Setting up and Optimizing WordPress – Part 1

WordPress is the best and most used content management platform in the world. It allows individuals and small companies to go online with the quality of a professional website.

The WordPress ecosystem provides plugins and templates that make this Content Management System (CMS) extremely flexible and allowing to target a wide range of specific uses. This especially important today, in a context where websites are not just digital touch-points but have become providers of metadata for third-parties like search engines and social media.

Google Search Console Enhancements Menu

While flexibility is an important characteristic, website performance, especially when accessed by mobile, has become so important that google has made it a ranking factor in SEO. Google has added site speed in the recent months as a new ehancements report in Google Search Console.

Unfortunately performance is not out of the box with any CMS including WordPress. You need to work really hard to make a WordPress site well performing. Needless to say that today’s digital business adds other layers on top:

  • Analytics
  • Advertising & re-marketing scripts
  • Social Media scripts

Even when your site is very well designed and optimized these scripts still can drop your performance significantly.

Where should we start?

The best place to start is to host your WordPress site in a quality hosting. Apart from the basics, a good hosting guarantees a series of services like:

  • SSL certificates – don’t even think of not pushing you website without an SSL certificate, Google and the main browsers now expect sites to be in HTTPS;
  • Managed Caching – store your content in the server’s memory for a faster access with a page caching solution;
  • Memchaced – powerful object caching for your site. It stores frequently executed queries to your databases and reuses them for better performance;
  • Staging service – allows you to have a staging copy of your website on which to test configurations and code before making it available online;
  • Automatic Backups – sometimes things go wrong and having a daily backup to restore is essential.

The next step is to choose a good WordPress template keeping in mind that all templates are made for a broader use than that which you will really need. You will probably also be using WordPress third-party plugins to add features to your website. Other plugins will instead be useful to optimize aspects of your website. These are a few I often use:

  • Security:
    • Loginizer – really good plugin to block brute force attacks (repeated attempts to guess your WordPress account user and password.
    • Wordfence – a plugin that strengthens WordPress Security acting as a firewall.
    • TwoFactor – plugin that enables multi-factor authentication.
  • SEO/Analytics:
    • Yoast SEO – probably the best plugin to manage your SEO. The free version is already very good.
    • Google Tag Manager – I use tag manager to handle my analytics and adv tags.
    • Google Site Kit – a recent plugin by Google which gives you insights to improve your website.
    • AMP – AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages) is a web component framework and a website publishing technology developed by Google which allows your content to be readable directly in search results. Sites deploying content via AMP a re better ranked in search results.
    • Glue for Yoast SEO & AMP – integrates Yoast SEO into your AMP pages. This makes sure your meta-data is implemented correctly.
  • Performance:
    • Cloudflare – if you want to use Cloudflare CDN even at its free tier, this plugin will make CDN configuration simple.
    • Asset CleanUp – I use the Pro version of this plugin. It allows you to tweak your WordPress website to obtain the best possible performance.
    • Autoptimize – makes your site faster by optimizing CSS, JS, Images, Google fonts and more.
    • Query Monitor – the Developer Tools Panel for WordPress that allows you debug and identify performance issues.
  • Misc:

After that you will need to do do a thorough and consistent optimization, but before doing anything else we wil have to harden our WordPress setup.

This is what I will be addressing in Part 2 of this post.

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