If you want to be a blogger you can join Tumblr, Blogger or a plethora of publishing platforms. They are easy, quick to setup and free. But if you want to get serious as an online publisher then you can’t go pass WordPress.
If you look around, every third person that you meet is a WordPress blogger (or at least has heard of WordPress). The world wide web is overflowing with company blogs, personal blogs and community blogs, in fact anything that you can think of has a dedicated blog!
Which made me think, what if Moses was here and blogging? What would his 10 Commandments for WordPress blogging beginners be?
Let’s find out!
1. Thou shalt have an ‘About Us’ page
Things are getting personal. Visitors nowadays want to read up not only about your products/services, but also about the people behind them. Even if you’re a blogger by hobby (only), your readers will still be interested in knowing you.
So make sure you have a great ‘About Us’ page, one that connects with the readers. Remember, it’s going to be your most visited page after your Homepage!
2. Thou shalt not have too many categories
Having too many categories on your website is a strict no-no. It slows down your website considerably, something which you wouldn’t want. WordPress has a wonderful thing called “tags”. What it does is groups posts based on the keywords you set (manually) for your post. So it does (more or less) the same function as categories without affecting your site performance.
But this does not mean that you shouldn’t have any categories at all! Remember, the focus here is “too many”, so have categories but use tags as well.
3. Thou shalt not install too many plugins
And while we’re on the subject of “too many”, as a WordPress beginner you may get super-excited to see the vast number of plugins available to help your website, to the extent that you end up installing a lot of them. A big mistake! Some are incompatible (and not to forget crappy too!), and having too many of them may decrease your site speed. So install only those plugins that you feel are absolutely necessary.
Also, when you’re not using a certain plugin, delete it. Having inactive plugins not only make your site slow, but also attract malware.
4. Thou shalt download themes only from reputable sources
If you conduct a Google search, there are thousands of websites offering premium WordPress themes. All of them look great, and they’re free too! But beware! Some of these themes may have malicious code, and once installed your site will become a prime target of hackers. Download premium themes only from reputable sources, like ThemeForest and WooThemes (to name a few).
If you’re a newbie and don’t have enough resources to invest in premium themes, I’d suggest you go for themes that are free. WP Explorer has a great collection, and they are reliable too.
5. Thou shalt change your permalink structure
When a visitor is reading a certain post in your blog, by default the URL displayed is “YourWordPressBlog.com/?p=123”. Here, “/?=123” is your permalink. The problem with this default permalink is that the visitor (and search bots) is unable to see which post the URL is referring to. Not a very good thing for you! So change your permalink.
Its simple. Go to your Dashboard, click on “Settings” and then on “Permalinks”. You will see 6 options here (screenshot below). Choose the one that best suits you.
6. Thou shalt update
Most WordPress users think that once they’ve installed the WordPress software, themes and plugins, they’re set for life. And they couldn’t have been more WRONG! WordPress releases new versions every once in a while, and with each new version comes better features and improved functionality.
So make sure that your site is running on the latest WordPress version (3.8.1). If not, update. You can check your current version by scrolling to the bottom of any page on your dashboard. And in case you need to update, you’ll see a prompt to do the same.
And the same goes for plugins too! Update them regularly to avoid any hiccups in your site performance.
7. Thou shalt back it up
When you’re setting up your WordPress site and working towards SEO, there’s a lot of work to be done – download and install software, choose a theme, write content, select plugins, check analytics, and so on. So much so that you tend to forget the most important task – backing up your website. Creating a backup should be your number one priority, and there are many plugins that help you do that. For a full backup, I recommend VaultPress.
There are also the other category of WordPress users who backup their website every other day! Certainly not feasible as you’ll end up wasting a lot of time. Creating a backup once a month should suffice, unless there are any major changes made to the site (in which case, it should be done immediately after the change).
8. Thou shalt not crowd your sidebar
Your sidebar shouldn’t look like a junkyard sale – a place where you’ll find links to everything (latest tweets, testimonials, Facebook fans, latest posts, contact details, ads, and so on). Have a clear idea of what your goal in each page is, and have only those links appear on the sidebar. It will help you give a cleaner and clutter-free look to your website, and also to direct your traffic to the desired page.
So keep only those widgets that are required, and get rid of the rest. To do this, go to Dashboard → Appearance & Widgets.
9. Thou shalt rename the admin account
The first thing that you do when using WordPress is log in to your Admin account. And that’s also the first mistake that most beginners make. The username of the account is kept “Admin” (or some other standard name), which makes it a sitting target for hackers. So always change the username.
Also, keeping your username different from your account display name will provide more security to your site against hackers.
10. Thou shalt be contactable
A ‘Contact Me’ page is extremely important if you want to build your readership. Your readers should have a way to get in touch with you in case of any queries, opinions, etc. It also helps in building a connection with the readers (provided you reply of course), which will eventually translate into long-term loyalty to your blog.
Deciding how you’d like your readers to get in touch with you is entirely up to you. You could either share your phone number/email ID, or have a contact form for the visitors to fill in. For contact forms, I suggest you use Contact Form 7 plugin. My tip? Keep it simple!
There you have it, the Ten Commandments from the modern-day Moses to all WordPress beginners. They will play a fundamental role in making your blogging career a success, so make sure you have them engraved in your mind!