WordPress is one of the most common content management systems (CMSs) available to individuals and businesses, but as with any solution, tweaks and optimization may be required to make it a perfect fit.
Brandon Sharp, a solutions specialist for web hosting provider Lunarpages, says that the worst thing you can do with a WordPress site is “install it and forget it.”
“A website is just like a car. It needs routine maintenance to ensure that it is going to run and function properly for years to come,” says Sharp. “What happens if you don’t change the oil in your car? The car breaks down, and you have a huge repair bill. Make sure that your WordPress core, themes and plug-ins are up to date.”
After all, if organizations don’t maintain and nurture their websites, how can they expect the sites to take care of their customers?
Here are a few best practices that will help keep your WordPress install humming along.
Limit the Number of Plug-Ins
First and foremost, reduce the number of plug-ins to a simple core set. While it’s easy to get addicted to the functionality that they provide, plug-ins consume resources and memory on the server that runs your WordPress site. “If your WordPress site is hosted in a shared environment, you have limited use of the resources. You’ll want to make sure that your site is able to load in a reasonable amount of time so that visitors do not abandon your home page,” says Sharp.
Optimize Your Home Page
If your website is a digital storefront, you want to ensure that the front door — the home page — opens quickly to allow customers in. WordPress offers the option to quantify the number of stories that appear on the home page, and you may want to consider posting abstracts of articles rather than the entire text. Sharp recommends sticking to five or six of the most relevant or new items.
Install a Caching Plug-In
Caching the content on your site is one of the best things you can do to optimize site performance. Caching saves an instance of your article locally on the server. This allows WordPress to load content more quickly because it doesn’t have to read the content from the WordPress database. Sharp has a video tutorial that walks you through the process of implementing WP Super Cache. Another popular caching plug-in is W3 Total Cache.
Keep WordPress Updated
WordPress frequently publishes updates to introduce new site optimization and security fixes. You should log in regularly to the administrative console within your WordPress install and check for these. When they do appear, run them! As a bonus, WordPress will alert you if any third-party items are incompatible with the update.
Sharp recommends installing both Akismet as well as a CAPTCHA plug-in to reduce the amount of spam that appears in your comments. Using CAPTCHA for your comments “prevents hackers and bots from trying to gain access and wreak havoc on your blog,” he says.
Prioritize Backups and Database Optimizations
Always ensure that you have a regular backup routine in place for the physical files on the server and the database powering the site. Database backups can be automated using a variety of available plug-ins, many of which also offer optimization for routine maintenance of the WordPress database. Once you have a local copy of the database stored within your file structure on the server, back those database and PHP files up regularly to an offsite location.
Monitor Third-Party Scripts and Images
Hosting Considerations with WordPress
When considering a web host for your WordPress install, there are a few technical considerations to keep in mind:
- How much memory, CPU and disk space will be allocated to your WordPress installation?
- Is the hosting provider oversubscribing the number of sites on a server (meaning, are they jam-packing a server with too many sites)? If you are using a shared server, all sites will be competing for memory and CPU, which means that a “noisy neighbor” may affect your site’s performance.
- How much control do you have over the server your WordPress site is running on?
- Should you move from a shared server to a virtual private server (VPS) or a dedicated physical or cloud server? While it may be more costly, you will definitely have better processing power and more memory at your disposal if you do.
Take Your Time
While the web is a medium that allows for instant publishing, Sharp says it’s important not to rush — especially if you are installing WordPress for the first time.
“Take your time on installation and configuration,” he says. “A poorly installed or configured site leads to many issues down the road.”