Small Business WordPress. What does that mean to you?
WordPress is a powerful yet easy-to-use website and blog platform that can provide your small business with the design and features to stand out from the competition. Veracity Technologies has been using WordPress since 2004. Now, that’s the only platform we use to build sites for ourselves and our customers.
We’ll briefly highlight some basics: how best to use plugins, be mobile-friendly, and, most importantly, how to secure your site.
Basics of WordPress
WordPress is an open-source content management system (CMS). It comes in two flavors: self-hosted or hosted by the folks at Automattic. Most web hosting companies offer the software pre-installed.
Understanding the basics of WordPress is essential if you are going to tackle this project on your own. WordPress has many features, including plugins, custom themes, and mobile-friendly design, that can help you create a beautiful website quickly and cost-effectively. Take some time to explore what WordPress can do and how it can benefit your business.
You can extend the functionality of your website with thousands of free and premium plugins. A plugin is a small self-contained app that works within the WordPress ecosystem to enhance or extend the functionality. This allows you to customize your website with features such as contact forms, online stores, social media integration, image galleries, and search engine optimization. Plugins also help manage your database and ensure your content loads quickly and securely.
Not all plugins are safe. Some are haphazardly coded and open your site to security breaches. Plugins do get abandoned and, as such, aren’t updated regularly to fix issues. Too many plugins can slow your website down and make it unusable. Often when you uninstall a plugin, the process leaves behind database tables and file remnants that slow your site down.
Investing in the right plugins can save time and hassle in the long run. Again, do your research. Keep plugin use to a minimum. And, if you are installing and removing plugins to try new features, we suggest a development or staging site, so you don’t pollute your production site. Most reputable WordPress hosts offer a staging site as an option.
Themes and Mobile First Design
With the majority of internet traffic generated by mobile devices, having a mobile-friendly theme is essential. Many WordPress themes feature a “mobile-friendly design” that automatically adapts to different screen sizes. Alternatively, you can download and install a theme specifically designed for mobile users. Google prefers a “mobile-first” design approach.
Unfortunately, the filter on free themes at WordPress does not include a mobile or responsive option. Suppose you find a theme that you like, be sure to read the description carefully.
Envato Market’s Themeforest site will allow you to search for responsive WordPress themes. Responsive means that the theme will automatically adjust to the screen size of your viewer. On Themeforest, you purchase a license to use a particular theme. This allows the developer to provide support for a defined period. Plus, themes are checked by Envato, and developers are keen to maintain their reputation.
Builders are another way for you to design your website. WordPress has its built-in builder of sorts called Gutenberg. You can start with a basic theme and enhance the design using Gutenberg blocks.
Other popular “drag and drop” builders include WP-Bakery, Elementor, Divi, and Avada. Use caution with builders like WP-Bakery, Divi, and Avada, as they use shortcodes for their design elements. If you stay with them for the life of your site, you’ll be fine. If you uninstall a shortcode-based builder to go in a different design direction, you will have to “touch” every post and page to clean up the leftover shortcodes.
Search Engine Optimization
To maximize the potential of your WordPress website, it pays to use search engine optimization (SEO) tools. These tools allow you to easily customize your content for search engines such as Google and Bing while optimizing your website’s speed and usability. With such tools, you can take the guesswork out of creating a successful presence on the web and ensure that your website is performing well in search engine results.
Want to get your website found and indexed by Google and other search engines? Then it pays to follow good search engine optimization (SEO) principles. This is easy to do with an SEO plugin. The most popular include Yoast, RankMath, All in One SEO. All of these have free and paid versions. These plugins are designed to guide you in meta descriptions, headings, word counts, and more.
Website speed is vital to your user experience and how Google ranks your site. The components of speed optimization include the server you are hosted on, your site design, and image optimization. You should set a goal for every page on your site to be within Google’s Core Web Vitals specifications. These include Largest Contentful Paint, First Input Delay, and Cumulative Layout Shift. The web.dev team has a great article about Web Vitals. Be sure to measure on mobile as well as desktop. Remember, Google (and other search engines) place a higher value on mobile-first design.
Additionally, using plugins like WP Rocket and Autoptimize can help improve your website’s speed, allowing for a more enjoyable user experience. You can also use a content delivery network like Cloudflare, Key CDN, or Bunny CDN to load content faster for your viewers. You can use an online tool like WebPageTest to test your site on both desktop and mobile. You’ll need to run a baseline test, make adjustments, and re-test. The images below were run on December 19, 2022, on Veracity’s site. You can see in the mobile test that we still need to optimize our mobile device presentation.
One of the main benefits of using WordPress is ensuring your website’s security. WordPress regularly releases updates and security patches to protect your site from potential cyber threats. These regular updates also come from plugin and theme developers. When you log into your WordPress admin portal, you will see a list of available updates under your Dashboard.
Another best practice is to use strong passwords on your account and install a WordPress security plugin. Most reputable web hosting companies will offer a web application firewall (WAF) as part of their service to protect your site.
Small Business WordPress - Our Recommendations
WordPress is a fantastic platform for your small business website. If you don’t feel comfortable developing your site by yourself, we are here to help. If you are doing your site, then do your research. We will be glad to answer any questions you may have. While you’re here, be sure to check out our list of Preferred WordPress tools. We’re constantly updating the list based on our own experiences.