If you use WordPress for business, congratulations!
Setting up the software from WordPress.org and changing a theme takes hard work. Your reward: You now have a powerful publishing system at your fingertips.
WordPress is the most affordable, capable and flexible tool I know for website design and marketing. Even better, this fast, feature-rich website builder is free to use.
The downside? If you’ve never set up a website before, WordPress comes with a steep learning curve.
To use WordPress for business, you’ll need a few webmaster-type skills. WordPress coders are always working to make it faster, safer, better, and more mobile-friendly. These improvements come to you FREE. That’s GREAT for you — but you have do your part to keep up!
Here are 5 vital website tasks that any DIY website owner should take care of.
You CAN learn these 5 essential WordPress skills. If you let them slide for too long, you risk having a website that breaks, gets hacked, or doesn’t look right as time goes on. Ouch, that hurts your business.
Master these 5 website care skills, and you can save a lot of time and money updating it yourself, or use that knowledge to hire just the help you need.
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The 5 must-have skills to use WordPress for business websites
- Organize and save correct passwords
- Back up your website database and files
- Update your software and plugins
- Keep your site fast and mobile-friendly
- Implement an SSL certificate
1) Organize and save correct passwords.
How many passwords do you need to set up and run any business website? One? Five? Ten? You’d be surprised how many accounts you’ll use to set up and manage any website — with or without WordPress.
At a bare minimum, you’ll need to manage your username and passwords for:
- A web hosting account. This is where you install WordPress. Popular web hosts include for example, SiteGround, WPEngine, GoDaddy. You may have a different web host. They offer different features and different prices. The right host for you might be different for someone else.
- Your domain registration account. You’ll need a logon for the service where you signed up for a domain name for your business. It may be the same as your hosting account, or it may be different. Keep a distinct record anyway. You’ll benefit from clear evidence of where you control your domain.
Keep a record of domain registrar. You’ll get spam postal mail and email from shady businesses that try to give you the impression you owe them money for domain services. Knowing who your true registrar is can save you confusion and avoid needless costs!
- Your WordPress admin logon. This is the username, password and email address you use to sign in and work on your website.
- Your email account password. I recommend setting up an email address that uses your domain name, like email@example.com. Using a gmail address or any address that doesn’t use your business domain is to miss a big branding and marketing opportunity for you. That does not look professional.
- A Google account. You will need a gmail address to access Google tools. You’ll use it to measure website traffic with a Google Analytics code, and set up a Google My Business listing or YouTube channel, for example.
- Any social media accounts you use for your personal or professional profile. You’ll need to save the logons for social media business pages such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.
- Your email marketing service. You’ll build an email list and send news at some point. Save your username and password for your email newsletter such as MailChimp or Hubspot or Constant Contact.
- Your invoicing and payment processing system. It might be Quickbooks, PayPal or my favorite, Freshbooks.
- Your bank accounts or payment systems you use to process income and pay for business expenses.
- File storage for large files such as backups and documents you want to share with clients. Common services include Dropbox, Amazon S3 or Google Drive.
That’s 10 separate accounts I’ve just listed off the top. You may have more.
Good password management builds good working relationships
A week does not go by when a professional tells me they can’t log into their host, their website, or domain account because they can’t find the password.
When you set up your helpers with correct passwords, they can launch into their work for you with full momentum and energy.
Waiting for the right password squanders this burst of energy that comes with the start of a project.
Usually I set aside a block of time to help a customer. If I can’t start because I can’t log in, I have to reschedule many things and circle back later. Having to accommodate delays too often can hurt a business relationship.
Quick story: I have been guilty of careless password management myself. I often had to reset passwords I didn’t store. And then I’d forget to update my records with the new password.
The day came when I sent an assistant one invalid password too many. She declined to work further. I learned my lesson.
You can get a lot more work done by avoiding the back and forth with your host or support team to get passwords working.
Why you need a password storage system
No, a spreadsheet or pen-and-paper list is not good enough.
If you’re in business, you’ll need a tool and features to help you remember the complexities of using passwords.
You’ll need a system that is:
- Accessible from anywhere you may be
- Supports secure sharing
- Is easy to use
- Is searchable
- Organizes related information
Besides a username and password, you’ll need to record other information such as:
- The URL where you login
- Any security questions you may need to validate your access
- Any account data such as email, birthdates or phone numbers you may need for password recovery
- Account numbers
- PIN numbers
My favorite password vault tool is LastPass. I can access it from any computer — whether it’s mine or not. I can access it on my phone with the LastPass mobile app. LastPass is just one of many password vault. Have a quick look:
Using a password manager is my first tip because it’s most important. To do anything, you must be able to unlock your tools. Using a good password manager will save you a lot of time and energy, and empower you and your helpers to get the most work done.
