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WordPress

WordPress Tips 2009

WordPress Tips 2009

I was looking through one of my old posts, Hardcore WordPress Tips, and realized just how outdated it is. It’s just one year old this week and already 5 of the 10 tips I would consider bad information.

Most of the bad tips are simply because WordPress evolves so rapidly that there are better solutions now. A couple of tips I need to revise because I’ve learned a lot more since last year and have better advice.

So, on with the show: WordPress Tips 2009

10. Use the Yahoo! User Interface Library

For theme developers, creating a theme that is flexible is a must-do today. WordPress has been around long enough that crappy themes shouldn’t even be made anymore (unfortunately they still are). One step to ensure that your theme isn’t crappy is to take advantage of some incredible resources Yahoo! provides.

The YUI Library is hosted code: Javascript and CSS. I just use the CSS. Using their grid system, creating a theme is easy, flexible, and much more easily browser compliant. Check out more details in my Easy Workflow for Site Creation post.

9. Interlink!

spider-webThe more you link to other content on your site the more bots access it. The more bots access, the more impressive you may be in search engines.

Link to Similar Posts

You can certainly do this manually in your post by referencing old blog posts…and you should. But you should also use an automatic method as well. Linking to related posts helps search engines categorize your page better. The more you can zero in on what your page is about the better you rank.

Similar Posts, by Rob Marsh, will do just that. Similar Posts not only does a great job with what it’s supposed to do (retrieving relevant posts) but it’s part of a plugin family that all use the same library for configuring functions. Read on…

Link to Popular Posts

Popular Posts is another member of the family of plugins written by Rob Marsh. So rather than use several methods of retrieving posts, stick with one to keep your life easier and things streamlined.

8. Lockdown

With every release WordPress becomes more secure. On the other hand, everyday hackers become increasingly smarter and more malicious. Out of the box, WordPress can’t be as secure as it’d like to be, so they even give us some tips.

WordPress’ site already has an article on on Hardening WordPress.

One of the quick things you can do is restrict access to the WordPress administration side. Create the file, “.htaccess” in /wp-admin/ and paste the following into it, replacing the IP address with your own. Find your IP.

AuthUserFile /dev/null
AuthGroupFile /dev/null
AuthName "Access Control"
AuthType Basic
order deny,allow
deny from all
# whitelist this IP address
allow from 55.555.555.55

Secondly, create an empty index.html file in your /wp-content/plugins/ directory. This will prevent the listing of your plugins for the world to see, making it a bit harder for hackers to find exploits.

Next, delete the username “admin” (obviously make a new username for yourself first), and use a strong password for your login.

Finally, install WP Security Scan to make sure everything checks out.

7. Boost Your Site’s Speed

You can optimize your site all you want, but if you’re not on a good host then you’re going nowhere. So first, switch over to HostGator because they’re the best host I’ve ever used.

After you’ve setup on HostGator, hardcode some things in your theme.

WordPress themes work by including functions that make calls to the database that give it the correct paths to files, etc. This is great for making a theme portable, but it ends up slowing the site down by taxing your database more than necessary.

Anywhere you see…


…you can replace it with your root level URL (ex. http://www.example.com/)

You can change…


…to the path of your stylesheet.

I could go on. But all you really need to know is to look for functions that you could replace with absolute paths and reduce the amount of database calls.

WP Super Cache

WP Super Cache is an awesome plugin that caches your pages and serves them up more quickly. It comes with lots of options which is really nice. It can be a bit difficult to install sometimes, but it may really pay off. It’s especially nice when you have a load of extra, unexpected traffic.

6. Give Some Flow to the Bots

robotOf course we know that bots (spiders) crawl the Internet checking out pages in order to provide results in search engines. These bots need some direction when they’re crawling — basically they crawl link to link. Obviously we need to give them some links. We need to give bots the right links. In addition to links, there is some meta information bots will pay attention.

The best solution for directing bots where you want them to go (and don’t want them to go) is by using the Robots Meta plugin.

For example, you probably don’t need bots to waste their time on the following pages (especially if you’re a one-author blog):

  • The login and register pages
  • All admin pages
  • Author pages
  • Date-based archives
  • Tag archives

Using this plugin you can prevent bots from accessing these pages and really create a well defined path for spiders.

5. Setup Shop With Google

google-analyticsGoogle Analtyics

Google Analytics is the leader in website stat tracking. Create an account and paste their code in the footer.php file of your current theme.

If you’re not comfortable with editing code, don’t know where your footer.php file is, or you change themes frequently then a plugin is your best option.

