Now that you know why your business should have a blog, let’s look at the technical details that go along with blogging. In this post, we’re going to look at choosing your blogging content management system and setting it up for success.
Choosing a Blogging Platform
There are several platforms you can choose from when it comes to blogging. Most brands, businesses, and bloggers choose WordPress on their own domain. Why? Here are just a few good reasons.
- WordPress is used on 8.4 million websites – this surpasses Blogger, Joomla!, Drupal, and other platforms.
- Because of its wide usage, WordPress has the most support, documentation, tutorials, theme designs, and plugins to extend functionality over other platforms.
- Matt Cutts, head of Google’s Webspam team, recommends WordPress as a great choice for search engine optimization. See slides 10 – 12 in Straight from Google on Matt’s own WordPress blog.
If that sounds good to you, then WordPress should be your choice as well.
Basic WordPress Setup
Most of the major hosting companies have an option to make installation of your WordPress blog as easy as a few clicks. Once you have WordPress installed on your domain, you will need to do the following right from the start to ensure the best functionality and optimization of your business blog.
Describe Your Blog
Under Settings > General in your WordPress dashboard, you will need to add your site’s name and a short tagline description. Even if you use a separate plugin for SEO, some systems will pull your blog information from this settings page.
Change Your Permalinks
Permalinks are the URL structure for your blog. Under Settings > Permalinks, you will want to tell WordPress to use a URL structure that includes the post name, ie. http://domain.com/blog/your-post-title/ or http://domain.com/blog/2013/02/your-post-title/. This will help your blog posts rank well in search for keyword phrases in your post titles.
Moderate Your Comments
While your blog may not receive many comments in the beginning, you will still want to set your blog to put new comments into moderation before publishing them. This is because even new blogs can fall prey to spammers. Under Settings > Discussion, select Comment author must have a previously approved comment. You can also always approve comments, but it can ease your workload to just automatically approve people you have already vetted.
Find a Theme
There are many themes and theme providers to choose from when you are looking for a design for your WordPress blog. Your best bet is to choose a premium WordPress theme from reliable publishers like StudioPress and have a designer customize the framework to match your main website or have a completely custom design built from scratch.
The key is that you want to make sure your WordPress blog matches your website so that visitors who go from one to another for seamless branding. You don’t want your visitors to get confused about whether your blog actually belongs to your business. And you especially don’t want someone to click a call to action from your blog post to purchase a product or service to leave your website because it looks completely different. Strong branding is a key to conversion.
As mentioned earlier, plugins extend the functionality of your WordPress blog. Here are some good plugins to start with based on your needs.
- Akismet – This plugin helps moderate likely spam comments coming to your blog into a spam folder. While it does a great job 90% of the time, you will still want to check your spam folder occasionally to make sure legit comments were not filtered by accident. To enabled the plugin, you will need to get an API key from Akismet which ranges in price from free to $50 per month for multi-site enterprise access.
- All in One SEO Pack – This plugin adds additional fields to your dashboard so you can optimize your homepage, posts, and pages for SEO. You don’t need it if you use StudioPress or Thesis as they come with those options built in. If you need actual suggestions on how to optimize for search engines, you can also go with the premium plugin Scribe SEO which will assist you with SEO, content discovery, and much more.
- Google XML Sitemaps – This plugin creates a simple sitemap for your website and keeps it updated, notifying search engines of additions and changes to your posts and pages. This will help ensure your blog is indexed in search properly. Be sure to visit the settings for it after installing to create your sitemap for the first time and it will do the rest!
- G.A.S.P. – This plugin adds a simple checkbox to your comment form to ensure that the commenter is a real person and not an automated spambot to help control the spam coming into your website. Works great alone or in combination with Akismet.
- Social Sharing – There are numerous plugins that will add social sharing buttons (Twitter, Facebook, Google+, etc.) to your blog posts. Some popular ones for WordPress include Digg Digg, Share This, Add This, and Sociable.
- WP Super Cache – This plugin optimizes the performance of your WordPress website so your blog does not crash due to an overload of traffic.
- Yet Another Related Posts Plugin – This plugin adds links to related posts at the end of each of your articles, keeping your blog visitors on your website longer.
- Neal Schaffer recently wrote a longer list of recommended WordPress plugins that you should check into as well. The 17 Best WordPress Plugins for Social Media, SEO, and Better Visitor Engagement in 2013
While you may be tempted to add a ton of plugins, remember that the more plugins you have, the more problems they could cause between compatibility issues and slowing down your website. If you know your way around PHP, try to find coding alternatives to plugin features when available or ask yourself if your really need that particular piece of functionality.
Additional Blog Features
Aside from the WordPress setup itself, here are a few more things you will want for your blog.
Organize your posts into major categories. An online marketing blog, for example, would have posts in major categories such as SEO, social media, and content marketing.
For more specific organization, add tags to your posts. An online marketing blog would further organize posts within their social media category with tags such as Facebook, Twitter, profile design, building engagement, and so forth.
Assuming that you carry your main website’s header, menu, and footer areas over to your blog for seamless branding, your blog’s sidebar will be the only area you can add information specific to your blog. Widgets let you easily add information to your sidebar and rearrange them as needed.
Important widgets to add to your sidebar includes social connections (links to your social profiles), subscription (links to your RSS feed and an opt-in to your mailing list), a list of categories your blog covers so people can find the posts they are interested in, recent posts so people who enter your blog on a particular post can see other topics you cover, and a call to action banner that leads to your main website’s products or services (free trial offers work great here).
Do you have a WordPress blog already? What other features would you suggest people set up right from the start?