Sorry for the delay folks. Was out from 5am - 1:30am yesterday, so I didn't get a chance to put the bootcamp post up. Today we'll have two days' posts go up (one now and one in the evening). The topics run together anyway. For now let's get started by doing some further tweaks on your new WordPress installation. This morning we'll look at plugins you should add to your installation before getting too far in building your site, and some other edits you should make.
WordPress is great even right "out of the box," but there are a lot of plugins available that can make it better. Plugins allow you to control just about every aspect of your site, and it's why WordPress can be use to build anything from blogs to static sites to forums and social networks. Plugins can also give your site visitors a better experience, can help you better track stats, and can help you rank better in search engines.
- First, visit Feedburner.com and set up an account if you don't already have one. Go to your website's homepage and get your RSS feed's default URL (mouseover the RSS button or feed link, which will vary between themes, and you'll see the URL in the status bar at the bottom of your browser). Login to Feedburner now and type your RSS feed url into the feed address box where it says "Burn a feed right this instant." Follow their instructions if you want to take care of any optional settings. Copy your new feedburner URL (or write it down). You'll need it later for one of your plugins. The benefit of burning your feed URL is that you can get better stats on your site's / blog's subscribers.
- The following plugins are ones I consider must-haves and why (to install them, just click the "Plugins" link in your WordPress installation's left side navigation, and click "Add new" from the drop down menu below it then -- you can search for them by name and click "install" to the right of their description).
- FD Feedburner Plugin -- This automatically redirects your default feed URL on the site to your Feedburner URL that you just setup in your previous exercise. It means you won't have to manually change all of these links in your template files, and your subscribers won't have to subscribe again under the new feed URL).
- All in One SEO Pack -- This will give you a lot of options to improve the search engine optimization on your site or blog. Just follow the instructions with the plugin, because you'll have to go through a setup process after installing it. If you're not very familiar with SEO, just focus predominantly on the options it gives you for titles, meta descriptions, and meta keywords. These are things search engines see, and where you should focus on your target keywords (keyword-rich titles, descriptions that search engines should show when they list the post page in their index, etc.). The options will be made available on your "add post" page when you create or edit posts.
- Sociable -- This gives you social bookmarking buttons below your posts. For example, it lets people Digg your page or share it on Twitter more easily than doing it manually -- increases your chances of pages going viral.
- Subscribe to Comments -- If your business site will incorporate a blog where you want readers to comment, then you should allow them to subscribe to those comments. This plugin lets them opt to be emailed when others comment on a post (they'll know if someone responded to them, and may be more inclined to visit again and keep commenting, increasing reader interaction).
- Browse around the plugins directory and see if there are any others that would add functionality to your specific site. For example, you can get plugins that give you more control over link order (if you want a list of links using the blogroll tool, but without it looking like a traditional blogroll in alphabetical order). You can find ones that let you change your category order too. I find that readers like comment preview plugins, because they can see what they wrote as it would look on the site before they commit to posting it. There's also a good Google xml sitemap plugin there which lets you create a sitemap to tell Google about the pages on your site using Google's webmaster tools. If your site will need a support forum, you can even find plugins to add simple forums to your site. Think about what features would be ideal for your specific audience based on how you want to use the site, and install them. Then make sure the site is still functioning properly (some plugins don't play nice with each other). If there are problems, disable one plugin at a time until you find the culprit.
- I want you to think about what you want on your homepage. Will it look like a typical blog, or do you want a page that will always have the same information (like a static site)? If you want it in blog format, don't worry about anything for this exercise. If you want a static page, click on "Add new" under the Pages heading in your left navigation in WordPress. Give your homepage a title (don't just call it "home" -- give it something persuasive and / or keyword-rich -- what's the first heading people should see on your site?). Put some dummy text in the page for now, and save it. Now, in your WordPress admin area, click "reading" under the Settings section. Click the button on that page next to "A static page (select below)." In the dropdown list for your front page, select the new page you just created. Save your settings. Check your site again, and your homepage should now show the static page you picked. But what about the blog posts? Where will they go? Go back to the add new page screen. Let's say you want to have a blog on your site to post company news. Create a new page. Give it the title "News." Save it (you can add a text introduction in the body if you want to). Now go back to the reading page under settings. There's a second drop-down menu there where you choose the blog page. Choose your new News page. Visit your site again. "News" should automatically show up in your site's page list (whereever your theme puts them). Your homepage should be your static page. Click "news" and you should see the blog page -- where your company news posts will show up in chronological order like a typical blog.
- Now I want you to setup some more blank pages (NOT posts). Here are some common pages you might want to add to a professional website (ones with an asterix are ones I highly recommend including):
- About * (information about your credentials and experience)
- Contact *
- Services * (a list of all of your available services)
- Rates * (these could show up on your services page instead of in a separate rate chart - I highly recommend publishing rates, even if they're just ranges.)
- Portfolio * (examples of past work -- could be actual copies or links to published work online depending on your specialty area)
- News / Blog (not essential if you just want a static site, but they're good for bringing in new links and attention)
- Service Pages (personally, I like to have individual pages for each service I'm promoting so I can give a bigger marketing pitch to prospective clients and provide more information. You could also just include descriptions on your main service page to simplify though.)
- Clients (a listing of past and present clients if they'll lend any further credibility to your work -- not necessary though, and you could include some examples on your portfolio page if you prefer).
You now should have a pretty basic setup, and an idea of what your navigation will look like on your site. Later today we'll move on and talk about what kinds of things should be included when populating these pages with content.