You Installed WordPress, Now What?

If you’re the type of person who feels like you’ve been working hard on your WordPress powered blog, but not getting the results you desire, this is for you.

I wrote up a checklist for a client yesterday and thought it was worth sharing with anyone struggling with a WordPress blog that is underperforming.

There are 5 main sections that you need to work harder on.

1. Titles & Headlines

The title of a page and the headline on a page can and should be two different things. I recommend that sites running WordPress use Joost de Valk’s WordPress SEO plugin so that it’s simple to split up the headline and the title and also see what your search result will look like in Google’s results.

The Headline

The headline is the big box at the top of each new post (and page). By default this is also used as the page title, but we’re going to change that.

The headline is a place where the reader has already committed to visiting your site, so they have some context. This is where you can offer a witty headline, or a play on words that you should avoid in the page title.

WordPress Headline

I’m using this article as an example so you can poke around and see what I’m talking about. The reason I use this headline is because it means something to you. You found this article because you feel stuck, so hopefully the headline resonates with you.

The Page Title

WordPress Page Title field using Yoast's WordPress SEO plugin
WordPress Page Title field using Yoast’s WordPress SEO plugin

The reason I recommend having a slightly different page title is because the page title has to compete in an environment where its context is variable – the search engine result pages. When you’re looking at 10 blue links, the page title is what you are normally seeing there. You can’t get to cute with it, it needs to be clear, concise and actionable.

For this post I use the straightforward title WordPress Basics for Maximizing SEO, and the slightly less serious, You Installed WordPress, Now What? as the page headline. Related, but different wording for different jobs.

2. The Meta Description

Although the meta description isn’t a factor as far as ranking goes, it can have a big impact on your click-through-rate (CTR) when your page appears in the search results. Take some time and write a description that engages the reader and makes them want to click-through.

Wordpress SEO plugin meta description field
WordPress SEO plugin meta description field

The meta description is usually what Google shows under the link to your page, so think of it as an ad. Sell the searcher on clicking through. Never leave it as something that has no angle. If you leave it blank, Google usually just picks the first 160ish characters on that page.

Take this article, I could have used a meta description like, WordPress Posts and Pages – how to fill them in correctly, or something equally lame. What I’ve attempted to do was give you a taste of what’s here, and hopefully leave you wondering what are the things I already know that I’m not leveraging?

3. The Lede

The lede is the introductory section of a news story that is intended to entice the reader to read the full story. It’s also a fantastic podcast from Copyblogger with a ton of good ideas.

You only have a few seconds to convince someone to stick around and read, so start selling fast. My lede was attempting to find out if you were the person that I’m writing for. If you read the first line and mentally nodded your head, then I have my hooks in you. A good lead draws in the reader so that you can get them into your first paragraph. Questions and quotes make great ledes.

Wordpress - the lede
The lede for your post

4. Images

Learning WordPress can be frustrating
Learning WordPress can be frustrating

An engaging image can help your article get noticed. It can act as an additional siren to get you attention. The photo on the right is the one I chose to use as this post’s “Featured Image”. I choose this image because it’s how so many of us feel when we start using WordPress.

The reason to choose an image is simple. So much of what we are exposed to is now curated. We use tools like Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Zite, and others to have our content find us. We evaluate the stream of content with a cursory look at the headline and the image attached.

Photos have been shown to double engagement on Facebook and entire platforms are now build around visual marketing.

Pro Tip: Spend more time on your headlines and images!

5. Use Semantic Markup

Semantic HTML is the use of HTML markup to reinforce the semantics, or meaning, of the information in webpages rather than merely to define its presentation. That means don’t use the font-size and bold tags to make something seem important, use the proper header tag.

For example, on this page the headline is an H1 tag, the main sub-section are tagged as H2’s and their sub-sections are titled as H3’s. Hit the CTRL-U and check out the source code for this page.

Using proper semantic header tags in WordPress

Using proper markup like that helps Google understand what the page is about. Think of your pages the same way toy used to write an outline in 7th grade English class.

If you usually compose in the visual mode, then changing the headers happens in the pulldown like in the screenshot below.

WordPress semantic layout

Bonus Tip

The key to success on the web is to create something people are interested in. That shouldn’t shock you. But most people give up 18 months too early. If I told you that you will need to create great stuff as often as possible for 3 years before you’ll start to get traction would you quit? If you answered yes, then quit now and save yourself the 12 months you would have wasted before abandoning your blog.