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Simple WordPress Site Upgrades for Maximum Professional Impact

Optimizing WordPress is easier than you think and these three tips can make a huge difference for your business without costing a pretty penny.

Staying competitive in a constantly evolving marketplace is no easy feat for any professional, especially small business leaders. We need to be aggressive in establishing our market dominance but simultaneously be ready to pivot at a moment’s notice in response to economic uncertainty. Plus, we need to juggle roles from marketing to accounting to custodial staff, sometimes all in one day. That’s a lot for any one person!

While the majority of small business owners are optimistic [1] about future business prospects, they admit facing technology challenges, reports Chase’s 2016 Business Leaders Outlook survey [2]. Ground zero for these problems: small business websites. Business owners continue to struggle when it comes to conversion optimization, social media marketing and building brand loyalty.

The right set of tools can take your business website to the next level, and that starts with your site. You don’t have to spend a fortune on your website to boost sales and customer retention. In fact, simple WordPress site upgrades can make a huge difference for your business without costing a pretty penny. These are three of the best upgrades I’ve made to my website, and I highly recommend them to all small business owners:

Tips for Optimizing WordPress

Simplify Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Meta tags, keywords, breadcrumbs, XML sitemaps … these details may be small, but they all matter for SEO. Just reviewing Search Engine Land’s excellent and comprehensive Periodic Table of SEO success factors [3] is enough to leave some small business owners feeling downright overwhelmed! Don’t go it alone. If you can’t afford professional digital marketing support — or simply aren’t ready to invest in this — a simple SEO plugin [4] to your WordPress site will hit most of these elements.

While a plugin is no substitute for professional support, a great plugin like Yoast SEO for WordPress [5] can go a long way to simplifying many of these little SEO needs. The Yoast plugin includes post titles and meta descriptions, robots meta configuration, canonical link elements and breadcrumbs code, permalink clean up and XML sitemaps so you can cover all your basic onsite optimization needs.

Improve Functionality

Bounce rate [6] is one of those metrics that gets tossed around a lot in SEO circles. You’ve probably read at least once that a high bounce rate is a red flag for SEO problems — but what kind of problems exactly? In general, a high bounce rate means you’re either attracting the wrong kind of visitors to your site (e.g., a PPC campaign message doesn’t align with the landing page content) or visitors arrive on your site but can’t find the information they need.

Once you’ve covered some design basics, like using intuitive navigation for website menus, the next step is to consider whether bigger functionality issues could be driving up your bounce rate. I recommend using a service like Crazy Egg [7] to test where visitors click (and don’t click) on your website. Heat maps results can help you better understand where visitors go for information, what they read and what they ignore. Next, based on these findings, consider ways to improve your website. For example, would an online job board improve client management? From my personal experience, I’ve found the WPJobBoard [8] to be a reliable, easy-to-use option for enhancing client job board functionality. The job board sends automatic payment reminds to customers, allows users to subscribe to job alerts and distributes tasks to job aggregation sites and Twitter.

Sometimes, the simplest changes make the biggest functionality impact. Case in point: a more powerful search plugin. I recently recommended a client add the SearchWP plugin to his site. He had a ton of useful industry-specific information, but the information is hard to find and thus going unused. Since adding the plugin, he’s already noted a decrease in bounce rate now that critical information can easily be accessed.

Speed Up Your Site

Is slow site speed a sales killer? Absolutely. Nearly half of all web users expect sites to load in two seconds or less, reports Kissmetrics [9]. Users tend to abandon sites that take longer than three seconds to load. Worse, 79 percent of online shoppers who have trouble with site load time say they won’t shop that website again. Decreasing page load time can drastically increase conversions. Is your site slow? First, check with Google’s PageSpeed Insights [10] test, which will analyze the content of your web page and then offer suggestions to speed up your page.

You can also fire up your WordPress site with plugins like W3 Total Cache [11], which claims to improve overall site speed by at least 10 times. This popular plugin serves compressed and cached files to your visitors, reducing the load on your server, so your website loads faster. The site also offers 80 percent bandwidth savings via minify and HTTP compression of HTML, CSS, JavaScript and feeds.



Bottom Line

Slow site speed, a high bounce rate and poor on-site optimization make it more difficult for customers to find the information they need on your website. If you love your site design, and it’s mobile-friendly, then there’s no reason to start over from scratch. Simple WordPress site upgrades cost next to nothing and can supercharge your website for professional success.

WordPress [12] Photo via Shutterstock