The Motors StepsThere’s no longer a need to argue the benefits of using WordPress as your blogging platform. If you’re not using it, you’re missing out on some features, period. Are most people getting the most out of WordPress? No, not even close. This article is going to assume that you use WordPress or are going to start using it. In order to make this lesson more efficient, it will be divided into two sections:

  • Things to set up before you even start blogging with WordPress. Since many of you already have WordPress blogs, this means that you may need to make some changes right now. Skipping any of these steps will result in less search engine traffic, stickiness, or performance.
  • Things to set up after you start getting some content. Although I still consider these steps to be absolutely essential, due to their natures you will need to start using them after getting started.

Things To Set Up Before Posting Anything

1. Related Posts Plugin – Having related posts at the bottom of each of your posts gives you several significant advantages over people that don’t. First, it gives the reader additional information that they can use. Second, it mixes things up for Google and other search engines. The posts that are most closely related to other posts will change over time, refreshing the content on old pages. Third, it increases the amount of linking within your site which will give you better search engine rankings. More on that here: Related Posts Plugin and SEO.

2. Tag Cloud – Using a tag cloud on your site gives readers easy channels that they can use to find the information they’re looking for. In order to make this work properly, you will of course need to tag your posts properly. Tag cloud functionality is built in to WordPress 2.3+, and if you have an older version of WordPress you can always go with the Ultimate Tag Warrior plugin.

3. Show Top Commentators – This plugin allows users to earn links for participating actively through comments. You will be giving away a number of links, but this will really help to get the discussion going. This is extremely important for new blogs because people will judge your site based on how many comments you get, whether that’s fair or not. Some of you won’t want to give these links away. I would at least use this method until you get a more active group of people that are using your site. You can find out where to get this plugin on my WordPress plugins page.

4. Feedburner Feed Count – Install Feedburner RSS from the beginning and you’ll always know how many subscribers you have. There are ways to recover subscribers that subscribed before you install Feedburner, but it’s a pretty huge hassle and sometimes causes problems with your feed. Make sure to offer your feed through RSS and RSS by email.

5. All-In-One SEO Pack – This takes care of you on a lot of different levels. With this plugin, you will get more optimized HTML titles, which will help you to rank better. You also get generated meta descriptions which will also help you.

6. Threaded Comments – This step is 100% about the user experience. Using threaded comments has allowed me to answer reader questions directly. There is no debate as to whether this has increased the success of this blog. I’ve received at least 100 emails from people telling me that I was the only one who would answer their question.

Yes, you can answer questions without threaded comments but that is extremely inefficient. Many readers won’t scroll down to find an answer, especially considering that most bloggers don’t answer everyone’s questions. If the answer is right there, everyone will see it. You can find out where to get a threaded comments plugin on my WordPress plugins page.

7. Recent Posts – When people get to your site, they will want to get an idea about the type of things you usually write about. You want to make this as easy as possible for them, and you can do that by creating a recent posts section in your sidebar. Skip this step, and you’ll lose some people that might have stuck around.

8. Google XML Sitemap – This step is crucial, especially in the beginning when you don’t have as much authority. You can either build this by hand (if you’re out of your mind) or you can use the Google sitemaps plugin. You can find more about this concept here: Getting Your XML Sitemap Into Google.

9. HTML Sitemap – Creating an HTML sitemap will help search engine spiders to find all of your pages, and will increase the linking within your site. I went over this concept in great detail here: Creating A Quick HTML Sitemap To Increase Crawlability.

Things To Set Up After You Get Some Content

10. Best Work Section – People will really be able to tell what you’re all about by reading your ‘best of’ section. I’ve received quite a few emails asking me what plugin I used to create that section. I didn’t actually use a plugin, I just placed links in my sidebar that go to each of those posts. I picked the posts that I thought people would like the most. Some people use comments to judge their work, but in my case some of my better posts were written before I had the audience I have now.

A ‘best of’ section also passes more link weight to the posts you include, which means that they will rank better than they would if you didn’t include them.

11. Channels or Channel Boxes – My three boxes at the top of my pages have been a smash hit, even though they need to be updated pretty badly. When people come to your site, they may want to find something that you haven’t talked about for a while. Organizing your site more like a traditional site and less like a blog can really help a lot of people out.

WordPress Synergy And Value Writing

I consider each of the above 11 steps to be absolute necessities. Each of them alone will increase your blog’s performance and together will create a great synergy that makes for a very ‘together’ WordPress site. Add value writing into the mix and you surely will have a winning combination.