Alright, y’all, today we’re going to talk all about the web. I realize that this may not be relevant to a good handful of you, but I’ve asked over on IG Stories (hey, do ya follow me?) what content you all liked most. I was so surprised to know that an overwhelming percentage of you are interested in blogging and social media tips! Last week was all about product photography, and this week, we’re turning to our websites. Many bloggers choose not to have a website nowadays — which is totally fine! I honestly think you can get away with having a mini-blog on Instagram or “vlogging” on YouTube rather than having an actual site. However, this post is alllll about how to ensure your website runs as smoothly, efficiently and beautifully as possible.
A Teeny Disclaimer
I should preface all of this by saying I’m not a web engineer. I have no degree in website creation; everything I’ve learned about creating a website is from online research. Sure, we had a Multimedia Journalism class in my undergrad where I learned how to create a website on an AI interface, but WordPress was a whole different ball game. Some of you have asked me what the difference is between WordPress and other sites (that are admittedly ‘easier’ to use).
I just know from user experience that using WordPress.org (and yeah, the .org is different than .com) has offered me so much creative freedom rather than restricted by the confines of templated interfaces. If you’re interested in learning more about the differences between the servers, you can read a bit more about it here. All of the plugins I’ll be discussing in this post are available via WordPress.org, but I’m not so sure if they’re available on other platforms.
In addition, I should also say — these are my opinions. Just because you may be doing these things doesn’t mean you’re wrong and I’m right; to each their own. If there was a one-size fits all for all of this, what would be the point? These are just my takes on a few different website features and what I personally would steer away from as a blogger.
1. “Not Secure?” No, thanks.
First things first — how can your users see your webpage if they’re stopped by a popup on their trusty browser telling them your site may contain malicious content? I don’t know about you, but if that popped up on my own computer, I’m turning “back to safety.” Some browsers won’t even allow you to continue onto that site. Even if a popup doesn’t appear, type your website into your browser (make sure you’re logged out of your WordPress account so that you can see it as a user). You may need to use your “incognito browser” to delete the keychain passwords and automatic logins.
Before your blog’s name in the search engine, does it say “Not Secure?” That’s how you know that search engines aren’t recognizing your site as a “safe” and “secure” place for users. How do you fix that? Well, this means your site needs the purchase and installation of a SSL Certificate. SSL stands for Secure Sockets Layer. It’s a global standard for technology that enables encrypted communication between a browser and a server. It is utilized by millions globally to protect web users from stolen passwords, emails, credit card information, etc. It’s essentially ensuring a “private connection” between the user and the webpage (Verisign.com).
Essentially, installing a SSL Certificate gives your users a sense of safety and builds credibility between readers. Who wants to enter their personal information to sign up to be a subscriber if the site isn’t secure? Wait, better yet, who wants to continue subjecting themselves to hacking or identity thieves by repeatedly going onto that site? I know that I don’t. You’ll see that a lot of my tips have to do with building credibility between your readers (potential subscribers) and your site.
Install a SSL Certification as soon as possible onto your site to ensure you’re not losing potential subscribers from malicious site popups or “not secure” signals on browsers.
2. Skip the Google Ads.
Don’t you hate it when you’re trying to read someone’s content and it’s bombarded by messy advertisements that are intrusive and visually unappealing? Yeah, me too. It’s an automatic “eh, I didn’t need to read this anyway.” I remember specifically once, I was on a blog and right in the middle of this post with incredible copy and beautiful imagery, there was a giant advertisement for foot fungal cream. There was a giant photo of a foot with fungus on it, lol. It just ruins the post.
Why subject yourself to that for a few dollars? Especially for “smaller” bloggers with not as much traffic — to me, a potential subscriber is worth losing the few dollars that I may make. The worst part, I think, about the ads is that you have so little control over what shows up on others’ feeds. The reason I created my blog in the first place was to have creative control — I could be writing for a digital publication, but their advertisements are partly the reason that drive me away from them. I will forever uphold quality product over monetary gain any day of the week. There are so many more ways you can make money from your blog if you stick to delivering a quality product.
3. Utilize SEO Plugins to Improve SERP Score
One of my favorite plugins to use (and arguably, one of the most helpful) is Yoast SEO. Yoast allows you to see how favorable a post you are writing is to Search Engine Page Results, or SERP. SERP ranks webpages based on a plethora of different algorithmic outcomes. Some of these algorithms rely on page loading time, your copy, headlines, keywords, hyperlinks, etc. Yoast shows you exact things you can change about your copy before you hit publish to see things you can improve to make your page more “easily readable” to search engines.
For example, I’m a very fluffy writer. I just am. I always have been. However, this writing is not favored for search engines! Search engines prefer concise sentences, loaded with keywords and lacking complexity. So, Yoast will show me sentences that are “too long.” It’ll tell me how “difficult” the copy reads. It will also show me where I have written too much in a paragraph that isn’t ciphered up by a headline. I appreciate this plugin because I can definitely see the difference between my writing. Since most of my blogs are used in a utility sense, I want them to be findable on search engines! SERPs drive so many new readers to your site outside of your social media accounts, which I love.
4. Utilize Optimizing Plugins
You want your site to run quickly. If a site’s not loading, how likely are you to just stay on the webpage until it does? Most users quickly click off if the webpage isn’t loading quick enough. (This is actually something I struggle with, even though I’ve gotten my loading time down by a ton) So, we really need to work on optimizing our images, templates, Google fonts, etc. to ensure that the webpage can load quickly. You can use tools like Hummingbird to see how your loading “scores” with the plugin. It will also give you specific things to change.
In addition, I utilize plugins like Autoptimize (I used to use Smush, but it doesn’t work with my theme template as well). This plugin automatically takes your images and compresses their file sizes to reduce their loading time. Autoptimize is also a “Lazy Loading” plugin. This will ensure that the components on your site aren’t loading until the user scrolls down to them. This significantly reduces loading time as well!
5. Use a Mobile-Friendly Theme
Most of my users come from Instagram, and thus, many of them are on their phones when they’re accessing my website. You absolutely want to make sure your theme is mobile friendly. It doesn’t have to look exactly the same as your desktop, but just ensure that it is readable, clean and nothing is in a weird place once it converts to mobile. Mobile-friendly sites are imperative to keeping readers on your site. Most themes nowadays recognize this importance and thus have ensured their mobile versions are friendly for your phone.
I would love to share more tips with you all soon. How many of you have websites? I’d love to know!