This post isn’t about setting up your new WordPress blog. Instead, it contains a few tips to help you make more informed decisions about how your blog can and will function.
What do you have to keep in mind when setting up your new blog? Here are eight things that should be important to you:
1. First and foremost, if you can afford it, get a premium theme.
There are two reasons for this: Firstly, using a premium theme makes your site more unique than when you use a free theme. Google takes this into account when deciding where to rank your blog posts in its search results. Secondly, a premium theme creates a better “first impression”. That “better” first impression will translate into added trust, which will translate into more sales and signups. It will also translate into more pages viewed per visitor, which Google sees as a sign of a good user experience. You’ll be rewarded with more traffic.
2. Still on the subject of the theme, another reason why professional internet marketers buy premium themes is because of the flexibility it provides.
Premium themes tend to have more options for colors, layouts, home page layouts, additional widget areas, etc. Real professional themes like Optimize Press also allow you to create stunning landing pages without the need for a third party service like Click Funnels or Lead Pages (both are great services, by the way, providing much more than just the landing page design options).
3. For SEO, I recommend SEO by Yoast – a brilliant WordPress plugin.
Yoast SEO takes a little time to configure – but once you have done so, you have an amazing tool. It provides (while writing) an analysis and suggestions about possible improvements to not only the search engine optimization, but also about the readability factor of your content. In addition to that, it facilitates site verification for search engines and social platforms like Pinterest.
If the Yoast SEO plugin is a bit too complex for you (remember there are videos on Youtube that will help with setting it up), you can always consider using the All In One SEO Pack plugin. Whilst being much more limited in capability, it will still help you to get the SEO basics in place, and allow for webmaster verification.
Both of these plugins will – automatically, although you can override it – generate title meta tags and descriptions meta tags for every page and post on your blog.
4. Social sharing – you have much to choose from.
If you want something that loads extremely fast, you can look at Social Media Feather. If you want something that will allow you (and your visitors) a load of flexibility (and a boatload of sharing options), you should look at the social sharing buttons by AddThis. Remember to add “follow me” buttons as well – and add a plugin for it if your theme doesn’t support it.
Note: If your blog is still new, and you don’t want to show the number of shares along with the social sharing buttons, simply choose to display only the side bar (for the AddThis social sharing buttons plugin), along with the mobile sharing bar. Neither shows the share counts. The extreme flexibility of the AddThis sharing plugin also means that you can make your pick of networks to display, regardless of your visitor demographics.
5. Security – Hide My WP (premium plugin).
Let’s face it: We live in an era of cyber-bullying, cyber-terrorism, and ransom-ware. I don’t see it going away any time soon, so we have to be prepared to deal with it and protect our own blogs and websites. WordPress is a very complex machine, with many moving parts, so to speak. That makes it easier for hackers to find a way in – if you leave it unattended.
There are many security plugins for WordPress out there. Some are great, and some can be a pain in the neck (like when you IP address is suddenly blocked on your hosting server because the firewall disagreed with a change you wanted to make inside WordPress…:). The most logical of all is Hide My WP. It allows you to move your login page, and removes any reference to the WordPress installation from your blog’s code. To put it in common language: The “back doors” that could have been used to hack into your site, are made invisible.
For instance – if you look at your blog’s source code (right click on a blank area on the page, and select “view source code” or “view page source”), you will find many references to directories like yourdomain.com/wp-content/plugins/plugin-name. By using Hide My WP, that disappears from the source code. A hacker viewing it will think your site is a “hard coded site” (built from scratch in code format), and fail to see any opportunity to hack into it. The only way he or she will be able to hack into it, is via your hosting company – and if you use a reputable company like Bluehost of even Hostgator, that won’t be easy, to put it mildly.
If you can’t afford Hide My WP, then get any of the more popular WordPress security plugins – but just get something to help keep hackers at bay. Free plugins might not always be successful – but at least it’s a deterrent.
In addition to that, I recommend that you keep your WordPress core, plugins and themes updated. You can set it to update automatically when you install WordPress in Scriptalicious, or you can use the Easy Updates Manager plugin if you already installed, and failed to set it. If you don’t feel comfortable with doing it automatically, do it manually – but do it regularly.
Lastly, most hosting companies allow you to make complete backups of your site (your complete home directory plus MySQL database) – do this on a regular basis. If anything goes wrong at your hosting company, or if a hacker does find his/her way into your blog, you can have your site restored in a very short period of time. And yes, hosting companies do keep backups – but there have been instances (usually at smaller hosting companies) where the whole server/storage system was hacked, and all backups were lost.
6. Anti-spam – WP-Spamphield.
Yes, you can buy Akismet if you like. But for most of the time, WP-Spamshield will do a good job of reducing spam comments, blocking contact form spam, and even reducing registration form spam.
Note: The easiest and simplest contact form plugin is Contact Form 7.
7. Promotion automation:
Social media activity cannot really be fully automated. If you do, people quickly realize “you aren’t there”, and start ignoring you. However, you can get away with a certain degree of automation – especially when it comes to the initial syndication of your content (right after publishing a new post).
a. IFTTT.com – If This Then That – is a free service that allows you to connect your blog’s RSS feed with a boatload of services. it save a lot of time once it is set up, because IFTTT will check your RSS feed every 15 minutes for any changes (new content).
b. SNAP – Social Network Auto Poster – allows you to post to a multitude of places, but directly from your blog. It also allows you to send your stuff to a few places where IFTTT doesn’t deliver to. It has both a free and a premium version. The premium version can even auto-post to your Google+ profile or page.
c. Revive Old Post – a free plugin, formerly called “Old Post Promoter” – allows you to re-syndicate your older content to a few of the major networks – Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, Tumblr, etc. You simply select the minimum and maximum age of each post, and how regularly it should share it, and the plugin will pick a random post (which mathces your criteria) at every selected time interval.
This plugin is especially useful on Twitter, where things mover very quickly, and your content “goes off the page” so quickly that most of your followers never see it the first time around. Repeated exposure will exponentially increase your probabilities for getting visitors to your blog. Just don’t overdo it, and remember it’s not a replacement for actual social activity –it’s merely an add-on.
Barring the need for security, none of these are critically urgent. But all of them will make a contribution towards the success of your blog.
Lastly, a word of warning:
It’s easy to get caught up in all the plugins, and to simply start installing everything that looks useful or cool – but please don’t. Every plugin that runs translates into a script that has to run somewhere before your blog can be displayed to a visitor – and every script that has to run, means it takes a little longer to load. The internet has made people very impatient (you literally have but a few seconds to make a first impression, never mind load your blog) – and using too many plugins will cost you visitors, signups and sales.
Only use what you really need. Your exact needs will depend on your niche, what you want to offer, and your target market demographics – but keep it to the bare minimum.