1. Examine Your Goals
Think about what your goals are for your website this year. Take a moment to review what you accomplished last year, and where you would you like to be at the end of this year.
Did you reach your goals from last year? What needs to be different? What needs to be improved? What is no longer working?
Write down your goals in a place you will review often, like Evernote. And make sure they follow the S.M.A.R.T goal method. If you aren’t familiar with S.M.A.R.T. goals, here’s a quick overview.
Specific: clearly define what you are going to do
Measurable: tangible evidence you have reached your goal
Achievable: slightly challenging, but within reach
Results-focused: measure outcomes, not activites
Time-bound: have a deadline
Example: Increase the number of users subscribed to my blog by 30% by October 1st.
2. Create a Content Calendar
One of your goals for the year should be a content writing plan. A content calendar is a great way to organize your content writing plan for this year. Create a spreadsheet with dates, topics, and events.
If your goal is to write once a week, create a spreadsheet that lists the day each week that you are going to publish. Next to each date list the topic or subject you are going to write about. You can also add notes for how you are going to promote each piece after you write it.
There is even a plugin called Editorial Calendar that you can use right within WordPress.
3. Update WordPress, Plugins and Themes
One of the most important security measures you can take is keeping WordPress up to date. Almost every release includes security fixes and updates. By keeping WordPress up to date you can help protect your self from malicious attacks.
It is also important to update plugins and themes for the same reason. Updates can also include bug fixes and new features that could help improve your workflow, so make it a point to get everything on your site as up to date as possible. But remember to backup your site first.
4. Upgrade Hosting
One of the new buzzwords in the WordPress space is managed WordPress hosting. It seems like there are ton of hosts offering a version of WordPress hosting nowadays. The idea is that you get a hosting environment custom built for the way WordPress works, without having to do any of the heavy technical lifting.
Managed WordPress hosting promises better site performance due to things like server caching and optimized databases. They also offer built in backup and security features to keep your site running smoothly. Some even offer one click staging sites that make it easy to create copies of your site to test out new plugins or themes.
5. Test Your Call to Action
Think about what you want your visitors to do when they get to your site. Do you want them to buy a product, sign up for a service, or download an ebook? Is that action clear and easy to understand? A call to action could be a flashy button, a signup form, or a simple link.
Once you have defined your call to action, you should test multiple versions to see which one works best. Using a service like Crazy Egg or Optimizely lets you easily create multiple versions of a call to action and embed it right on the page. From their dashboard you can view which call to action converted better.
6. Grow Your List
One of the most important things you can do to increase conversions online is to grow your list. Having direct access to your users’ inbox gives you the ability to send targeted messages to an audience that trusts you. You can also keep your brand at the top of their mind for the next time they need your services.
Optin Monster is a WordPress plugin created to help you get more email subscribers. It lets you create attention grabbing opt in forms that display using popups and slideouts. It displays the form based on exit intent, meaning the form display can be triggered just as someone decides to leave your site.
Drip is another powerful tool that lets you automate your email marketing. Create an email course using existing content on your site, add a form that encourages people to sign up for the free course, and grow your list in the process.
What I like about Drip is that you know that the people who sign up are really interested in what you have to say.
7. Have A Backup Plan
No site is 100% safe. Any site can get hacked, any hosting service can go down, and any update might break your site. If you don’t have a backup plan in place to protect yourself, make this your number one priority. You don’t want to lose all of your hard work.
There are many plugins, both free and premium, that offer all in one backup solutions. I’ve been using Backup Buddy and like how easy it is to automatically backup to almost any service I want, including their own backup service. If you want to go the free route, plugins like WordPress Backup to Dropbox work great too.
8. Use Google PageSpeed
Running your site through Google PageSpeed shows you how to optimize site with the latest web performance best practices. Basically, it gives you tips to make your site faster. And a faster site means happier visitors and better rankings in search engines.
To see all of the Google PageSpeed magic inside your WordPress dashboard, there is the Google PageSpeed Insights for WordPress plugin. When you connect the plugin to your Google account you can see beautiful reports and charts that empower you to make decisions to improve the performance of your site. It even shows recommendations for mobile device improvements.
9. Harden Security
Take the time now to do these simple but effective tasks that can help protect your site from being hacked. First, update your passwords to strong passwords. Use a tool like Strong Password Generator to create a secure password in seconds.
Next, install a security plugin like iThemes Security or WordFence Security. These plugins look for security vulnerabilities in your site and do their best to fix them. They include features like brute force protection, strong password enforcement, and locking out bad users.
While your at it, go ahead and delete old users who no longer need access to the site. That decreases the amount of chances that attackers have to log into your site. Also delete any old plugins or themes that you are no longer using. Even plugins that are deactivated can be a security risk if they are out of date.
10. Know Your Users
Make it a point this year to learn more about your users. Install and use Google Analytics. Learn how to create goals and events to track what visitors are doing on your site and if your sales funnels are working for you. Google has a ton of training videos on YouTube that show how to use Google Analytics and use the data to make good business decisions.
Finally, answer the questions that your customers are asking. Think about what kind of information they are searching for and write content that will help them find the answer. Be a valuable resource for your target audience. Listen and respond to your audience to become an authority in your niche.
This blog post is adapted from a presentation I gave at the Fort Collins WordPress meetup. Click here to download the PDF of the presentation.