WordPress, the most common content management system on the planet, is also the most misunderstood, especially on the marketing side.
We know. We work with all sorts of businesses and organizations that run WordPress websites, ranging from simple to highly complex installs. We’ve observed, noted – and all too often fixed – common, site-related mistakes marketers make.
Here are the big ones so you can avoid them!
General WordPress Mistakes
WordPress websites tend to be a low-cost way to create an easy-to-use website without tons of effort. Marketers log into the dashboard, muddle through various tools, and eventually find their way around. Some tap into some of the thousands of online how-to articles and videos for maintaining a WordPress website. But very few ever come to a true understanding of general best practices.
That lack of knowledge has implications for marketers.
Mistake #1: Never Running Updates
The WordPress core receives updates every month. These updates might relate to features that add functionality or might be security patches to protect the site from attacks. Regardless of purpose, these mandatory updates dictate that third-party themes and plugins must keep up, with updates of their own.
If those third-party updates don’t happen frequently enough or don’t occur at all, WordPress sites can run into problems.
Solution: Marketers should set aside time each month to run WordPress updates.
Follow these tips:
- Pick a day each month to run updates.
- Add the date to your calendar and set reminders.
- Test the updates with your browser, to detect any conflicts among the WordPress core, the PHP, and the themes and plugins.
- Assign a specific team member or IT staff to run and check the updates.
- Follow up by logging in and checking on completion of the updates.
- Emphasize the importance of this task. Make it an annual review item and attach a reward to its successful execution.
Routinely updated WordPress websites last longer and have fewer problems. Marketers who keep up the routine rarely face website disasters.
Mistakes with WordPress Technology
The ease of finding and installing new functionality is the greatest strength of WordPress. It also causes a lot of problems.
Mistake #2: Not Researching Plugins
Downloading and installing a new WordPress plugin has never been easier. Marketers of every skill level can search the thousands of plugins available for any type of functionality and install it with a simple click.
Plugin developers range from a single person to teams at large companies. Some plugins offer just single functionality, while others are multi-faceted. Some are free, and others require a license or subscription fee.
Most marketers stop their plugin research the moment they find one that offers the desired functionality. They read the description of what the plugin does and hit the install button without a second thought. The plugin might work splendidly for the first few weeks. Then the WordPress updates hit, the plugin fails, and disaster strikes.
Solution: Marketers should review key items before installing a plugin.
Vet plugins available in the WordPress marketplace by reviewing these five key data points:
- Last updated: The WordPress core receives monthly updates and plugins need to stay in line with these changes. The Last Updated section states when the developer updated the plugin’s code to match the WordPress updates. Good developers update routinely; bad ones fall behind. Marketers should run away if the last update was years ago.
- Active Installations: We recommend seeking out plugins with at least 1,000 installs, as they are more likely to be stable.
- Tested Up To: Another bellwether for a stable plugin is the Tested Up To data point. Good plugins are tested up to the latest version of WordPress. That tells you the developer consistently updates the code. Avoid any plugin that hasn’t been tested for recent versions of WordPress.
- Ratings: Users rate and review plugins the way anyone can rate and review restaurants. Marketers shouldn’t just look at the overall score. Dive into the reviews to see what others are saying in the last several months. A plugin may get raves when initially released then fade over time when the developer fails to keep up.
- Developer: The last piece of data to review is the developer. The small size of a development team isn’t always a red flag. Single developers create and maintain some of the best plugins, and large teams manage some of the worst. Plugin developers typically share information about themselves and their goals. Find plugins where the development team seems to fit the product’s purpose.
Marketers who heed these data points are likely to find stable plugins that last a long time.
Mistake #3: No Strategic Plugin Plan
Most marketers have strategic marketing plans and go-to-market strategies for their businesses. But many marketers fail to apply that same level of preparation to their websites. The usual plan for most marketers, even for those who do the research detailed in the previous section, is to find and install a plugin to solve the most immediate need.
This ad-hoc approach fails to consider conflicts with plugins already installed. Conflicts can arise even between plugins that serve very different purposes. Too many plugins add code to a website, bloating it and possibly slowing load speed.
Solution: Marketers should develop strategic plugin plans for their websites.
WordPress speed and security issues most often arise from overabundance of installed plugins. Marketers should review installed plugins, whether active or not, with a discerning eye. Ask:
- What does this plugin do?
- Is this a core functionality on my website that leads users to act?
- Do other installed plugins do something similar? Is this one redundant?
- What will happen to my website if I disable and/or remove this plugin?
Disable and remove plugins that add little value to the website. Then turn that discerning eye and those probing questions toward plugins you might want to install in the future.
Mistakes with IT
Here are a few common mistakes marketers make with IT.
Mistake #4: Limiting Communication to When Disaster Strikes
Often, nothing short of disaster triggers communication between IT and marketing. Marketers reach out when something doesn’t work because they need urgent help to fix it.
Your IT contact cares most about websites, hosts, plugins, and email during set up – and then again when, after a long interval post-installation, one or more of them fails. The disconnect between initial setup and breakage delays a solution and creates tension.
Solution: Marketers must develop an ongoing relationship with IT.
Marketers should set up monthly or quarterly meetings with IT. Use the time to discuss recent and upcoming changes to your site. Keep your IT team involved and informed, to give them the knowledge to better respond in an emergency.
Be sure to hold these meetings when times are good, there’s no immediate pressure, and focus on conversation and learning.
Marketers should be sure to listen to IT. Let them explain what they’ve been working on and how it may help future marketing efforts.
At the very least, the meetings will establish rapport, which can help during a crisis.
Mistake #5: Expecting IT to Have All the Solutions
WordPress, website hosting, email hosting, plugins, themes, operating systems, and browsers may affect the performance of a marketing campaign. One of these items – or several together – could cause failure.
When disaster strikes, marketers must understand that each of these items has its own ecosystem of unique code and ever-changing technologies. IT specialists don’t and can’t know everything about everything. Insisting that they must is a major mistake.
Solution: Marketers should understand – at a high level – how their website and email systems work.
Marketers should know the following:
- The version of WordPress running their website.
- The theme that gives the website its look and feel.
- Which plugins are installed and what each does (at a high level).
- Where the website is hosted.
- How to communicate with the website host if support is needed.
- A general understanding of where emails are hosted and what system is used.
This may appear to be a big list with no relevance to marketing. But these underlying systems keep digital marketing running. Marketers who fail to understand them are likely to find themselves in a crisis – and unable to converse in the same language with their IT colleagues.
Marketers become more strategic and better problem solvers when they understand the systems that run their digital marketing and when they realize that their IT support doesn’t have all the answers at the ready.
Need assistance keeping your WordPress website up to date or help fixing a WordPress mess? Our expert team is ready! Contact us anytime.