You’ve taken the plunge. You’ve finally accepted just how powerful a blog can be to your small business and made the decision to add a WordPress blog to your site. You’re even working hard cracking out some small business blog ideas that will help you build thought leadership, connect with potential customers, and answer common questions. Now what do you do?
Before you even write your first post there are few things you’ll want to knock off your To Do list on your brand new WordPress blog. Below are six simple tweaks small business owners can make to their blogs today to ensure they’re stepping out on the right foot and optimizing the findability of their blog to customers.
1. Set Up Your Blog Feed
Your small business blog exists. Your next step is to create your blog feed so that potential customers can subscribe to your blog and stay up to date on what you have to say. To get set up, head over to Feedburner, Google-owned property that’s free to get set up with. Once you’re there, simply type in the URL for your blog and follow the short process to burn your feed. You’ll also want to go through the steps to set up email subscriptions for people who will prefer to read your blog that way. Don’t assume that just because it’s 2011 most people prefer to get content via RSS. Depending on your audience, you may be surprised just how many of your readers will prefer the email format.
2. Subscribe To Your Own Feed
Once your feed is set up, you’ll want to be become your very first subscribing, signing up for both the RSS and email version. Why is this important? Because it allows you to see your blog the way your readers will. You’ll be able to tell if a plugin is broken, if your images aren’t lining up correctly, if your calls to action are appearing too low on the page, if the feed isn’t updated correctly, etc. Watching your own feed is a great way to spot problems in your own feed.
3. Create a Favicon
A favicon is the tiny graphic that represents your Web site up on the address bar, in a user’s bookmarks or in their browser tab. Just because the actual graphic is tiny, doesn’t mean its impact is. Creating a favicon to go along with your site and blog can go a long way in small business branding, exposure, or just making your blog stand out in someone’s list of bookmarks. If you’re not familiar with creating your own, I recommend you check out our post creating a custom favicon. The process takes just a few minutes and can really help your brand.
4. Change Your Permalink Structure
This is a big one. Because the default WordPress URL structure isn’t particularly search-engine friendly, we typically recommend that small business owners use a custom URL structure. By setting your URLs up this way you’ll be able to control how your URLs appear, allowing you to take advantage of keywords and use the most user-friendly URL possible. To set this up, you’ll want to go into your Permalink Settings located inside WordPress admin panel. Once you’re there, select the Custom Structure radio button option and enter /%postname%/ into that field. This will set it so that your post title will appear by default as your permalink URL.
5. Pick Your WordPress Plugins
One reason so many bloggers and SMBs select WordPress as their blogging platform is due to the number of free plugins available to them. While using too many plugins can slow down your Web site, there are some great plugins that I’d recommend any small business owner to use.
For example, some helpful plugins are:
- Cookies for Comments
- Enforce www Preference
- Feedburner Feedsmith
- WP Super Cache
- All In One SEO Pack
That said, you also want to do your own research and find the ones that best fit your needs.
6. Set Up Google Analytics
Your last step before even penning that first blog post is to set up Google Analytics to allow you to track users, set up conversion goals and monitor what’s happening on your Web site. Running analytics on your site is really important in allowing you to learn how customers interact with you, where they’re getting stuff, where you’re getting traffic, and which social media sites are most friendly to your brand. Google Analytics is also free to get set up with.
Those are six things you’ll want to knock off your To Do list before you introduce your blog to the world. You don’t want to invite people over to a dirty house, do you?
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Great step by step instructions – I’ll start doing everything here today. Thanks
I’ve never managed to get SuperCache working though – is it ineptitude, or are there issues with it?
Love step 2. We all try to think like our customers and put ourself in their position, but this is literally putting yourself in their position. You see your blog the same way they’ll see it.
Not to mention that you’ll catch a problem before many of your users see it. 😉
Good primer. I’d add that you ought to add fixed social icons. See:
They remain up top as you scroll.
This is a great list. When I help people set up their blogs, I take care of all of that for them, including signing them up for their blog & enewsletter, sending a test comment etc. But the BIGGEST mistake I see “do it your self” entrepreneurs make when they set up their WordPress blogs on their own domains, is #4 – not changing their permalinks structure.
Would you rather have a page ID be mybizblog.com/hktpage_id-23? (which means notheing to a search engine). or mybizblog.com/small-business-makes-great-widgets (the text after the slash being pulled automatically from the headline of each blog post, and turned into your page title that search engines can read and interpret.)
Instead of custom as Lisa suggests, I often suggest clients choose on of WordPresses options of date/name. If you read their background on permalinks, starting your page titles with a date, rather than words, makes your site load faster.
Also – if you did make this mistake and your wordpress permalinks are still set to the default. Don’t just go change them. You can lose all of the incoming links, all of those “15 retweets” on the retweet button etc. You have to jump through a few hoops to fix them later once your site is cooking along.
I really liked the list you presented, I completely agree that all these things are extremely important to do, like subscribing to your own RSS feed is a very good idea, that way you would always see your blog from the same angle as your readers do. Thanks for highlighting all these points!
Training for Entrepreneurs.com
Good tip, another thing to keep in mind is the design of the blog.
Thank you for this post! I just set up a WP blog, and I didn’t know about the “permalink” suggestion.
THAT makes SEO-type-things so much better..
The Franchise King®
Long time user of WP as a content management system. I used to use AIOSEO plugin, but have changed over to Yoast’s SEO plugin. It hits the nail on the head with tons of additional functionality (including suggestions for SEO related keywords built right in). It’s pretty sweet!
I never thought to have “Subscribe To My Own Feed” till today. It awakened me. Thanks a lot.
Step 6: Google XML Sitemap generator plugin
Step 7: Feedburner (monetize section) add email subscription to posts widget in wordpress widget section.
Great list Lisa, however some folks get in over their heads and think that customizing the blog is just as easy as setting it up. There is wordpress 101, but there is also many 200 level tweaks and that’s whee the pros come in.
Having a designer/developer lined up once you start is not a bad idea. When you hit a wall, call him/her to help you finish that awesome wordpress blog.
don’t forget social sharing plugins!
Thanks for sharing this post it help see things in a different way. Just 1 question, the last step setting up Google analytic. . what if my Google adsence is suspended? Does that effect my analytic account too?
I use WordPress for my small business. It’s really helpful for me for getting closer to potential customers. When I published new post I am trying my best to get the attention of my clients. When a new offer is launched clients asked a lot of questions. WordPress is a complete solution for answering their questions. So no doubt WordPress is best. anyway, thanks Lisa for writing nice post.
My company uses nothing but WordPress for small businesses. We love it because of the flexibility it offers and its easy to optimize for SEO purposes.
This post is very helpful. I like the step of subscribing to your own blog to see what your followers see – very good tip. That was not something I did, but will be doing now.