WordPress is a powerful publishing platform. It enables you to create beautiful websites, online sales tools, and blog posts. WordPress is also a bit tricky to set up, configure, and manage. In this article, I share my top 10 professional tips for WordPress administrators.
These will ease the entire process of your WordPress installation. These are the best practices that have been time-tested from years of experience. They work well with setting up new sites as well as upgrading existing ones.
I have seen a lot of WordPress websites in my 20 years of making websites. As a result, I’ve seen the best and worst the internet has to offer. I’d like to think I have learned a thing or two.
Once, I had a site handed over to me that had 5 plugins for spam capture, 3 different form tools and 3-page builders. It was hard to inherit and not at all fun to untangle that mess.
After all the pain and suffering, I thought I would give my top 10 tips for any WordPress Administrator or Developer.
Please note these are helpful tips for any agency or internal managed marketing department. As well as solo WordPress administrators.
If you work towards these items, you will save yourself pain. You will also make it easier for the next person working on your site.
Tip 1: One plugin for one function
Firstly, in WordPress we have a saying – there is a plugin for that. This is closely followed by yet another plugin for another feature.
We have so many plugins available for WordPress, so why use two or more that do the same thing? By all means, install a plugin but make sure its function is not already on your site.
This is especially true for plugins that change MySQL databases or add code to your functions.php file.
Make sure you know the reason why you are installing each plugin on your site and make a note of what it does. This can be in an excel spreadsheet or google sheet.
Before installing a new plugin, make sure you don’t already have a plugin or core functions that cover the feature.
Installing a plugin is not a quick fix, it’s a commitment for the life of a website. You don’t start 5-year relationships for 1 date, so get to know each plugin before installing it on your site.
When you see that shiny new feature from a new plugin and get tempted to install it, remember – Don’t do it!
Many plugins slow your site down and can make updates impossible without hacking into code or making custom patches. You end up spending more time managing the plugin than taking note of how it improves your business’ Return on Investment (ROI).
You will also find yourself running outdated software which can hurt you as regards security issues over time.
Be careful – there are lots of plugins. However, you don’t need to install them all.
Tip 2: Paid plugins save you money
Paid plugins are not always better. Regardless, they tend to be well supported and tested.
If you need a feature implemented, your WordPress developer should already know if there is a free version available. Or, if this is something that needs the support of a premium plugin.
The main argument for paid plugins is – it’s cheaper than hiring someone to write code.
A custom plugin can be costly, especially maintenance. Paid Plugins are cheap and you get amazing value from them.
Tip 3: Use a child theme for your WordPress site
A good tip that can also help WordPress Administrators is to use a child theme and extend one of the popular premium themes. This is crucial for every WordPress site.
The look and feel of the parent theme are inherited by a child theme, as are all its features. It enables you to make modifications to any part of the theme. As a result, customizations are isolated from the parent theme’s files. A child theme allows you to update the parent theme without affecting your site’s customizations.
If the parent theme developer issues support updates, you can run that update without worrying about breaking custom CSS or code snippets.
Themes that we extend at MRK WP
When building a WordPress site we generally extend:
I have never once regretted adding a child theme to a WordPress site.
If you are using Astra or Blocksy, these both have child theme generators.
To buy the Blocksy theme, you can visit the Blocksy Website.
Astra is an amazing WordPress theme with tons of features and options. It’s perfect for any business site – small or large. The team at Brainstorm Force (the creators of Astra) is always updating the theme with new features and bug fixes. They also have an amazing support staff who are quick with any issue you may have.
To get the Astra theme, you can go to the Astra website.
You can also use WP CLI to generate a child theme. It works on any WordPress theme and requires a little more skill. Although it sounds hard, you should give it a try. You can thank me later.
Tip 4: Use a custom plugin for non-design functions
Another tip for WordPress Administrators is to always use a custom plugin for non-design functions. A WordPress child theme should only contain code that relates to the look and feel of the site. Any other core functionality belongs to a custom plugin.
This is the best way to handle code snippets and small functions that are specific to your site. It also makes it easier for other developers when they inherit the site.
By using a plugin, you make sure these functions will work even if you decide to upgrade your WordPress theme.
Some examples of functions I put in these custom site plugins include:
- Custom Post Types
- Custom Blocks
- ACF or Metabox.io definitions
- Custom filters or hooks for other site functions
- Anything else that’s project-specific but should be theme-independent.
I always use an autoloader and PSR-4 setup. Making a plugin is easier than you think.
Tip 5: Always test page builder and block libraries
Libraries of code are often loaded by accident each time you install new tools on your site. This can be especially true for page builders and block libraries.
