Website Lessons Learned
WordPress dot ORG is a great platform to build a full website. There are some drawbacks, however.
I spent a lot of time discovering which plug-ins I needed, which ones I wanted, and which caused problems. This happens because there is a “walmart” of plug-ins available on WordPress. They are all vying for you to choose theirs. Some create additional hooks for you to see their other plug-in choices or upgrades. It’s a bother, but you’re getting mostly free software from incredibly talented coders. The problem is choosing and then un-choosing plug-ins creates clutter in your database.
When inspecting my files through an FTP connection I can see the leftover files; the clutter. Mostly files get removed during unload but I believe there are affects which slow your website.
Ranking is Affected
The previous problem creates a another problem. If you have slowed your website by plug-in shopping, you have created a speed problem. Google is ranking fast websites higher. You want to be at two or three seconds to load. Even after settling to a functional set of plug-ins for speed and images, I was at five to six seconds. Doesn’t sound like a lot but it is. Somebody told me the best place to hide dead bodies is on the second page of Google! It is very hard to get on the first page, especially if you sell something common. I have not been able to do that but I’m getting closer.
Here’s What I did
The plug-ins that I eventually chose are those most essential. I have a lot of images on the pages, a blog, a gallery, SEO, sharing, security, and a fancy theme for the opening page. I did buy a few things but most were free. I use GoDaddy for hosting and do my own WordPress.
The gallery was problematic but once I got all the settings right everything fell into place. I discovered, however, that a gallery will cost you 13 speed points on PageSpeed. A sacrifice but maybe worth it. Nextgen is a popular and fast gallery but I like the look of PhotoGallery by 10Web.
As I was wrapping up the arrangement and website writing, I ran speed tests at Webpage Test and GTMetrix to determine where my problems were. It helped to defer code that wasn’t needed and I used Async and Autoptimize for that. In fact there are a lot of CSS and JS files that are not needed up front. You will want to use an asset optimization program like Autoptimize.
The biggest lesson I’ve learned is there are too MANY options. That is why the plugin chart above is very valuable – it may save you some time in choosing. Every website is different but these are better products than their competitors. Then, once you get all the settings right – leave it alone.
What I paid for
The best is not free. Here’s what I have purchased: JetPack for $39 gives you the connection to WordPress.com and much help by email; Yoast SEO for $89 helps you write better content for SEO ranking and has many social connections. Yoast really helped for ranking. I also purchased a subscription to EWWW.io. Google Ads will temporarily increase visibility but is expensive. Pinterest Ads are more affordable and effective if that works for your market.
Don’t forget to upload your sitemap.xml to Google Console if your website structure changes. Yoast will prep this for you if you set it up correctly. Check your speed at WebPageTest.org or GTmetrix to discover where improvements are needed. Have security like https which Google requires for good ranking. Website speed is an indicator of how well your website runs. Check for problems in Google Page Speed Test or Lighthouse in Chrome. GoDaddy has done a good job with hosting and they are great to work with. Don’t be afraid to learn by trying. Some of this is complicated but there is always information available to search and study. Keep regular backups. Cheers.