Little tweaks with a big impact, first and foremost, are those little annoying tweaks, that left undone now, can have repercussions later. These are presented in no particular order since I make sure all are done before installing plugins or posting. Update Your User Profile: I say this one is first because some of the other steps below will require you to log back in, and who can remember that crazy randomly generated bit of garbage they call a password? Dashboard | Users | Your Profile Change the password to something you stand a chance of remembering before doing anything else. Then, when you get kicked off (and you will need for some of these settings), you can get back in without referring to the email they sent you.
Change Your Blog Tagline: Yes, it true. If you leave it as WordPress creates it, you are branded as a noobie from the word *go*. By default, WordPress inserts *Just another WordPress Blog* as the tagline. Change it. You should be stating your purpose, provoking thought, asking a question – anything but *Just another WordPress Blog*. Dashboard | Settings | General Be creative; this is one of the first things your visitors see. Permalink Structure: Right out of the box, WordPress will display a link structure like this for your posts: YourDomain.com/?p=101, which means absolutely nothing to you, your visitors, or Google. Could you get rid of it? Dashboard | Settings | Permalinks There are five different options there, and while this post isn’t about a best SEO practice, I will mention that using either Day and Name or Month and Name does nothing for you from an SEO standpoint. I hope I don’t have to say that the Numeric option doesn’t either. I use a custom structure that lets me benefit from the category name (as a part of the URL) and the Post Name. It looks like this: /%category%/%postname%/
Decide on WWW or not: Again, by default, WordPress includes your blog’s domain name here. If you plan to give out your link as MyDomain.com, you should change it now on your blog. Since this affects your tracking analytics, it’s best to do it upfront. Dashboard | Settings | General Please note, doing this will log you out. Just log back in with your handy new password. Discussion Settings: Boy, we could write a whole book on this topic, but let me just hit the highlights. You want folks to comment on your blog. You don’t want the pill pushers and porn queens to have the run of the place. I set up comment moderation with 3 or more links (I use CommenLuv, which inserts one link, their web URL is the second link, so 3 would be if they included a link in their comment. If you don’t plan to use CommentLuv, change this to 2). You can also include a list of words that are *iffy* in the box below this setting. Any comment on that word would *trigger* moderation. (Moderation holds the comments until you stop by and approve or trash the comments). The Comment Blacklist box is where I spend my time. I include a list of words that I really don’t want on my site, such as viagra, penis, enlarge, and the names of several popular drugs. I have nothing against the 60-something-year-old man who wants to improve performance; my site is not the place to promote that. I also include words of a sexual nature, including rape, porn, xxx, sex, virgin, lesbian, gay, etc. Trust me, this helps.
Activate (Turn On) Akismet: This often overlooked step can mean the difference between 384 spam messages a day or not. Akismet is one of the very best *anti-spam* plugins and comes pre-installed with WordPress.Use it. One note, though: WordPress requires an API key, something you can only get by registering on the WordPress.com site (profile only, no blogs required). Once you register, they will send an email with your API key. Insert that in the appropriate place in your Dashboard. (Once you activate Akismet, it will be at the top of every Dashboard page until you activate it).
Turn Off Post Revisions: Post revisions is a great idea that WordPress takes to an extreme (in my mind, you might disagree). The basic premise is this. Every X seconds, WordPress will create a backup of your post. Great, right? Here’s the rub. Each *revision* it saves creates a new record in your database (making it bigger), and WordPress has the annoying habit of displaying a complete list of every revision you ever made in your life when you go in to edit a post. If you are like me and blog via a Desktop Client, you already have a backup of your post. So, to turn off this annoying feature, open your wp-config.php file in Notepad or something similar and add this line somewhere near the other define you find in there. define(‘WP_POST_REVISIONS’, false);
Setup Categories: At least one. No, you don’t have to know the entire category structure at this point, but it is helpful to have at least an idea of the categories you will use most often. Once you have created your most often used category, change the default category to this. Dashboard | Settings | Writing Change the default post category to your newly created category. While you are on this page, here’s a Bonus Tweak: Change the post box from 10 to 20. By default, WordPress will create the “post body” box to be 10 rows high. I don’t know about you, but this feels a little crowded to me.
