When you spend as much time as I do dealing with websites, web content, and web hosting providers, you run into all the ups and downs that come with keeping websites up and running quickly. You’ll find some sites are run by SEO pros, powered by SSDs, and backed by the best web hosting services — and some, sadly, seem to be stuck in the 1990s.
When you have a host like Bluehost, WordPress website optimization comes a lot easier. The Bluehost team brings the quick software installations and the 24-hour expert support, among a myriad of other WordPress-optimized services, and you take it from there. Here, I’ll cover the plugin tips and tricks to hitting your lucky stride with WordPress websites.
Optimize Your Posts and Pages
Writing just to write is for amateurs! Just-for-fun bloggers and recreational writers needn’t worry themselves with page titles, keyword research, or head terms. Standard grammar and styling rules should still apply, but forget SEO law.
If you’re blogging for your business, however, you have to play by the rules of online search. If you want to build a following for your WordPress site — see your pages crawl up the ranks of search results and maybe even make you some money — you need to optimize your posts and web pages.
Look at what competitors (or bloggers you admire) are doing, and do it better. These SEO gurus can help:
- Moz blog (Guide to Optimizing WordPress Posts – With Checklist!)
- HubSpot (How to Search Engine Optimize Your Blog Content)
- Yoast (10 Tips For Awesome and SEO-Friendly Blog Posts)
Take a Look at Your Images
For images, there are two sides to the optimization coin: aesthetics and performance. The first part is obvious — you want quality, well-cropped, meaningful images for your blog posts. Blurry, too large, too small, irrelevant, or offensive visuals don’t help your cause. Don’t overdo it on stock images, either. WordPress plugins abound for optimizing images to perfection.
On the flip side, it’s important to note the role media files play in your website’s performance. They say the average website weight (images, content, stylesheets, various scripts, etc.) is about 130KB, and the heavier a site is, the longer it takes for its web pages to load.
While page load speed may not be the most significant Google ranking factor, its impact on user experience and bounce rates is incredible. Just think of how impatient you get if a website doesn’t load for you. My immediate reaction would be to head back to the search results and try again, and I’m not alone. Internet users expect sites to load in two seconds or less, and they bounce if one doesn’t.
How to Clean Up Your Images and Stylesheets
- If you’re a beginner, resize images and “Save for Web and Devices” (more help here).
Your website will look better, feel better, and have the energy it needs to run at lightning-fast (conversion-friendly) speeds!
See how your site’s speed stacks up with WebPagetest.
Use a CDN and Caching Plugins
Once you’ve optimized your on-site elements for success, you’ll want to take a second look at how they’re reaching your readers or website visitors. If you host your media elements on a CDN, or content delivery network of servers, your web pages will be served up to the visitor from the nearest server, rather than traveling all the way from your web host’s data center.
The benefits to using a CDN transcend performance:
- Cuts the number of requests your website makes in half
- Saves bandwidth and reduces load on individual servers
- Shields your website from traffic spikes
- Mitigates DDoS attacks
What is Caching?
The servers of a CDN, called edge servers, work by checking for a cached version of a page. The cache is just a storage of temporary files, so to cache a page is to store the files in what’s called cache memory. It’s confusing because the word cache can serve as a bunch of different nouns, an adjective, a verb, and sometimes an adverb.
For example, when someone visits a website and the homepage is requested, the edge server checks the cache memory for a cached version. If one exists, and it hasn’t expired, voila! The content is served up directly to the end user. Otherwise, the request has to be sent to the origin server.
Say someone in Bangladesh is trying to view your website, the files of which are hosted on a server in Austin, Texas. Think of the travel required when page caching isn’t present. Each time the user clicks on a new page, the files have to virtually travel across the globe. It may not seem like much, but it adds up.
Remember, when it comes to page loading, milliseconds matter!
Reduce HTTP requests on load by disabling emojis, disabling embeds, and removing query strings. For maximum effect, start with one of the web hosting services recommended by experts for performance, add in the acceleration of a CDN, and employ a caching plugin like WP Super Cache for WordPress.
Check out Bluehost’s page caching and browser caching plugins.
Link to Reputable Sources (Including Yourself)!
The significance of link building isn’t some SEO secret. Any expert will bring it up as one of the first things to know about SEO. Links help tell search engine bots what your page’s content is about, establish your authority on a particular subject matter, build trust, and ultimately drive traffic to web pages.
This is especially true of blog posts, as they often have a self-help or tutorial component. Online searchers interested in learning more about blogging for your business or how to install a WordPress theme via FTP expect to see information they can click on to continue researching.
The Power of Cross-Promotion
What doesn’t get covered enough, however, is the value of cross-promoting your own posts. If you’re hoping to establish brand recognition in a particular vertical or on a certain subject matter, it makes sense that you would end up with multiple posts about, or tangentially related to, a given topic. Over time, those past posts can serve as resources to cite in future posts.
Disclaimer: Do not get carried away. The decision to link to anything anywhere should always be driven by user experience. Will this provide more context for your readers? Will this resource further answer an implied question? If you let SEO dictate your site’s content, its quality suffers; but if you use quality content to drive your SEO practices, your rankings just might benefit, too.
Use the WordPress SEO plugin by Yoast to get started.
Build a Following, but Beware of Comment Spam
As you’re building up your blog’s presence on the web, you’ll, of course, want to share, tweet, tag fellow industry folks, and get contributors involved with guest posts. A word of caution, however: Bad guys still exist on the web, and while Matt Cutts has come out and said grammar issues in comments won’t kill your rankings, link spammers still certainly can.
Disqus is great for facilitating discussion below your blog posts, though the free version does include ads.
Use TLS/SSL Encryption
My final good luck charm is a hot topic in the hosting community these days: TLS or SSL encryption. In today’s age of Let’s Encrypt and Google encouraging site owners to move to HTTPS, it seems everyone is talking about buckling down on security.
While there is what’s known as the handshake argument that adding another layer of protection hinders performance, encryption protocols are becoming a de facto standard for commerce-related sites and website properties that deal with sensitive personal, financial, or government data.
The SSL Store is a widely trusted distributor of SSL certificates.
Best Of Luck With Your WordPress Optimization
There were clearly more than 10 nuggets of WordPress advice featured above. Consider it your lucky day! Now, you can be well on your way to finding your pot of gold at the end of the optimization rainbow — whether that’s an increased readership for your blog or a scaled customer base for your booming business.
May the luck of the WordPress plugin be with you!