backup.

If you’re using a host that cannot access a staging area, find a resource online to help you set your own up and then use it for any experimental installations. Once the add-in has been properly configured, merge it into the live site to get it operational there.

Not backing up your backup

Do we sound paranoid yet? Just wait until that full backup you have saved on your computer’s hard-drive falls with the crash of said drive. Uploading your backup files to a cloud service is the most reliable way of securing your backups. There are many free options to select from including Box, Dropbox and SkyDrive, among others. If you’re using a backup plugin like VaultPress or BackWPUp, the backups are automatically on the cloud.

Failing to use permalinks

Permalinks define the structure of a site’s URL. This structure will always work, even if new permalink structures are added. It’s advisable to ensure your URL structures are not only user-friendly, but also have your targeted keywords. This provides for better memorability and improves your SEO rankings since search engines can interpret them better.

How to avoid it

One way is to use the Post Name structure. The major steps are given below:

  • Ensure your htaccessfile is writable to enable changes on the permalink structure directly from the WP admin dashboard.
  • To enable changes, alter file permissions to 644 in the htaccess file, according to official recommendations from WordPress.
  • If you cannot change your htaccess file from the admin dashboard, ask WordPress to provide your preferred permalink structure’s code which can then be manually updated into the htaccess Next, update the altered htaccess file manually using an FTP client or through your hosting account’s file managment system.

Using cheap web hosting services

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At the beginning of your WP site, it’s recommended that you use shared hosts like BlueHost, which is highly commended by industry experts. It costs about $5 monthly, though there are cheaper ones out there. It may be tempting to go for new and cheaper hosting companies, but it doesn’t come without its price.

Remember, you’ll always get what you pay for. Cheap hosts are so cheap because they commonly pile on too many client accounts on their servers. In the event of a DDoS attack or a simple traffic spike, the entire cluster of sites will be affected. They don’t also allow much wiggle room to veer outside your resource allocation limit.

If the operation of your site requires running a high number of queries to the WP database, such as is required by the YARPP WordPress plugin, the result will be a server overload which results in a slower site and terrible UX. You cannot control how much server resource a plugin would take up, hence overuse will automatically result. Such hosts suspend accounts when resource overuse goes past a certain limit.

To avoid this, use tried and tested web hosting service providers, and when your site is mature enough, graduate to the more powerful line of products, like Managed WordPress hosting or VPS.

Conclusion

Mastering WordPress is an experience worth savoring, even though it comes with its challenges, just like any other learning process. As stated earlier, use this list to add on to your existing list of checkpoints, and keep looking out for more tips to make your site better.

Jack Dawson

About Jack Dawson

Jack is a web developer and UI/UX specialist at BigDropInc.com. He works at a design, branding and marketing firm, having founded the same firm 9 years ago. He likes to share knowledge and points of view with other developers and consumers on platforms. 

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