WordPress is an immensely powerful blogging and website platform. There are, however, some important steps to carry out as soon as possible and some elementary mistakes to avoid once WordPress has been installed. This is by no means a complete guide but it includes a number of useful tips to help make your WordPress site as effective as possible.
1. Permalink Structure
A common critique of WordPress is that its default URL structure for posts is quite weak, with each post being given a page ID such as “http://site.com/?p=123”. This can give a bad impression if it is linked to from another site as it doesn’t give a good idea of what a user can expect to find and in some situations could look spammy.
To remedy this in the WordPress dashboard go to Settings, then Permalinks and you will find the default settings. Change this to Post Name – the second to last option on the page and you will achieve a much cleaner and more user friendly URL.
This may not be the perfect solution depending on your site but if in doubt this is definitely the option to go with.
2. Set Up a Spam Plugin
The Askimet spam plugin has been included by default with all WordPress builds since 2.0 it does require a brief and simple set up but it is well worth the time. Failing to implement it will lead to a horrendous build-up of irrelevant comments.
There are three steps to activating Askimet; first in the Plugins menu of the WordPress dashboard you will find Askimet greyed out. Click on the Activate link to the left of the plugin description.
Secondly you will need to sign up for an Akismet API key, you can do this via the link within the plugin description or the link that will appear at the top of the dashboard once the plugin is activated. On the Askimet site click the “Get Askimet API Key” button and assuming the key is for a personal blog select the far right option. Fill in your details and select the yearly contribution you would like to offer for Askimet (this can be nothing). Once confirmed you should receive an email containing your key.
Finally back in your WordPress dashboard under Plugins click either the Askimet Configuration tab in the sidebar or the link at the top of the dashboard. Enter your key into the box and click the “Update Options” button. If successful you will receive a message saying your key has been verified. Any spam will now be caught within the Spam tab in the Comments menu, if any spam does get though simply mark it as spam and Askimet will know better in the future.
Even with a spam plugin it is important to moderate the comments you receive. One of the things you must not do is leave your comments to fester without checking them as abuse, profanities and general spam can build up which in turn will deter genuine visitors.
Another option that is often overlooked is turning comments off until the site is receiving an decent amount of natural traffic so you can be sure that some of the comments received will be genuine and well meaning.
3. Backing Up
WordPress is popular because it is easy to download and anyone can perform this task with the most basic of knowledge. However, the inexperienced users can make the most elementary of mistakes and it’s very easy to neglect a proper back up file.
Using the Export function found under the Tools menu it is possible to download a backup of all your pages, settings, posts and comments. The Import function will walk you through the process installing the import plugin and uploading the exported file. If nothing else you should use this backup option as it will ensure you have the written content for your posts and pages should something go wrong.
Backing everything else up is a little trickier, the database can be backed up using this plugin which will email you a copy of the backup at a chosen interval. Themes, Images and Plugins can all be backed by using a FTP client, such as FileZilla, to download the relevant folders. They can then be re-uploaded in the same location on the site should the original be corrupted or lost.
4. Picking the Right Theme
Another aspect of the WordPress success story lies in the huge choice of themes (templates) that you can utilise in your site. The wide choice can lead to confusion and selecting the wrong theme may also dissuade potential visitors from spending too much time on your site.
An easy mistake is to use a free WordPress theme that links through to very untrustworthy sites that you would not want to be associated with. To avoid this, the link can either be removed by editing the theme or by find a theme that does not contain any external links. Some themes with links may be encrypted ensuring the links cannot be removed without breaking the theme.
For around $40 it’s possible to find a great looking theme with an additional options menu built into the WordPress dashboard allowing easy customisation without having to risk breaking the theme by editing the base files. Sites with themes of this type include Theme Forrest, Mojo Themes and Elegant Themes which are all great starting points to finding the right theme.
5. SEO Plugins
There are a number of different plugins but my personal choice is Yoast’s WordPress SEO. This allows you to set up a custom Page Title and Post Title format which can also be edited for individual post or page. Meta descriptions for pages and posts can also be edited and categories and tags which can be considered duplicate content by search engine can be no-indexed.
Yoast has written a great companion piece that covers pretty much all the SEO you will need for a WordPress site that is updated with each iteration of his SEO plugin and it is well worth a read.
6. Set Up Analytics
Having some form of analytics on your site is a must and Google analyticsis free and simple to set up. Some themes will include an option to insert the tracking ID and will do the rest for you, if not then either an analytics plugin needs to be used or the tracking code has to be inserted into the head element of the site.
Using a plugin is the preferable method as it ensures that any theme change or edits will not leave any gaps in analytics data. I would suggest the Analytics Plugin again made by Yoast.
7. Keeping the Page Look Clean
One of WordPress’s greatest features is the vast selection widgets and plugins that have been created over the years. The list is almost endless from Facebook and Twitter icons to live chat, donation buttons, banner ads and much more.
With so much choice it can be tempting to set up anything that takes your fancy but it’s important to restrict the volume. First impressions are vital for any visitor and if the site is cluttered it is likely to turn them away. Using a multitude of widgets and plugins can also increase page load times; this is something to avoid as it will not only provide a bad user experience but is one of the many factors that search engines take into account when ranking sites.
You should now be well prepared for running a WordPress site. If you have any other essential tips or plugins for running a WordPress site please let us know in the comments.
About the Author:
This post was written by Matt Russell CEO of WebHostingBuzz, who offer Shared, Reseller, and VPS web hosting services. You can follow them on twitter @webhostingbuzz or visit their site at http://www.webhostingbuzz.com.