Websites are important assets for most businesses and running a successful WordPress site requires a lot of different skills. It involves many aspects, from site development, security, optimization, and maintenance to marketing.

When running a site by yourself or with a very small team, you need a lot of different skills to make it all work as intended.

Different skills are ordered from beginner to expert-level skills based on my own experience of initial struggles with an open platform to the point where I developed a system to launch the WordPress sites successfully.

WordPress Beginner Level

1. Hosting 

Thankfully, nowadays most reputable hosting providers offer easy one-click installations, so you don’t have to do it manually anymore 

Because the server is the home of your website, you need to at least have a basic understanding of it.

  • create an FTP account and access your server with an FTP client 
  • change the nameserver settings to map a domain to your server
  • use your hosting provider’s back end so you can do basic things like change your server’s PHP version or create email addresses and inboxes
  • access your website MySQL database in case you need to make manual changes there
  • add an SSL certificate to your website 
  • Knowing how to set up an FTP account and access the server will also get handy at some point (FileZilla is a popular option)

Knowing these kinds of basics will put you in a much better position at running your website. It will also be helpful in troubleshooting if something is not working the way it is supposed to.

2. Getting to Know the WordPress User Interface

If you want to use WordPress as an effective tool to build and run your site, you need to know how to work with it properly. After all, a tool is only as good as your skill to use it

The first task in becoming a WordPress professional is to get familiar with the platform itself. 

The biggest downside of WordPress is all the options you get with a fresh install. Start with the basic tools you need to develop a site and try to ignore the rest. It is easy to get carried away with the options and create something unnecessarily complicated and unusable. Keep it simple!

3. Themes and Plugins

Themes completely control and change the design while plugins can add new features and change how WordPress works. Again, Start with the default WordPress theme and try not to use any plugins in this first stage of your learning curve. 

You will need some essential plugins later to enhance the security, SEO, speed optimization, cache…but always ask yourself twice, or three times if you really need the plugin to achieve the goal.

4. Setting Up an Offline Website

Do not create the website in a live environment. That means, development, troubleshooting problems, making changes to design elements, or even simply installing plugins or themes on a live website without testing them beforehand.

In the best-case scenario, it simply makes you look unprofessional because users will see your messed up website while doing the changes to a design.

In the worst case, it makes your whole site inaccessible for all traffic which creates unnecessary stress for you trying to deactivate that faulty plugin, googling solutions for a problem you just created, or asking a lot of questions on WordPress forums (there is a great community of people ready to help thankfully)

5. Create a local server!

This allows you to install WordPress on your laptop just like you would on a web server. Doing so gives you an environment in which can make as many mistakes as you want without anyone but you ever seeing them. You can also work on the website while offline.

I personally use XAMPP to create a local server 

6. Create a child theme

A WordPress child theme is an absolutely crucial WordPress skill. Using a child theme allows you to make sweeping customizations on your website and edit its design and functionality independent of the main theme and core software.

It is tempting to edit the code f the team to get the look you are after, but you will be disappointed you choose that road when you update the theme. All your customization will be gone. Don’t try to fix the problem by blocking the updates. Updates are crucial for the security of the website. Create the child theme!

7. Working With Gutenberg

Despite a lot of skepticism at its initial release, the Gutenberg editor is taking over and it is getting better and better

It has not only become a mature piece of software in its own right but is also taking over other parts of the WordPress user interface. This includes widget management and, more recently, full site editing

8. Content Creation

Speaking of which, for years now content marketing has been one of the most effective ways of attracting traffic and winning customers. Anyone who wants to run a successful website has to learn to create content, whether that’s to run an actual blog or simply to populate the pages on your website. Content is also one of the three most important ranking factors in Google. So, if you hope to show up in search, it’s something that you need to know about.

Again,  keep it simple. Short sentences, simple words, and aiming for clarity.

9. Basic Security Knowledge

Sooner or later someone will try to hack your site!

This is nothing personal. There is simply a legion of automatic programs constantly scouring the Internet and automatically scanning websites for common vulnerabilities. In most cases, hackers also don’t break into your site to steal information but in order to use it to spread malware, move visitors over to their own, scammy websites, or recruit your server for a botnet. For that reason, if you want to run your own WordPress website, you need to establish at least a baseline level of security.

What does that look like?

  1. Choose a good hosting provider — Your server setup is your first line of defense. Therefore, use a hosting company with a good reputation and solid security features.
  2. Use a strong login name and password
  3. Set up automatic backups – Configure it so that it regularly saves both your database and file system somewhere outside of your server. UpdraftPlus is a good free option. 
  4. Get themes and plugins from reputable sources – there is plenty of free options to choose from the official WordPress website. Do not download nulled themes!!!
  5. Keep WordPress and its components updated — The platform constantly receives updates including for any discovered security vulnerabilities. Always update WordPress Core and any themes and plugins you have installed.
  6. Set up a security plugin — There are several good all-in-one security options out there. Examples include Wordfence, iThemes Security, and Sucuri Security. They can take a lot of security measures automatically. If you install one, get familiar with it, and implement its recommendations 

WordPress Intermediate Level

This section contains skills to level up performance in search, being able to make advanced customizations and more. It’s the level you should be at if, for example, you want to administer websites for other people for a living.

