In "Using WordPress to Manage Your Web Site Content, Part 1," I addressed the features within WordPress that makes it attractive for Search Engine Marketers to use as a content management system. Now we'll talk about plug-ins and general guidelines to help you set yourself up for success when designing a blog or Web site blog.
Plug-ins are, in effect, code "hacks" that add features to your WordPress blog. There are tons of plug-ins out there that can help you add features to your blog. Fortunately, it's fairly easy to find one that will work for you. Use the WordPress Codex Web site to find all manners of plug-ins to enhance your WordPress experience.
A small word of warning about using plug-ins: Generally, when WordPress releases an update, it takes a while for the plug-ins to be re-written and updated for compatibility. When we moved our blogs to the newest version of WordPress recently, we had to reconfigure a few of the add-ons that broke on a few of our sites.
Wait a bit after a major WordPress update comes out before actually installing it. This gives various programmers time to update their plug-ins to work with the latest version of WordPress and get their information into the Codex.
Below is a description of the WordPress plug-ins that I use and recommend.
- SEO Title Tag – This was built by Stephan Spencer of NetConcepts. Using the post title as the title tag on the page helps with your SEO efforts. If you want something more unique as the title on that page, you can use the bulk SEO Title Tags edit screen to change the Title Tag independent of the post title.
- Add-Meta-Tags - This plug-in is new to my list as we just started using it with the upgrade to version 2.2.1. The plug-in we used previously broke with the upgrade and didn’t have an update available in a timely manner, so we had to switch. It seems to work nicely and with the same features as our previous choice. The nice thing about these plug-ins is the number of options you have – if one doesn’t work, then try another.
- WP Email – This is a pretty straightforward plug-in – it allows you to email a post to a friend or colleague with a cute little envelope button that appears on every post.
- WP Print – This plug-in is from the same people that did the WP Email plug-in above. It works the same as the WP Email plug-in, allowing you to print a post for a later read or to share with the office.
- SpamKarma– This seems more robust than Askimet for our blogs. We’ve made it our choice for controlling spam comments. By using an algorithm type method to rank the spam-karma on a comment, it eliminates the need to moderate comments. Very rarely do we see a rogue comment slip through using this tool.
- Follow URL– By its design, every link within WordPress is automatically no-followed. For marketing and SEO purposes, I'm not really wild about this practice. Linking out without no-follow tags gives the link a vote of confidence from me as a blogger. I want to be able to control the links I no-follow on my blog. Using the Follow URL, you have this capability.
- WP Polls – This is also from the WP Email and WP Print people. Getting your readers involved with your blog is a great way to build your reach and also encourage your audience to come back for more information. Polls are a great way to make a reader feel involved with your content and the information you spread. Use polls for things as simple as the best kind of beer - the sky is the limit.
Starting Up Your Blog
Below is a list of things to remember when starting up your blog.
- Use Keywords in your post titles. Don't limit your blog posts to topics that relate to great keyword phrases. When you write your title, simply think about how you want a searcher to find that article in the search engine results. If your post is about the wide variety of widgets available, it is feasible that someone would possibly search for “widget options” to find your article.
- Take advantage of slugs. Post slugs allow you to insert a topic or keyword phrase into your URL. (Use www.blog.yourdomain.com/blog-setup-basics.html instead of www.blog.yourdomain.com/?p=187.) The key to ensuring this works well is to set your blog up on a Linux server – it just won't work right on a Windows server.
- Enable Pinging. Pinging sends a signal to the search engines to come take a look every time new content is added to your blog. This is a great way to ensure your content is spidered quickly and should help get your posts ranking right away for less-competitive keywords.
- Submit to blog directories. There are a million out there – do a simple Google query for “blog directories” and start submitting. Ideally, you'll submit to directories that feature other blogs about your topic; don’t submit to a directory that doesn’t accommodate your specific niche. Read the directions carefully – sometimes they only want your RSS feed URL as opposed to your blog URL.
- Blog frequently to add fresh content to your site. If you cannot commit to at least two posts a week, a blog is probably not going to be as successful for you. After posting two posts a week for a few months, you can probably back off to one post a week, but fresh content is what a blog is all about.
- Network your way to better traffic. I use MyBlogLog to network my blogs. From there, I can search tags for other blogs like mine and join communities with bloggers that have similar interests.
- Always check your blog after making a post. Be prepared for occasional blow-ups. Learning what caused the problem and figuring out how to fix it is part of the learning curve.
- Don’t start out building out 100 pages that you don’t have time to put good content on. Generally, pages show up in navigation, so the old adage, “keep it simple stupid,” is important. Use posts and categories to arrange your information; use pages to feature static content that doesn’t change. We use static pages for things like Road Condition links and Travel Resource information (passports and such). We built pages for each state, but the navigation is horribly out of control, so we have to go back and re-work that.
Overall, a blog is a great choice for getting the word out about your products or services. You don’t need to know Front-Page or Dreamweaver, you just load it up and go. Setting up your personal blogosphere for success in the beginning will help you reap rewards down the road.