This isn’t one of those dime-a-dozen list posts that tells you which must-have plugins you need to have installed on your WordPress website if you want it to be successful. No, because building a successful website actually takes a lot more forethought than that.
Thanks to Wix, Squarespace and all of the other site builders that are popping up all over the interwebs, anyone can build a website. The only problem with using these sites compared to WordPress is that you don’t get the fine-grained control you need to optimize and maintain your site (and ensure Google looks favorably on you).
We all know WordPress is the world’s dominant content management system, laying claim to 60% of market share and a far-reaching community of developers, designers and volunteers.
Obviously, it’s the clear platform-of-choice on which to build a successful website. So that’s one less thing you need to worry about.
But there are other core factors you can’t ignore if you want to ensure your site is a cut above the rest in this dog-eat-dog world.
Let me explain.
What it Takes to Build a Successful Website
Whether you work for a web development agency or make your living as a freelancer, the key to building a great website is to start with a solid foundation.
Get the foundation right and your website will purr. Get the foundation wrong and you’ll spend much of your time dealing with bugs and other fixes rather than, you know, actually building the websites and other products and services that you’re paid to build.
So, what goes into a solid foundation for a WordPress website? I’m glad you asked.
I’m convinced that a solid WordPress website takes into account five core factors:
- Performance: Slow websites kill businesses and careers. You need your WordPress website to fly.
- Monitoring: You need to keep a constant eye on the health of your WordPress sites. The minute something goes wrong and needs your attention, you need to know it.
- Security: The only thing worse than a site that is down down is a site that’s been hacked. You need WordPress security.
- Backups: You need an automated backup process that ensures you have a recent backup on hand when you need it.
- Search Engine Optimization (SEO): You need your WordPress website to be optimized for search engines and you need granular control over the way your sites look when they show up in search results.
Every web developer must find a way to take care of these five core needs in a way that is robust, affordable, and requires as little effort as possible. That way, you can stop thinking about WordPress and focus on building your business.
Let’s look at each factor briefly so you can begin formulating a cohesive strategy for building a solid WordPress website foundation.
When it comes to the performance of a website, web page load time is arguably just as important as web design and website features. This is because a site that loads slowly will have a direct and pronounced negative impact on conversions.
If you’re a freelancer or a development agency, potential customers may form an opinion of your expertise and services based on the performance of your website. And as a WordPress products company, your ability to convert customers will be directly impacted by the performance of your site.
There are two parts to the monitoring equation that every web developer must answer:
- How will you keep on top of updates to plugins, themes, and WordPress core?
- How will you keep an eye on the performance of your websites over time?
You know how critical it is to update plugins, themes, and the core software. However, if you manage more than just one or two sites, or if you just don’t log into your site every day, there may be times when days or weeks pass between the time an update is made available and the time when you install it.
In addition, if a frustrated visitor is the first to let you know that your site is down, you haven’t solved the second part of the monitoring equation.
Every web developer must find a way to keep on top of WordPress updates and keep an eye on website performance and uptime. There are lots of tools available to take care of this need and it’s also something we’ve spent a lot of time thinking about.
WPMU DEV members can set up automated scans with Defender. That way, you’ll know when any updates are ready for installation. Add in uptime monitoring via Hummingbird and all your needs for WordPress monitoring will be fully met.
The WordPress core really is secure. Keep everything updated and use secure passwords, and your site will be trending toward the upper end of the website security bell curve.
However, upper end isn’t good enough. You need to harden your WordPress sites against common attacks and scan them on a regular basis to catch and fix security risks before the bad guys find and exploit them.
Every web developer needs to come up with a plan for hardening websites and scanning every site on an ongoing basis to check for security risks. This is the only way to secure WordPress and keep it secure over time.
There are several quality security plugins available, but if you’re a WPMU DEV member, WordPress hardening and automated security scans are a cinch with Defender.
Servers crash, sites are hacked, and code hits the fan. When your site comes crumbling down around you, you better hope and pray you have a recent backup on hand.
Some web developers attempt to keep track of backups manually. This sounds OK in theory but the truth is that most developers aren’t disciplined enough to count on a manual backup process. This is a task better left to automation.
The ideal backup system will include three components:
- Automatic backup creation,
- Backup storage in the cloud away from your site’s server, and
- Automatic management of stored backups.
There are several services you can use to set up automatic backups, there are lots of cloud platforms to use for storage, and some backup services will even manage your backups for you. If you’re a WPMU DEV member, you get all three components in one simple package when you install Snapshot, configure automatic backups, and use the free 10GB of cloud storage included with your account.
5. Search Engine Optimization
If you don’t optimize your WordPress website for search engines a few things can go wrong:
- Your site may not look the way you want it to look when it shows up in search results.
- It may take longer than necessary for Google and other search engines to index new content.
The answer to this problem is to use a good SEO plugin.
With a good SEO plugin you can manually control the text displayed when your site shows up in search engines results. In addition, with a properly formatted sitemap that gets pushed to search engines after every update to your site, your content will be added to search engines as quickly as possible.
There are many good SEO plugins available for your WordPress business. Pick one and become a pro at setting up and using it. WPMU DEV members can get all the benefits of a good SEO plugin plus automatic internal link building by using SmartCrawl.