Many people ask us why we choose to use WordPress when building websites for businesses and organizations. Some are looking at building their first website, while others are deciding how they would like to evolve their site’s look, feel, focus, and search engine optimization (SEO). In both scenarios, WordPress can be a little daunting.
Much of the perceived difficulty stems from where changes to a WordPress website are handled – behind the scenes in the admin dashboard. This can make it much harder to see how a change will impact your site compared to a WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) platform like GoCentral or Squarespace.
Preview options in your pages, posts, and theme can help you overcome this hurdle, but if a new installation or update leaves you with nothing but a blank white page (also known as the White Screen of Death), there’s little the average user can do to fix or prevent this site-killing error.
What would you possibly need to install you ask? Well, on top of the array of options you’re hit with in the WordPress dashboard, there are also tens of thousands of plugins and themes to choose from for your website’s customization. Each changes how your site looks or functions, and every one brings its own pros and cons to the table.
Since most of these tools are developed by third parties, they also interact with other plugins and themes uniquely. This can turn the stress level up from daunting to overwhelming when you need to find tools that are the right fit for your website’s needs.
That’s a lot to manage, so what makes WordPress worth it over other options?
The primary benefit WordPress offers a business or organization is its affinity for SEO, making it easier for prospective clients to find you on their favorite search engine. That’s not to say other platforms don’t strive to meet this ideal, but with approximately 30% of the Internet’s websites utilizing its content management system (CMS), there’s far more worldwide incentive to keep WordPress constantly tuned and up to date with current SEO practices.
Considering some of the curveballs Google has thrown its users in the last decade, the consistent success in achieving this lofty goal is no small feat. The hard work of developers around the globe definitely shows in WordPress’ popularity and its championing by companies like ours, so what is it exactly that facilitates this beloved peak in quality? Here’s a short list of benefits that separate the best website platform from the rest:
- Clean backend coding
- The guidelines effective plugins and themes must follow
- Flexibility for custom page names and tags
- The variety of plugins to improve SEO and monitor traffic
- Its ubiquitous nature
Developers like us draw upon each of these strengths when setting up your website, harnessing them to create an excellent finished product tailored to your business. While some of these praises can be sung about other CMS environments like Joomla or Drupal, they often require you to jump through additional hoops in order to achieve the same results WordPress offers. This is especially apparent once you decide to change or maintain anything after the site is finished.
Let’s take a moment to break down each strength and outline why it is important to your rankings.
Clean backend coding reduces load time and is easy to read
Many people have worked with a WYSIWYG platform at some point, whether through paid environments like web.com or free locations like Weebly. The tools these companies use are proprietary, developed for use exclusively by them and their customers by a specific group of people. Not only does this mean you can’t move your website content if you want to switch providers, it means you are at the mercy of their code.
Most WYSIWYGs either completely block or heavily limit code customization, which is unfortunate as many of them (including popular options like Wix) have bloated code. For those whose eyes are beginning to glaze over (which we get – this is a tedious topic even for those in the industry like us), bloated code is akin to the breakfast machines you’d see in ’80s media – a string of overcomplicated, unnecessary actions that can easily be performed with much less effort.
Google finds waiting on bloated code to load a website as tedious as you or I do and hands out SEO penalties accordingly.
Let’s shift gears on our analogy to bring WordPress into the picture now. Imagine a train set you or your friends had as kids. The bigger ones had a lot of different pieces, including straight tracks, curved tracks, and occasionally even switches to move to separate tracks. WordPress takes and uses each of the straight pieces to get you from Station A to Destination B as quickly as possible.
WYSIWYGs have a tendency to take all the most elaborate pieces, jam as many of them into your track as possible, then make sure they ultimately get you from Station A to Destination B. While this makes for a much more elaborate train track, it takes a lot more work to achieve the same result, and neither search engines nor your customers are going to appreciate that.
Messy code doesn’t just impose the scenic route upon you though – it also turns every book you’re reading en route into Moby Dick. Anyone who had this classic inflicted upon them for an English assignment already knows exactly how much punishment this represents, and you’ll be happy to know that Google agrees with our collective annoyance when reading websites that choose to hide important details in an ocean of filler.
Google is also willing to let the Ahabs of the Internet stay adrift indefinitely until they find and fix the white whale that is their bloated code. Good riddance.
A foundation of quality code makes it easier to work with plugins and themes
WordPress has been around for over 15 years as of this writing, and has undergone constant development along the way to be as streamlined and secure as possible. This care and attention to detail translates pretty simply to the third party developers of your themes and plugins – if the tool doesn’t work, it isn’t because of WordPress.
