Now I’m going to begin my first article series. My primary job at this point in time revolves around building WordPress sites. In many cases I merely just go into existing sites, update them, add blog posts, install plugins and update SEO settings. Primarily, though, my clients want me to do the things they can’t; namely tweaking styles and figuring out how certain plugins work.

New WordPress Site

This is how a brand new WordPress Site looks with hardly any customization.

When first installing WordPress, you get something like the image to the right. This is a basic install, and right now, the default theme is “TwentyTwelve.” Although not an ideal theme, it is certainly far more of an “out-of-the-box” theme than TwentyTen or TwentyEleven are, both of which have an extremely large header image most people will never use.

Installing WordPress

WordPress is notorious for its incredibly difficult installation process. The process is explained on the official WordPress site, but if you have trouble with it, you may want to hire a programmer to help you install the site.

The first thing you need is a server that supports PHP 5.2.4 or greater, and MySQL 5.0 or greater. These requirements only apply for WordPress 3.2 and greater, but you should always be using the latest version of WordPress regardless.

Bluehost

I’ve happily used Bluehost for almost a year and a half now and haven’t had any problems.

Upload the contents of the WordPress zip file to the directory of your choice on your hosting. MAKE SURE TO UNZIP THE FILE FIRST. If you need hosting, I recommend using Bluehost. I’ve heard some people have had problems with them, but I personally have found them very reliable, and you also get a free domain name for the first year.

Before you can install, you need to create a database in your hosting environment. If you’re using Bluehost, simply log into cPanel and go to Databases > MySQL Databases. This should be MOSTLY the same for any cPanel, so even if you’re not using Bluehost, if you’re using cPanel it should be in roughly the same location.

Example Password Generation

Obviously I won’t be using THAT password, now.

The process is straightforward. Create the database name of your choice, create the database user and password, and then add the user to the database of your choice. When creating the username, its recommended to generate the password and then save your password in a secure file. I recommend KeePassX to secure all your passwords.

With the database created, simply go to the location where you uploaded WordPress and go through the process. Fill in the mysql database, username, and password information you just created and wordpress will be installed. Finally, fill in what you want your administrator username and password to be and wordpress is now successfully installed. While you’re still working on the site, I also HIGHLY recommend you check the box that says “Discourage Search Engines From Indexing My Site.”

Easy, huh? Yeah, I was being sarcastic up above, though the process may prove difficult for some people. In my case, WordPress’ famous 5-minute install LITERALLY does take 5 minutes. Even after installing, though, there are a number of things you will want to do as well.

Configuring the Site

Updating Your Permalink Settings

Typically set your Permalink Settings to “Post Name” for best results.

Sure, you could use the site right now if you wanted, but its going to look incredibly basic. The first thing I recommend is updating your permalinks. In the wordpress admin, click on “Settings > Permalinks.” You can choose one of these options, but I highly recommend using “Post Name.” Just do NOT use the first, default option.

By default, this should work straight away. However, occassionally you’ll see a message at the bottom of the page that states the .htaccess file was not writable. In this case, if you’re not an advanced user, you’ll probably need help on this one. .htaccess is extremely sensitive, and one false move can kill your entire site by throwing the dreaded 500 internal server error all over the place.

You should additionally go to “Settings > General” to change your Site Title and Tagline if needed. Also, go to “Settings > Discussion” and update your comments settings. Typically I set it to require users to have at least one accepted comment in order to be added. Delete the default post from “Posts > All Posts” to remove that filler from your site and do the same in “Pages > All Pages” if you wish.

jrConway Menu Setup

This is an example of how to set up menus from this very site.

You also want to install and customize your theme. First, find a theme online and install it (I’ll post a new blog entry later with more detailed theme instructions). With the theme installed, go to “Appearance > Menus”, create a new menu, and assign it as your default menu. This is highly recommended, as you can now fully customize your theme’s menu. Now go to “Appearance > Theme Options” and upload a header image. This may NOT be available for your theme, but look around and see if it is.

Preventing Duplicate Content

Duplicate content can cause issues with SEO. Despite popular belief, there is no “penalty” for having duplicate content, but having duplicate content can in a sense “penalize” your site. If your site has duplicate content, search engines may run through those pages more and give duplicate pages a higher ranking than other pages that actually deserve a higher ranking, hurting your site’s overall SEO.

jrConway General Settings

I’m using www.jrconway.net; jrconway.net will automatically redirect to www.jrconway.net.

First of all, go into “Settings > General” of the wordpress admin and set your site domain to the domain you prefer. What I mean is, set it to either include or to not include www. Users can still use it either way, but wordpress will automatically forward the one that’s not being used to the one you actually want, thereby preventing duplicate content.

Now, with that in mind, let’s forward all possible alternative url’s to the one url we wish to use:

RewriteEngine On
RewriteBase /
RewriteCond %{HTTP_HOST} ^tsr-online.org$ [NC,OR]
RewriteCond %{HTTP_HOST} ^(www\.)?tsronline.jrconway.net$ [NC]
RewriteRule ^(.*)$ http://www.tsr-online.org$1 [R=301,L]

The above code is an example from my Gaming blog website, The Shadow Realm’s .htaccess file. On Bluehost, like some other servers, you can create “Addon” domains that act as entirely new websites. These “Addon” domains, however, are actually subdomains of server’s primary domain, and if left unchecked, they will act as duplicate content which can unknowingly hurt your SEO ranking.

You can use the above code if you wish and place it above your wordpress permalink code. Just remember not to include RewriteEngine On twice and replace tsr-online.org and jrconway.net with your domain names. If you don’t need to rewrite a subdomain, remove the line:

RewriteCond %{HTTP_HOST} ^(www\.)?tsronline.jrconway.net$ [NC]

Just remember to be VERY careful with your .htaccess. One false move and your entire site will start throwing 500 internal server errors.

Other places where Duplicate Content can arise is on category pages. Installing the WordPress SEO plugin by Yoast can alleviate this problem and you can automatically noindex category pages in this manner.

 

Of course, this is just a basic introduction. Tomorrow I’m going to go more in-depth on themes, and after that, I’m going to detail good plugins to install on your site for SEO and Social Media purposes. Until next time.