How to Build a Successful Website: The 5 Core Factors You Need

How to Build a Successful Website: The 5 Core Factors You Need

This isn’t one of those dime-a-dozen list posts that tells you which must-have plugins you need to have installed on your WordPress website if you want it to be successful. No, because building a successful website actually takes a lot more forethought than that.

Thanks to Wix, Squarespace and all of the other site builders that are popping up all over the interwebs, anyone can build a website. The only problem with using these sites compared to WordPress is that you don’t get the fine-grained control you need to optimize and maintain your site (and ensure Google looks favorably on you).

We all know WordPress is the world’s dominant content management system, laying claim to 60% of market share and a far-reaching community of developers, designers and volunteers.

Obviously, it’s the clear platform-of-choice on which to build a successful website. So that’s one less thing you need to worry about.

But there are other core factors you can’t ignore if you want to ensure your site is a cut above the rest in this dog-eat-dog world.

Let me explain.

What it Takes to Build a Successful Website

Whether you work for a web development agency or make your living as a freelancer, the key to building a great website is to start with a solid foundation.

Get the foundation right and your website will purr. Get the foundation wrong and you’ll spend much of your time dealing with bugs and other fixes rather than, you know, actually building the websites and other products and services that you’re paid to build.

So, what goes into a solid foundation for a WordPress website? I’m glad you asked.

I’m convinced that a solid WordPress website takes into account five core factors:

  • Performance: Slow websites kill businesses and careers. You need your WordPress website to fly.
  • Monitoring: You need to keep a constant eye on the health of your WordPress sites. The minute something goes wrong and needs your attention, you need to know it.
  • Security: The only thing worse than a site that is down down is a site that’s been hacked. You need WordPress security.
  • Backups: You need an automated backup process that ensures you have a recent backup on hand when you need it.
  • Search Engine Optimization (SEO): You need your WordPress website to be optimized for search engines and you need granular control over the way your sites look when they show up in search results.

Every web developer must find a way to take care of these five core needs in a way that is robust, affordable, and requires as little effort as possible. That way, you can stop thinking about WordPress and focus on building your business.

Let’s look at each factor briefly so you can begin formulating a cohesive strategy for building a solid WordPress website foundation.

Lightweight and fast, Hummingbird caches, minifies, combines, defers and compresses, making optimizations in line with Google PageSpeed, and turning your site into a lean, mean, speed machine.
Lightweight and fast, Hummingbird caches, minifies, combines, defers and compresses, making optimizations in line with Google PageSpeed, and turning your site into a lean, mean, speed machine.

1. Performance

When it comes to the performance of a website, web page load time is arguably just as important as web design and website features. This is because a site that loads slowly will have a direct and pronounced negative impact on conversions.

If you’re a freelancer or a development agency, potential customers may form an opinion of your expertise and services based on the performance of your website. And as a WordPress products company, your ability to convert customers will be directly impacted by the performance of your site.

It’s clear that every web developer must optimize websites for performance, and if you’re a WPMU DEV member, Hummingbird and WP Smush Pro work together to make your WordPress website fly.

2. Monitoring

There are two parts to the monitoring equation that every web developer must answer:

  • How will you keep on top of updates to plugins, themes, and WordPress core?
  • How will you keep an eye on the performance of your websites over time?

You know how critical it is to update plugins, themes, and the core software. However, if you manage more than just one or two sites, or if you just don’t log into your site every day, there may be times when days or weeks pass between the time an update is made available and the time when you install it.

In addition, if a frustrated visitor is the first to let you know that your site is down, you haven’t solved the second part of the monitoring equation.

Every web developer must find a way to keep on top of WordPress updates and keep an eye on website performance and uptime. There are lots of tools available to take care of this need and it’s also something we’ve spent a lot of time thinking about.

WPMU DEV members can set up automated scans with Defender. That way, you’ll know when any updates are ready for installation. Add in uptime monitoring via Hummingbird and all your needs for WordPress monitoring will be fully met.

Defender protects you against evil bots and hackers with automated security scans, vulnerability reports, safety recommendations, blacklist monitoring and customized hardening in just a few clicks.
Defender protects you against evil bots and hackers with automated security scans, vulnerability reports, safety recommendations, blacklist monitoring and customized hardening in just a few clicks.

3. Security

The WordPress core really is secure. Keep everything updated and use secure passwords, and your site will be trending toward the upper end of the website security bell curve.

However, upper end isn’t good enough. You need to harden your WordPress sites against common attacks and scan them on a regular basis to catch and fix security risks before the bad guys find and exploit them.

Every web developer needs to come up with a plan for hardening websites and scanning every site on an ongoing basis to check for security risks. This is the only way to secure WordPress and keep it secure over time.

There are several quality security plugins available, but if you’re a WPMU DEV member, WordPress hardening and automated security scans are a cinch with Defender.

