Setting up a website based on WordPress is easy. Making a website sweat it out for optimum conversions isn’t anywhere close to waking up with the smell of coffee.
Conversion optimization calls for relentless action-taking on some of the most minutest details ever. The kind of details you’d not care about much. The same details that could make your eyes roll.
It’s more important than you ever thought.
Can you imagine a scenario where 72% of your customers find completely disoriented with the fact that your website has nothing that they were looking for? Or that only 14% of your entire base of customer actually value your relationship? Those are facts, according to CEB Marketing Leadership Council. In another study by Harris Interactive and Janrain, it was found that:
“28%of respondents would give up social networks for a week, 25 percent would give up chocolate for a month and 21 percent would give up their smartphone for a day in exchange for relevant content on all of their favorite websites.”
It’s easier to make these multiple changes on some platforms than others. Websites on WordPress, however, require a lot more than just dragging and dropping elements.
Starting from the core, out towards the front end design, every single aspect of your website contributes to conversions. This includes site design, strategic placement of design elements, site speed, and a lot more.
Here are some WordPress conversion optimization tips you should know about:
Invest In the right hosting
Hosting is where it all begins. Hosting sets the right foundation for your website. While it’s unfortunate that most people go for cheap hosting, it’s far from the best recommendations.
What you need with the right kind of hosting is Managed WordPress hosting, with compression, CDN, security, cache support, malware protection, automated updates, and automated backups.
You know? The kind of hosting that you just pay for each month and 90% of everything you’d ever need to do is taken care of, for you. You’d just need to manage plugin updates after investing in a host like that.
Since there are many web hosting providers for you to choose from, I’ll make it easy for you. Here are just two of them for you to pick from:
That’s it. Don’t even bother trying to break your head over fast loading website pages that are so crucial for optimization.
Use Pop-ups Liberally
You could debate all you want over whether or not pop-ups work, but you’d be wasting time.
Hate them or love them, but pop-ups work. They just do. Stop arguing now and take some action.
Use Optin monster if you like. Or use Unbounce Convertibles like I do. I also use Sumo for some other pop-ups like the ones you’d see in the middle and at the end of this post.
Use click-trigger pop-ups, slide on scroll, welcome mats, or whatever you want. Pop-ups get you leads. Period.
Use CTAS on Your web pages
Read all about how important your “about us” pages are or learn how to make your About Us pages work for your brand as Ben Austin of Moz writes.
Lindsay Kolowich also has great examples of About Us Pages to model your own page on.
Here’s a little something for you: none of that will do you any good if you let the page be a “page”.
Instead, if you use buttons in the middle or at the end of every page (including your About Us page), you are better off. You’d be giving visual cues for your readers and urging them to take action off their pages.
Don’t underestimate the power of small talk, especially those you’d have with your website visitors. When you place livechat strategically on your website and if you engage actively, each of those conversations has the potential to put money into your pocket.
Honestly, it’s not even hard to install LiveChat anymore. Use LiveChat itself or other tools like GoSquared’s chat feature.
There are many others, of course.
Talk is normally cheap. But talk isn’t cheap when it’s active engagement, listening to your visitors speak up, and when you answer questions leading to sales.
What are some WordPress conversion optimization tips that you think I’d missed out on? Let me know.
I wrote about why it’s so important to make some critical decisions quickly, but I also realized that we all suffer from something we didn’t see coming when we started off on this journey of trying to run our business by making use of technology, digital marketing, and all the goodness we have at our fingertips today.
The starting point (after validating ideas and thinking all that you think about pricing and strategy) is usually the website.
Most people will choose WordPress, and that’s understandable. But even after making that decision, the pain won’t end. You’d then have to look for a WordPress theme to represent your business.
I’ve seen it all. I’ve burnt my fingers. I purchased some good themes and plenty of bad ones. I was suffocated by my inability to make any changes to existing WordPress themes. Either that or I couldn’t run fast enough from the problems that Shared Hosting providers cause.
