Here’s an inescapable truth for web developers: Building websites is easier now than ever.
Any person who has even a tiny amount of internet-savviness is more than capable of building a website from scratch. They only need a trusty site-building platform or CMS like WordPress along with a little patience to seek learning resources that are freely available online.
However, from a website user’s perspective, it’s still easy to separate the wheat from the chaff — mainly because amateur website designers follow a very theme-dependent workflow.
Want a card-based layout that can highlight multiple posts at once? There’s a theme for that.
Need a workable design for a full-fledged online store? The internet is flooded with e-commerce themes, as well.
After plugging in unique content and maybe a few minor tweaks, inexperienced developers would call it a job well done.
Real developers and marketers, however, would know that online success requires a lot more than just flashy designs — and that’s why this post exists.
In this checklist, we’ll discuss the most important components of a profitable WordPress website.
Let’s jump right in.
1. The Bare Essentials
In website development, less is more.
Remember that you’re not creating a website to show off your design prowess. If you really want to establish your brand’s authority, you need a set of audience-oriented goals to influence your development decisions.
Unfortunately, a lot of generic WordPress-powered sites contain elements that users may find distracting. This includes image carousels, interstitial ads, icons, pointless animations, and so on.
To be fair, most themes available from the official WordPress library are somewhat simplistic, design-wise. It’s just that plenty of WordPress users, particularly those who have no clear goals whatsoever to guide their efforts, end up using extra widgets and plugins that do nothing but detract your audience’s attention from elements that matter.
The key here is to clarify your website goals and the elements that are absolutely necessary for fulfilling them.
For example, if you want your target audience to subscribe to your newsletter, you could definitely use a strong call-to-action and perhaps an eye-catching image to go along with your opt-in form.
Here’s an example page that focuses only on the bare essentials:
(Image Source: SocialBee)
2. Top-Notch Performance
Now that your design is more focused and highlights the necessary elements, the next thing you need to ensure is the speedy delivery of your website’s content.
It’s a well-known fact that your website’s loading speed can make or break a website’s profitability. If you leave your audience hanging even by as much as 3 seconds, there’s a good chance they’ll abandon your site and never come back.
The good news is, improving your loading speed is really not that hard, especially if you use WordPress.
There are several free plugins out there you can use to automate certain optimization tasks. One example is the EWWW Image Optimizer, which automatically optimizes every image you upload to your WordPress media library.
Here are a few additional WordPress plugins you can use to improve your website’s loading speed:
- WP Smush (Image Optimization)
- Fast Velocity Minify (Code Minification)
- W3 Total Cache (A bit of everything)
We’ve got even more tips and strategies in our complete guide to speeding up WordPress.
3. Stable Hosting
Speaking of loading speed, another factor at play would be your website’s hosting solution.
It’s not rocket science: more expensive hosting plans use better hardware, which, in turn, results in faster loading speeds and higher uptime. These factors then lead to more traffic and higher search engine rankings.
Of course, that doesn’t mean you should immediately upgrade your hosting plan once your budget allows. If you’re like most WordPress users who started out with shared hosting, then you should only consider a VPS or virtual private server solution or managed WordPress hosting if you’re already getting hundreds or thousands of pageviews per day.
Another strategy is to use a tool like Uptime Robot to monitor your hosting company’s reliability.
We’ve been using WP Engine for more than 3 years here at Compete Themes and have experienced nearly 100% uptime. Here’s my full review if you’d like to learn more.
Improve performance with a CDN
If your website targets users from all over the world, you could leverage a CDN to minimize latency.
A content delivery network (or CDN), works by caching website data on proxy servers distributed in key locations. When users try to access the site, the nearest server handles the load of delivering data, which leads to a significant performance boost.
4. Brilliant Content
A lot of online guides sugarcoat the state of online marketing nowadays, insinuating that relevant and valuable content alone will surely get the attention of their target audience.
Sure, focusing on content quality is a good ground rule to have if you want your website to get traffic. But since everybody else in the competition is more than capable of publishing high-quality blog posts, you need to be a little more creative if you want your brand to stand out.
For example, using infographics is a great way to keep your audience engaged as you present boring statistics or technical instructions.
Instead of business owners having to do all the dirty work of designing their content’s graphics, they can hire a professional graphic designer. They have only to get a freelance graphic design pricing so they’ll have a better means of estimating how much they would spend on their graphics.
5. Social Media Integration
Finally, it doesn’t matter if you’re building a review website or an online store — social media integrations will help you expand your online reach.
In WordPress, there are dozens of plugins that will help you integrate some form of social media functionality on your site. Social Media Share Buttons by UltimatelySocial, for instance, is an easy way to integrate social sharing buttons to your pages and posts.
Blog2Social is another handy plugin that automatically schedules posts on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and a number of other major social media networks as you publish them on WordPress. All you need to do is connect your social media accounts, customize your post format, and adjust a few settings to have the plugin work seamlessly in the background.
Of course, the integrations above are only the tip of the iceberg as far as social media goes for WordPress websites. To make your community come alive, you need to prepare campaigns that raise brand awareness and maximize the engagement of your audience, from Twitter hashtag contests to random polls and surveys.
With how cutthroat the competition has become, the challenge isn’t to get a website up and running — it’s to make your brand stand out from the rest.
While the checklist above is far from being complete, rest assured that the points are deadly enough to help you get better results out of your website.