A lthough there are a myriad ways to set up a WordPress site, and not one that is considered perfect, I’ll share what I have found works for me over the past 7 – 8 years or so in my site building. Much of this has been learned from trial and error, and I have read what others are doing and tested that, and some of it was borne from just plain common sense.
Some quick history so you understand my thinking process. When I started in the Internet marketing industry I had ZERO knowledge of how to make money online and less than ZERO knowledge as to how to build a website. In fact, I remember paying people to do some very minor alterations on a Wordpress site for me and thinking they must be pushing the limits on the IQ scale. After learning a little about Wordpress and working with it myself, I see that I was wrong there as just about anyone can work with that CMS, including those that are technically challenged like me.Here are some very basic things I consider EVERY time I set up a site that is being monetized from traffic:
Go easy on Main categories. I like to have a small number of categories and if I need more than 5 – 7, I create subcategories under them in order to maintain my silo effect. (Silo effect is shared below). I’ve actually been siloing all my sites from day one without realizing it was a process to aid in ranking. To me, it was just common sense to build a site that way.
I never marry a theme. I have a few favorites but only because they are easy to manipulate and look fairly decent out of the box but I change EVERY theme I put up to suit me and change the themes every few months… some as little as every 4 months and some as long as 8 or 9 months. I alter the themes to support my monetization almost every time and I change the standard colors so as to not look like 90% of the other guys out there. Once I change the theme, I delete it from my dashboard so I don’t have 40 themes in there dragging my load times down.
Plugins, although extremely helpful most of the time, can also slow down a site so I don’t go hog wild there either. I’d rather change the PHP in the files on the site (yeah, I know how to do some of that despite being the least most technical guy on earth) than use a plugin if possible. A list of my favorite plugins is below so you can see what I like but I do not use every one on every site and some I just mimic by changing the files.
Some basics in the dashboard that I set up are:
a) Close the discussions; I don’t want anyone using Scrapebox (sorry Matt) to comment on my sites.
b) Permalinks as /%category%/%postname%/ – I want the actual category in there, not just the word category.
c) Always get rid of the user “admin”. I use a pen name 99.9% of the time so the reader can connect if that is what they want.
d) Nobody can register on my sites so that is closed as well. I have yet to see a reason for that with the kinds of sites I put up.
e) I add in a few extra ping sites in the settings. I used to add in hundreds but now I only add in a handful and each site has different ones as well to keep from that being a footprint.
Here is an image of how a smaller silo site would be set up. The root or main page is sitting in the top of the image and you can see how the posts support the category pages as well as the power pages and the anchor pages form the base of your site. The pages that will rank strongly are your power pages and your category pages as you can see how this structure is laid out.
The foundation of your website is crucial to you being able to rank it for a long-term and this silo structure gives you a foundation that has worked for me for years and hundreds of websites. Using proper keyword research in this structure can have you ranking for a lot of keywords as your onsite base is very tight.
Post interlink to other related posts and pages interlink with other related pages. I do not mix the categories up; that is, I don’t interlink posts and pages from different categories as you can see from the above image. That may have some value, I am not sure, but I know this works, has worked in the past, and will work in the future and will work well. It is a common sense approach to on-site SEO which has served me well in many niches and through all the various Google updates.
Some of the plugins I like to use are:
XML sitemap – although many say it is overkill, I like to make sure I have one on there. Google Webmaster Tools looks for one, and all my white hat sites have GWT, so I figure it makes sense to make sure you have one on there.
SEO Yoast – although I find it a bit bulky it does cover a lot of area for you so I will use it on some of my sites. It is not my favorite item to have on the backend of my site but it is a very good reminder for one when posting articles to make sure you are crossing all your T’s and dotting all your I’s and makes it easy to do so.
Wordfence – I have Wordfence on every site I own and it does a nice job in helping protect me from the bad guys. It is not perfect but it will help keep your site protected and it also will let you know if you have plugin out of date.
WP Lightbox 2 – not a bad image plugin and I use it on some of my sites that are image heavy. It was actually suggested to me by one of the guys that work for us that does a lot of on-site work for my clients.
Code Canyon’s Ultimate Pop Up plugin – this is easy easy to manipulate and has made me much more than the few dollars I paid for it. It can be used to direct someone to an offer, link them to another site or any number of other reasons you want a pop up on your site. Plus it is super easy to set up.
WP Google Maps – I do a lot of Local SEO and this is a wonderful plugin to add a map to a contact page. Another simple easy to use plug and has a very good free version.I don’t know that any of the plugins are “must haves” but these are the ones I use the most in my daily work day and I’m sure there are others that are better yet. I’m not really hung up on plugins and I do not believe they make or break a site all things considered. As to onsite, that is pretty much the nuts and bolts and I may deviate a little here and there but as a base structure, this is what I do and have been doing for hundreds of sites over the years. I cut my teeth in this industry building white hat content-based sites and those sites are still a large part of my income and I suspect they will be for years to come for me and then for my children. Sure, some kind of new algorithm could come along and ruin all of them but that has yet to happen and, from my experience in life and business, it won’t happen as when you set up something that makes sense, is built not to outwit the systems but rather to work inside their rules, it will withstand a lot of the fringe changes that are made by the rule makers who, in this case, are the search engines like Google et al.