I’m always amazed at stupid I was yesterday*. We’re creating our brand spanking new web site for our non-profit, and my attitude to SEO (or Search Engine Optimization) was….”we’ll since we haven’t put up the web site we don’t have any statistics, and since we don’t have any statistics, there is no point in doing SEO until the site is up.”
In fact, I should have done this with my own blog site as well, recently switched from Blogger to WordPress. So that is two strikes.
It began innocently enough… literally with a water-cooler conversation with an SEO expert, who made the following points:
- Run Google Analytics on your old site. Identify the top pages that are always accessed. These are the pages that you want to transfer to your new site; as intact as possible, even to using the same folder structure as the old site.
- Can’t run Google Analytics on the old site? Its probably because GA was set up with a personal Google account from someone long gone from your organization. So, next time…do the organization a favor and use a generic account, like firstname.lastname@example.org so that someone else can access Analytics if you get hit by a bus. And there should be a next time….like right now.
- Even if you are unable to see statistics from Google, you can run an Alexa search which searches links in and out of your site. Lots better than nothing. Or if the old site is a Blogger or WordPress site, you can get statistics from those hosts.
- Assuming that you can identify popular pages, you want to flag the pages on the old site with a redirect from the old page to the new page. If correctly redirected, the page rank and statistics from the old site will be transferred to the new site. Do this for enough pages and you’ll preserve the old site page rank going forward.
Notes: * from Alan Weiss, ” I’ve been fond of stating the following truth for years: I’m constantly surprised at how stupid I was two weeks ago.”
Our team implementing a WordPress site, and as experienced web-site developers, but as newish WordPress users, we’re starting to develop a list of best practices that we either should have done earlier or are actually doing.
- Know the difference between WordPress.com, the online free WordPress hosting service, WordPress.org, the site hosted by the producers of WordPress, and your own independently hosted WordPress site.
- Much of the flexibility in modifying themes and the availability of themes require an independent WordPress site. Third-party plugins are not available on a WordPress.com site.
- With a WordPress.com site, your site will be named as a subdomain of WordPress.com.For an additional charge, you can have your own domain name point to your WordPress.com site. As an example, I created a site called powershellnotebook.wordpress.com. I then purchased the domain name powershellnotebook.com and pointed it to the WordPress.com blog.
- Once you have chosen a theme, be sure to create a child theme based on that theme, and then make all modifications in the child theme. The reason for this is that when the main theme is updated by the developer and then updated on your site, the main theme is overwritten and reinstalled. Your child theme will inherit the updates, but your own modifications and changes will remain untouched.
- Know the difference between themes, layouts, widgets and plugins.
- Within a post, some layouts have “formats”. These are page styles, unique to each post, i.e. a post can have only one format. Formats include “aside”, “quote”, “status” and a few others. Formats are a WordPress thing, a theme can choose to support formats or not.
- Use categories to group posts for navigation and searching. Best practice is to assign one category for a post. If your site has three different main types of information, then you might make three categories, and assign one of these to each post. For example, for a bike touring site, you might have categories like “routes”, “gear”, “stories”.
- You can also have sub-categories, especially if you have a more complex site. For our bike site, we might split up “routes” by region; “north-east”, “north-west”, “south”, “central” and under the category of gear, we might include “bikes”, “luggage” and “camping”. If you assign a sub-category to a post, then it will automatically appear under the main category when the user searches by category. Best practice is to assign only the subcategory the post.
- Tags are another way to classify a post, and a post can (and maybe should) have multiple tags assigned to it. Since a tag is similar to a category, (they are both just a snippet of text which describes the content of a post), a tag shouldn’t duplicate the category, You can also use popular tags which will enhance the ability of your post to be found in Google searches.
- There is a lot of support for WordPress in the community. WPBeginner and Smashing Magazine are two places to start.