4. Backups

Servers crash, sites are hacked, and code hits the fan. When your site comes crumbling down around you, you better hope and pray you have a recent backup on hand.

Some web developers attempt to keep track of backups manually. This sounds OK in theory but the truth is that most developers aren’t disciplined enough to count on a manual backup process. This is a task better left to automation.

The ideal backup system will include three components:

  • Automatic backup creation,
  • Backup storage in the cloud away from your site’s server, and
  • Automatic management of stored backups.

There are several services you can use to set up automatic backups, there are lots of cloud platforms to use for storage, and some backup services will even manage your backups for you. If you’re a WPMU DEV member, you get all three components in one simple package when you install Snapshot, configure automatic backups, and use the free 10GB of cloud storage included with your account.

Snapshot is standing by, ready to backup your WordPress site.
Snapshot is standing by, ready to backup your WordPress site.

5. Search Engine Optimization

If you don’t optimize your WordPress website for search engines a few things can go wrong:

  • Your site may not look the way you want it to look when it shows up in search results.
  • It may take longer than necessary for Google and other search engines to index new content.

The answer to this problem is to use a good SEO plugin.

With a good SEO plugin you can manually control the text displayed when your site shows up in search engines results. In addition, with a properly formatted sitemap that gets pushed to search engines after every update to your site, your content will be added to search engines as quickly as possible.

There are many good SEO plugins available for your WordPress business. Pick one and become a pro at setting up and using it. WPMU DEV members can get all the benefits of a good SEO plugin plus automatic internal link building by using SmartCrawl.

Building a Solid Foundation for Your WordPress Site

You need to take the time to build a strategy for addressing these five core factors because they will apply to each and every website you touch.

Ideally, your strategy will be as simple as possible, as cost-effective as possible, and require as little effort as possible. While you can address these five factors in a lot of different ways, there is a single obvious solution that takes care of all five factors (and it’s staring you in the face!).

At WPMU DEV we do a lot of different things:

  • Our premium plugins include hands-down the best (and most popular) image optimization plugin on the market, the best backup plugin money can buy, the best WordPress performance plugin available, and dozens of additional best-in-class products.
  • At The Academy, we turn new WordPress users into developers and business strategists with our passionate instructors who love sharing their knowledge.
  • Our award-winning support team is available 24/7 when you need it and is filled with friendly folks who know their stuff and will go out of their way to  you out.
  • Jobs & Pros pairs WPMU DEV members with serious skills and members that need access to web development expertise.
  • You can use your WPMU DEV membership for as many sites are you want. Whether you’re working with one website or hundreds, there’s no limit to how many websites you can link to your membership.
  • And then, of course, there’s you: the WPMU DEV Community. Leverage the community network to make connections with other WordPress professionals and get advice in our members-only forum.

We do so many things it can be hard to quantify exactly what it is that we do. Are we a WordPress products company? Are we a WordPress service provider? Are we a training organization? Are we a community website? Well, yeah, we’re all of those things and more!

However, if we boil down WPMU DEV to its fundamental purpose, we’re here to be a solid foundation for building a successful and scalable WordPress website.

While we do a lot of different things, everything we do is designed to complement our goal of being the best WordPress business foundation that money can buy.

If you can get on with your work as a web developer safe in the knowledge that the core needs of your websites is taken care of, then we’ve done our job.

Not All Foundations Are Created Equal

We aren’t the only game in town. There are other companies that offer similar products and services. In particular, Jetpack plus Vaultpress, and the iThemes trifecta of Sync Pro, Backup Buddy, and Security Pro offer a comparable – though not identical – slate of core products and services. And there are several other WordPress product and service companies that mirror WPMU DEV to a lesser degree.

Let’s be clear on one point: our competitors don’t suck.

For the most part, they offer solid products and services. However, the question you have to ask yourself is this: Where is the best place to get all of your WordPress website’s core needs taken care of?

WPMU DEV is a single-source solution for meeting all five needs. Everything we do is designed to provide a solid foundation for your WordPress website.

Really, it all comes down to this: at WPMU DEV we take care of WordPress so you can take care of business.

What’s Coming Next?

There are many freelancers and web development agencies whose success is built on a WordPress foundation. If you fall into one of these categories, then there are five core WordPress needs you must find a way to address:

  • Performance
  • Monitoring
  • Security
  • Backups
  • SEO

There are many different ways you could choose to meet each of those needs. In the coming weeks, we’ll take a close look at each core factor, dissect it, and show you how you can address it using our products as well as those of our competition.

How do you handle the five core factors that every WordPress website must address? Let us know in the comments section below!
Jon Penland
Jon Penland Jon manages operations for Kinsta, a managed WordPress hosting provider. When he isn't figuring out the ins-and-outs of supporting WordPress-powered businesses, he enjoys hiking and adventuring in northeast Georgia with his wife and kids.