Here are some of the best sources for WordPress themes. Do me a favor and look no further than this:
The official WordPress Directory
You can’t start a list like this without the big brother accounted for, right? The official WordPress directory is the starting point on your hunt for the perfect WordPress theme for your business.
Now, remember that you get what you pay for. When you pay nothing, expect hassles and trouble. Or maybe a theme that’s not even fully cooked yet. At a time when even paid themes don’t stand a chance, free themes are to be picked with a pinch of salt.
However, if you are just starting out and if you are in no position to spend at all, picking up a free theme from the official WordPress directory is a no-brainer. You know? One of those critical decisions you’d just take quickly and get on with the show.
When you want themes with Clean code, classy designs, ongoing support, and backed by some of the best in the Industry, it’s the path of the Genesis that you should be taking. The Genesis framework is a marvel by itself. But even if you weren’t using Genesis, you could still be using some of those WordPress themes from Studiopress.
Owned By RainMaker Digital – the company that also owns the famous CopyBlogger blog, Synthesis Hosting, The Rainmaker Platform, Authority, and more – Studiopress has evolved from a few themes to Genesis to a Mix of Genesis Framework + themes to an all-hosting solution for WordPress today.
If you look at Studiopress today, you don’t need to break your head on the wall anymore. Pick a plan and run with it – you get hosting from Synthesis, themes from Studiopress, and their support for a single payment.
There was a time when Elegant Themes was known for its themes (it still does, just so I am clear). Today, however, Elegant themes is known more for it’s Divi Builder, the default Divi theme, and their other popular theme called Extra.
Now, there’s a reason I am pointing out at Elegant Themes today since it does something really nice for the modern-day WordPress user. Instead of forcing you to pick from one of the themes already created for you (and thereby limiting your freedom to design your website the way you want to), the Divi Builder lets you build absolutely anything you want with WordPress.
You can pick their Divi theme as a base and build anything you want out of it. Or you can pick absolutely any theme you like and make any kind of changes to your pages “after” you purchase and install your theme.
The Divi builder is fast, code bloat free, and an absolute delight to use.This website, by the way, has also been designed with the Divi Builder.
You see? It’s like this. I don’t care about how nice a theme looks or about website design at all. What I care about is how well the website converts.
I really love Thrive for the fact that they have a little bit of marketing mojo in them. Unlike many theme development shops, WordPress marketplaces, and others, the folks at Thrive themes focus a lot on the marketing side of WordPress also.
With some innovative products on the anvil, they are really doing what they really should be doing when they sell WordPress themes and related products.
You get conversion-focused products from Thrive. Period. This point alone is enough for me to consider taking Thrive seriously from a marketing standpoint.
If you about my rah rah, it’s easy to see why: Thrive has WordPress themes, Thrive leads, Thrive Architect, clever little widgets, headline optimizer, a way for you to build landing pages, a scarcity marketing tool called Thrive Ultimatum, a testimonial tool called Thrive Ovation, and also the Thrive quiz-builder (want to grow leads quickly, anyone?).
What do I say? Most WordPress themes you’d end up buying are crap. They are overloaded with features and code. I still don’t understand why they don’t let go of those sliders (I absolutely loathe them).
When I look at Press 75 themes, I can’t help but think of it as SquareSpace style web design for WordPress. Each of the themes available at Press75 have been designed with Minimalism in mind. There’s no code overdose. There are no bells and whistles. Every theme is simple, elegant, and functional.
If you are a minimalist or just like plain and simple design, you’ll love what Press 75 has on offer.
I am usually aware of most theme marketplaces but this one came out of the woods, and I didn’t know it existed. When I checked it out, I was impressed. Pipdig came highly recommended by the folks at Converkit and they have the best WordPress themes purpose-built for bloggers.
