Yo, yo, kids! Lunch is over (or so I hear. Bloggers never eat) and it’s time to jump back into the action. Up on the stage we have the likes of Gregg Banse, Carolyn Shelby, Scott Hendison, and Ben Cook. I hope you had your vitamins this morning because this one sounds like it may get technical. I will try and keep up the best I can. However, I’m probably not as smart as the rest of you. Please have mercy.
Up first is Carolyn Shelby aka @cshel. The moderator tried to call her S-Shel. How does that even happen? I think he caught “the Vegas”.
Carolyn starts off saying that we (she means “you”) don’t want to spend too much time relying on plugins and theme frameworks. If you have a site you spend a significant amount of time on, you want to be able to take care of it. You need to learn your craft and understand how things work under the hood.
For the record:
People are over-relying on plugins and theme frameworks to do the work for them. Not all plugins are benevolent or even benign. Plugins don’t necessarily play well with each other or your theme. Not understanding how things actually work make it difficult to fix things when they break.
Also, excessive “blog bling” is bad. The biggest mistake you can make is NOT keeping your version of WordPress up to date. Security is YOUR concern. Don’t be blaming WordPress if you’re not doing your homework. You tell ’em, Carolyn!
Her Favorite Plugins:
- Efficient Related Posts: significantly decreases the load on the server. For high traffic sites, this is helpful.
- Get Custom Field Values
- Excerpt Editor: Allows you write in excerpts and included HTML for pages and posts.
- Search and Replace: helpful when you’re configuring your dev environment or domains. Doesn’t play well with others so she deactivates it when she’s not using it.
Tuning the Template
Many changes that people use plugins for can be done with simple template tweeks. Start with little fixes to help yourself get more comfortable and feel empowered. Things you don’t need plugins for:
- Fixing the meta title
- Automatically creating unique meta descriptions for each page
Every time you add another plugin, you add another page of processing. Don’t add unnecessary plugins.
The Codex Is Your Friend
codex.wordpress.org – bookmark it!
Add “codex” to the end of a query or concern you’re having and you almost always get the result right from WordPress.
Learn how to backup, duplicate (copy) and restore your database. Create a development environment for your theme development… or to test upgrades to see what breaks it.
Learn how to do searches from within PHPmyAdmin. If you’re ever hacked, you’ll need to be able to find the offending entry and remove them.
Make sure your “collation” method is set to UTF-8 General. It changes how your data is sorted by DB and it can increase the speed with which your content is served from.
Next up is Scott Hendison.
- Easy for end-users to manage their own sites
- Huge community for support – users are never alone
- Open source creativity is limitless
- Over 1200 free theme designs and layouts
- Nearly 12,000 free plugins
- Premium plugins, themes and entire businesses have been developed based on WordPress
- WordPress “saved his life”
- Most Web hosts offer Fantastico, SimpleScripts, etc for practically instant setup of WordPress
- Installation is cut to about 30 seconds and takes only two or three clicks
- Purists typically shy away from these installations packages, since manual installation is easy.
Post Install – Plugins Vs Theme
A theme used to mean “the design” but today many fantastic themes are becoming proprietary solutions locking users into limited options. Keeping functions out of themes leaves more options down the road and decreases dependence on others. They use and recommend many premium themes, but they never use built-in theme SEO options, which avoids hassles later.
For Him, Plugins Come First
A few plugins they always use
- Core Tweaks (theirs): It helps you do the typical post installation a lot easier and faster.
- All in One SEO Pack: Very easy to configure and set up. Most people make their themes compatible with it because they know everyone’s using it.
- HeadSpace2: Does a lot of the basic SEO stuff. Does everything All in One SEO Pack does, and a whole lot of other stuff.
- Gregs High Performance SEO: Does everything All In One SEO does but it also has tons of advanced options. Inside the plugin, there’s an e-book on SEO. Scott says it includes some amazingly detailed knowledge.
- Google XML SiteMaps PlugIn
- SEO Friendly Images: Not one SEO plugin out there that will automatically put in alt tags if you’re too lazy to do it. This one does.
- WordPress SEO
Next up is Gregg Banse.
Themes are eye candy. They are the visual representation of WordPress. Theme frameworks are eye candy on steroids. They allow you to do a lot more quicker.
Stock, Kit or Custom
- many, many options
- Use as is or customized to suit
- Some come with GUI controlled customizations
- Little or no building blocks provided
- Author and support teams often vary drastically in size and capabilities
- Kit: Assembled from building blogs
- Use as is or customized to suit
- Often come with GUIs or customization
- Building blocks provided
- Scalable and flexible
- Authors and support teams vary less
- Community of users often includes thousands of fanatics
- Examples: Genesis, Sandbox, Theme Hybrid, Thesis, Whiteboard
- Building blocks that help speed up development
- Hooks into the framework
- Separation of core code from the visual design and customization
- Relative ease of custom visual design
- Community support
- Active development community
If you’re building a lot of sites and you want control, use a framework. Themes are pretty, but many lack ease of customization. Theme frameworks offer rapid customization. Theme frameworks use standardized hooks, functions and GUI. Tools help reduce time to deployment.
Next up is Ben. He brought me Hello Kitty stickers.
Categories and tags are one of the most fundamentally misused items in WordPress. People will keep them out of the index by default. He thinks you’re missing out if you do that. He uses one category per post so that your category archive pages are unique. He uses more tags per post, but he also makes sure he reuses them. He stole a concept from Rae and likes to add unique content to category pages to give the engines and users something more valuable. If you’ve ever looked at any of the category pages on Outspoken Media, we do the same thing.
Removing Date References [stolen from Michael Gray]
Google started putting published dates in the SERPs. Even if your post is listed number one, if the date is old, people will skip it to go with the newer one. If you remove the date references, then users will click on you anyway. You may not want to use this on everything, but its good for evergreen content. You can do this via:
SEO Smart Links: Creates links based on the terms that are appearing in your content or the terms that you give it. You can customize it to prevent links to “self” or the number of links automatically created. He highly recommends this one. It won’t override any current links.
Displays widgets based on logic. You can tell it only to display a widget if you’re on the home page or a certain page. Allows you to vary your side bar content with the content on the page to help keep it relevant. Prevents the engines from just ignoring whatever is in the side bar. It’s also exposes users to new, relevant content.
He also likes Joost’s WordPress SEO plugin mentioned earlier. It does a lot of cool things like:
- XML Sitemap
- Permalink Cleanup
- Canonical Tags
- Title and Descriptions
- Prevents him from being an idiot – Will tell you if you’ve just blocked your site from the search engines
And we’re out of here. Hope you guys found some new WP plugins to use…but not rely on. :)