9 Tips for Working in WordPress

From navigating the WordPress dashboard to thinking through your website content—here are some tips to help on your website-building journey.

1. Get to Know Your Dashboard

The dashboard is the first screen you land on after you log in, and playing dashboard detective for a few minutes will help you understand how things are organized in WordPress.

The main menu is on the left—from here you can create posts and pages, customize your website appearance, and manage users and settings. Across the top, you’ll see your name and a few quick links. Clicking on your name lets you preview your site. Clicking on “Coming Soon Active” takes you to a page that organizes some of the navigation options to help you get started.

2. Use Posts for Blog Content and Pages for Static Content

Posts: these work well for blog formats. They’re easily shareable, searchable, and comment-able. You can schedule posts to go live on selected dates and times and, when they publish, they’ll appear on your site in reverse chronological order (newest first).

Pages: these work well for content that won’t change much, like your About page, Contact page, and sometimes a home page or portfolio pages. Pages can be displayed in your top navigation and menus.

3. Spend Time on Your Titles

Your post and page titles help your audience make a split-second decision about whether to engage or not, and your titles show up in Google search results and shared posts. Create titles that are:

  • Engaging: Grab their attention.
  • Insightful: Let your audience know what they’ll learn and what’s in it for them.
  • Clear: Let them know what the topic is. Include relevant search terms, but don’t keyword-smash, and never bait-and-switch.

4. Don’t Break The (Copyright) Law

Using copyrighted media without permission is against the law. Know copyright laws when it comes to words, images, and music. Only add content and media to your site if it fits into one of these categories:

  • You created it yourself.
  • You have express permission.
  • It is available for free use under the public domain.

5. Tighten Up Your Images

Compress: The images you upload to your website should be well under 1MB—this reduced file size makes a huge difference in how fast your site will run, and how much storage space you’ll end up with. It’s an extra step, but it doesn’t take long (just upload, compress, and download the final version). Kraken.io, ImageResize, and Optimizilla are a few of the free online tools you can use to compress images.

Resize: After you upload an image in WordPress, you can edit the image and resize it to fit whatever your page or post needs. WordPress lets you flip images, mirror them, and scale and crop.

6. Streamline Your Sidebar

It can be tempting to stuff a lot of widgets into your sidebar but, if you have too many, they can end up taking away from the content you really want your visitors to engage with (sidebar dumpster fire, anyone?).
If your sidebar looks overloaded, go into Appearance / Widgets / Sidebar.

Then edit them down. Ruthlessly. If your main CTA’s (calls to action) live in the sidebar, think of moving the most important one to the bottom of your content to encourage people to read all the way through. Experiment and see how streamlining affects your traffic.

7. Avoid Plugin Overload

Yes, there’s a plugin for that. But that doesn’t mean you need it. Installing too many plugins, or low-quality plugins, can slow down your website. Reliable plugins will be compatible with the latest version of WordPress and will have good reviews, support forums, and frequent updates. One plugin to consider at the beginning is Yoast SEO ,—it will make sure you’re following good SEO requirements, like keyword density and meta descriptions.

You might also want to consider a security plugin (Sucuri Security, WordFence, and Defender are popular and free) and a spam-blocking plugin (Akismet, Anti-Spam Bee). Add plugins one at a time to make sure they work well with others, and remember to deactivate and uninstall ones you decide you don’t need.

8. Update to Avoid a Possible Crash

When you don’t update your WordPress and your theme, you open your site up to security attacks. And when you don’t update your plugins, they can actually crash your site. Turn on automatic updates through Dashboard / Updates, or check every few days and update them manually under your WordPress dashboard.

9. Back up Your Website

Backups are important. Not only are there hackers and outages out there, but there are also user errors (overwrites, 2 a.m. accidental deletes – that kind of thing). The easiest way to make sure you’re backing up your website is to automate it using a plugin. Jetpack is now included in Bluehost plans, and it offers dozens of features: daily backups, a contact form, mobile theme, security, and fast image loading. BackUpWordPress, UpDraftPlus, and WordPress Backup to Dropbox are also free, or you can go for a paid plugin.

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Genevieve Mount
Genevieve Mount | Contributor

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