If you are a small business looking to make blogging a serious endeavor or if you are a blogger, look no further than Pipdig. Stunning themes, great support, modest pricing, and they also have blogger and blogspot templates to boot (but I wouldn’t go there).
Am I missing any of the obvious sources here? The good-looking, or really fast, or really clean WordPress theme sources, anyone??
On the last count, there were easily more than a billion websites on the Internet. Over a third of those websites are powered by the leading key platforms: WordPress, Joomla, Drupal, and Magento.
Of those, more than 60% of websites are on WordPress alone. Now, Sucuri found more than 11,000+ infected websites of which 75% of the websites were on WordPress. At least 50% of those infected websites were out of data (and not updated).
WordPress dominates a large percentage of total infected websites (77%), and as we write this, more vulnerabilities are being uncovered everyday.
Note: RevSlider Plugin, Gravity Forms, and Tim Thumb have been the culprits when it comes to causing compromises for WordPress websites.
On another note, Malware is often the type of problem that goes unnoticed until you really have to. More than 66% of all compromises had a PHP-based Backdoor hidden in the site. On an average, more than 132 files per compromised site were fished out by Sucuri.
If you use WordPress, you ought to be careful. Active management plays a key role to ensure that your site is safe.
But then, you have some housekeeping to do.
Pick Hosting with Care
It’s understandable that you’d jump at the next shared hosting offer you get your hands on, but watch what you pick.
Your choice of hosting determines the foundation you’d give for your business. It wasn’t easy for me to change my host but when I did, I really saw the difference.
Web hosts like WPEngine & Flywheel help with active hacker control, malware protection, robust security technology stack, CDN, and more to keep your WordPress site secure.
Plus, you also get “staging areas” so that you don’t mess around with plugin and theme updates on a live site.
Please Update Your Site. How Hard Is That?
WordPress websites get affected because you don’t bother to update to the newest, stable version of WordPress.
Use WPEngine or Flywheel, and this is automatically taken care of for you. If you aren’t, the responsibility lies on your shoulders. While you are at it, delete themes and plugins you don’t use.
Just keeping your WordPress core, themes, and plugins goes a long way to keep out trash hitting the website more often than not.
WordPress Login URL. Change it.
When you login to WordPress, the usual URL is http://myawesomewebsite.com/wp-login/.
That’s got to change.
Everyone knows that.
Use a plugin like Custom Login URL (CLU) or WPS Hide Login and change the URL to something else altogether (name it Wendy?) and then never share it with anyone except your team.
Limit Login Attempts
Limit Login Attempts Plugin adds a layer of security. Install this plugin when when you install WordPress. Limit Login Attempts limits your attempts to login and that takes care of hackers who have nothing better to do that to try to login to your site multiple times
It also keeps out bots and acts as front line defense by using automated prevention for brute force attacks.
Change WordPress Default Database
This step is only recommended if your website is a new WordPress Install. Changing the default database prefix could be disastrous and affect your entire website (or even kill it). I know, because it happened to me.
The generic WordPress database which looks something WP_XX is also a well known route to hack through to your website. Instead of using this generic database prefix, customize it to anything else you like such as KL_XXX or WL_XX or whatever.
Get Security for WordPress
Trouble with things like security and i
nsurance is that the importance doesn’t come to light unless disaster strikes. By then, it’s usually too late.
Pick up plugins like Sucuri to make sure you build a fortress around your WordPress website. Sucuri protects your website from DDoS and brute force attacks, multiple infections and reinfections, and stops hackers in their tracks from their attempts to exploit vulnerabilities.
Say No to random theme or plugin
Brenda Barron of WPMU Dev Blog reveals that out of the ten most vulnerable plugins, five of those plugins were commercial plugins available for purchase
If purchased plugins were crappy, how would the “free” ones be?
The WordPress Core itself is stable (Automattic takes care of that) but anything else you bring home to your WordPress website is your responsibility.
