How to Setup a WordPress Blog Properly

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Over the past few months, we’ve averaged around one new blog setup per day.

Recently, Nathan (one of our SEO experts – see his article on Buddy Press) and I started putting together a list of the standard things that we do after we install a WordPress blog.

The following assumes some familiarity with WordPress. We’ve started playing around with the latest version (2.8), and I suggest that you use that unless there’s a pressing reason not to (i.e. incompatible plugins).

1. General Config

  • Make sure that you have configured clean URLs in Settings -> Permalinks.
  • Under Settings -> Writing, put in additional locations to ping whenever you update your blog. There is a decent list here.

2. Themes

  • We try to make small changes to all stock themes that we use. This means that search engines are less likely to group your site along with every other blog that is using the same theme.
  • Even better: use a premium theme, or make your own one.

3. Plugins

Our objective with plugins is to automate the process of creating quality meta information for blog entries to the largest extent possible, and to make sure that our blogs talk nicely to search engines. We install the following set of plugins:

  • TagThePress
  • TagMeta
  • PingPressFM
  • Google Sitemap (there’s a few good options)
  • Ultimate Google Analytics

Make sure you configure all of the above. You may need to create some accounts in various places in order for some of the above to work.

If you’re running Firefox, we highly recommend installing the Zemanta plugin.

We used to put tag clouds into the sidebars of all new blogs, but if Sitemaps is working correctly that isn’t necessary (and it can take up a lot of important real estate).

4. SEO Stuff

  • Make sure you have accounts for Google Analytics and Google Webmaster Tools. Use them. Play around with them. Learn how to use them inside and out.
  • Make sure every new blog has one or two posts containing YouTube videos.
  • Getting the right number of tags per post is critical – we try to hit a sweet spot between 10 and 15 tags for each post. This may change depending on search engines.
  • Make sure that your blog is configured to use different page titles and meta tags for each page. Use HeadSpace if necessary to automate this process.

There’s probably a ton of important things I’m missing here (please let me know!), but this is a minimal list of things that you should be doing whenever you setup a new blog (if you want it to perform well).

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