Whenever we learn a new skill, we make mistakes. It’s inevitable.
Blogging is no exception. It’s a skill, you’re learning it, and you will make mistakes.
But don’t worry about it. The most important thing about making mistakes is learning from them, which is what I’ve done in the five or so years I’ve used WordPress.
With that in mind, in today’s post I want to look at some of the common mistakes WordPress beginners make (myself included!) and provide you with solutions so you can avoid them.
1. Choosing the Wrong Platform
WordPress comes in two flavors: hosted and self-hosted. The first is free, available at WordPress.com and primarily aimed at anyone who wants webspace to blog about their interests, hobbies, or life.
The main advantages the self-hosted version has over the hosted version is the ability to use plugins, run unlimited adverts (such as AdSense) and install any premium theme you like. (There are other advantages too, check out this post: WordPress.com vs WordPress.org – What’s the Difference? for a more detailed comparison.)
The best option for you depends upon your goals. It’s important to choose the correct platform from the get-go so you don’t waste your time and energy.
For the remainder of this post, I’m assuming you’re running the self-hosted version of WordPress.
2. Not Changing the Permalink Structure
The ‘permalink’ is the URL of your web page. The default structure looks something like this: http://yourdomain.com/?p-123.
It’s ugly, right? Furthermore, it doesn’t indicate the content of the page to anyone seeing it. For all we know, the post could be about scuba diving around the Great Barrier Reef or creating an Origami Yoda.
This is better:
Changing it is easy and makes a lot of sense. It’s better for the user experience and it helps search engines learn more about your page. It could help improve search rankings and traffic too. Read this post for a detailed explanation.
To change it, go to Settings > Permalinks and choose the best option for you.
3. Not Deleting the Admin User
WordPress, unfortunately, is a hacker’s delight. Its structure makes it easy for people to guess their way onto your login page and even have a good go at gaining unauthorized access.
In a typical installation, the username is admin and the login page URL is http://yourdomain.com/wp-login.php.
If you don’t change the username, all the hacker has to do is find your site and start guessing the password. More specifically, the hacker will employ software – which typically has the power to guess thousands of passwords a minute – to carry out the grunt work.
If you’re using the admin username and a really easy-to-guess password, such as password, summer1 or 123456789, it’s time to make a change.
The first thing you should do is create another user.
Navigate to Users > Add New from your WordPress dashboard, complete the form, and use a different email address to the admin user. Make sure the new user has admin rights.
Now log out and log back in as the new user.
Next, delete the admin user.
Navigate to Users > All Users, then move your mouse over the admin user until the Delete link shows. Click it. Next, click the radio button next to Attribute all content to: and choose the new user from the drop-down menu.
When you’re all done, the admin user will no longer exist and your site will be considerably more secure.
4. Forgetting to Create a Backup
It’s highly unlikely I’ll ever get run over by a bus, but it doesn’t stop me looking left and right before I cross the road.
Apply the same principle to your blog: Take out insurance and back it up.
There are free plugins and premium services to choose from. If you’re an absolute beginner it’s probably best choosing one of the paid solutions, as the backup and reinstall processes are usually far easier to understand. If you’re not sure which which way to go, this post might help you choose.
Here’s a few of the popular solutions:
Alternatively, speak to your web host to see what kind of backup service they offer.
Don’t ignore backing up your site. Yes, it’s dull and may involve words and methods you don’t understand, but if you lose your site after blogging for a long time, I guarantee you’ll regret not taking the time out to find a backup solution.
5. Installing Too Many Plugins
It’s so easy get drawn into a plugin frenzy when you start using WordPress. All those features. All those bells and whistles. They all seem so attractive.
I urge you to resist the temptation to go mad and install way more plugins than you need. Instead, think about your site and your goals and hunt down the best plugins for you. Also, if you run a lot of plugins, there’s always a chance of them conflicting with each other and not working properly, not to mention the potential security issues.
Remember this: It’s not the number of plugins that causes the problems; it’s the poorly coded or out of date ones.
6. Never Updating WordPress to the Latest Version
The team of developers behind WordPress release a new version every few months, in addition to key security updates. With each major release comes new features, rewritten code and better security settings. They work hard on our behalf.
Failing to stay up to date with the latest core release puts your site at risk.
I know upgrading is risky and I know that you’re afraid of what might happen. But don’t be. Remember earlier on I told you about the importance of having a backup? This is where the backup could come into its own.
In my experience, upgrades from one major release to another very rarely go wrong. But if you don’t keep your site (and plugins and themes) up to date, you run the risk of your site not working properly or hackers getting access.
I typically wait about a week or so after a major release before updating (having said that, I advise you to activate security-related updates immediately). Waiting a little while enables plugin authors to update their plugins.
7. Forgetting to Unblock Search Engines
In Reading > Settings, there’s an option for blocking search engines from indexing your site. As a newbie goes through these options, they might think it’s a good idea to stop people seeing their blog until it’s ready.
Fair enough, but please, remember to change the setting when your blog is ready for the world to see! There should be a notice in the admin area telling you about a ‘Huge SEO issue.’ You may see it so often you ignore it. Please, don’t!!
When it comes to beginner mistakes and how to avoid them, I’ve only touched the surface here. There are plenty more obstacles in your way. You’ll tumble over some of them and steer clear of others.
I urge you to keep reading blogs like this one, experimenting with your site (it might be a good idea to setup a development site so you don’t break your main one) and exploring what WordPress can do for you. Soak up all the information you can, ask questions in the comment sections and forums and take that knowledge with you when you’re developing your blog.
As time goes by you’ll learn how to build a blog to be proud of – it just takes knowledge and practice.
I’d love to know what you think about these beginner mistakes. Please feel free to share your ideas and experiences in the comments below.