Setup Ping Services: This one isn’t strictly a *do-it-before-you-do-anything-else* kind of tweak, but it will go a long way to getting you that coveted traffic. By default, WordPress added one ping server to the list of possible servers you can use. (Just one?) So, I went out and found some of the best servers. I copy the list into the area for other update services. Rather than include them all within this post’s body, I am attaching a text file you can download and copy from. Dashboard | Settings | Writing Copy the list (or select the ones you want) from the List of Ping Servers that can be found on my blog
Install Google XML Sitemaps Google XML Sitemaps generates a compliant XML-Sitemap for your site, allowing the major search engines (Google, Yahoo, Ask, MSN) to index your site easily. Every time you edit or add a post, the sitemap will modify itself unless you tell it differently (see below). This part is optional but highly recommended! Go to Google Webmaster Central and log in to your Google Account (you do have a Google Account, right?). On the first page, there will be a link to “Verify” your site. Follow the instructions there. Once that’s done, you can then click the *Add Sitemap* link from the first page and put in the URL to your sitemap, which will be something like this (non-working) link: YouDomain.com/sitemap.xml.
Install A Database Backup Plugin: WordPress is software that is driven by a database. All your posts, pages, and links are stored in the database. If it crashes, your entire *blog* could be lost, so take a minute and install a backup plugin to protect yourself. I have tried three or four, but the one I like best (and make sure it is on all my blogs now) is the WP-DBManager Plugin. Once installed and activated, go to Dashboard | Database (it’s on the bottom) and select DB Options. Select the maximum number of backups to keep on hand (mine is 10) and set up the auto-email feature. This will send a zipped copy of your database backup to your email address. Sweet, huh?
Change Media Settings: WordPress will (somewhat) auto-size your content based on when and where you insert it into a post. If your theme allows 400px for the content width, and your max-width for a large picture is 1024, you have a problem. You can manually resize any photo, but taking the time to update these media values before you get started is a real time saver. Dashboard | Settings | MediaAdjust according to *taste*, but make sure your large size is no wider than your post content area as defined by your theme. For example, mine is 580px to fit in this area.
Change Plugin and Theme Location: Okay, don’t be scared, but this moves slightly towards the advanced side. First, the logic behind this…WordPress is open-source software. It is maintained by a whole team of community-minded folks who are constantly improving it and adding new features. As a result of all this busy activity, you will have to upgrade your WordPress software (and yes, it’s still free). However, the upgrade process (without the proper plugin) can be a little scary and a bit tedious. To prevent accidentally overwriting your plugins, themes, or special settings, there is a way you can move your static (unchanging) files to a different location. It can be anywhere on your web server. All you have to do to implement this strategy is copy the entire directory (wp-content) to another location and then tell WordPress where it can find those files. Like we did turn off revisions, edit the wp-config.php file to include the define statement shown below. Define (‘WP_CONTENT_DIR,’ ‘labnol.org/assets/wp-content’ ); (I had to remove the first part of the domain name that would normally appear in the address base – be sure to put it back). Don’t forget to upload it back to your blog’s root folder.
Prevent Visitors From Browsing Your WordPress Folders: Okay, there are the curiosity seekers, and there are hackers. I don’t want either one accidentally wandering around my WordPress installation for ANY reason. There are a couple of ways you can prevent this. One is simple; one is not so simple. Select the method you are most comfortable with. Method 1Create an empty text file and save (name) it index.php. Upload this file to wp-content (wherever you placed this), wp-admin, and wp-includes. The empty file will be read when they navigate to that location and display a blank white page, rather than a list of your files.
Method 2Add the following line to yours.htaccess file that exists in the main WordPress installation directory. Options All -Indexes: This will turn off the auto-feature to *list* files in a directory without a default page. Make It Harder To Hack Your Site: Along those same lines, I want to make it a bit harder for the hackers to find weaknesses in my installation. Knowing my WordPress version can provide them with enough information to attack me, I remove the temptation. (And no, it doesn’t happen often, but yes, it does happen). I remove the little snippet of code that is present in almost every theme out there.