Test out plugins you purchase (or download) first and then push it to the live site. Get hosted with Flywheel or WPEngine if you want staging functionality.
How secure is your WordPress?
Over 60 million websites run on WordPress, accounting for 23% of the Internet.
For many users, WordPress is a popular CMS owing to the huge community around the platform, plugins, managed hosting solutions, and thousands of good themes to choose from.
But you’d often see users getting frustrated with WordPress. When I started building websites, I’ve had numerous issues with WordPress too.
To the point that I wanted to abandon it and go for simple HTML/CSS options.
As a result, there’s a rallying cry on the Internet about how WordPress sucks (While there’s an equally passionate group of developers, WordPress enthusiasts, and WordPress users).
In the last 8 years that I had websites running on WordPress, three of our websites got hacked at least 4 times each. This particular website itself saw many iterations to this day.
I have to admit: I think it was our fault that it all happened. WordPress is what it is.
We neglected. We didn’t bother to make sure our WordPress websites load quickly, stay secure, and are built like fortresses.
We recently redesigned ur website and just when we thought we were done (and that we could focus on content marketing), I had a view visitors giving me a heads up that this website had instances of Malware and that it was infected.
That was when we went into an overdrive to secure the website. Here’s what we did (and we believe you should do it too, like right now):
Delete Old Themes & Plugins, Right Now
A basic scan (after I got the Malware alerts) revealed that almost all of the malware, vulnerable scripts, and potentially threatening files came from old themes and plugins that were just lying there on the server.
While we weren’t using any of those themes and plugins, we didn’t bother updating them.
As a result, those themes and plugins were like carcasses attracting all sorts of vermin, worms, and viruses.
Do yourself a favor: log into your dashboard and delete all plugins you don’t use. Plus, use FTP or SFTP and delete everything that shouldn’t belong there, off the server.
Thank you, Flywheel
Our Malware infection was clearly due to the old themes and plugins.
If it wasn’t for FlyWheel’s premium managed hosting that this site lives on, I believe I’d have seen a lot more disaster than what we experienced recently.
Thanks to FlyWheel’s battlefront setup and technology stack (using NGIX, PHP 7) along with their In-built Cache and Malware protection, it just saved our day.
Despite that, we sent them one email and they did everything they could to clean up our site with whatever remnants of unnecessary files that still lived on the server.
Read more about FlyWheel Now.
Cloudflare helps make your WordPress website load faster. Period.
In addition, CloudFlare acts as a mask between your main hosting account and your visitors’ server requests to your website.
CloudFlare automatically inserts its flagship CDN to help make your website load faster. Plus, it thwarts attempts by hackers to log in to your WordPress core, shows you stats on bad traffic, and reduces the file size that’s essentially dumped onto your visitors’ browsers.
CloudFlare, however, is very good at preventing DDOS attacks (and you may not need that just as yet). It also provides security options, traffic analysis, and helps you block traffic from bots and specific geographies.
Move the Login Screen
Most WordPress backend logins look something like this: httP;//yoursite.com/wp-admin/ and hackers know that.
As long as you don’t change this default setting, you are a sitting duck. Using a simple plugin like WPS Hide Login, you can rename the actual URL used for admin login (make sure you bookmark the URL or remember it).
After you activate the plugin, change the URL to something like
Change the database prefix
Note: It’s not recommended that you change database prefix on a live site. It almost certainly kills your website. If you still have to, make sure you do a backup and get professional help to help work on your database.
Normally, when you install WordPress, the database name begins with wp_
Again, everyone knows that and that makes your database vulnerable. Ideally, you should start with a new database prefix before (or while) installing WordPress. Here’s a great explanation by Jef Starr on how to do just that.
SSL looks good on your site whether or not you do eCommerce. Google counts SSL as a signal of trust and so do your users giving you a little SEO boost as well.
Morgan Ryan of FlyWheel has a simple explanation for why you need SSL for your WordPress site.
