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How to Improve Your Website in 2014

Tomorrow marks the beginning of a new year and the opportunity to do new and exciting things.

If you have a website or blog, this is the perfect time to think about your goals for 2014. What are you already doing that works? What do you need to do more of (or less of) to be successful? Where do you want to be a year from now?

Here are 10 things you can think about today that will help make your website better in 2014.

1. Get a professional design.

You knew this one was coming, right? I’ve talked at length about how to choose a designer without ending up with a designer who sucks, how to avoid being scammed, how much you should expect to pay for a design, and even how to get a great-looking site without hiring someone. The fact is, no matter what niche you’re in or how you present your content, the way your site looks is important.

Don’t fool yourself – a logo made in PicMonkey and slapped on a free WordPress theme is not professional and it never will be. Instead of fretting about the cost, think about the benefits of solid branding, a polished experience for visitors, and the increased potential for your site in 2014.

2. Make sure your site is secure.

2013 was full of tweets, blog posts, and news articles about hacked WordPress sites. If you talk to many other bloggers or business owners, I’m sure you know someone who has been hacked, stolen, and/or injected with malware. Don’t let it happen to you!

Below are just a few ways to improve your site’s security in 2014:

  • Install a security plugin. I recommend iThemes Security or Wordfence.
  • Don’t use “admin” as your username. That’s like telling a burglar where to find the spare key!
  • Use strong passwords. Here’s a tip: A strong password is not your dog’s name plus the year you graduated high school.

3. Make backups.

This one is a no-brainer, right? Surely you’re already doing this! (Except 75% of my clients aren’t, so I doubt the rest of you are much different.)

BACK. UP. YOUR. SITES. There is no way I can emphasize this enough.

Do not assume that your host, server admin, tech support person, or web designer makes regular backups of your site. Do not trust that your site will always be “fine” and that you’ll never need a backup. Do not assume that a database backup is enough to restore your site. And do not store backups inside your hosting account because they won’t do you a bit of good if your server crashes or your hosting account is compromised.

Do yourself a favor and get BackupBuddy. Yes, it’s a little expensive, but it’s easy to configure, syncs with Dropbox and Amazon S3 and a number of other storage services, and creates full backups of your entire site that you can restore by running a simple script. You will never regret having a reliable, well-supported backup solution that works.

4. Write better content.

How was your traffic in 2013? How about engagement and social shares for your blog posts? If these aspects were lacking, maybe it’s time to review your content strategy for the new year.

Wait, what’s that? You don’t have a content strategy and you’re just kind of winging it? Writing random posts that pop into your head? Posting diary entries that don’t inform, entertain, OR educate? Perhaps that’s why you aren’t happy with your traffic and/or engagement – you aren’t writing content that makes people want to come back.

A relevant intermission from The Oatmeal:


View Comic

5. Get a better host.

Raise your hand if your sites are hosted with Bluehost, HostGator, GoDaddy, or another big name host that you chose because some other blogger said they were awesome (and gave you a handy affiliate link to use when you signed up).

Now raise your other hand if your load times, uptime, and site performance have been kind of sucky throughout 2013. Oh wow, a lot of you have both hands up. Interesting!

The good news is, you aren’t stuck with a host that doesn’t meet your needs. Even if you prepaid for 2 or 3 years in advance, as is common with Bluehost. Check your hosting company’s terms of service – you are generally entitled to a prorated refund if you cancel. Which means you can go find a better host and stop putting up with a slow, laggy site that’s down every five minutes.

I won’t even recommend a particular host, lest I come across as biased. Just avoid GoDaddy, 1and1, any hosting company owned by EIG, and any host that looks like it’s run by a guy in his mom’s basement, and you’ll be just fine.

6. Audit your plugins.

While you shouldn’t be afraid of plugins, there’s also such a thing as overindulgence. Go through your site’s plugins to see what you need and what you don’t. Get rid of any inactive ones. Replace any that haven’t been updated in the last year. Lose the ones that aren’t working the way you thought they would and take a few minutes to find something better.

If your site takes forever to load and you aren’t sure why, install the P3 Profiler plugin and run a scan. It will show you exactly which plugins are dragging down your site most, giving you a great opportunity to get rid of them and/or replace them. (And yes, I’m aware that I’m telling you to install a plugin in order to get rid of plugins. But trust me on this.)

7. Set some goals.

What is your website’s purpose? What do you want to do in 2014 that you haven’t done in 2013? Do you dream of opening your own business? Getting a book deal? Writing for a major website or publisher? Now is the time to make decisions that will get you closer to those goals!

Whatever you do, don’t tell yourself you can’t. I just finished my second year of running a semi-successful company and I never could have done it if I wasted time on “can’t.” Instead, start focusing on what you CAN do, right here at the beginning of 2014, to reach whatever goals you may set for yourself, whether they’re business goals, personal goals, or both.

8. Diversify your content.


The internet has become a very exciting place in the last few years. Back in my day (puts in teeth, takes arthritis medicine) you had to have a ton of resources to get into things like online video. Thanks to technology, though, that’s no longer the case!

