16 of the Most Common WordPress Mistakes

By Hugo Velasco
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Just as the sun rises in the east and sets in the west, there is one fact of life we can’t argue with–we all make mistakes. And while there isn’t a lot we can do to prevent them, we can learn from our mistakes. Even better, we can learn from other people’s mistakes!

Here, I’ve outlined 16 of the most common mistakes that WordPress users and developers make. Brush up on what other people are doing wrong so you can prevent these same blunders on your own site.

1. Missing Out on the Best Plugins

It will take some time for you to get to know all of WordPress’s plugins. Through trial and error, you will find what is best for you. However, we’re going to make this little research project infinitely easier. You must have these plugins:

  • Google XML Sitemaps
  • Contact Form 7
  • Akismet
  • All in One SEO Pack

2. Forgetting to Back Up Your Site

Nothing works perfectly, especially in the world of technology. Crashes will happen. If you are unprepared, a very painful situation may be headed your way–loss of data. You can back up your site manually. Go to Tools, then Export–or to make life easier, use an automatic backup plugin like WP-DB-Backup.

3. Using an Unfriendly Permalink Structure

Your WordPress default setting is not search-friendly. To get the most bang for your SEO buck, make sure you use keywords in your permalink structure. Here is what you do:

  • Go to Options
  • Select Permalinks in your Admin Panel
  • In the Custom Text box, enter “/%category%/%postname%/%post_id”

4. Using Only One Server

If you are a WPWebHost user, you can skip this step. If you are a Non-WPWebHost user, continue reading.

Don’t underestimate the value of a Content Delivery Network (CDN)–it can really improve your reader’s experience. Here is what you do:

  • Research CDNs like MaxCDN or Cloudflare
  • Copy your content onto several mirror servers around the world

This will make it easier for a guest to view your page, no matter where they are visiting from. It decreases the load time because not all of the requests are being sent to the main web server.

5. Not Consulting Analytics Programs

Would you drive your car at night without headlights? No. Then why would you run a blog without consulting an analytics program? Google Analytics monitors website traffic and keeps tally of the keywords that lead to your site. Trying to write to a target audience without analytics is like throwing your money out the window.

6. Not Integrating Webmaster Tools

Without a little help, search engines don’t crawl very deep. If you want to get all your pages indexed, submit an XML sitemap to Google Webmaster tools. Taking advantage of webmaster tools also means you’ll be the recipient of lots of useful statistics.

7. Ignoring Google Authorship Markup

The purpose of Google Authorship Markup is to increase credibility and maximize exposure. Who wouldn’t want that? The process is simple and the result is a photo next to the meta description in the search results.

8. Being Faceless

You know what a Gravatar is, right? If not, a Gravatar, or Globally Recognized Avatar, is an image that appears beside a blog comment or discussion forum. It is an image that represents you across the entire internet. Just like Google Authorship, Gravatars lend credibility and attract attention. If you aren’t using a Gravatar, get one as soon as possible. The registration is a simple, one-time process that will have a big influence on your blog.

9. Using the Default Favicon

A favicon is the icon associated with your website. It will be displayed in the browser’s address bar, next to the page title in a tab, and beside the page name in a list of bookmarks. Most WordPress newbies use the favicon that came with the theme. However, if you want to look more professional, you really need to have a custom icon. Here is what you do:

  • Search for a free favicon generator on the web
  • Create your file (usually 16 pixels by 16 pixels)
  • Go to the images section of your theme
  • Replace the default favicon with your custom design

10. Making Life Difficult for Mobile Users

These days, everyone has a smartphone. Basically, if you expect to receive any traffic at all, you had better make sure your site is mobile-user friendly. You have two options. First, you can customize your site for mobile devices by using a plugin like WPtouch. Your other option is to use a WordPress theme that is responsive to smartphones, iPod touch and tablets.

11. Using the cPanel File Manager for FTP transfers

Shopping around for an FTP client takes time. However, FTP clients improve the quality of life for many blog owners. While the File Manager in the cPanel has a slow interface and often crashes (or closes) unexpectedly, anFTP client makes it easy to upload, download or change file permissions on your server.

