The First 5 Essential Tweaks I Do in a WordPress Blog Installation

Smashing Magazine just asked for reader’s best WordPress tutorial ideas and so I’m going to unveil the first five essential tasks/tweaks I do whenever I set up a WordPress blog …

Here goes … Five Essential Tweaks For Your WordPress Blog Install

1. Install the Google Sitemap Plugin and link to it in my footer. If I could only do one tweak, this would be it.

2. Activate the Askimet Plugin — If you don’t, plan to be wading in comment spam. Somehow the spammers REALLY know how to find a way to get that spam junk into your blog.

3. Burn the Feed — with Feedburner of course. I failed to do this with my very first blog, then I ended up moving blog platforms and lost some readers and momentum in the process. With Feedburner, if you ever move, it’s a quick tweak in one place and everybody gets updated to the new feed automatically.

4. Change the Permalinks Structure — I use this format … /%postname%/ … I use the category slug so I can optimize my post titles with keywords that I won’t or don’t include in post titles. My friend Brian Gardner puts a .htm also at the end, which I’m experimenting with as well. My theory is that in search results some people might see the .htm and think there’s actual content in that link. Jury’s still out on that one. Update: I initially included the Category in the permalink structure, but have now switched my thinking on that … I only use the PostName in the Permalink Structure. Putting the Category in the Permalink causes some headaches and makes for longer URLs.

5. Use a Contact Form Prominently — I’ve seen it dramatically increase my correspondence with both my customers and readers. See mine in action here. I use this Contact Form plugin and it’s been extremely reliable. Some of my friends use this one.

OK, that’s it … at least the first essential tweaks and changes I do for a new WordPress blog.

For other posts like this, see the Advice I Give My Clients category.

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23 thoughts on “The First 5 Essential Tweaks I Do in a WordPress Blog Installation”

  1. Cory,

    Thanks for the helpful post. You mention linking to the Google Sitemap in your footer. I know this is an elementary question but what is the best way to go about linking. More specifically what would the code read as I know how to access and edit the footer file.

    Thanks, Chris

  2. Chris, see my footer … it’s called “Sitemap (XML)” … I do this in my footer so when the Google bots come by they’ll see it. But I think I’ve read something recently that Google now has an auto-discovery feature or something. Who knows.

    I just want them to see this roadmap to indexing all my content!

  3. Just a note about the permalink structure: I agree that changing it is a must – but if you’re just starting out, be careful about using /%category%/%postname%/. Using %category% isn’t sensible, unless you are very sure that your categories won’t change.

    I fell into this trap – as my blog matures, I need to tweak the categories, which would break my permalinks.

  4. Google Sitemap plugin submits the sitemap xml file to Google on its own, whenever a new post is made or an old post is modified. If the robots.txt file doesn’t prevent it, even the Google robot finds the sitemap.xml file on its own, though a little slowly.

    My first 5 tweaks would be:
    1. Install a theme and personalise the stylesheet
    2. Activate Akismet
    3. Remove Login Meta box from the sidebar
    4. Install Google Sitemap
    5. Change the permalink structure to %year%/%postname%

  5. I never thought that a contact form would make such a dramatic change in your visitor activity.

    I added one into one of my sites and within the week i had more responce off that than i had in the previous 12 months!

  6. Cool – I’m just starting using WordPress and had no idea there was such a thing as a Google Sitemap Plugin – excellent info. many thanks, it’s next on my ‘to do’ list.

  7. Great advice Cory! I would add a sixth however, install Analytics or another tracking package to ensure you know what’s really going on. I used to think people came to my blog for web advice, then I found out (using Analytics) that my Torque tutorials get way more hits.

  8. What’s your suggestion for using SEO plugins? For example, utilizing headlines in meta data spaces.

    I’ve installed the analytics script, that’s great knowledge for traffic and ‘hot’ links.

    Thanks for your blog

  9. Jonathan, I think it’s overkill. I’ve seen so many people cram every SEO plugin into their blogs, when I’ve found over the last two years that doing the simple stuff … then just writing GOOD content is enough.

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