Start the Year off Right with These WordPress Housekeeping Tips

Start the Year off Right with These WordPress Housekeeping Tips

The start of a new year is traditionally seen as a time to form a new habit, get started on a new project, or implement an idea.

So in today’s post we’re going to focus on good habits to keep when working with WordPress, and great tools you can start using to improve your website in 2015.

1. Better Image Data

Media fields
Add titles, captions, alt text and descriptions to your images to improve SEO.

This one is kind of a pet peeve of mine. Images on your site come jam-packed with a lot of data, which isn’t shown or at least isn’t obvious.

Each image has an alt attribute and can have a caption as well. In addition, images are actually posts so they have their own single page, which can display the image description.

All of these fields are fertile ground SEO-wise, so why not treat them as such?

2. Optimize Your Installation

WordPress offers a bunch of tweaks you can perform using the wp-config.php file.

Our post The WordPress wp-config File: A Comprehensive Guide offers a huge list of wp-config tweaks for you to pore over. Here are a few highlights:

  • Disable or limit post revisions
  • Disable the trash
  • Add a new set of salts for protection
  • Disable or modify autosaving
  • Tweak auto updates

3. Optimize Your Images

Apart from meta information associated with images, the optimization of the image itself is important. You want to make sure that your images take up as little space as possible and that the correct size is being used. Luckily, there is a plugin to help with both.

WP Smush.it is great for making your images more lightweight. Once installed, all newly uploaded images will be optimized and you can go through old images one-by-one or even bulk smush images in your media gallery.

To make sure your images are served at the correct size use Regenerate Thumbnails. If a theme calls for a 1600×200 images it will load an image of that exact size if it exists. If it doesn’t it will use the full image and scale it down. This is wasteful and degrades image quality. If you run your images through the regeneration process all will be well.

This issue is usually seen when changing themes. Themes declare their used image sizes so new images should be A-OK, it’s just the already uploaded ones you need to think about.

4. Find and Learn Great Tools

There are so many great tools and resources available for WordPress. Two of my personal favourites are Advanced Custom Fields and WP-CLI.

Advanced Custom Fields is great for adding custom fields to your posts. You can use these for internal information or to display them on the website.

WP-CLI is a management tool for WordPress, which allows you to update the installation, plugins, themes and many other things all in one go.

15+ Must-Have Tools For Every WordPress Admin

For more great tool, check out 15+ Must-Have Tools For Every WordPress Admin and Powerful Must-Have Tools for Every WordPress Developer.

5. Automate Your Workflow

So you Tweet every post you publish, share it on Facebook, back up your database regularly and more. It’s a lot to manage!

Many menial tasks can be automated with plugins. Jetpack’s publicize module makes automatic social sharing a breeze. VaultPress offers set-and-forget automated backups.

Don’t forget some of the great default scheduling functionality WordPress offers. Scheduling posts will publish them at the desired time. You can also schedule discounts with WooCommerce so you could set up your Christmas sales for 2015 right now if you want to.

6. Optimize Your Interface

WordPress offers a number of interface options, which can be augmented with plugins to further customize your experience. Start with changing the color scheme in your profile to something you like. You can also set your admin bar and editor preferences there.

You can continue by dragging and dropping edit boxes/widgets in the admin.

Finally, take a look at the screen options tab at the top right of admin pages. You’ll be able to show/hide things selectively, cleaning up your admin view considerably.

You can also use plugins like the Admin Menu Editor to change entries in the left hand menu. I like to disable things like tools, profile and settings since I rarely use them.

7. Taxonomies Are Your Friend

I see a large number of websites where categories and tags aren’t really implemented. It is important to sort your content into categories and tags internally, not just for users.

Even if you don’t want to make your tags public I would still recommend tagging your posts. Down the road when you have 3,204 posts you’ll be able to find a specific one much more easily.

You can use Ultimate Taxonomy Manager to create custom taxonomies for yourself or you can read our guide to taxonomies to learn how to do it for yourself.

8. Remove Unnecessary Plugins

Are you using all your active plugins? Will you ever use some disabled ones?

I recommend going through your disabled plugins and completely deleting ones you won’t use again. Then give your active plugins a good critical look and try and weed some out.

Some suspect plugins could be ones which offer shortcodes or other in-post functionality you never use.

Finally, you may want to deactivate plugins which you only need for a specific task. A good example is the previously mentioned image regeneration plugin. You will probably only need it once, so use it and deactivate it.

9. Use Rich Content

Articles are often comprised of much more than just text. Videos, images, tweets, music from Soundcloud and oh-so-much more.

WordPress offers something called oEmbed for a number of services. By pasting the link (https://twitter.com/wpmudev/status/551951225667989504) to a tweet on its own line it will be embedded in the post, just like you see below:

Take a look at the Embeds documentation for more information on what you can easily embed.

10. Perform A Security Overhaul

Is your website secure? Are you sure? I recommend reading our ultimate WordPress security guide and reading the latest news every year to keep yourself up to speed. Change your passwords now (even if they are secure), use a plugin like iThemes Security to make sure all is well.

Take a look at your user base and make sure everyone has the permissions they need – no more, no less.

Don’t make an editor an admin just because it’s the first choice in the dropdown. An author doesn’t need to be able to edit all posts, just as an editor doesn’t need to delete users.

Keep in mind that this has nothing to do with trust. If you have 20 completely trustworthy friends as admins and one of their accounts gets compromised a hacker has complete control over everything.

11. Start a Blog

Many companies who operate a service don’t have a blog – a missed opportunity. Having no blog is definitely better than having a terrible one, but every business has something interesting to share for sure.

Are you a hosting company? Why not share some stats, or some server technology info. Are you a bakery? Tell us about where you get your ingredients from. Show us why you have a great team, how much fun you have in the office, what games you play.

Engagement is the name of the game and it leads to stronger ties to your customers.

For some tips on how to blog for your business, check out our post Increase Traffic to Your Site With These Tried and Tested Blogging Tips.

12. Contribute Back

If you make a living from WordPress, why not give back?

WordPress co-founder Matt Mullenweg thinks that contributing 5% back is a good rule of thumb. If you have the coding chops you can look at cutting edge development and help with WordPress code, but you don’t need programming knowledge to contribute.

You can help people out in the WordPress forums, translate some themes and plugins, spread the news, hold workshops, educate children. The possibilities are wide and varied.

In addition, this could well be a win-win scenario. The open-source community appreciates people who spend some of their time helping out. It could bring you recognition – or at the very least, some thanks.

If you don’t have the time to give back, perhaps you have a few bucks to spare? Many projects rely on donations – a great way to thank a developer. Why not pay $5 to Akismet for protecting you from spam or perhaps $50 a year to the WordPress Foundation for enabling you to make money for yourself.

13. Start Learning To Code

Learning to code is one of the most productive things you can do if you own a website. You will gain benefits you never thought of!

Think of it like this: Who has a better chance of buying a used car? Someone who doesn’t have a clue about anything to do with cars (like me), or a car enthusiast who isn’t a mechanic but knows this-and-that?

To help you get started, check out Learning PHP for WordPress Development: A Comprehensive Guide.

You may never become a star programmer but the knowledge a little coding gives you enables you to pick better developers to work on your site, to better communicate with them and to be more aware in general.