Let’s take a hypothetical situation:
You decide to load Atomic blocks on a site that already has Stackable blocks on it. What happens?
Make sure you test. How do you do that?
I use GTMetrix or Lighthouse tools in my browser to always test.
Not every developer makes sure their code is loading fast but you can make sure you test the code for your website.
Tip 6: Use Google Tag Manager
If you’re using Google Analytics or other tracking tools, make sure they’re linked to Google Tag Manager.
Google Tag Manager is a free tool that helps you manage all the tags on your website.
It also provides an easy way to deploy updates when new tracking tools are released.
I cannot stress enough how important it is to use Google Tag Manager on your WordPress site.
Reminders for WordPress Administrators using Google Tag Manager
- It’s best to use Google Tag Manager (GTM) for Analytics, AdWords, Floodlight, and DoubleClick.
- If you’re using other tag management solutions make sure they allow for the firing of events after the document-ready signal is sent in the browser.
This will ensure the tags fire in the correct order and don’t conflict with each other.
Don’t install Google Analytics or Google Tag Manager if you don’t look at your data.
Google Search Console provides some good insights these days without even needing a tracker. So, only install trackers you are going to use.
If you aren’t checking your analytics or tracking codes on a regular basis, remove them. You want to avoid having a different plugin for every bit of tracking code. It can get out of hand fast and can slow your site down.
Thus, Google Tag Manager will help you avoid this problem.
I wrote an article to examine why you may not need a plugin for google analytics. Make sure you read over it to make the right decision for your situation.
Tip 7: Don’t pull in your social feeds onto your WordPress Pages
Social media is in most cases a great thing but it is also addictive and distracting.
Keep in mind that if you send someone to social media, they are unlikely to return. As a result, another recommended tip for any WordPress Administrator is to avoid including a Twitter or Instagram feed on their websites.
Secondly, you are making Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP) requests to third-party APIs with tracking and a lot of code. This adds heft to your website. Don’t do it as it is a waste of time.
Use social media to send traffic from search engines such as Google to your website. Once you have that traffic, engage with people. And ensure to do everything you can to keep the right people on your website.
Tip 8: Use an Email gateway for your system emails
All emails being sent from your WordPress website to your email address should use a proper email gateway. Avoid using a Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (SMTP) email gateway because it can be slow. Instead, use a Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP) call if your email provider has it. This is much faster than using SMTP.
You do not want your clients waiting 60 seconds after submitting a form.
My pick for most use cases is Mailgun. It’s the default for our managed services and it works very well.
WordPress has great SMTP tools to handle the connection and monitoring of emails. I recommend Fluent SMTP.
Tip 9: Use existing block/page builder features for new content
New designers need to understand what they can and cannot do with block libraries or page builders. This is an important tip to remember when WordPress Administrators are getting them to create things.
It’s not a good idea to install a plugin for a basic design element. Most of the time, it will make no impact on your page conversion. So make sure you keep designs simple and use the features you have. It makes your pages load faster, your website is easier to maintain and you don’t end up with random plugins for one small feature.
At MRK WP, we use Stackable which offers different features that are best suited for ever-changing requirements on your website.
The page speed will often make up for the conversion rate improvement on the design feature you let go of. Fast websites are, in many ways, superior to attractive designs.
Tip 10: Get a WordPress blueprint and stick to it
Last but not least on our pro tips for WordPress Administrators is to always have a standard WordPress blueprint.
What is a standard WordPress blueprint? A standard blueprint is a group of Plugins and WordPress themes that you use as a starting point for a WordPress site. Local for WP refers to these as a site blueprint. We can also call them a default stack.
I use that on all our new sites as default. Why? So that all my sites are the same for technical support.
This means when one site has an issue I can fix it and use the same fix many times. This is a great time saver.
In the past, I used Divi for all sites. This meant I could maintain them in a simpler way and not get stuck with using a different tool on every site.
If you use Elementor, use it on every WordPress site you build.
Gutenberg is the better choice in 2022. Why? Because it’s the WordPress standard now.
Gutenberg page builder integrates well with things like SEMRush / Yoast. And gives an all-around fast editing experience.
Brizzy and Elementor are good. However, remember that some things don’t play nice together. Work out what plays nice for your websites and stick to a blueprint to solve those issues.
In addition to the blueprint, you should also consider having consistent WordPress hosting services. At MRK WP, we use WP Engine to host most of our websites.
In conclusion, this list of tips for WordPress Administrators should give you a good starting point. These will take your site’s optimization to the next level and ensure that it runs more efficiently. If you have enjoyed reading these tips, then share this article on different social media platforms.