Google Analytics for WordPress makes the tracking script easy to install and also has a few extra goodies for making tracking your site usage even better.

google-webmaster-toolsGoogle Webmaster Tools

Google Webmaster Tools is an awesome resource that gives you a behind the scenes look at how Google is interacting with your site. There’s too much valuable information here for me to even begin to describe, so just create your account already!

Well, there is one thing you should know about. You’ll need to submit a sitemap to the Webmaster Tools site and there’s no better WordPress sitemap generator than the Google Sitemaps Generator for WordPress.

4. Use Header Tags Correctly

A theme that is well made will have already taken this into consideration. Search engines pay special attention to how a site’s code is written. Certain tags like Header tags can give text more importance as well as define how a page’s content is organized.

Make sure your WordPress theme knows How To Use Header Tags Correctly. This particularly applies to your sidebar. It’s full of incorrect header tag usage by default, so make sure to correct those issues.

3. Meta Information – Title, Description, Keywords

Go grab Head Space 2, a robust plugin for customizing page titles, descriptions, and keywords. This will make your website much more SEO friendly…as long as you know what you’re doing.

Once installed, you can use the following as a guide for how to configure the plugin:

  • Posts / Pages: %%title%% - Blog Title
  • Categories: %%category%% Archives %%page%% - Blog Title
  • Tags: %%tag%% Archives %%page%% - Blog Title
  • Archives: Blog Archives %%page%% - Blog Title

Courtesy of yoast.com.

2. Permalinks

chainPermalinks, or the URLs to pages on your WP site, are part of what makes WordPress the best choice for a blog or CMS. WP allows you to customize your URL structure very easily.

By default, however, WordPress URLs aren’t optimized for search engines. Recently it’s been pointed out that your URL structure can slow your site down as well, so let’s take a look at building the best permalink.

Permalinks for Speed

WordPress needs to know what page to display when given a URL. For example, http://example.com/2009/01/22/hello-world/ is obviously going to take us to the “Hello Word!” post. How does WordPress know that though? Through several attempts of trying to figure out what the URL is trying to get to WP will finally figure it out. It’s in that time, though, that your user is waiting for WP to figure things out.

Basically, it’s easier for WordPress to retrieve the page/post if a numerical value is the first thing in the URL (i.e. %post_id%, %year%, etc.).

Don’t look to my site as an example because I’ve just recently learned this and haven’t gotten around to changing things up yet. Also, this method isn’t necessary. You won’t notice any difference in speed until you’ve got hundreds or even thousands of posts/pages, but it’s always good to build a scalable site from the start.

Read more details on efficient permalink strategies.

Bad:

/%postname%/%post_id%/
/%category%/%postname%/

Better:

/%post_id%/%postname%/
/%year%/%category%/%postname%/

Permalinks for SEO

So if we want a speedy site (by using the method above) AND we want to ensure that our URLs are the best for search engines, then the following method is the choice.

Having your keywords in the URL is always a plus. Search engines can use it as further evidence for what your page is about. Google also places the URL below each search result and bolds keywords — just another way that might help improve your chances of being clicked.

So we need to make sure to include %postname%. This will render the post/page slug (ex. hello-world). If your site is heavily reliant upon categories you may want to include your category name as well. So here’s our options:

/%post_id%/%postname%/

or

/%post_id%/%category%/%postname%/

We can even take this one step further. Your URL doesn’t need to contain every word from your post/page title, just the significant ones. Instead of hand editing every permalink you can use SEO Slugs to automatically strip your permalinks of stop words, like ‘a’, ‘the’, ‘in’, etc. SEO is all about the details!

1. Prepare for Disaster

alarmBackups are often an afterthought (like after you lost the data!). The truth is, the world is fallible and for one reason or another your site may get royally screwed up someday and you’ll either be back up and running within an hour or your heart will still be fluttering as you look blankly at your missing files and database.

We make mistakes, servers make mistakes, web hosts make mistakes, so just count on it. Be prepared!

Backup the Database

Get yourself the WordPress Database Backup plugin. You can schedule DB backups or get on-demand backups. I have my backups emailed to me weekly (with Gmail that’s no biggie). I’ll always have an archive…as long as Gmail doesn’t blow up.

Backup the Files

Secondly, backup your server files. If for some reason everything goes wrong, you’ll need the database and your theme (especially if you’ve done any customization). Plus, the image paths stored in the DB won’t have anything to show for themselves without files on the server.