2. Back up your website database and files
You can’t afford to use WordPress for business — or any site builder — without making regular copies of your website. You put a lot of time and effort into your words, images and setup. You’ll never get it back if there is nothing to restore it with.
Make backup copies of your WordPress website database and files and store them in a different place than your website.
I hope you never need to use your backup. However, things happen. Situations that are out of your control (and some in your control) can destroy your files. If that happens, there is no substitute for a backup. You will have to start your work over from scratch without one.
If you have any doubt that keeping a backup of your WordPress site is 100% vital to your success, I ‘d like to share 3 quick stories from real life.
Story 1: Hello baby, goodbye website
I set up a WordPress website for a client who was just starting her business. One day, we found out she was also just about to start a family, with a baby on the way.
After the baby was born, she decided to put work on hold for a while. I was happy to help her update her site with a temporary closure notice.
While she was on maternity leave, her hosting account expired. According to the terms of service, the hosting company deleted all her files after expiration. She found this out the hard way. By the time she checked in to renew the account, everything was gone.
Thankfully, we had made a backup of her website and files. She opened a new hosting account, and I put her site back up. With out the backup, her entire investment in website design, photography, content and SEO would have been lost.
Story 2: Hacked to death, then back to life
A website designer we know (okay, me) tried to help a client with a website that had been infected with malware. We couldn’t clean it out — the bad code just kept spreading.
The only fix was to trash the whole thing.
Our process saved 12 months of backups automatically. We found one with clean code. This gave us the green light to delete the entire infected site and restore the backup. Then we made more changes to improve security.
Story 3: Oops, you wanted to keep that?
A business owner needed a landing page designed for her website. She hired a team overseas.
The team created and installed a beautiful landing page. However, they misunderstood. Instead of adding a page, the new page replaced the entire existing site – design and content.
Sadly, there was no known backup. We even checked with her web host. (Some hosts will make a one-month backup as a courtesy.) But the timing didn’t work for our friend. The host’s one backup copy got overwritten just as the new page went up.
Her brand-new site and the investment she made in it was gone.
Do’s and don’ts of backing up your website
Do maintain your own copy of a backup.
Don’t store your backup files on your hosting account. If you lose your hosting account, you also lose your backup.
Don’t violate your host’s terms of service with file storage. Hosting providers need to keep server loads as light as possible. So their terms of service often require you to keep your backups somewhere else.
Do make your backups automatic. You can do this! Many tools exist, designed for different skill levels.
There are many options to make and keep copies of your WordPress database and files. Your host may even offer a backup service. Choose one and get it set up.
Some of my favorite free (or almost free) tools for creating and storing full backups securely include:
- BackWPUp – the free version works with my storage service of choice: Amazon S3. You can schedule backups to go automatically.
- Updraft – has a free version which also has a restore feature
- ManageWP – an entire website management system, including a backup feature which makes and stores a backup for one month free
- Amazon S3 for very affordable file storage
- Google Drive for free file storage up to 15GB
Ideally, you would know how to restore your site too.
But even if restoring a site is beyond your skill set, having a backup still protects you from loss. Having a copy of your website gives you the option to work with someone who can restore it for you.
3. Regularly update your software and plugins.
A wonderful feature of the WordPress community is how often the developers update the software. A skilled, active community keeps improving features, speed, and security. All this for free to WordPress.org users. It’s wonderful.
Yes, you need to keep your site updated. You need these new features for performance, speed and security.
All of the hacked sites that I have worked on were hacked because the software was outdated.
Unfortunately, an incessant malware industry means we are prey to robots programmed to go out and seek vulnerabilities. Don’t give them one.
Protecting yourself in today’s online world means paying regular attention to the update notices for WordPress software, plugins and themes.
If you run your site yourself, I recommend at least monthly:
- Log into your site to check for update notifications.
- Check for update notices for your WordPress software, themes, and plugins. Enable automatic updates on plugins you trust.
- Process the update notices.
- Log out, and check your site from the front end to make sure all looks and works as desired. That means clearing your cache (something for a future tutorial) or using a browser in incognito mode to check your site.
Don’t trust your memory to take care of this. Put it on your calendar to do your updates.
Some plugins developers stop updating plugins. Plugin maintenance includes removing old plugins and replacing if needed.
4. Take steps to keep your site fast and mobile-friendly
High-speed delivery endears you to your audience.