This may seem like a small thing, especially when you install an update only to be greeted by a white screen of death, but this actually means a few things that are important to you and to your developer.
First, the tools you or your developer install generally have to follow the same clean coding styles WordPress does. If a plugin isn’t designed to function with clean and straightforward code, that plugin will run inefficiently or create conflicts in the framework of WordPress. Consequences of this negligence can include a blank white page (also known as the White Screen of Death) when loading your website, slow load times, or internal server errors.
The existence of this standard for quality is what allows you to easily switch widgets, appearances, or functionalities in WordPress – an important feature that is generally absent or lacking with other platforms. You could completely change your site without losing what search engines and your customers like to see online – a straight, efficient line from point A to point B.
Your second benefit for using WordPress’ high quality code is the ease of diagnosing and repairing an issue when it arises. Sometimes a plugin, theme, or update will conflict with the core files of WordPress, another plugin you’ve installed, or your theme, but more often than not, the source of your problem can be traced back to a problem within the last installation or update you made.
Even if you aren’t a WordPress guru, developers often charge by the hour. If you can retrace your steps for them, you’ll save money and be back up and running a LOT sooner than if they had to dig through your whole website to fix the issue at hand.
Finally, the clean foundation WordPress provides delivers an incentive to developers of third party themes and plugins to keep their content streamlined when updating their code. If a recent change creates issues for their users, you can bet a patch or workaround will already be in the works by the time you discover the problem for yourself.
Part of this vigilance also stems from the competitive market for WordPress plugins, and reputable developers understand this. They’ll usually make every effort to keep you in the loop and continue innovating to ensure their code is as efficient and effective as possible – resulting in a big win for you.
If they don’t, you’ll almost always be able to replace them with an alternative that will.
Custom page names and tags afford you SEO flexibility
Google reads webpages just like you do, scanning content for relevance to the page it is found on and determining how it stacks up against the competition locally, nationally, and globally. How do you tell Google what it is looking at outside of words on your page though? It isn’t capable of understanding what your product pictures are, or what your prized project is showing off. Fortunately, WordPress has you covered and gives you a few tools to give Google some context as it is reading.
Before we dive into those, however, you have to start by giving the page you are working with a name. Much like a college-level paper, this plays the role of your thesis – but you only get a few words to set it up instead of paragraphs. WordPress makes this extremely easy at the top of each page or post, ensuring Google has the right scale to grade your performance.
Once you’ve got your page’s name in place, context is the name of the game. Everything you do on your page is going to revolve around this directly (including areas like your writing and the page’s individual URL within your site), or indirectly (including areas like header tags and alt tags).
Direct context is pretty easy for most business owners to grasp. You write about the important points you want site visitors to know about, and WordPress takes care of creating your page URL automatically after you put in the title. Want to change the URL? Just click the edit button next to it – conveniently found under your page name. Don’t have time to set each link up individually? WordPress gives you the ability to choose from a few different automatic URL options as you create pages, including the ability to set up your own customized structure if you so choose.
Two points to remember as you’re selecting your page URLs:
- Full words are going to receive far more favor than links made up of randomized letters and numbers.
- The URL is a place your customers can check in their browser to see where they are within your site – make it easy to understand.
Indirect context is what divides good pages from great pages. There are lots of different places you can slip this in, and it isn’t always easy to isolate where they are if you’re used to WYSIWYGs that are notorious for omitting them. While we aren’t going to cover a comprehensive list, we’re going to cover the critical areas you should be watching out for.
For pictures, this translates to what are called alt tags. These tags can be set up for each picture you use in your media library to tell Google what it is looking at. You can even phrase it as a brief description, adding some context beyond simply naming the people or objects in the picture itself.
If the SEO benefit isn’t enough for you to go back through everything you’ve uploaded, consider those with visual disabilities who might browse your site. Alt tags provide you with the opportunity to engage people who are visually impaired, often serving as the only way audio software can “show” listeners the images on your website.
Pictures only make up a part of the equation though. Header tags allow you to break pages up into sections that Google can understand as distinct areas of your writing. Generally you’ll have one Heading 1 (or h1) tag serving as the first headline of your page. Some WordPress themes set one for your automatically, otherwise you can use the heading dropdown in your rich text editor.
After that, you can set up additional header tags for your page’s sections. WordPress sizes the text for its headings automatically, so usually you’ll use h3 or h4 tags to keep your page presentable for readers while appeasing Google.
The last important area you need to be focused on is schema. This technical SEO element has gone from relatively unknown to critically important in recent months, despite it being around for the last several years. While this isn’t something WordPress is inherently equipped to do for you (yet), there are ways to tackle this without coding it in by hand.
