The world’s most popular content management system is used on millions of websites and by tens of millions of people everyday. With its ease of use, WordPress has been the backbone for many content and performance marketers who look to the CMS as the platform to build their online properties.
Four years on and Joost De Valk returns to the a4uexpo conference agenda, where he’ll be giving delegates the chance to revisit WordPress and hear what is currently best practice across theme selection and frameworks, must-use plugins (and ones you should avoid) and overall optimisation techniques including speed, search engine optimisation, maintenance and analytics.
WordPress has grown quite a bit since Joost last spoke about WordPress at a4u in 2009. Back in 2009, WordPress was popular, but not as much now, there are a few security issues in core, and there were hardly any premium plugins. This has now changed in 2013 and is great for the community.
Picking a Theme
Only use the WordPress theme directory to download a free theme. They’re very well guarded by WordPress so there’s no need to look elsewhere. For paid plugins, Joost uses Genesis framework which now includes schema.org rich snippets in v2.0. Their new API will connect to the WordPress SEO plugin so you can easily choose rich snippets within each post type. There are other frameworks but Genesis is the most comprehensive.
As a small checklist, ensure a theme includes the following:
- Clean and simple – content first
- Is responsive
- Has all required “hooks”
- [ideally has schema.org support]
Content-based themes usually win over an affiliate site that may have up to 10 affiliate banner ads.
Must Use Plugins
- Use Joost’s SEO plugin of course 🙂 it includes XML sitremaps, follow/nofollow options, rel=canonical rel=next rel=prev, breadcrumbs with RDFa and rel=author rel=publisher. People don’t use it enough, but more people should use the content optimisation section on edit post/page level. More recently, social optimisation for Facebook Open Graph and Twitter Cards are now included.
- Also, Joost also has the Google Analytics plugin, and 2 paid plugin Video SEO and Local SEO plugins.
- For forms, Gravity Forms handles everything. It’s probably the best premium plugin available for WordPress (and I also agree). You can also use advanced custom fields and you can do some really cool stuff.
- Anti-Captcha or Akismet are great form eliminating spammy comments
- Related posts – automated with YARPP or manual with Related Posts for WordPress
Speed and Proper Hosting
- W3 Total Cache is by far the best caching plugin. Ensure it’s set up correctly! If you don’t know how, or have the budget, hire w3edge to do it for you 🙂
- Social Buttons – only load the ones you need. Each button adds about half a second so pick wisely. Also make sure all load asynchronously
- Don’t load too many plugins. Keep to a minimum. Maintain by deactivating and deleting them once in a while.
- Look at PHP versions. 50% of WordPress users are using PHP v5.2 even though PHP have themselves stopped supporting it for 18months.
- Host your site as close to the majority of your audience as possible. If your audience is global, use a CDN – and use W3 Total Cache in there.