12. Overloading with Information

You may think you have designed your site with the reader in mind. However, it’s also likely you may have designed your site with your wallet in mind. Readers like simplicity. Don’t overwhelm them with a super-cluttered sidebar; too many ads, widgets, and links are distracting. Restrict your sidebar to the most important pieces of information.

13. Passing on Blog Authoring Tools

Why, oh why, are you subjecting yourself to WordPress’s dashboard? Use a blog authoring tool! Tools like Windows Live Writer are designed to write blogs offline. You can pen your next post and then enhance it with simple-to-use formatting tools.

14. Ignoring WordPress Updates

WordPress is constantly releasing new updates. If a blog owner ignores these updates, the site will be opened up to security issues. There is a simple fix–don’t ignore the WordPress updates! These newer versions were created for a reason!

15. Utilizing a Faulty Hosting Company

If you are looking to save money, it may seem appealing to go with an ultra-low-price hosting company. However, many of these companies aren’t such a bargain after all. Their low price is a result of fewer features and unsatisfactory support. Instead of signing on the dotted line with the cheapest company you discover, consult an expert. Get some advice about which hosting options are best.

16. Choosing a Defective Theme

There are two things you should consider when choosing a theme–the ease of use for a beginner and the reputation of the theme company. After you have found a respectable company and a theme that will be easy to navigate, then you can worry about price. Choosing based on price alone could mean using a theme that isn’t compatible with your site (or you).

Well, what do you think? Have you made any of these mistakes? Have you learned a valuable lesson about WordPress that we didn’t mention? We’d love to receive your feedback!

If you enjoyed reading this post, you’ll love Learnable; the place to learn fresh skills and techniques from the masters. Members get instant access to all of SitePoint’s ebooks and interactive online courses, like The Beginner’s Guide to Web Design with WordPress.

Guest blogger Hugo Velasco is a website designer for Subtle Network. He enjoys helping clients avoid the same mistakes he made as a newbie!

We teamed up with SiteGround
To bring you the latest from the web and tried-and-true hosting, recommended for designers and developers. SitePoint Readers Get Up To 65% OFF Now
  • Informative article. I would point out that: SEO by Yoast does what Google XML Sitemaps and All in One SEO Pack does combined.

    • Thanks, we actually don’t use the sitemap feature in Yoast. It’s pretty great, but does not allow for modifying the individual elements individually. It relies on URL structure to determine importance of content. This conflicts a lot with what we believe is most important.

      • With Yoast’s plugin, you can change importance of content on a per-post or per-page basis.

  • Of course you should NOT use Akismet – you can fight spam without saving user data. Use Anti Spam Bee instead. It’s save, reliable and meets European laws.

  • How is “/%category%/%postname%/%post_id” search engine friendly?…

    • Good point. /%category%/%postname%/ would also be effective in most cases and even just /%postname%. Many of the sites we work on have a lot of content to manage and so we have an interest in maintaining a more descriptive URL structure. While the most common advice is to keep the structure shallow, we’ve found that at a certain point avoiding sub-directories will actually make your site hierarchy more difficult to index properly. In our own internal testing we have not seen any advantage to simply avoiding sub-directories. Rather, we have found that the internal linking and sitemap are a much stronger indicator to Google what content is important. The use of the post id is just a habit that we have developed because it makes certain coding tasks are easier if the id’s are mentioned in the URLs. Your right that that additional code is not really necessary and has not much to do with SEO.

  • Good post, maybe except #3: This might become a problem as soon as posts pile up over years.

    > ” […] For performance reasons, it is not a good idea to start your permalink structure with the category, tag, author, or postname fields. […] “

    Source: http://digwp.com/2011/06/dont-use-postname/

  • this list of mistakes is helpful.

  • is there a same list for joomla?

    • Blindcripple

      Only mistake, not using WordPress :p

  • One common mistake is not removing the Admin user after you first install WordPress.

    • Good point. We actually leave the admin, but will change the way the user is displayed. Not sure this is really too important.

  • Francesco

    I agree with Neal, SEO by Yoast is by far the best there is, I would never go back to XML Sitemaps and All in One SEO Pack (I used to use those).

    I also find the “/%category%/%postname%/%post_id” quite weird.

    I absolutely agree on pretty much everything else.

