While I do have some issues with WordPress, it is one of my favorite CMS tools, because it’s easy to use, manage, and customize. In this post I’m going to give you a bit of insight into how I manage a WordPress website.I’m going to assume you have already chosen the topic for your website. If you haven’t, you might want to check out this post from SEOMoz to help you. While most people use WordPress as a blogging tool, I prefer to use it as a CMS for magazine or newspaper style site. Why WordPress and not another CMS? It’s easier to administer, easier to get writers to upload and format their own content, and it has RSS and other social tools built in or that can be integrated very easily with plugins.
Keyword Research – You’ll need to do your keyword research. Decide what’s important and divide your content into different categories: evergreen content, primary content, secondary content, head & tail content, current events, and possibly even linkbait/social media content.
Evergreen Content – Some people call it evergreen content, some call it flagship content. Whatever you want to call it, this is the best content your website will have and should be written by your best writer. This will also probably be the most expensive content to produce, so you’ll have to do it in stages. Every time I put a piece of evergreen content up, I use a plugin like crosslinker to automatically create internal links for specific words. Sure I could create the links manually, but crosslinker saves me time and picks up every instance in the past and any in the future. Little steps like this can reduce your maintenance.
Primary and Secondary Content – Look at your keywords and try to prioritize this content in order of importance. This will help you schedule the content production out over the next few months/years. Sometime I’ll use crosslinker for these posts but sometimes I won’t. It’s a case by case decision.
Head & Tail Content – I’m sure there’s another name for this but that’s what I call it. Let’s say I want to create an article titled “Best Family Friendly Restaurants in New York City.” In that article, chances are good that I’m going to have some editorial content to open and close the article, but the middle will have a brief description highlighting individual restaurants and links to those restaurants. But what if, instead of linking to the individual restaurants, I linked to another internal page on my website with a more detailed review of the restaurant? If I wrote each of the individual restaurants (tail pieces) first, then writing the head would be a lot easier. Also if I gave the “head” article a social/linkbait feel it can increase the number of page views, since most social media articles tend to be hit and run type of traffic. As a result, this tactic gets me more bang for my buck.
Current Events – Having an editorial calendar is really a must IMHO. You can keep track of events that affect everyone like national holidays, but you should also include specific things to your vertical, like the Daytona 500 for your racing website. You can also branch out and look for other non traditional tie-ins (maybe a celebrity in your field is a contestant on Dancing With the Stars this year). By knowing what is coming and when, you aren’t living on the edge.
Social Media and Linkbait – While this is a lot more competitive than it was in the past, IMHO it’s still a no-brainer. It’s the most cost effective way of driving links, traffic, and sending social signals that people are visiting your website to search engines like Google. You need to work linkbait into your content creation schedule. Use situations like current events and head and tail creation wherever possible. If your industry can support it, you can create it as often as once every 1-2 weeks. At the other end of the spectrum once every 2-3 months is the longest I’d let it go. Some websites like Weburbanist go with 100% linkbait. It’s important to find the right time frame that works for you.
Schedule Content Creation – Now that you have an idea of what content you need and the order of priority, if you need any of it on specific dates, you can start sending content out to your writers. I’ve had great results with the ProBlogger Job Board in the past. I like to send out a month’s worth of requests at a time. I also like to use a plugin like WP Status Notifier to send an email to myself or anybody else involved in the final review process (such as an editor) whenever a new post is uploaded and moved from “draft” status to “pending” status.
Scheduled Posts – If you’ve scheduled your content creation, once the article posts are ready it’s easy to schedule them in advance. This is another really important time saver and a way to cut down maintenance on your website. I use a plugin called future calendar, which puts a calendar on my post page and color codes the days that have posts scheduled. I like to keep things scheduled 2-8 weeks in advance. If you travel a lot like I do or just don’t like living on the edge this makes it much easier to sleep at night. You wont be able to do this 100% of the time as there are news/current events items that will have to be posted live/realtime, but otherwise it’s really helpful.
Dashboard Tools – I have a few plugins I use on the dashboard that help me keep and handle on things. Dashboard Scheduled Posts shows me a list of the next scheduled posts. Dashboard Pending Review shows me posts that are pending review. I’ll line up scheduled posts, pending review, and recent drafts one on top of the other on the dashboard, it gives me a quick glance of the editorial status of the website.
Comments – I’m not a big fan of comments, but other people feel they help build community. I see them as a maintenance point. The choice is up to you.
Sitemaps, Spiders and Crawling – Providing a clean and easy crawling path is one of the hallmarks of a site that is SEO friendly. The Dagon Sitemap generator automatically creates an HTML sitemap for your site and updates it every time you add a page or post (it’s all about reducing maintenance). Google XML sitemaps generates an XML sitemap and pings all of the services every time you add a post page (working towards zero maintenance again). If you want to track spiders crawling, spider tracker is helpful, but I wouldn’t leave it on all the time. Two other plugins that can help with crawling are wordpress breadcrumbs and robots meta plugin, both from Joost de Valk. If you haven’t already I highly reccomend reading his SEO for wordpress guide and subscribing to his newsletter. Both are excellent.
Errors and Links – Any site that has been around for more than few months will likely have things that moved and/or throw errors. The redirection plugin will let you set up redirects and also give you a 404 report, and set up redirections in one spot. I also use the broken link checker plugin to identify outgoing links that don’t work anymore. I can edit the link or just remove it.
Utilities and Tools – Here are a few miscellaneous tools I use. Insights plugin lets you do searches and create links from the post page without opening a second tab. Optimize DB helps clean up your WordPress database. Photo Dropper searches flickr for creative commons photos inserts and links them quickly and easily from your edit post page. WP Email and WP Print adds email a friend and printer friendly pages utilities to your website.
Logo – One of the easiest things you can do to make your website is give it a professional logo. Patrick Winfield of 10e20 created the logo on this website, and I love it. I’ve also used Prizelogos.com in the past and been very happy with the results. If you are on a tight budget GotLogos.com is another option. They charge $25-$100 depending on your needs, but they can be a bit hit or miss though. I’d recommend trying to get a square element somehow that you can use for a favicon and social media icon. It’s all about the power of branding.
Design – Having a clean, professional-looking design can go a long way toward making your website look more authoritative and trustworthy. I’m a huge fan of using Thesis as a starting point (read the full thesis review for more info). Thesis is a framework but it also has a lot of design elements built in. Also by building up a library of hooks and thesis customizations, you can leverage your work for future projects.
Backups – Having an automated backup solution is key. My favorite plugin is wp db backup. It can be used for on demand backups or scheduled backups that get sent to an email. The other thing you’ll want to backup is your theme and uploads file. I’ve seen plugins that do both automatically but once your blog gets big or the directories get large the plugin fails, so set yourself a once a month reminder and you’re all set.
That’s my big plan for how I set up and keep a wordpress website running. If you’re running wordpress you might also want to check out How to Speed up WordPress, WordPress SEO Plugins, or some of my other wordpress posts for some more tips.