I have been blogging on WordPress.com site since 2007 (earlier since 2005 in Blogger.com) and since it is a free site where certain things cannot be done or limited (like installing plugins, monetization of the site, etc), all I had to worry about back then was ensuring that I had good content for the blog post. Image source: WordPress.org.
Seriously back then terminologies like SEO, AMP, Fast Website Loading, Caching, Backups, etc was basically sounded alien to me. Well not true exactly, I had some idea on some of the concepts as I have seen the same at my workplace but it was clear that using the free WordPress.com site, there was nothing much I could play around on this.
Moving to Self Hosted Site
Then back in September 2019 and surprisingly after some time not been updating my WordPress.com blog for some time except sporadic posts on days I was really, really free, something in my mind triggered and realised that the only way I am going to serious on blogging – keep chronicles some sort of my travels, opinions and daily events – was to move from a free blog site (where there is no pressure to do any posting) to one self-hosted (which since it is not free, I need to maximise the usage).
And because I am going to put hard-earned money on this, I will be forced to keep the self-hosted blog active – one way or another or as we Malaysians would say it – “die, die also must keep it alive”
Anyway moving to a self-hosted WordPress site, it proved that I had to learn more than just keeping up with the blog posts. There are more things I realised now is in play now and here are top 5 things in no chronological order that I discovered and had to put the time to rectify them.
Mistake 1: Easy Monetization
For the first one month, nothing major was done other than focus on the blog content – just like how I was doing on the free site at WordPress.com. Then someone suggested monetization which prompted me to add Google Ads into this blog. Image source: WordPress.org.
Actually it was not because since it is a self-hosted site, one has to wait for Google to approve the website before anything “trickles” down. Weeks pass by (in the meantime I was tested other types of monetization options) and one day I got an update from Google that my site was not eligible because there was a lack of contents.
I was surprised – what they meant by not enough contents? I had thousands of post done since 2007 (actually from 2005 if including the post done in my first site at Blogger.com). So why this not counted as contents?
So I looked back at my website and realised that it looked cluttered and some widgets were overshadowing the post, etc. I also changed the template to a more “cleaner” looking one that shows more of the posts and deleted some of the non-essential widgets.
Then I submitted for an appeal to Google to re-evaluate my site again. A few more weeks pass by and this time, the site was approved.
Mistake 2: Ignoring SEO for Blog Optimisation
I only know 2 types of “EO” in my life – CEO which stands for the Chief Executive Officer (that’s my big boss at my workplace) and HEO which stands for the House Executive Officer (that’s my nickname for my wife). I only had a fuzzy comprehension of what SEO means and the impact on my self hosted site. Image source: WordPress.org.
It was back to school to understand what Search Engine Optimization all about. This meant going through the various websites, youtube channels and articles that explain about SEO and how to use it effectively in WordPress.
Most recommended Yoast SEO plugin and I followed the advice and installed it as well. But going through more understanding of SEO, I then come across Rank Math SEO plugin and after comparing back, it was clear that Rank Math SEO was actually a better plugin between the 2 and here’s why:-
- It has a simple setup wizard upfront that assists in predetermined some of the settings that need to be done
- It is more user friendly and has an SEO analysis page to highlight things that are not working well
- It allows up to five Google keywords to be maintained compared to Yoast’s one
- Rank Math SEO ranking is given in the form of a score from 1 to 100 instead of just saying good, bad, etc which is more accurate to fix
- The minimum number of words that Rank Math needs to score is 600 words whilst Yoast was just 300 words which seems too low considering most experts advising a minimum 1500 words for the blog post
Check out the detailed analysis between Rank Math vs. Yoast SEO vs. All In One SEO Comparison here.
I probably had scratched the tip of the iceberg – there are more SEO optimisation steps that I need to perform on my sites. Further, there are thousands of old blogs that have yet to optimised, missing keywords and yet to be ranked by Rank Math.
It is going to take me a long time to redo these posts – some dating back since 2005!
Mistake 3: Underestimating AMP for WordPress
From Google Analytics, it was clear that almost 50% of the readers use smartphone or tablets to read my blog post. Sometimes the percentages can even more to 60%. Running through some verification sites like Google Search Console, it showed errors for AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages). Image source: WordPress.org.
So once it again, it was back to school for me to understand this concept called AMP.
In the end, I installed the Accelerated Mobile Pages for WordPress plugin which pretty much take care of the various settings for AMP. I am still learning on this plugin but of the errors on AMP seem to be rectified.
Mistake 4: Slow Loading of the Website
Seriously I thought my blog site was fast considering how fast it loads on my laptop and my smartphone until I watched Ahref’s Youtube post titled “The Best WordPress SEO Plugins in 2019 (It’s Not Yoast)” and reference were made on how slow loading sites will have an impact on the readers.
Out of curiosity, I decided to check for mine using the recommended Page Speed Insights tool and was surprised that the ranking for my mobile speed less than 35 and desktop at less than 37 – way too slow.
After checking for further advises on the internet and also the knowledge articles at my hosting site, I went to GTmetrix and got more insights on where and what is causing the site to be slow. Some of the key culprits were:-
- Duplicated & unnecessary plug-ins that I had installed in the early days in September
- Some incorrect values in the ads.txt that causing a bloated 3rd party connections
- Unnecessary widgets (that was causing too many redirections)
- Some commands needed at htaccess code
- Further compression of the image files & minifying of CSS, HTMLs, etc
It took me actually the whole days to try and test the changes and in the end, I managed to boost the rank at Page Speed Insights for mobile speed from 35 to 89 and desktop speed from 37 to 90 – a major improvement indeed. It is not perfect though as there is some area of improvement available but I am yet to find the solution – more because of I yet to understanding the solution plugin settings.
But for now, the improvements achieved are more than what I earlier anticipated.
Mistake 5: Ignoring My Followers from My Old Blog
One of the advantages of WordPress compared to Blogger is a feed reader called Reader which allows you to “follow” another WordPress blog, like the post and comment all in one place. The search option also allows you to search new blog posts by specific keywords. Image source: WordPress.org.
When one is using the free sites in WordPress.com, this option is made freely and fast to access. But when you move to a self-hosted WordPress site, you are actually disconnected from the so-called WordPress world and thus no access to the Reader.
Further in my old WordPress.com blog site, I had almost 505 followers but I moved to my own site, I lost all these followers and had to start all over again. Slowly I started to get followers but I kept thinking about the other followers.
So in order to reconnect back, I installed the Jetpack plugin – there is a free plan available with limited functionality of course but it is more than sufficient. It allows me to add my self hosted site into the Reader and today I finally found the tool within Jetpack to “migrate” followers from my old blogs to my self hosted site. It is a one-button migration and it only took seconds to complete the tasks.
Five things that I learned rather the hard way after moving to a self-hosted WordPress site and this is a good learning journey for me.
I guess this is another advantage of moving to own self-hosted site – not only it will force you to keep up blogging on a regular basis but also force you to start looking at other aspects of blogging such as blog quality, loading speed and how well search engines can pick up your blog out of the zillions of blog posts out there.
It takes a lot of reading (or watching depending on the source of information) of course – it does not hurt to start from the very lowest step in the long staircase to the top.