  • Nice article, I am going to have to agree with Neal and say Yoast is probably a better solution. The one subject I believe you missed out on though was security. WordPress is a good platform but it does have some security issues that can be addressed with just a few changes.

  • Well, at least half of these ‘mistakes’ have nothing to do with WordPress.

    Regarding your statement about CDN’s: “Copy your content onto several mirror servers around the world”

    Does that mean you have to copy it to all those servers every time you post an update to WordPress?

  • “Getting carried away with the plugins” has to make the list – i’ve had to slim down a lot, as the load time was poor but also keeping the plugins up to date is dicey. It’s not unusual for a plugin conflict to lock you out of your site completely, requiring a lot of FTP based faffing about to sort it.
    (So thanks for mentioning WPTouch – I do need to sort out my mobile provision but dammit, it’s another plugin…!)

  • Few things:
    1. Why choose just one name for contact forms or SEO? there are several other good plugins than just All in one SEO or Contact 7, you make the rest sound like they’re crap.

    2. Your example for permalinks is broke, it’s missing a % in the end. Also, why use post_id? Often the category might not be relevant either so it’s a bit dumb to say that “you must do it this way, otherwise it’s wrong”. For me, year/post-title works best.

  • Sylvain Chabot

    I am not quiet sure is good to add the id of a post in the permalink!!

    • There are a few reasons we do that. This is usually on larger sites. My most recent understanding is that in order for Google News to include articles there should be a unique numerical identifier in the URL string. Mostly it is just out of habit. This would probably not help SEO though your right.

  • Anonymous

    as Anthony explained I’m amazed that a person able to make $5850 in a few weeks on the computer. did you look at this website Mac29.com

  • Be careful with #3. If you have post that are already indexed in search engines and then change your permalink structure, you’ll get 404 errors for all of the old pages. Although WordPress resolved the issue with using the shortened permalink (%postname%), you still have to be aware of indexed pages.

    Yoast has a great tool to create the necessary 301 redirect if you change your permalink once indexed. http://yoast.com/change-wordpress-permalink-structure/

  • The code for 3 should be: /%category%/%postname%/%post_id% (missing % on the end)

  • Graeme

    Nice article, and perfectly timed as I’m just setting up a WordPress blog, couple of things though…

    Firstly, I think you’ve forgotten a trailing percent sign on this “In the Custom Text box, enter “/%category%/%postname%/%post_id”

    Also, a question. I’m using Disqus for my comments, a number of my favourite blogs used it and it alsways works well. Would I still need/be able to use Akismet (or Anti Spam Bee, for that matter) on my blog?

    • Good catch. Yeah number 3 was not my best advice. As for Disqus, we usually don’t use Akismet as the anti-spam functionality of Disqus is pretty good. Not sure if that is because the comments are displayed using Java which many believe still gives Google issues or if Disqus maintains their own spam database.

  • “Using a defective theme”

    I purchased a theme for a client from a template site, only to realize after-the-fact that it was only compatible up to WordPress 2.7. (It was only the second WP site I’d built. I guess I failed to read the fine print.)

  • Great article. I’m just getting into creating my own website and there is so much to learn. Glad I stopped by. I have most of these extensions but it’s good to know that I’m on the right track. Thanks so much for confirming this for me.
    Barbara Charles

  • Gordon Currie

    I had a few concerns about your post….

    Item#3 – Backing Up – You suggested WP-DB-Backup but if you review the website listing for this on the WordPress Plugins site, you will see that it gets a low score, its has a very high number of people NOT liking this product or having serious issues. When reading all the reviews / support issues, they all address problems with compatibility, hacking, and fix it techniques that are too sophisticated for many people.

    Item#14 – Ignoring WordPress Updates – I think you should have mentioned that hundreds if not thousands of people have updated only to find the theme crash or the plugins create such an incompatibility, the tank. I think you should have included something about the pitfalls…its not just enough to say, do the updates. Or else…

    Item#13 – Using blogging tools – Your suggestion about using Windows Live Writer tools – thats not the only way to handle content offline. What is wrong with typing out a message and saving it as a draft? There are many other php based plugins that integrate with WordPress. The problem with Windows Live Writer is the fact you have to download Windows Live Messenger, Mail, Writer, Photo Gallery, Family Safety, Toolbar, and Movie Maker, plus Outlook Connector, Office Live Add-in, and Microsoft Silverlight. Read the service agreement and you will see that many updates to these programs are installed and downloaded automatically. Ever had problems with a Windows update that screwed up your computer?? Millions have.

