Do you consider yourself a seasoned WordPress user or are you still learning the ropes?
However you categorize yourself it never hurts to revisit the fundamentals of proper content management in WordPress.
In this article, I am going to cover some of the basics of managing content on a WordPress website. These aren’t going to be groundbreaking, sexy tactics that drive traffic or generate leads or sales in new ways. However, this refresher will promote site health, allow for better tracking and make it much easier to plan and publish content on your website. Even if you consider yourself an “expert” I would suggest giving the article a skim to make sure that you’re not skipping the basics.
One of the most popular buzzwords in Internet marketing is content.
Content is somewhat of an ambiguous term as it can represent any or all of the following:
It’s what fills the whitespace on websites, gives visitors and users context and it’s what the search engines like to use to determine whether your website should rank or not (in addition to many other things).
Put simply, you cannot have an effective website without content.
You cannot have an effective website without well-organized, compelling content that is targeted specifically to the audience that you’re trying to drive to action.
Before I jump into the content management basics that every webmaster can benefit from here are some actionable content optimization tips…
As powerful as WordPress is it has one main fault as I see it…
It’s too easy for users to get lazy and sloppy with their content in WordPress.
When you want to add new content to WordPress there’s nothing baked in to the platform that forces you to think about where or how that content should be added.
Even worse, when you want to remove content from WordPress there’s nothing warning you of the implications of doing so or how to do so in the best way possible.
I know, I know – it’s not WordPress’ job to make recommendations on how to manage content as it’s simply a tool that someone can use however they please.
The result of this though is that too many websites are littered with broken pages, broken links, useless widgets, unncessary plugins, confusing menus and many more issues.
These issues can all be fixed and prevented if you follow the WordPress content management tips I have outlined below.
Improperly deleted POSTS or PAGES create 404 errors. These “Not Found” pages create a bad user experience, leak established SEO value from the site and may signal to Google that your site shouldn’t be ranking.
Before you go deleting a POST or a PAGE you need to consider why you’re deleting it and how. If the content has already been indexed by the search engines, then you need to redirect that deleted content to some other live content on your site.
Use this search operator in Google and Bing to check if your content has already been indexed:
If you are deleting content that you recently published and Google has not yet indexed that content, then you’re usually ok to go ahead and delete it. Just make sure that you’re not linking to that new content anywhere on your site before you put it in the trash.
There are a few ways to properly redirect content in WordPress. The best solution, is to do so at the server level. Depending on who your web host is they might assist you with this. In this case you would just need to provide them with the redirect that you want implemented, usually in this format:
Redirect 301 /deleted-page/ https://www.domain.com/new-page/
This is a permanent 301 redirect meaning that you are deciding to permanently redirect that old page to your desired new one. This is the redirect you want to use in most cases. In some very rare cases you might want to temporarily redirect content, in which case you’d use a 302 redirect.
If implementing redirects at the server level is not convenient or even an option for you, then there are some plugins that do a fantastic job of managing redirects within WordPress. One of my favorites is the Yoast SEO (Premium) plugin. This is a paid upgrade to the standard Yoast SEO plugin, but worth it for managing redirects and much more. This method will require that you authenticate your Google Search Console with your WordPress website so that Yoast’s plugin can pull and report data from your Search Console account to your site.
It’s equally important to be careful with your URL settings and changes as it is when deleting content from your WordPress site.
Not using the proper permalink settings, changing permalink settings and changing URL slugs on published POSTS and PAGES can all lead to a lot of headaches for you down the road. More importantly, these adjustments will cause SEO issues and leave your site visitors with broken pages and links.
First, set your permalink settings when you launch your website and then leave them alone. If, for some reason, you need to change them, then know that you’re going to have to properly map all of the previous URLs to your new ones. If you’re not sure which permalink setting to use, then it’s a safe bet to stick with this one:
If you plan on having a blog on your site and you like the idea of having /blog/ in your URL structure, then you can use the custom option like this:
With your permalink settings in place your attention should be focused on your existing URL slugs. If and when you decide it’s necessary to change the slug of a PAGE or POST, then know that you will need to properly redirect that old URL to the new one via a 301 redirect as described above. If you don’t, then you can expect a 404 error to show in your Search Console report. Yoast’s SEO (Premium) comes in handy here again as it will automatically create this redirect for you.
One of the most overlooked steps in WordPress content management involves your site’s lead forms. Whether you’re using Gravity Forms, Contact Forms, Ninja Forms or something else, how your site handles and tracks submissions can be a game changer for you.
Most form plugins’ default settings are not optimal; for user experience, visitor retention or for tracking purposes. Out of the box, the default settings deliver a flow / experience that goes something like this…
Visitor completes a form > Form displays a “Thank you” message under the form
The problems with this are that (1) there’s nothing engaging about that action that entices the visitor to stay on the site and (2) tracking of those submissions in something like Google Analytics is not nearly as accurate as it could be.