Some hosts will allow you schedule file backups and this is the ideal situation. If they don’t have a solution to do this, then you’ll just need to be well disciplined and do this yourself via FTP every once in a while.

WordPress provides great detail on database and file backups.

Conclusion

I hope this guide has been a great help. Please add your own advice or questions in the comments.

You can also subscribe for regular WordPress, SEO, and web design tips.

Good luck with WordPress in 2009!

Categories
SEO

Using Header Tags Correctly

In search engine optimization every detail matters. Details are what set apart the successful search engine optimizers from the mediocre. Much like everything else in life, if you work a little bit harder and a little bit smarter you’ll get further ahead.

So let me explain the use of the header tag. You know, H1, H2, H3, etc. What’s it for and where do you use it for the best optimized content?

SEO for Dummies

Header tags show a great level of importance for text. While putting text in a header tag won’t make you king of the search results, it’s another detail that adds to the many other details you’re hopefully keeping up with.

Headers Make Big Fonts *sniff*

Yes, sometimes wrapping text in HX tags makes the font bigger, but that’s not WHY the header tag exists, and thus that’s not why you should use it.

Never mix page markup with style. Don’t count on your H1 tag being Arial, black, and 36pt font. Styles, nowadays, are set by the style sheet and should never be left to the browser to decide what page attributes will look like. I could go on and one with this, but the point is not to think of HX tags as looking any different than regular text.

Instead, think of header tags as…drumroll…section headers.

Outlining Your Pages With Headers

So this tag was created with the intention of marking a page with tags that signified some sort of organization. Headers outline the page. So the H1 tag is the title of the entire page, and each child header breaks the page down into it’s various parts.

Remember, each page on your website is a separate entity. Treat each page uniquely, tailoring your content around the title of your page.

What To Put In Your Headers

More easily, here’s what not to put in your headers. Don’t put things that are irrelevant to the topic of the page.

WordPress defaults to displaying sidebar widget titles as H3 tags. Some of these widgets are, “Recent Posts”, “Search”, “Tags”, etc. Are you competing for any of those keywords? Probably not. Put those titles in DIV tags.

Yes, they do organize the page, BUT if you’re building your pages correctly the sidebar should be at the bottom of the source code. Right out of the gate that means the sidebar is less important than the body content.

It’s your body content that needs the organization.

When writing your headers out make them easy for users to get the point and try to use some keywords at the same time.

“My H1 Is My Site’s Name” – Bad Idea

Well, it’s a good idea…for your home page. When searchers actually search for your website’s name your goal shouldn’t be to have results for any page on your site. Your goal is have your home page come up in results.

Your website’s name isn’t the main topic of every page on your site either. So why tell search engines every page’s most important information is your name?

So, put your site name in an H1 tag on your home page and in a DIV tag on all the rest.

For WordPress users, you can use something like this:

    

<a href="/">

All that says is that if the page is the home page use an H1, and if it’s anything else use a DIV.

Enjoy Your New Header Tags Knowledge!

Categories
Tips

SEO & WordPress Tips – 3

Google’s SEO Starter Guide – Just released; a good read for all beginners

Advanced WordPress Optimization – Ten PHP and MySQL changes to speed up & secure your site

WordPress 2.7 “Trailer” – Short video about the new 2.7 interface

Writing Good Content – Guide to creating well written content

Best WordPress Plugins – Several post related plugins that are incredibly flexible

Categories
WordPress

Hardcore WordPress Tips

Update: See WordPress Tips 2009 for a new & improved list

I’m not the first one to write a post that outlines major WordPress tips and tricks to implement into your WordPress site (or any kind of site for a number of these tips). Search engines will be much more proud to display your content if it follows some of these WordPress tips. In order to improve SEO on your blog, improve site speed, improve user-friendliness, and ease site management.

WordPress Tip 1. Use The Title Tag Correctly

Making the best use of your title tag can make a huge a difference in how people find your site. Search engines base the title in the SERP on your title tag and if you don’t sell the content in that one line, chances are you won’t sell it at all.

The following code enables your site to make better use of your post titles and blog description. Basically it says that if you are viewing a post, a page, or an archive that it should display the title of that page in the title tag and if it is anything else (i.e. the home page) then it should display the description of the blog. This means that you should make sure your blog’s description is very relevant to your site’s content.

Source: Pearsonified

WordPress Tip 2. Direct Bots To Your Content

You’ve got a lot of great content and you want people to find it in as many places as possible, but Google doesn’t like duplicated content – no problem. Michael Gray outlines how to organize your content in such a way that bots can easily find your content.