Our hosting already provides SSL for free. We had to upgrade, and it was a no-brainer for us. While it might not single-handedly fight harm, it’s at least one other layer of security.
Draw up a Schedule for WordPress Maintenance
WordPress isn’t “Set it and forget it”. The onus of responsibility is on us. We learned the hard way but we now realize the importance of drawing up a schedule for WordPress maintenance.
WordPress hosting solutions like Flywheel and WPEngine already do some of the work involved. If you are with shared hosting, you are on your own.
Create a schedule for the following:
- WordPress core updates
- Theme and plugin updates
- Daily Backups (or least regularly scheduled backups)
- Security scans and checks
- Deleting any set of files that you don’t use
- Content upkeep and maintenance (deleting unused images, etc)
If you don’t, you’ll eventually pay the price. Thankfully, we insured ourselves against most of the points above and we still aren’t perfect.
We are still prone to mistakes. Our website isn’t really secure yet. We don’t know what’s coming next.
That’s why it pays to care for your WordPress website.
How well do you maintain your WordPress site?
Speed (or the lack of it) kills any chances you might have to glean ROI out of your digital marketing efforts. More than half of web users abandon your website if it takes more than 2 seconds, according to a study by Akamai and Gomez.
More than 79% of shoppers will never return to your site to buy again and 44% of them would go out and tell the world about the shoddy experience they just had.
Despite the raging need for speed, more than 73% of mobile users encountered websites that are too slow to load. Even worse, a whopping 51% of them reported visiting websites that crashed, froze, or just showed up with an error, according to Sean Work of Kissmetrics.
Your page load speed determines the UX/UI feel of your website and leaves your customers with an impression (and that better be good). The speed of your website affects your SEO performance and how Google treats your website in search results.
There’s no denying it: if your website doesn’t load fast enough, it better not exist.
Here’s how you speed up your website.
Start With Managed WordPress Hosting
You are known by the web hosting you use. While it’s not easy to find the right host for your business, things are way better now than it used to be. Managed WordPress hosting should be your first pit stop. Out of all the options we know of, FlyWheel and WPEngine are the best.
There are certainly more options like CloudWays – a bridge-like solution that lets you setup hosting on DigitalOcean, AWS (Amazon Web Services), Google, and a few others. However, going on that route, you’d better know (or prepare to get your hands dirty with SSH, terminals, Putty, and managing servers on your own).
As a business owner, you don’t want more trouble than you’d need to put up with. Just pick one of the managed WordPress solutions and you get:
- World-class, Super-fast, Blazing Hosting specially built for WordPress.
- Built-in Caching and Optional CDN
- Staging Functionality (so that you can experiment and get adventurous and not risk taking your whole website down).
- Free SSL Certificate (Courtesy the amazing folks at Let’s Encrypt)
- A lot more space and Bandwidth
- Super customer support
When we moved to Flywheel (and did a few other things), we managed to get our own website load in exactly 0.6 seconds.
Read our previous FlyWheel Review.
Choose the right WordPress theme
There are a gazillion themes and plugins. Guess what? We recommend that you don’t even go anywhere near most of them. Here are a chosen few companies that you should trust when it comes to WordPress themes:
StudioPress – Pick any theme and you’ll never go wrong with their Genesis Framework.
FameThemes – We currently use their “Screenr” theme.
Themes from both these sources come as a refreshing change to the otherwise needlessly bulky crap that’s available out there.
For most purposes, these themes will do. If you are still itching to shop, go ahead and browse the ThemeForest Marketplace or TemplateMonster.
When you go there, you are on your own. Pick and choose with care.
Use a CDN for Faster WordPress Loading Speeds
If you are just looking to start, look no further than CloudFlare. You get to start completely for free and you are under no obligation to upgrade.
If you are looking for paid CDN services, CacheFly and MaxCDN are the best in the market. Pick your poison, but the point is that you’d have to use a CDN to maximize content deliver to your users globally.
