WordPress is the most powerful website builder available, providing its users with a seemingly endless number of features and designs that enable you to make your site as simple or complicated as you’d like.
But, with all of these options, how do you know which combination will not only attract more visitors, but keep them coming back?
The top-performing WordPress sites, it turns out, have something in common — and it’s not their use of specific plugins. So, what is it that truly sets successful WordPress websites apart from the rest?
To find out, and shine a light on those revelations, we threw a spotlight on almost 350,000 GoDaddy-managed WordPress websites, to examine and identify what types of behavior correlated with the strongest results, as measured by traffic. In addition to page or post creation, we tracked sites, for a year, whenever their owners executed an update, including changes to content, themes, plugins and media.
Then, to hone in on what helped or hindered the success of these websites, we compared the two most distinct personalities we dubbed:
- Rocketships — meaning brand new websites that saw meteoric traffic growth during the year. These were websites that started out with a unique monthly visitorship of 0 to 999 and rapidly grew traffic to somewhere between 99,000 and 500,000
- Decliners — meaning websites that saw traffic decrease significantly, by more than 50 percent during the year
The data demonstrated that Rocketship sites were, and are, far and away more actively managed than Decliners — with 164 percent more activity spanning across page-creation, post creation and content updates, as well as technical plugin and theme activation and updates. Our research indicated that high-traffic WordPress websites were those that are cared for and nurtured by their owners on a regular basis.
So how does your website become a Rocketship? Looking at the specific factors that make for a successful Rocketship website, what should a business prioritize on the “to-do” list of website mechanics? Here are three findings and recommendations that stack the deck in your favor.
Content rules the road.
The saying goes that “Content is king,” and it’s true. Regularly publishing high-quality, relevant content that your readers will find engaging is a surefire key to success.
So, consider putting an editorial calendar in place to coordinate your efforts, and create strategic monthly themes inspired by popular keywords. Take a look at what’s topical in the news, and rising on Google Trends; see what’s timely and how you can align your products or offering with what you see there.
When it comes to frequency, Rocketships create new posts an average of three times a week. Regular and relevant content creation is something that will pay dividends, as visitors will have a reason to return to your site to learn more. Consider posting blogs as a two- — or more — part series to create episodic content. Sites that publish posts on a consistent schedule build a loyal audience and, along with it, increase their traffic.
A fresh coat of paint makes a difference.
When it comes to adding functionality for your site, plugins can be a tremendous asset, especially as they help you instantly and easily create the likes of contact forms, SEO and security.
Interestingly, however, we didn’t observe a noticeable difference between Rocketship and Decliner behavior when it came to Plugins.
That said, we did notice that Rocketships activated themes 18 percent more on average than Decliners. This might have been due to Rocketships experimenting with different themes and A/B testing to see what best suited the look and feel of their sites. Themes are easy to implement and can quickly give your website a new look and feel.
For example, a theme such as Divi can give your website an elegant appearance, while one like Storefront will give you a variety of layout and color options to personalize your shop and enable multiple widget regions and a responsive design. As you use your site more often, or as the scope of your site evolves over time, a new theme will give you the ability to change the look and feel, and even give you more functionality and widgets to use.
With this in mind, don’t be afraid to experiment with different themes and to test drive the most popular trending themes of the week. And as you become more active with your site, doing things like the Rocketships in our study did, you’ll become more in tune with the themes that do or don’t work for you.
Remember, there’s always a need for speed.
We all know the frustration of waiting for a painfully slow website to load. Often, we’ll abandon a site that’s taking too long, or we’ll make sure to avoid it in the future for fear of the same irritating experience.
The loading speed of a website has a huge influence on whether or not a user stays on a page or revisits a site, with just a one-second delay leading to a 7 percent reduction in conversations and an 11 percent decrease in page views. So, what is an acceptable loading time? Around two seconds, according to Google.
Avoid alienating visitors to your WordPress website and potential customers with sluggish speeds. Simple changes like making your images smaller, removing inactive plugins, reducing scripts and migrating your WordPress sites to enterprise-grade managed hosting are easy ways to lessen loading times and increase user satisfaction.
Ongoing growth and maintenance
Adding new pages and tinkering with your website to keep improvements flowing contributes to a site’s success. Rocketship sites create new pages regularly, as well as update their sites (this includes tweaks to page content, media, etc) a staggering average of 288 percent more than Decliners. Little and often is a good rule to live by — incremental updates and adjustments go a long way.
Overall, this research indicates that frequent care and attention of a website, and its content, will result in better traction with online audiences. On the flipside, the site owners that have a “set it and forget it” mindset tend to be those who see traffic decline over time.
And so my advice to aspiring “Rocketships” is this: Kkeep on top of your website and its content. Just as a good mechanic tweaks and tunes a car to improve its performance, so should WordPress users regularly maintain and update their websites to optimize for success.