A4UExpo Europe: 40 WordPress Tips

Tue 5 May 2009 15:30, Menno Flikkema

A4UExpo Europe: 40 WordPress Tips

One of the sessions I followed at A4U Expo Europe was the WordPress presentation from Joost de Valk (Orange Valley). He has 40 tips for us about WordPress. For me, a WordPress newbie, this presentation was very detailed and these tips will certainly help me avoid pitfalls. Joost has divided the tips into 4 categories: Performance, SEO, Social and Analytics. Here are some of the best tips.

WordPress Performance

An important issue with WordPress is the lack of performance for sites with more than average traffic. Joost’s most important tips for improving performance are:

The following tips are about proper CSS web design and best practices, less directly related to WordPress but good for the performance of every site.

  • Combine CSS into one big CSS file. Many plugins add their own CSS and JS files that clutter your code. Combine them into one file as much as possible.
  • Make sure your templates are pure CSS designs, use CSS sprites. If you don’t know how, outsource the slicing of your Photoshop file and pay a little extra for the benefit of a pure CSS design.

More server performance tips:

  • Add a PHP op-code cache. This sounds like a pretty hard core tip to me, I had to look up what this was: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PHP_accelerator
  • Kill some plugins, do you really need them all? Be judicial, keep the ones that are absolutely necessary and ditch the others. The reason is that not all plugins have properly optimized SQL queries.

WordPress SEO tips

There were some generic SEO tips in this section, but still some good info directly related to WordPress.

  • Use pretty permalinks, but think about the categories to improve the SEO value from the URL
  • Getting into Google News is easier if you add a number to the URL. Google News is weird in this way, it requires a  number?! So add a post id to the URL. 
  • The default title setting for WordPress is Blogname-Posttitle. Change this to the other way around, users come for the content.
  • Write better, keyword rich titles, use HeadSpace2 or the All-in-one SEO pack.  
  • Don’t automate you meta descriptions. If you’re unsure of what to put in the meta description don’t bother and let Google summarize the page for you!
  • OMG hackers use Google too! WordPress sites sometimes get hacked… Noindex wp-admin, login and registration forms so that these cannot be easily found
  • Paged comments “suck” according to Joost. They appeared in Wordpress 2.1 and create duplicate content problems, but who gets more than a 100 comments anyway. So disable these. 

I had a quick look, but there doesn’t seem to be a good threaded comment plugin for WordPress yet like Slashdot/Reddit. If anyone knows of one, please post a reaction below.

WordPress Maintenance

Joost has a whole section of tips on WordPress maintenance. Here are a few that are related to search.

  • Run akismet on your site to kill spam comments immediately too many of these can ruin a good, properly ranking page.
  • Check the referrers of comments to see where they are coming from. Dave Naylor has developed a comments referrer plugin for this. Stupid posts like “wow great post” should be deleted, they add no value.
  • Remove those nonsense widgets like blog value. Joost says: “technorati rank, well OK but don’t put blog value in your sidebar, if you need it, put it on a specific page”.
  • Track your uptime if you’re in it for the money, use a service like pingdom, to be the first to know that your site is down
  • Use the 404 notifier and make sure your 404 tells people where to go by offering navigation or popular search. Use redirects to fix those unwanted 404s.
  • WordPress generates some unnecessary meta information. Hackers hunt WordPress installations that are vunerable to exploits by looking for the version number, remove this by editting the theme function.php. Check out these links to find out how: remove the WordPress generator and on Joost's site, WordPress Functions.

Joost had more tips about using social websites to your advantage and improving your analytics...but one of the most important tips is to read Joost's blog. His A4U Expo presentation is available there at: http://yoast.com/40-wordpress-optimisation-tips/.

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