10. Learning How to Use an SEO Plugin

If you are a beginner website owner and don’t know much about SEO, a great idea is to install a WordPress SEO plugin for support. Many of them can basically give you a checklist of what you need to do to optimize each page on your site for search engines.

All you need to do is input the focus keyword you want to target and it will tell you how to get your page into ship shape. In addition, most of these plugins implement a lot of site-wide SEO best practices when you just activate them.

I personally use  Rank Math SEO.

11. Google Analytics and Search Console

Google Analytics and Search Console are essential tools to track and improve your site’s SEO performance. 

It used to be fairly complicated to set everything up in the Google development environment. Fortunately, Google released the plugin that integrates all the Google services in a couple of clicks – Site Kit by Google

12. Using Browser Developer Tools

They are a set of functionality that allows you to examine any website. Among other things, you can view the HTML structure and CSS markup as well as manipulate them and see the changes inside the browser right away.

  • Try out design changes — The browser developer tools’ ability to view and manipulate markup means you can select any element on the page and change its color, size, font, or whatever else you want. This is only happening in your browser window, so it’s not visible to anyone else. It’s also much faster than changing the markup in your theme or custom CSS plugin, saving, and reloading the page. Once you like what you see, you can copy and paste the markup right into your theme style sheet.
  • See how other developers do it – If you know how to use the developer tools and see something on another website that you like, you can simply have a look at how they did it and use it for yourself. You will learn a lot from the work of others.

13. Basic HTML and CSS

They are the main building blocks of everything that you can see on the web. Therefore, if you are trying to build a successful website, it’s a pretty good skill to know how to speak its language. It is not a necessary skill as WordPress is a great no-code development environment, But there will be a time that this shill will be super handy.

14. Speed Optimization

Site speed is important!

Consequently, at a certain point, if you want a well-working website, you will have to focus on making it load as fast as possible. For that, you need two main skills:

I personally optimize the website for speed in a two-step process

Firstly, it is important to optimize every image and graphic component of the website to push the size of the file to the minimum while keeping the desired quality. Fewer data to load, faster the website

The second step is to use reliable services that will secure the website and make it load faster worldwide.

As you can see in the picture above, it will usually give me great results. There is always more work to do to make the website load faster but this is the best start.

15. Advanced Security Measures

From a technical point, it is a really complicated set of skills to secure the website. Fortunately, there are security plugins that can help out. I personally use All In One Security plugin and never had a problem since I set it up on all my websites. Pick one plugin and spend some time mastering all the options. Would highly recommend learning on a test website.

16. Basic Online Marketing

Besides security, once you get to the intermediate level, you also need to take a more active approach to promote your website. We have already covered SEO above. Besides that, there are other things you can do in order to get your website and content in front of other people:

  • Create a blogging strategy
  • Pick a social network and implement a basic publishing strategy
  • Start an email newsletter
  • Get a basic understanding of Google Analytics and Search Console data to improve your SEO efforts further (see above)
  • Read up on how to build a brand and create some guidelines
  • Research what content marketing is and how it works

At a certain point, if you want to keep growing, promoting your site and content becomes as important as creating it.

WordPress Level Expert

17. Version Control

As a more casual user, you can get away with a less professional approach to development. If you set up automatic backups, make local copies of files before editing them — that’s usually enough to avoid ruining your hard work and gives you the ability to return to baseline if you screw up.

However, if you get in the habit of editing your WordPress site more heavily, you might want to take a page out of the book of professional developers and set up a version control system.

What is version control?

It’s a system that tracks all changes to code and files including who made them and when. In addition, if something undesirable happens, version control also provides easy ways to revert to a prior version and make the problem go away.

18. JavaScript

The WordPress platform, like the rest of the Internet, is moving more and more towards JavaScript. Back in 2015 Matt Mullenweg, co-founder of WordPress, already advised the community to learn JavaScript, deeply.

This is also a move that is visible in the rest of the web. JavaScript frameworks are soaring in popularity and Node.js is taking over back-end programming. Plus, there are other reasons.

JavaScript It will give you a lot more control over the front end of your site, and allow you to introduce complex functionality, animations, and a lot more.

19. Advanced Marketing

Your website is up and running smoothly and you are competing with the best and most popular sites out there.

Here’s what you should think about branching out to:

  • Link building 
  • Guest posting
  • Paid Advertisement 
  • Conversion optimization (CRO)
  • Social media, influencer marketing, referral programs, podcasting, and video content.

Done. Your website is online for everyone to see. You will just need to constantly work on and update most of the aspects described in this article. Up-to-date design, additional functions, fresh content, faster load time, improve SEO, security, google search recommendations…Yes, it is a lot, but you can always hire a freelancer that specializes in the task you need to improve.

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