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Configuring WordPress & Plugins

WordPress Configuration and Optimization

I’ve been building WordPress sites for nearly 8 years now and feel pretty comfortable in the interface.  I wanted to touch on a few WordPress plugins that I use regularly when I build a site and how they can help more novice users.  I am not considering myself a WordPress expert by any means, but I build very functional and SEO-friendly websites that have a tendency to perform well in SERPs just shortly after launching.

First, I configure my Permalinks.  Permalinks are the way in which your URLs are structured and can provide a very organized way to present your site’s content while being very search engine friendly.  I have mine set to /%postname%/, which tells WordPress to list the title of my post in the URL immediately following the domain, separating the words with commas.  NOTE: Do NOT change your permalinks on an established website without consulting an SEO specialist.  Install only on a new site or site with no current incoming referral links.  Doing so will break any links to your site without proper 301 redirects.

Next, I immediately install Google Analytics and Google Webmaster Tools.  Google Analytics is the industry standard for measuring site traffic.  Once installed, you can see unique visitors, visits, pageviews, time spent on site, and much more.  You can also discover traffic sources such as direct, search, referral, or feeds.

Google Webmaster Tools helps Google’s indexing bots crawl your content and keeps track of how often your site appears in a search engine results page (SERP).  Knowing what keywords users are regularly searching for can help you write with those keywords in mind and strengthen the chances that Google searches show your site above competing websites.  NOTE: After you first install Webmaster Tools, you might have to wait several days for Google’s bots to crawl and index your site.

Working hand-in-hand with Google Webmaster Tools, you’ll want to find and download the Google XML Sitemap plugin.  This automatically builds a sitemap.xml and sitemap.xml.gz file containing all URLs found within your domain and hand-delivers them to Google, Bing, and Yahoo! search engines.

Additionally, I use an SEO plugin called All-In-One SEO Pack.  There are several copycats, so make sure you download and install the one with the most ratings or follow the link above.  This is a long-standing WordPress plugin that allows you to custom edit your meta tags, title, description, as well as for your whole site.  For a complete list of what this plugin can do and how it can help you, please refer to the included documentation.

Last, but not least, I use the pre-installed Akismet plugin.  You must visit akismet.com and create a free account, but Akismet helps filter comment spam and is a huge time-saver.  If you choose to allow comments on your blog, you’ll quickly find that many bots and spammers leave the most generic comments on your posts with a link back to their site.  They do this to help get links back to their site and bolster their own SEO, but this is a very antiquated way of performing SEO and not very ethical.  Cut down on the spam and activate the Akismet plugin after setting up an account.  Trust me.  You’ll thank me later when you see how many spam comments are blocked by this plugin.

… and that’s about it.  Keep your installs clean and use only highly rated plugins, because you’ll never know when WordPress will release an update and render many plugins useless until they are updated by their authors.  By using only those with high ratings, you’ll increase the chances that the plugin is built well and, in the rare case that the plugin breaks with a WordPress update, know that the author will likely release an update shortly.

Well, I hope that helps those of you building your own website or blog.  I will also recommend you check out ElegantThemes.com for over 74 fantastic themes for the low price of $39.  Sign up for an annual membership once and get access to all 74 themes, with new themes releasing regularly.

Good luck, and have fun with your own WordPress blog!

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