Hints on how to improve your WordPress blog
Do you want to improve your WordPress blog? On the weekend I decided I did. And below I will detail most of the steps I took. Some of these ideas may not apply to your blog but many them will so take a read through and maybe you can learn how to improve your WordPress blog too.
Tee Reviewer nee: The T-Shirt Review
Just over 4 years ago I launched a t-shirt blog called the T-Shirt Review. You can read more about how and why it came about on the Tee Reviewer About page. Despite posting fairly constantly over the last four years I didn’t really take care of the blog very well. The theme was outdated, there were unused plugins still installed, there were nearly 300 broken links and it wasn’t running as efficiently as it could have been. And it was slow.
The T-Shirt Review was originally on a sub-domain (blog.ruderetro.com) but I think if you want your blog to be taken seriously it needs to be on its own domain. So four years after it’s inception I decide to do just that and I register the new domain TeeReviewer.com. It is quite a generic name but for a blog of this nature (a t-shirt review blog) it does have some SEO value. It is also easy to remember and not too long. That’s how the name came about.
Transferring the site to a new domain
On the one hand this is easy to do. You basically download your files and your database to your PC and upload them to the new domain. I am pretty confident in this area. I have done it before but I was very careful because it’s four years of blogging and I didn’t want to mess it up. I used a guide on yoast.com to help me through (link below) but here are a few steps I took first and I recommend you do too.
- Remove all unnecessary plugins.
- Remove caching plugins.
- Remove unused themes.
- Delete spam and trash.
I had a badly configured W3 Total Cache plugin installed and I think I had read somewhere that it was not a simple uninstall but it turned out to be easy enough. Again I used a guide (link below) but I think the plugin developer has cleaned up their act since this guide was created because steps 7 and 8 were redundant.
Then I followed the Yoast.com guide almost exactly until step 8. My domain requirements were a little different so instead of this code:
Redirect 301 /blog/ http://www.teereviewer.com/
I used this code:
Redirect 301 / http://www.teereviewer.com/
Also I haven’t yet deleted or removed my old site (blog.ruderetro.com) as I think I need to be sure that everything is fine. When you do delete/remove your old site though be sure to leave your .htaccess file so that your links will continue to redirect to your new domain. I’d keep a copy of the files and database on your PC for a while if I were you. Just in case.
In Step 5 of the Yoast.com guide it says to use the Search and Replace plugin to change your urls. I also used this to change instances of the old name The T-Shirt Review to the new name Tee Reviewer. It is easy to use but it doesn’t seem to change everything. It does tell you what it didn’t change though and I was able to change the remaining text in phpMyAdmin. There is a short guide on how to do it in the next link but be warned, as mistake could destroy your database. On the other hand you probably still have a copy of your database on your computer.
Removing broken links
This was one of the easier tasks. I just installed a plugin called Broken Link Checker and fixed/removed the nearly 300 broken links on the site. (Broken links are not good for your site and can have a negative impact on SEO.)
This one took a bit more time but I probably should have spent more time at it. There are lots of SEO plugins on the market and I am using a ThemeHybrid.com theme which has SEO built into it but I like WordPress SEO by yoast.com. I installed that and filled in a few details and used it to create a sitemap which I submitted to both Google and Bing Webmaster Tools. You should definitely have a sitemap and it should be submitted to Google at the very least. I will talk about WordPress SEO plugin in more detail at a later date.
Speeding up my site
If you have read this far you will know that I had the W3 Total Cache plugin installed before but I removed it before moving my site. I think I never took the time to configure it properly (it is a bit daunting) so I decided to try out the Quick Cache plugin as I have heard good things about it. I highly recommend it because it really increased the loading time of my site and takes almost no work on my part.
I also changed the contact form on Tee Reviewer to Gravity Forms. This is the best contact form plugin I have used and I will be using it on all my WordPress sites but perhaps I’ll talk about it in more detail later. For now, let’s just say that it is very clean and saves me time.
It’s a very small thing but favicons are a great way to make your website stand out in a list of bookmarks and they also make the site more professional. (New one here too. What do you think?) Just Google favicon generator for easy ways to make your own.
A Better Search
The search function built into WordPress is not that good. I don’t know why, after all these years, they haven’t worked on making it better but thankfully some people have. One easy way to improve the search on your WordPress installation is to install Relevanssi. It has great features and is simply the best search experience I’ve seen on a WordPress site.
This is last but not least. You’ll notice that Tee Reviewer is using the same theme as deadhippo.com. As I write this anyway, they are both using slightly modified versions of the Trending theme by Justin Tadlock of Theme Hybrid. I am posting the images here because if I have time I will modify them even more. For Tee Reviewer I changed the width of main content and the sidebar. I like to have sidebars the width of standard advertising banners and in my experience the 300×250 pixel banners get more clicks. There are no banners on deadhippo.com yet so I haven’t changed the width. (I will show you how to change this theme in a later post.)
I also added a search bar to the menu bar and I customized a widget for subscribing to the blog via RSS and Twitter. One of the things I love about Theme Hybrid is that you can customize anything and quite easily too. If you are interested I can post about this customization too.
Not over yet
There are a few more things that I want to fix like integrating more with social media and making it easier for people to share the content but I’m pretty happy with the improvements to the site. Even if I were finished, the web is changing constantly and we have to adapt. Rich snippets for Google search results will be the next big thing. At least that’s my prediction.
I hope I gave you some hints on how to improve your WordPress blog. If you have any questions or comments? Fire away!