7 Lessons Learned from 7 Years of using WordPress

I started using WordPress back in 2005 (version 1.5 I believe) when I acquired a web design blog, I then went on to build that blog into a huge site – At it’s peak it was serving up millions of page views per month to over half a million unique visitors, I attribute at least some of the success of it to WordPress. Back then content management systems weren’t that great – there were many different scripts for running different kinds of websites, nowdays with the emergence of “app themes” you can use WordPress as the base and purchase a plugin or theme with the functionality you want to create.

WordPress made it easy for me to produce content on a regular basis, not having to worry about the stability of the system for millions of visitors. It also made it easy for me to produce my own custom theme design – many other scripts of the time used some crazy templating methods that required you to hack around untill you got the desired result, which then inevitably broke when you upgraded the script to a new version. We really do have it easy these days – and we have WordPress to thank for that.

Here’s a few tips for the smooth-running of a WordPress site, most of these are common sense but worth mentioning …

Lesson 1: Update Immediately

The WordPress update process is so smooth and easy to do, there really is no reason not to do it immediately but I understand how it can be put off. Whether that’s because of laziness or fear that the update might break a plugin or some theme functionality. I have been caught a few times, not updating to the latest version right away and have fallen foul of hackers who have planted malware – you can avoid this by upgrading as soon as an update comes out, a couple of minutes spent doing that is better than a few hours trying to remove infected files.

Lesson 2: Interlink Posts

Good SEO is built around links – external and internal, so by linking to your older posts in new ones you are improving your on-site SEO. Not only that, by highlighting certain phrases which relate to old posts, you are providing your readers with a way to easily go back to your old posts – not many people will bother searching for more info on your site.

Lesson3 : Install a Cache Plugin

This is another “no-brainer” tip – by using a caching plugin you are speeding up your site for visitors, saving bandwidth, saving server load and protecting yourself from any sudden influxes of traffic if a post goes viral. We have written a guide to installing the W3 Total Cache plugin and also using it with a CDN. Search engines also now take site speed into account when calculating SERPs – if you don’t use a cache plugin, get one added now!

Lesson 4: Make it easy for people to Subscribe

One of the keys to growing your blog is by turning one-off search engine visitors into regular readers by getting them to subscribe to your RSS feed, Liking your Facebook page or following you on Twitter. To do this, you have to make it easy for them to do so – I dont know how many times I’ve wanted to subscribe to a blog but they’ve made me go searching for their RSS button and I’ve ended up giving up. Place your social buttons in a prominent place and your followers will increase.

I believe this will become even more important over the next few years as Google and other search engines will start to place more importance on social factors in their ranking algorithms, so get a head start on the “SEO gurus” and start building your network as soon as possible.

Lesson 5: Pay for good Plugins / Themes

Free themes and plugins are great – there are some amazing ones available so this isn’t bashing them – I find a lot of people believe that because WordPress itself is free, they expect everything created for it to be as well. You have to realise that a lot of commercial themes and plugins just wouldn’t exist if people didn’t charge for them – it costs people to have them developed or costs them in time spent, plus the time and money needed to provide support. Paying for plugins and themes supports the providers and puts money back into the WordPress economy.

Lesson 6: Create a Backup Routine

Sooner or later, something will go wrong with your site – whether that’s a hosting failiure, a hacking, a plugin problem – backing up regulary will prevent any stress should this happen. Depending on the scale of your site you will want to keep an hourly, daily or weekly backup incase something goes wrong. We have looked at the Backup Buddy plugin and a free plugin to backup to Dropbox in the past. I would recommend one of these solutions in addition to the backup provided by your web hosting company.

Lesson 7: Regular House Keeping

WordPress isn’t perfect and will require some maintenance to keep running to its full potential. This can be little things like cleaning out spam comments, draft posts, managing your categories and tags and keeping all your plugins up to date. Set aside some time maybe once a month to check everything over. Take a look at our post “Spring Clean: How to Tidy up your WordPress Site & Make it Faster” for a more indepth look at this.


Well there are my tips for running your site with WordPress smoothly, most are common sense but it’s easy enough to neglect one – staying on top of these will help you make the most from our favourite CMS.

Do you have any tips? Please share them in the comments …



Oliver Dale is the founder of Kooc Media, An Internet Company based in Manchester, UK. I founded WPLift and ThemeFurnace, find out more on my Personal Blog. Thanks!

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14 thoughts on “7 Lessons Learned from 7 Years of using WordPress”

  1. These aren’t lessons your learn from 7 years. That’s just standard bla. Everyone who used wordpress extensively knows how shitty it is to maintain after heavy customization, e.g., with self written plugins. It always requires heavy testing from you, so you start to value less frequent wordpress updates as it doesn’t distract you from other projects. But that would require a better code base than that of wordpress (its source is ugly). There is light (best UI so far) and shadow with WordPress. In 7 years you should have encounter enough situations with customers (e.g. what’s about permission management, what’s about teaching them wordpress etc.) that saying “make backups” and “update immediately as it’s easy” isnt actually worth the read. What a waste of time…

    • I wrote many custom plugins and they never broke after WP update.
      If you follow best practices, maintenance is a breeze.
      And this post is valuable to less experienced users.

      • You can’t just do “update” on a production server. You have to test every update on a test machine that corresponds to the settings of your customer and watch what got broken. If you just write small plugins or widgets etc. it’s easy. If you do more complex stuff, e.g. within administration, it isnt, especially as you have to extensively *test* for lot of conditions with new WP-versions. That means working hours.

        • And from my experience plugins broke: If you work with inexperienced users, e.g., you slim down the UI for some user roles (it requires plugins to manage role-permissions, admin menu customization plugins etc.). WordPress allows for heavy customization. Last time I had to reconfigure all the fucking admin menus. That *is* the reality of this system lifecycle. “Nothing broke, everything is a breeze, just click the update button on a production server” is only true for basic WP setups with a few standard plugins and a standard theme.

    • I think this is one of those times when “clean out spam comments” would come in handy. Go back under your bridge Gruen.

  2. using the automatic update on cheap shared hosting means you have left your entire wordpress install writable to the webserver, and any other users/website son that same shared hosting package – ergo you are leaving yourself wide open to attack. purchasing a dedicated server is more expensive, and a vps requires constant updating and patching also. in short, its only simple and good advice in certain scenarios.

  3. I was hired as a WordPress dev in January and already know all of this (prior to being hired I just knew basic HTML/CSS). Just sayin’.. I’m already creating responsive themes from scratch, but maybe I’m just a fast learner.

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