You need to learn the basic best practice for your WordPress blog to clear a path that will allow your blog to flourish. A path is more than a framework at a set point in time; it takes care of the current setup and gives you freedom for development, so a lot of this advice is about avoiding future problems. Many of these best practices are relevant to writing across the web regardless of platform so take them with you and adapt them to your own site.
- For my first tip I must point out that you need to know more than a few tips so read more than this article! Use Google and learn. Also bear in mind that technology evolves and that fashions change so the appeal of your blog is an ongoing subject of research and not a one-off task to establish a framework for all time.
- The primary purpose of the sidebar is for your visitors to discover other posts so if you add anything that detracts from this function then it should fulfil a purpose that is more important to you, i.e. the impact should be more in favour of your business than detract from the reader’s usability which would be detrimental to your business. Before adding widgets for everything from weather to horoscopes consider the cost of this loss in usability against any desired benefit to your market share, the number of your subscribers or whatever other goal you may have.
To test the benefits of a leaner look in WordPress go to Appearance and Widgets and remove the non-essentials for a month or so – keep track of the impact on your goals and reinstate where the benefits are clear and real.
- Make your archive useable, i.e. searchable by topic rather than by date. The flow of articles appearing in your blog will necessarily depend on the date you upload them but that is not how your readers will search for information. Ensure your categories are prominent to invite people to dive into related articles – if your theme does not already list categories in the sidebar go to Appearance and Widgets and select the widget for Categories.
The same logic applies to your media files – go to Settings and Media and uncheck the button next to “Organize my uploads into month- and year-based folders”.
- Use permalinks as signposts for search engines and to improve usability for humans. Permalinks are a key factor in both SEO and usability copywriting whereby the link itself can describe its content, so attracting the attention of search engines for a desired keyword and be meaningful to the human reader.At the top of each editing page in WordPress there is a permalink field which you can revise before publishing – your knowledge of writing for the web will guide you to eliminate unnecessary words in favour of meaningful keywords, which is excellent for SEO and more easily understandable by humans.Readability for a human will often lead to a permalink more compact than the title, as with the current post if you compare the title to the browser bar:
- Hone your titles and descriptions.Titles are a key searching ground for Google’s robots but they are also read by humans in the search engine results page and on your site. Additionally they appear when you posts are shared in social media. The description will appear in the search results and may feature in social media links so may factor in the reader’s decision to click on your page (particularly if the title does not tell all) but they are not so important for search engines.
The title and description are some of the most important text on your page. The title needs to communicate directly with robots and if possible sing to your readers. Use the description to do the singing where the title simply cannot – the description should entice and elaborate on the promise of the title.
- Use images for a purpose. The first role often assigned to images is purely decorative – they add visual appeal to a post. They can also illustrate a point, add interest or make concrete an otherwise intangible idea. An image also serves as a resting place for the eye among relentless lines of text, much more so than the style of ‘gratuitous’ heading used as a separator in splitting up a large block of text. For an in-depth look at what imagery can do please see how to Unlock the power of infographics.
- Images can also have a role in search engine optimisation. Each time you upload an image to your WordPress blog you are presented with a textbox for the title and for the alternate text. The title tag generates the text that appears when someone hovers over the image. The alt text is displayed if your image is unavailable, such as to readers using an assistive device. If your image is relevant this is an opportunity to describe what people will find in the rest of your article, though it would be bad practice to stuff these tags with random keywords rather than describe the image. And a practical consideration: Where to find free images for commercial or any other use…
As I said at the top of the article these are only tips to set your blog on the right path – please see clarity and usability as goals where continual improvement is possible rather than as widgets that you can install and forget about.
A good post to review is my list of essential blogging tools: 9 blogging tools that I use (and one that I can’t) and if you run out of ideas for topics take a look at 37 blogging topics for an ecommerce blog.