There are some simple steps here and even though they do add some extra work every time you add a new FORM to your site they are 100% worth every minute of your time.
First, create a confirmation page for every different form you use on your site. I recommend nesting it under the PAGE that has the form on it – like this…
Second, make sure your form redirects to this confirmation page. This will replace the confirmation message that comes up by default on most forms via their default settings.
Third, put your confirmation page to work by not only adding a message that helps the visitor know that their submission went through, but also has some compelling content, tips or links for them to want to stick around or perform some other action you’d like for them to do.
Lastly, don’t forget to add a new conversion goal to your Google Analytics account so that you can properly track goal flows, conversion rate and effectiveness of your content.
There are still far too many websites that try to squeeze every single page’s link into the main navigation. You know the site…ten or more small links going across the top, each with dropdowns that have their own dropdowns. This needs to stop.
Navigation menus, especially your main navigation menu, are meant to drive your visitors to the pages you want them to visit; specifically the pages that will lead them to sign up, subscribe, call or purchase. When your navigation menu has too many options and multilevel dropdowns you’re giving your visitors too many different ways to avoid performing the actions you want them to perform.
Even worse, these types of navigation menus create an overwhelming experience that is rarely user-friendly. If you’ve ever tried to click on a dropdown menu link that comes off of another dropdown menu link, then you know exactly what I’m talking about.
Be strategic about what is in your main navigation menu and limit the options to the 4 or 5 sections or pages that do the best job of funneling your visitors to a preferred action. You can still use dropdowns, but I would recommend limiting those to 4 to 5 options per each main level link. In some cases, mega menus can work well, but more often than not they’re more fluff than function.
One of the most important types of content on your website are your images. Bad images can chase visitors away. Great images can support your messaging, tell a story and impress your visitors enough to get them to stick around or even convert. Yet, proper image management continues to get ignored.
The easiest way to negatively affect the performance of your website is to be careless about how you use and upload images to WordPress. This topic deserves its own full resource itself, but for the sake of brevity I’ll focus on a couple main issues.
First, not knowing or using the proper aspect ratio on the images you choose will affect how well those images look on your site. If you’re trying to use a vertical image in a spot where a landscape image is meant to be, then you’re going to either have a cutoff image and/or one that’s zoomed in on a specific point in the image.
Second, not optimizing your images BEFORE uploading them to WordPress is a guaranteed way to slow down your site. You don’t need or want 4000px wide images that are 5MB (just an example) sitting in your media library and being displayed on your site in a place where a much smaller image would do the trick.
If you’re not taking professional photos yourself or using a professional photographer, then invest in quality images. And when you’re selecting stock images pay attention to the orientation (aspect ratio) and the size of the image that you’re selecting.
Once you’ve chosen the images you like, then you need to optimize them. Although there are plugins that can be used that will help you optimize your images once they’re already uploaded to WordPress, I recommend optimizing your images before you upload them. It’s one less plugin and one less thing for your site and server to have to do or store. There are many ways to optimize images, but I’ll focus on the basics…
Much like images, videos can play such an integral role in making a website effective. Their purpose is more than just aesthetic as they can be game changers when it comes to improving engagement. Also like images though, poorly managed video content can hold your site back in other areas.
Although video compression tools have gotten much better, video files are still very large compared to other types of content. These large files, when mismanaged, can slow a web page down to a screeching halt. This usually happens when a raw video file is uploaded directly to a WordPress site without any type of compression or optimization.
If you don’t have the means or know how to properly compress your produced video down to as small of a file as possible, then you should probably not host it on your website. Instead, take advantage of the built in compression and optimization features that video hosting sites like YouTube, Vimeo, Facebook, Wistia and even JetPack offer.
Not only do these options make it easy to upload, optimize, publish and manage your video content, but they also make it simple to embed your videos right on your WordPress website.
And don’t forget to pay attention to how and where your videos are going to be used on your website. For example, if you plan on using a video header on one of your pages, then you’ll want to make sure that the video is shot and edited to fit the right aspect ratio of that header. A vertically shot video is not going to look very good in a long, panoramic header.
As your website grows so will the importance of these content management tips and best practices.
By making these part of your process you should realize improvements in the following areas:
So, if you haven’t integrated these steps into your website management process yet, then I encourage you to spend your time and/or money here first; before you start investing in driving traffic to your website.
Your future self will thank you and each new and returning website visitor will be much more likely to play a part in growing your business.
I hope you found this article to be useful. If so, then all I ask is that you share it with someone that you think could use it too. And, as always, if you have any questions or need additional help, then please either leave a comment below or request a meeting with my team.
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