Maybe you want to start a podcast in 2014 or post some YouTube videos. Maybe you want to start making your own images for your blog posts. Maybe you want to try a Google Hangout where you can chat with readers and/or other bloggers in real time. People love seeing more from their favorite bloggers and business owners than paragraph after paragraph of text on a screen – this is a great time to try new things and see what sticks. (Speaking of which, I recently worked through my own paranoia and posted my first YouTube tutorial – feel free to laugh at my accent here.)

9. Make it easy for people to find you.

There are a lot of opinions out there about what, where, and how to share online. Some people, like my good friend Jeni (@theblogmaven), recommend removing or minimizing your “follow me” icons to focus on building your email list. Some will tell you to limit your social accounts to the few you like most, while others (like Pat Flynn) think you should “be everywhere.”

I don’t really care how you choose to engage with your audience. It makes no difference to me. But make sure whatever methods you use are obvious and easy for people to find. If you want me to use your contact form, put up a contact page with a link in your menu. If you want me to email you, put your email address on your site! If you want me to follow you on Twitter (I’m @nutsandbolts by the way – I love Twitter!), put an icon or link or button somewhere.

10. Learn from smart people.

They say you’re the average of the five people you spend the most time with. So if that’s the case, it seems to me you have three choices:

  • You can spend time with people who know less than you, making you the smartest in the group. But where do you go to learn anything new?
  • You can spend time with people who know as much as you, meaning the playing field is fairly level. But how do you ever get better?
  • You can spend time with people who are smarter than you, making you the dumbest in the group. And you will work your butt off every single day not to be the dumbest in the group anymore.

If you don’t have a mastermind group, mentor, or go-to guru, I urge you to make that your #1 priority in 2014. Don’t expect people to give you their time for free – it’s cool when that happens, but it’s not always possible. Instead, seek out relationships that will challenge you to blog better, run your business better, and just be better in the new year, even if you’re paying for them.

That doesn’t mean you should shun those who aren’t where you are; it just means you should make every day worthwhile. And that might mean helping others at times and helping yourself at other times. Honestly, that’s probably the best balance you could hope for in 2014 – making the internet a better place to learn, work, play, and live.

What are you hoping to accomplish with your website in 2014? Are you ready for a new year to begin, or do you still have some planning left to do?

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Reader Interactions


    • You wouldn’t believe some of the stuff I’ve seen (or maybe you would). People who host with the most random “companies” and they can’t even upload images because the server configuration is so horrible… I just don’t understand why people continue doing things that don’t work!

  1. Great list Andrea! Aside from you taking care of #1 so nicely for me this year (thanks!), I took your advice and bought Backup Buddy and signed up for Big Scoots hosting and I am quite happy with both.

    I like the sound of that Stealth Login Page plugin in #2…

  2. You offered great tips and sound (and timely!) advice to create and maintain an awesome website. I particularly liked the Oatmeal comic! Very funny … sad and true. Nothing can replace the value of spectacular content and building authentic relationships across social media. I look forward to following your posts!
    Happy New Year!

  3. Excellent tips Andrea! Getting a professional design, keeping your site secure, and writing/posting good content are my top 3 on the list. What’s the sense of having a good design if your website is not secured, right? Hackers can just copy your code and themes right away. So better take good care of your website.

    • Good point, Claud. I’ve had a few clients get hacked and they’re always relieved that I keep a backup of the themes I build, but that definitely doesn’t help if all the content is stolen or lost. Thanks for visiting and commenting!

  4. Hey! How do you get your website to fit the entire web browser screen? Is that built into the genesis framework? I have used themes before and some do not fit my screen. Is that just a resolution issue on my computer?

    • Hmm, I’m not sure. This site is mobile responsive, meaning it resizes depending on the size of the screen the person is viewing it on, so maybe that’s what you’re noticing. What size and type of screen are you using to view the site?

  5. Honestly do not know. Its probably the html 5 and responsive doing its work. I am going to upgrade to genesis platform. I am impressed so far. I have been using themeforest but have had many issues that genesiss seems to have cleaned up. thanks again

  6. Christine Ferguson

    I have had this post open for two days as a reference as I tighten up the security on my sites. Thank you for the great information!

  7. Mark Salars

    Finding a good web host is hard. I’ve been through my fair share of a lot of them. You are absolutely right that anything EIG is just plain terrible and no one should have to deal with them. I’ve been through my fair share of Hostgators, Bluehost, etc but landed on NodeWest for a forum and wiki. As a matter of fact, I found this blog from one of their retweets.

    • I agree with you totally. It’s hard to get recommendations since a lot of people don’t really know the difference – if they start out with a crappy host, they don’t always realize there’s anything better out there. And since so many bloggers recommend whoever is paying their affiliates the most, you never know if a recommendation is legit or not.

  8. Well thought out tips… thanks!

    Personally, I am working on a new design. Although it is a risk since it attracts clients, readers look at sites differently than they did when I originally added the theme back in early 2012. Agree?

    • Hi Doug,

      I would definitely agree that times have changed, even since 2012! The internet moves so quickly… I feel like my sites are constantly either sporting a brand new design or I’m working on the next one.

  9. I almost choked when you said “…a logo made in PicMonkey and slapped on a free Wordpress theme” and blushed because that is just what I did. :-) Mine may not be a “business” blog but it could do well with a professional look.

    • A professional look never hurts anyone, but I also think it depends on your goals. If you blog as a hobby and have no intention of making money from your site, I wouldn’t worry about it. :)

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