It’s no secret that WordPress has pretty well established itself as a preeminent Open Source blogging/CMS platform. It’s a distant memory when WordPress could be described as just another blogging tool. I use WordPress on all of my sites and almost always recommend clients give a try. Some are reluctant but most of them are very pleased with the results and how easy WordPress makes it to maintain such a robust site.
For the most part, WordPress comes ready to use “out of the box” but there are five things I always do immediately after installing a fresh version of WP.
- Go to your plugins directory (/wp-admin/plugins.php) and turn on Akismet. Akismet is absolutely fabulous at catching 99% of the spam comments on your site. It comes pre-installed with all WordPress installations but you have to actually activate it before it starts working. You’ll also need to head over to WordPress.com and either sign up for an account or login to your existing account and go to your profile to grab your WordPress API key to fully activate Akismet. See How to: Build a Vibrant Community of Blog Commenters to see why it’s your job and not your commenter’s jobs to stop spam.
- Head over to your permalink options (/wp-admin/options-permalink.php) and choose either “Day and Name” or “Month and Name” or if you’re a little more advanced you can completely customize your URL although I find “Month and Name” works just fine. That turns on nice, readable URLs for each of your posts. So instead of http://yoursite.com/index.php?p=1764 you get http://yoursite.com/year/month/damnthislooksgood/. Not only are permalinks more readable and user friendly, they’re SEO friendly too.
- Download and install the Google Sitemaps plugin. It’s incredibly easy to install and has a ton of features, most of which you can leave on default, that tell Google’s robots how often to revisit different parts of your site. This plugin is fantastic for SEO, Google loves having an XML valid sitemap of your site to tell it exactly where to go.
- Get rid of the default WordPress theme. There’s hardly anything worse than going to a WordPress site and seeing the same old default theme that’s been seen a million times before. When it comes to WordPress themes your mantra should If you want a great, easily customizable theme with a boatload of features that has kick ass SEO you should definitely check out Thesis. It’s what I use for this site and after using WordPress for more than five years, I can easily say it’s the best sandbox theme I’ve ever used. No, it’s not free, but it really could be the best investment you ever make for your site. But, if you just don’t have a few extra bucks in your budget you can do a little searching and find an already customized theme yourself. Most of them won’t be as SEO friendly and probably none of them will have as many custom features, but they will be free.
- Add analytics tracking to your site. Don’t expect people to be banging down your virtual door right away, but as your site grows you will want to have a way to keep keep track of not only the amount of people visiting your site but how they got to your site. I actually use two services, both of them are free. I use Sitemeter for basic, quick stats that I can check on the fly. I also use Google Analytics which is a much more robust analytics tool that will give you access to, more than likely, more stats than you will ever need. Also, if you ever plan on trying to monetize your site, Google Analytics will be an invaluable tool for filling in the blanks of who, where, when and how many people visit your site to potential advertisers.
All of these steps should take you less than 30 minutes to implement and will prove invaluable as you grow your site and start populating it with awesome content.