    I think you made some good points but should have done so more research on products and maybe posted other alternatives.

    My 2 cents

    • WP-DB-Backup is a reliable plugin, but it only backs up a site’s database, not files. It’s important to be backing up both.

      You can now download Windows Live Writer without downloading everything else. It gives you the ability to choose which tools you want to download by checking them off, or not if you don’t want to download anything else.

  • A brilliant article. It is so good you have to think of a way of keeping it somewhere till you have time to go through each point – none of them fillers – and make real changes to your blog.

    Thanks. this will make a difference.


  • Some useful points, but I don’t completely agree with the first one. Instead off All in one SEO and Google Sitemaps I prefer to use WordPress SEO, which combines those two things and gives a bit more options. Regarding Contact Form 7, I found it pretty hard to customize for my specific needs and ended up using different contact form plugin.

  • Hey there! I just would like to offer you a huge thumbs up for your great info you’ve got right here on this post. I am coming back to your website for more soon.

  • jawad satti

    Thanks For these Tips i really learn many thing today.

  • Great article. Actually reminded me of a few things I need to do to a couple of my sites. Reckon that Google XML Sitemaps, Contact Form 7, Akismet, All in One SEO Pack should be a standard install with wordpress right from the start.

  • Great article however i would like to comment on point #10. Making Life Difficult for Mobile Users.

    Responsive themes are great for desktop and tablets visitors but if you want to offer the best mobile experience they typically fall short… responsive is a quick way to get your site and content to be accessible on a mobile device but don’t get confused between mobile ready and mobile optimized solutions and sites – there’s a huge difference… a lot of designers/developers are going with responsive because its an easy and fast partial solution, and there really isn’t anything on the market that gives them a cost effective alternative.

    Look at the corporate top 500 companies I guarantee you will find +95% are using mobile optimized sites delivered either standalone or with adaptive content… for them its about the end user experience… to me that speaks volumes… its also what Google recommends under the GoMo initiative from a mobile user perspective…

    Google does state from a search point of view that responsive is recommended – but so is adaptive/dynamic content delivered on the same url and so is a stand alone site mobile site if configured correctly it just means on the latter they have to do extra work.

    WP-Touch as you recommend uses an adaptive design approach in that it renders different HTML depending on the user agent viewing the site – albeit in a very limited manner… out of the box i personally think its more suited to WP blogs and lacks those features that you would associate with a regular mobile site required for a brick and mortar business.

    We have a new product that addresses the lack of features that WPTouch has – if you care to take it for a spin feel free to contact me.

  • I think the most important ones are the ones dealing with backing up data, having reliable servers and getting the security updates.

    These are necessary items that may compromise your data, which is the most important part of your blog.

  • Good list of tips although I must disagree with you choice of plug-ins in number 1.

    – Contact Form 7 is a great plug-in BUT it’s very resource heavy. When I ran it through the P3 plugin profiler it showed up as one of the slowest loading plugins. I have installed “Contact Form Plugin” instead and it’s much faster

    – All in One SEO Pack is OK but a bit heavy and outdated. I much prefer Yoast SEO plugins. They’re lighter and he’s much more on top of new SEO issues surrounding WordPress and as a result more up to date.

  • In regard to your comment:
    15. Utilizing a Faulty Hosting Company

    100% spot on, and this should be #1, not #15.

    Before you sign up with a web host call customer service and ask this simple question:
    “If I have a problem with my WordPress blog will you help me?”

    This simple question could save you hundreds of dollars in real costs, or lost income, or lost credibility online.
    Lame hosts who offer discount hosting but no service should be dead to you…

    Hosting companies which offer free daily malware scanning are top of the food chain in offering WordPress support.
    Just Google “free daily malware scanning”.

    You’ll wish you had, when in future you accidentally bring your site down after running an update and can’t find someone to help for hours or days afterward.

  • I found the point about optimization for mobile devices to be useful. I went and installed WPtouch immediately! Thanks for the awesome post.