Best practice for your WordPress blog
Some people just launch into a WordPress blog with no preparation. If you’re doing it for business rather than pleasure you may need to think a little harder about it. Here are 10 things to consider before even starting your WordPress blog.
1. Mind set
I think this is perhaps the most important aspect. If you haven’t got the following you’re pretty much doomed.
- Good reason to blog – you must be clear why you are blogging. What is your purpose? It might be just to have fun and that’s OK. It might be to stand out as a thought leader in your industry or subject. Or you may want to make your business more visible online. I will always ask someone why they think they need a blog when I first speak to them. ‘Because everyone tells me I should have one!’ is not the best reason!
- Clear goals – what would success look like, feel like and what would you be saying to yourself when you reach that goal? Having a well-formed outcome will mean you’re more likely to achieve something. Woolly thinking will not make you stand out from the herd.
- Depth of knowledge, enthusiasm and willingness to research – how much do you know about your chosen subject? Would you get any points in a Mastermind contest? Are you really enthusiastic about your subject or just mildly interested? Would you be willing to spend time and effort doing the research to continually keep-up-to date and expand your thinking? Still feeling excited? Then you can continue!
- Commitment – there’s no such thing as an overnight success! I always remember when I built my first website using Site Build It. Their motto was ‘Think Tortoise’! You’ll always beat the hare that way. Plus most people overestimate what they can do in a week and underestimate what they can do in six months. Persistence is key.
2. Target market/micro niche
Who are your customers? This is one of the questions I ask my clients that seems to cause confusion. So busy thinking of what they do, how they do it and what to focus on they forget the most important aspect. Who’s going to buy it? Is there actually a market out there? Do they have spare cash they are willing to part with?
Sometimes in order to cover all angles you end up diluting your message by offering everything and anything. You only end up confusing the issue and putting objections in the mind of prospective buyers. Better to narrow it down, focus on a smaller market and deliver great value with a product or service that your customers have to have.
Perhaps the best example is Michelle Phan. She started out doing videos for Asian girls on how to apply make-up. She was doing pretty well as it was a good niche. Then she had the great idea of adding a twist. How about showing Asian girls how to make themselves up like a celebrity? Her Lady Gaga make-up video has 34,209,959 views and her channel has 6,133,753 subscribers. She became a millionaire by the age of 22.
The great thing about niching is that your clients will use you for what you’re great at, will love what you do and then ask you – what else can you do? So no need to worry that you’re narrowing your market too much.
3. Domain name, blog title and tagline
- Although the domain name no longer has to contain your main keyword, it really needs to be easy to remember and type. One of my clients runs a business about leading and developing high performance.
But it’s a bit of a performance to constantly write www.leadinganddevelopinghighperformance.com into your browser. So she’s changing the name to Liberating Leadership.
Sometimes it’s best to have a catchy name for your domain such as See a Man About a Blog or Leadership Freak. Something everyone will remember.
- Your blog title (which can be changed on your WordPress blog settings under the ‘General’ tab) can be the same as your domain name or different.
- The tag line needs to be something catchy to capture the visitor’s attention. It’s good to present what value you provide to your visitors. Mine is ‘Blog coaching and social media coaching for the technically terrified’.
If you don’t change the tagline you end up with the meaningless phrase ‘Just another WordPress site’. Which is the equivalent of keeping the egg image as your Twitter avatar, and just as impressive!
The trick here is to decide what your visitor or customer is going to put in the search box to find your pages and posts. So a bit of creative brainstorming is required, or even some consumer research on a small scale. Ask your family and friends what they would use.
Then you need to test the competitiveness and popularity of the words. With www.workfromhomewisdom.com we used phrases such as work from home, home business, home workers etc. It’s a tough market and a very competitive keyword to rank highly for. However, by putting our keywords in the right place (thanks to the WordPress blog plugin WP SEO by Yoast and lots of practice) we rank on the first page for many competitive keywords.
You can buy keyword tools but I use Google Trends to check popularity and Google’s keyword tool to check competitiveness. How do I use them? Until I write another post about that try YouTubing them!
If you choose your keywords carefully and put them in the right place you’ll start seeing yourself in Google searches. Just don’t get too obsessive about checking your position every day!
5. Blog structure
Getting this right is imperative, It’s easy for a blog to become difficult to navigate when it doesn’t have a logical menu structure and too many categories and tags. My technical partner Dan is very clear on what you need to do and he uses a card sorting technique.
A card sort is a quick and easy way to find out how prospective visitors think your content should be organised. It’s a useful process to help design the architecture, navigation pathways and menu structure of your WordPress blog. There are online tools to help you do this or you can do it manually with hand-written cards.
You’ll be glad you put the effort in.
One of the best features of a WordPress blog is the ability to sort your posts, or articles, into categories and tags. Think of a category as the contents of a book and a tag as your index. Unfortunately people tend to get carried away and create too many categories and tags. You may think you are helping your visitor when in fact you are having a negative effect on their experience
Less is more. Otherwise you confuse your visitor which means they may not stay to consume your well-crafted content and go elsewhere. It will also have an impact on your load-time for the site and may impact your SEO.
I tend to say use no more than 10 categories and maybe 30 tags as a general rule. It’s tempting to break this rule though!
6. User details
This is essential to get right as I mention in Beware the Blog Hackers. There’s a tab on the left hand side of the dashboard called “Users”. Use it please. It’s important.