WordPress, its plugins, and its themes offer a vast selection of tools for managing SEO and traffic
Building a good website isn’t easy – it takes time to not only learn the basics but also to keep up with the constantly changing rules of SEO. If you own and operate a business, you probably haven’t got the spare time to develop a background in these critical elements of online presence.
Since every business needs a well designed, SEO-friendly site to be competitive in today’s market, you’re probably familiar with the options that are left to you. You either need to hire an expert like us with those skillsets or divert time from your business so you can learn them yourself. The former is almost always going to be a better use of your time (and ultimately money), despite the financial investment up front.
There is good news for those who are better equipped to invest time in their website though. WordPress has a ton of plugins and themes that have been developed to assist with onsite SEO and traffic monitoring. While these aren’t substitutes for hiring an SEO specialist, they’ll ensure you are covering the broad strokes and making the most of your wait for search engines to index your website.
If you start your journey by searching for SEO in WordPress’ plugin manager, you’ll probably be overwhelmed by the slew of onsite search engine optimization plugins to choose from. Some give you the ability to easily customize basics like meta titles and descriptions, others run you through a checklist of items to review, and more still give you the ability to integrate third party tools.
Our recommendation for beginners is to start with the Yoast SEO plugin. It covers most of the important elements you can’t easily access with WordPress on its own, and offers you a wealth of information that is easy to break down on a per page or per post basis. We’ve even put together a plugin tour so you can see what you’re getting into before clicking the install button.
SEO isn’t the only important area you need to focus on, however. Identifying how well your site is doing is just as important for a few reasons. When starting out, you’ll monitor traffic to see how busy your site currently is. As time goes on, measuring areas of growth and opportunity for your business website will become your focus, allowing you to see which SEO changes are helping you thrive.
Tools like Google Analytics have this down to a science, giving you easy access to a variety of statistics if you can pick out the important details from the chaff. We’ve talked about a WordPress plugin that can help with this already, and still recommend Google Analytics Dashboard for WP as a tool for beginners who want the important details condensed into their admin dashboard.
These two plugins turn WordPress into the perfect medium for analyzing the onsite SEO and traffic data you need to grow online, and they can even be reviewed easily during your first cup of coffee. How’s that for service?
Speaking of service, there’s one more SEO benefit WordPress themes can offer you, and it’s a big one we touched on a little bit ago – schema. You’re probably most familiar with schema as rich text snippets – those big boxes with a quick summary of a webpage in your Google searches. Some WordPress themes (primarily premium ones like those on the Genesis framework) have this built in for you, and it’s FAR easier to manage schema automatically compared to adding it manually.
If you don’t know whether your theme has this or not, take some time to research this or contact your theme developer – it’s that important.
WordPress’ popularity is a boon for you
Popularity often carries a stigma. In high school, it often was associated with negative terms like elitism or shallowness. In the workplace, terms like “corporate”, “lack of innovation”, and “uninspired” get tossed around. Developers and search engines have a very different viewpoint when it comes to popularity, placing WordPress in a significantly more positive light as a result.
Like clay, WordPress can be molded into nearly any shape the artist is capable of imagining, comes in clean packaging free of impurities, and best of all, everyone knows what it is. This is a great way to alleviate most concerns and questions at any stage of WordPress development right off the bat.
Looking to reimagine your site? Install a new theme and you’ll have a totally different look and feel. Need someone to optimize your content? Any reputable SEO expert can dig in right away. Concerned about whether Google will find all your pages? Don’t be – Google is able to read (or reread) any WordPress site with ease.
In addition to the peace of mind WordPress provides, there are a couple other side benefits you receive with it. Questions like the ones earlier all revolve around one thing – changing your website. Creating and editing portions of your website is often very good for your search engine rankings, as it shows you have a vested interest in your site and are putting in the effort to make sure it is up to date for your customers. Having a platform where that doesn’t mean tearing down the site and starting again is invaluable.
The other benefit you receive with this incredible flexibility is the ability to implement growth strategies. If you identify an area your business needs to improve on, you’ve already got the perfect foundation to do so within WordPress. This allows you to immediately focus on either digging into the specific needs of your SEO and/or content creation or finding an expert to tackle these projects for you instead.
Put WordPress to work for your organization today
Now that you know about one of the best options for designing your business website and its ability to give you a place in the rankings of search engines like Google and Bing, what are you waiting for? Take a look at our Linux and WordPress hosting options if you want to manage the development of your site, or contact our developers today through our form. You can also give us a call at 319-229-5225. Whatever your need, you’ll find a solution that is designed to market the best you have to offer with Midwest Websites.