His advice is geared more towards brand new sites, but another solution is the Meta Robots plugin. This plugin blocks bots from following and/or indexing pages on your site.

For example, I’m using the Meta Robots plugin to prevent the indexing of these pages:

  • The login and register pages
  • All admin pages
  • Author pages
  • Date-based archives
  • Tag archives

In addition I’m using the plugin to add nofollow to these:

  • Nofollow category listings on pages
  • Nofollow category listings on single posts
  • Nofollow outbound links on the frontpage
  • Nofollow login and registration links

Joost de Valk’s SEO blog is an excellent source of WordPress tips.

WordPress Tip 3. RSS Is Super Powerful

For the normal person RSS is just a really handy way to get their favorite blogs in one spot. Awesome.

However, what is even better is the resulting SEO of RSS.

RSS has the potential to push your content to SERPs quicker than not utilizing it. We all know that if you write a new post you’ve got to wait for the Google bot to come by and snatch up the new content and then display in the SERPs. WRONG.

What I’ve found out is that by utilizing FeedBurner, you enable your content to be pushed to SERPs nearly immediately. Your content hasn’t even been chached yet! Google recognizes that your content is fresh, and therefore may be more relevant to searches and gives it better results than others (others that you normally WOULDN’T beat).

So get yourself a FeedBurner account!

WordPress Tip 4. Post Frequently and/or Consistently

Bots know to return to sites more often when they recognize that content is being created…more often. This can ensure that all of your content is being indexed and tells search engines that you’re alive, producing new, fresh content. Even if you aren’t posting everyday, some sort of a routine is good to keep bots coming back regularly.

WordPress Tip 5. Site Maps

I’m not talking about the site map that you link to in your footer. I’m talking about the one-time-plugin-install that automatically creates a site map for you and pings the search engines, alerting them that you have new content. The best plugin for this is, of course, the Google Sitemaps Generator.

The site map is standardized and can be read by Google, Ask, Yahoo!, and MSN. Auto generate your site map and forget about it.

Download the Google Sitemaps Generator.

WordPress Tip 6. Secure Your Site

Matt Cutts suggested three things to lock down your site and keep hackers out:

  1. Prevent access to your wp-admin directory from unauthorized IP addresses via an .htaccess file
  2. Make an empty index.html file in your plugins directory to avoid people gaining access to your current plugins
  3. Always update to the newest version of WordPress so that publicly released security flaws don’t catch up with you

Source: Three tips to protect your WordPress installation

Matt sometimes posts some great WordPress tips as well, so check his blog out.

WordPress Tip 7. Speed Your Site Up and Don’t Run the Risk of the “Digg Effect”

Hopefully you’re writing good enough content that someday may be worthy of the “Digg Effect” (captivating so many people that your site goes down at a most critical point). Of course you can’t assure perfection without spending the big bucks, but there are some things to keep yourself alive during these times.

The WP-Cache plugin is the single-most common and easiest way to speed your site up. It simply caches pages as they are visited and automatically dumps the cache at a custom interval (default is an hour).

For more advanced methods of caching and speed improvement, visit Elliot Back’s “WordPress Improvement: Why My Site Is So Much Faster Than Yours

WordPress Tip 8. For Media: podPress

There is no other plugin as easy to use for rich media than podPress. With this single install you can upload almost any media file (audio or video) and have it play via a player of your choice right in your blog – complete with an assortment of customization options. In addition, turn your media into a podcast and let podPress do all the work. This is a very powerful plugin and can be used in all sorts of ways.

I can’t wait to start using it more. Download podPress here.

WordPress Tip 9. Use a Related Posts Plugin

A lot of times organic visitors have found content that they like. Assuming they made it all the way to the bottom of your post (or wherever your choose to put it) they might encounter a list of related posts. This is nearly essential. Again, they found content they like, so if you’ve written other posts around the same subject they will most likely be interested in those as well. Keep people clicking and moving around your site.

Download the Similar Posts plugin.

WordPress Tip 10. Use the Yahoo! User Interface Library

One of the best things Yahoo! has done has been releasing the YUI Library. For a good number of benefits, you are better off creating your themes using this – you won’t regret it. Read my “Easy Workflow for Site Creation” post.

In Conclusion

Hopefully I’ve been able to provide some useful tips. As more come in I’ll continue to compile them and share them with you as I learn. After all, that’s what makes WordPress so great!

Feel free to share your tips below!