Note: if you use Managed WordPress Hosting, you get CDN built-in depending on the account signup for.
The more scripts you use for your WordPress website, the slower your website is going to be. In fact, as Alex Iskold of ReadWrite puts it,
With multiple scripts posted right under the <head> tag or the <body> tag or both, there’s bound to be friction.
What this means is that it performs things sequentially and not concurrently (with the exception of Ajax calls).
- Load-balance requests
- Use standard libraries (but this is still not a complete solution)
For WordPress users, Fred Meyer of WPShout has a very detailed explanation of how they worked towards a faster loading WordPress site.
Minify & Compress Everything
CSS files, Images, and other content will all take up space and bandwidth. With most hosting platforms, that’s not the real issue. When these monsters start eating into your WordPress loading speed, that’s when trouble starts brewing.
Use plugins W3 Total Cache or WP SuperCache.
W3 Total Cache helps speed up your WordPress site right out of the box, with just a few tweaks. Enable Page Cache, deploy Browser Cache, follow a few other exact instructions, and you are good to go.
While you are at it, note that images are probably a big part of your blogging & content marketing efforts, and images are notorious for taking up space and slowing down your website.
WPMUDEV has Hummingbird and there are other plugins such as EWWW Image Optimizer.
For most websites, these steps above are more than enough to give you a good start. However, please note that working with WordPress to ensure fast loading time is never a “fix and forget” thing.
How fast is your website? Tell us all about your efforts to speed up your WordPress website.
If you are looking for regular help with WordPress maintenance and great hosting, talk to us.
There are three types of businesses: those that don’t have a website, those that have a run-of-the-mill, you-won’t-die-if-you-don’t-check-me-out website, and those that have websites that are like sales machines.
It’s the sales machines that we need. I’ve been on exactly 67 calls (including remote skype calls) pitching digital marketing and invariably, “the website” pops into the conversation.
Looking at the websites I saw, I am not happy. They are built for ego. They are built because they should exist. They are built without a purpose.
This hurts. Your websites can be hub of your inbound marketing strategy. They can literally be at the centre of your business. They can make you money, only if you let that website work for you.
Here are a few misconceptions about “your website” that’s costing you money:
I am cheap, and I use shared hosting
I believe that bootstrapping is the best thing for entrepreneurs. The sense of accomplishment and the pure ecstasy of making money from almost nothing is the true essence of entrepreneurship.
However, there’s a certain hair line divide between going cheap and doing things cheap enough that it can kill your business. Shared hosting destroys businesses (we know, because we were there). Shared hosting is cheap, and just as vulnerable. It’s susceptible to attacks, and malware.
With some incredible companies like FlyWheel and WPEngine, it’s a shame that you’d even consider using shared hosting anymore.
It’s there. My cousin designed it. It’s good
The average website bleeds money. It spits on opportunity that comes its way. Given the rise of DIY builders such as Weebly, SquareSpace, Webflow, and many others, not building a website that’s at least decent to look at is a shame.
Do us a favor and redesign your website. This time, use a DIY website builder since I guarantee that it’d have a better conversion rate than the one your cousin designed 12 years ago.
The Website is done with
Your website work is never completed, ever. You’d have the basic task of putting up a properly functioning, fast loading, robust website and then you’d need conversion rate optimization.
We have on one side a huge subset of website owners wondering what CRO is and there’s another 92% of them who believe that website personalization and optimization is one of the hardest tasks they ever had to do, according to eConsultancy’s CRO report
The Traffic Comes In
Just any traffic isn’t enough for you. Even if it’s focused traffic, over 97% of them would leave. What you need is engagement. You’d have to have a system closest to the capability of identifying visitors by name, if that’s possible.
Use tools like LiveChat to chat with visitors when they arrive and while they are there, use WebEngage to come up with all sorts of smart ways to engage with them.
What are you doing with your website? What kind of web design myths have you fallen prey to?