So you want to start a blog? Cool, I know a thing or two about that! I’ve been working behind the scenes to put together a blog for my dude, and I’m realizing just how much I’ve learned since I originally started this little blog. I wanted to share some of that knowledge with you today, after the jump!
Let’s assume you’re using WordPress with a standard theme (none of that silly framework business). If you need convincing of why that’s best we can talk about it at another time, but today I want to talk about plugins. So you’ve set up WordPress.org on your site, and chosen a theme you want to work with. Great start, now it’s time to add your plugins. For the most part, plugins are free additions to your blog that can greatly increase functionality, SEO, security, etc. There are thousands, maybe even millions out there that you may consider based on the type of blog you’re creating. I’m going to cover the basic plugins that I’d recommend regardless of blog type. To actually add the plugins go to “plugins” on the left side of your wordpress dashboard, which you will likely find under “appearance” and above “users”. Use the plugins drop down menu to go to “add new”. You can either visit the links I provide, download the plugin, and then manually add the plugins via the “upload plugins” button at the top of the “add plugins” page OR you can use the search field on the “add plugins” page and then click “install now” when you’ve found the one you need.
Google Analytics (Google Analytics dashboard for WP)
If you have a blog or any website really, you must have Google Analytics. This is the standard platform to measure traffic to your site. Without this one, you’re completely blind about your audience (or lack thereof!). GA is very sophisticated at breaking down your site’s traffic by location, demographic, length of visit, which pages are most visited, and on and on. I’d advise you to not go super nuts trying to analyze each and every visit to your site in the beginning, and rather focus on creating good content. Once you have a steady stream of visitors, you should get in the habit of taking a somewhat regular look at who is using your site and how. Still, be sure to install google analytics right away so that you have a basis for comparison. The google analytics plugin sits on your wordpress dashboard and gives you a very small amount of the total information that is available to you (pageviews, users, bounce rate, etc). You actually need to login to your google analytics account to see all the nitty gritty. One last (slightly intimidating) thing about GA is that you will need to add a verification code to your site’s code. This is to verify that the site actually belongs to you and is associated with your google analytics account. There are a few different ways to add the code, just choose whichever one you feel most comfortable with. Here’s a straightforward step-by-step guide from lynda that I’d recommend.
Yoast WordPress SEO
Install this plugin immediately, and get used to using it. You’ll notice that as you add new posts to your blog, there’s a “WordPress SEO by Yoast” section right below the content area where you write your post. Start with the focus keyword section, and pay attention to the keywords that yoast offers. What it’s doing is basically scanning the internet to see how often search engine users search for that grouping of words, and offering you groupings of words that are most searched. Don’t go back and force the keyword into your post if it makes the writing seem unnatural, search engines will pick up on that. After you’ve filled out all the fields, save your draft and yoast will analyze the post for you. On the right hand side of your wordpress interface you’ll see a white box that says publish at the top, at the bottom of that box you’ll see SEO with a colored circle and rating. If your rating isn’t good, go back to the Yoast fields below the post, and check out Page Analysis (the next tab after general) for suggestions to improve your rating. One last excellent thing about Yoast is the Webmaster tools field. Go to the dark grey panel on the left of your wordpress dashboard, and find SEO, it should be below Settings. Click, and scroll down to Webmaster Tools. Here you can add verification codes for your site without having to mess with any more code!
This plugin has saved me mountains of time by identifying spam comments. When I first started using this plugin I would manually browse through the comments Askimet identified as spam, now I just trust it with all my heart. It’s very rare (about once every few months) that Askimet lets a spam comment through. When you first start your blog, you might not get tons of comments (spam or otherwise), but this plugin can be a big help once you really get chugging along.
You’ve taken the time to set up your site and are probably bursting with ideas of all the great content you’re going to create. NOW is the time to protect your hard work, and the all the future time you’ll likely be putting into this site. By adding this plugin, you will dramatically reduce the risk of a successful hacker attack. A few of my favorite features of this plugin are the blacklist and automatic site database backup. The blacklist feature enables you to lock out any user who’s had a certain amount of unsuccessful attempts logging in to your wordpress dashboard. You can set the number of attempts, and even add your own ip address to a “whitelist” so you never lock yourself out by accident. Another lovely feature of this plugin would be the automatic site backups. You can set it up to email you back ups of your site at regular intervals (I do once a week). It’s a nice assurance just in case something ever does go wrong with your site.
I hope that helps! I know this is far from the sexiest post I could write about blogging, but this stuff is important to get taken care of right away! If you have any other essential wordpress plugins you want to add, please mention them below in the comments section!
original image from death by stock