Overly large images and extra code can slow down your site.
Optimize images: Make sure you use big images in large areas and smaller images in smaller areas.
If you want to make an image fill the entire width of a browser or computer screen, you could aim for a maximum width of 1500 or 1280 pixels.
For images that fill part of a screen, scale a large image down so it’s closer to the size it needs to be for the space it’s in.
For example, if an image will never show wider than 500 pixels, I’ll use an image that’s around 500 pixels wide or a little wider. I try to avoid using an image that’s 1280 pixels wide if they need to fill a smaller space.
Use JPG format when possible; jpg images are often smaller than the same image in png format.
You’ll need .png format if you have transparent areas. You can compress .png images to have smaller file size but still look great with this free tool: TinyPng.
Keeping image file sizes smaller helps keep your site mobile-friendly. The smaller the file size, the faster the image will load.
WordPress now comes with a lazy-load feature built in. This means the browser delays loading images until just before they scroll into view. This also helps improve mobile website load times. (And you can now remove any lazy-load plugins!)
You can test your load time on mobile devices with Google’s mobile site speed tester.
Remove unneeded code: Another way to speed up your site is to remove unused code.
By keeping dead weight out of your file system, you can better optimize your site for speed and performance.
Old code can open security risks. No visitor likes a slow or damaged site. It’s important to remove unused code. Old code includes:
- Spam comments
- Revisions of posts and pages you no longer need (WordPress stores revisions automatically)
- Inactive plugins
As you do your monthly backup and updates check for
- Comments – mark and delete spam comments.
- Delete de-activated plugins you don’t plan to re-activate
- Remove blog post revisions. ManageWP or other plugins can help with this.
5. Make sure your site has an SSL certificate in place
SSL stands for Secure Socket Layer. The important word here is “secure”.
When you use an SSL certificate, you don’t get a paper certificate. You get a lock icon in front of your web address in the browser. Your server will send your website files and pages with URLS starting https:// not http://.
If you don’t use an SSL certificate, visitors see a “Not secure” warning in front of your web address in a browser. Your website may not even reach your visitor. They may get a “not safe” and “go back” warning page instead!
Warning messages are not good for your reputation or brand image.
Why the warnings? Web browser providers like Firefox, Google and Microsoft work hard to protect their users (your visitors) from people who try to snoop on the data flowing between your computer and website servers. Yes, people can find out a lot about you and your equipment if your connection isn’t secure.
SSL protects the information flowing between you and your visitors. SSL encrypts and makes the data unreadable to outsiders. It doesn’t matter if you don’t sell anything or don’t request any visitor information. You need an SSL certificate because every connection contains information that someone with bad intentions can exploit.
How to Get an SSL Certificate
The easiest way to get an SSL certificate is to check with your web host. You should not have to pay extra to use an SSL certificate.
This is where your choice of web host is really important. SSL certificates automatically expire in 90 days.
The 90-day life is a security feature that keeps the system from being abused. A good web host will provide both the certificate and automatic renewal. You set it and forget it.
Before I choose a web host, I look to see if they provide Let’s Encrypt, a free SSL tool that makes applying and renewing certificates simple.
All you have to do is install it and make sure it’s implemented fully.
If you set up your WordPress website yourself, you almost certainly need to take care of your SSL setup, too.
You’ll need to do at least 2 things:
1) Activate an SSL certificate on your hosting account
2) Set up your website to use the SSL certificate
Getting an SSL certificate can be simple. It depends on your host. Fortunately, many great website host providers offer free SSL certificates. In my experience, these do:
If you use GoDaddy for your WordPress site, you may have to purchase an SSL certificate.
WordPress offers free plugins to help you implement the certificate. My go-to plugin is this:
This plugin switches the urls from http:// to https:// automatically.
This plugin can take care of most of your links. But not always. You may see warnings that your site is still not secure after you install your SSL certificate.
That’s because there are some addresses it can’t reach. For instance, if you upload images using the Customizer to style your theme, you may need to change them to https:// manually. Check every Customizer setting.
If the lock icon still doesn’t appear, you may need to take more steps to find places in your website that use http://.
A free tool to help you find http links that need updating is this one: Why No Padlock.
This tool shows you which links are preventing a secure connection.
If you can’t get access to the links you need to change, you may need the help of a professional website service provider, or a good course to walk you through the steps yourself.
There’s no stopping you now!
When you can take care of these 5 essential WordPress technical tasks, what else can stop you and your business? You’re now empowered with a well-run site. Go forth and prosper!
Do you need to know how to take care of these 5 essential WordPress tasks?
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