- Choose a longish username – not ‘admin’ like many web masters seem to choose. That’s asking for trouble from the ‘Brute Force’ attacks that are regularly targeted at WordPress sites. Having your blog taken over by organised web warriors is frustrating, and costs you time and money to fix.
- Strong password – again worthwhile making sure you use a complicated password and not go the easy route. I use 1Password which is a great system for managing passwords and keeping all your logins secret and safe.
- Update user details so author name appears correctly. Your author details appear on each blog post and is searchable so best to have it appear correctly. Same for your email address. Usually webmasters will put their own email address if they set a WordPress blog up for you. This means your Gravatar (Globally Recognized Avatar) won’t work so you’ll be a mystery to your users!
https://www.seeamanaboutablog.co.uk/?p=123 (Go to Dashboard, Settings, Permalinks to see this).
As you can see, if all your posts and pages just had a number at the end it’s pretty useless from a visitor’s point of view and for search engines trying to index your site in the right place.
Choose the right Permalink structure when you start your blog. Otherwise a few months or years down the line it’s difficult to change it. Why? Because all the links on social media sites, other websites and indexing in search engines will break!
I chose to use the Post name structure for my site:
https://www.seeamanaboutablog.co.uk/sample-post/ where sample-post is the title of the page or post.
There is recent argument that says you need to use one of the permalink structures with a date in so that when someone finds your post they can tell how old it is and whether it’s still relevant! Since most old posts tend to drift down the search engine results I’m sticking with this for mine, but I advise new WordPress blog users to use one of the date structures.
I’ve written fairly extensively about plugins on this blog. Remember that these are only available on self-hosted WordPress blogs and not for free WordPress.com ones. Plugins are little add-ons that add functionality to your existing theme. Here are some others I recommend:
- Dealing with spam – Askimet (comes as standard) and GASP
- Contact – Contact Form 7 or Clean Contact
- Social Sharing – Shareaholic, DIGG, DIGG, Share This. I use Social Warfare for most clients and the premium version for my own sites.
- Optimisation of
- SEO – WP SEO Yoast an essential addition
- Images – Smushit, BJ Lazy Load
- Database – Optimize Database after Deleting Revisions
- Back-up – Various plugins such as WordPress Backup to Dropbox but best via C-Panel or premium plugin Backup Buddy ($80)
- Analysing your results – Google Analyticator
- Comments – CommentLuv
- Mobile access – making your site mobile responsive – WPTouch
You’ll find most of these via your dashboard >Plugins > Add New > Enter search term. When you find the one you’re looking for install it and activate it and then check on the settings. And make sure your site works after installing.
9. Write 5 to 10 blog posts, About Me and contact page
I’ve been shot down about this one but I’m sticking to my guns for any business-focused WordPress blog.
Why do this?
You have to write shorter sentences. Structure you post with headings and bullet points and use short paragraphs. This helps the reader scan your content. ‘Kill your darlings’ is a phrase used by writers meaning that the bits you are most pleased with are unfortunately often the bits that need editing out! It could be long words you happen to like, flowery phrases or technical speak. You have to make it easy to read and compelling at the same time. I think you’re starting to get the picture!
Find someone who’s good at proof-reading and editing. I’m lucky my partner J loves doing this and is very good at spotting spelling and grammatical errors. She has the knack of turning my sometimes rambling pieces into something much more punchy and readable.
Having a number of posts gives your blog a good foundation when it gets launched. Due to the way a WordPress blog is structured it will look like it has a reasonable bit of content. Think of it like a flower bed. One lonely shrub stuck in the middle won’t win you any prizes!
People want to connect with you so please put a profile picture on your About Me page and tell me something about you. A faceless ‘About Me’ page which is bland and generic, eg ‘this company delivers high quality web design and believes in the best customer service’, leaves readers cold. They take that as read. They want to know something about the human beings behind the business facade – names, faces, backgrounds, interests.
A Contact page is important. You do want people to contact you, don’t you? Use one of the plugins mentioned above to make sure it looks professional and cuts out spam.
10. Choosing the right theme – the WordPress blog template or framework
I’ve talked about choosing a WordPress blog theme before. Did you know that the structure of your design plays an important role in helping you rank on search engines? It’s possibly the most difficult decision to make as there are so many things to consider. Here are a few that are essential to think about:
- A mobile responsive theme is essential now. If you want to appear on mobile devices such as tablets and smart phones you can’t ignore this.
- Right for your industry, culture and brand. What’s the personality of your business, project or idea? Fun, creative, serious, formal, profound, friendly? What sort of theme will project your values and present your look and feel?
- Customisation options. How flexible is the theme and how easy is it to use? Sometimes a theme looks just right but won’t do what you will want it to do once you’re further down the line.
- Is it updated regularly? There’s nothing worse than having a great theme that gradually dies as the developer moves on to more sexy products. Technology is moving all the time so a well-supported WordPress blog theme from a reputable company is essential if you’re blogging for business.
- Reasonable price. You can pick up a free theme from the WordPress theme directory or go for a premium theme from somewhere like Themify, Woo Themes or Designer Themes.
- If you want to have total control over your theme you’ll need a have a bit of a techie brain to manage either the Thesis or Genesis WordPress blog frameworks.
Obviously this is just the start of your journey with a WordPress blog but it puts you in a better starting position than most people.