Suzy: Week 5 Goals – Customizing Her Travel Blog
If you’re wondering what this Case Study is all about, please read the introductory post from Week One.
In last week’s installment of this Case Study, we covered part of Level 3 of the Flow Chart and installing WordPress for Suzy’s new travel blog. This week we’re continuing Level 3 with some tips on structuring your travel blog, essential Plugins to add, and important features to incorporate.
(Note: Because I’m just hitting highlights, I strongly encourage anyone who is unfamiliar with WordPress to make use of some great free resources like the WordPress Codex (documentation) or WordPress.tv (video tutorials), or even purchase the WordPress For Dummies book at Amazon or your local bookstore.)
Tips on Structuring Your Travel Blog:
- Before she started writing her first post, Suzy changed the default category from “Uncategorized” to something meaningful for her travel niche, and added a few new categories to segment the various topics within her niche that she’ll write about.
For example, if your travel niche is a particular city, say Des Moines, you might have categories such as “Des Moines Lodging Reviews”, “Local Des Moines Dining”, and “Fun Things to Des Moines”
- Any content Suzy has that is “timeless” (that is, content that a year or two from now will still be accurate and relevant) she put into PAGES, not Posts. Pages are not ‘categorized’, but serve an important purpose in your overall site navigation.
In WordPress, you can write either Posts or Pages. When you’re writing a regular blog entry, you write a post. Posts automatically appear in reverse chronological order on your blog – most recent post first.
Pages, on the other hand, are for content such as “About Me,” “Contact Me,” etc. Pages live outside of the normal blog chronology, and are often used to present information about yourself, your site, or your travel niche that is timeless or at least relatively static.
(credit: WordPress Codex)
- Like Suzy did, you may also want to change the default number of posts that are displayed on your home page before they get archived – how many depends on your Theme (Suzy’s Theme didn’t look as good with a long list of posts to scroll through, others look fine) and your personal preference.
- Suzy changed the links in her ‘Blogroll’ (found under Links in your menu) to link to RELEVANT other blogs and sites. As we’ve mentioned in a number of articles here at TWE, relevancy is the key to having Google like you. And Google liking you = better ranking = more site visitors.
Tips on Plugins:
There are thousands of Plugins written for WordPress that can do just about anything you can imagine. They allow you to customize your travel blog without needing to know any coding at all – no knowledge of HTML, CSS, or PHP required.
- Research any Plugins before you install them to be sure that they are compatible with your version of WordPress;
- The easiest way to install Plugins is right in your Plugins menu, click on “Add New”, search by name or function, browse the results and install the one you want;
- Keep in mind that if you get carried away with installing Plugins, at some point they will bog down your site and cause unforeseen issues, so my advice is to just add what you really need, not every cool Plugin that tries to seduce you.
A few that I think are critical:
- Akismet – this excellent comment spam filter comes with WordPress, but requires an API key to work (which you can get free by requesting a login at WordPress.com – you don’t need a blog there, just a login);
- WP-dbManager – allows you to backup your WordPress database, schedule backups, and even email the backup to yourself;
- All in One SEO Pack – helps you “optimize” your travel blog to be found in search engines;
A few that are important, if not critical:
- FD Feedburner – redirects your default WordPress RSS Feed to Feedburner (after you set up your free account) so that you can keep track of your RSS Feed stats;
- Search Meter – see what people search for on your travel blog so that you can give it to them;
- Contact Form 7 – an easy way to add a “contact me” form, better than posting an email address that could be grabbed by spammers and spam-bots;
There are a number of other Plugins I like, even if they aren’t critical or even important, just because they add convenient features. Sometime over the weekend I’ll compile a list and post it in our Forum: WordPress – the Back End.
Important Features To Incorporate
If anyone is really interested I’ll be going into much further detail in our Forum: WordPress – the Front End over the weekend, but these are a few features that I think are “must have’s” for any travel blog so we made sure to add them to Suzy’s new blog:
- CLEAR and obvious navigation – this includes links to pages, links to recent posts, and links to archives by month and category. Don’t make people hunt all over your site to find the content they want, because they won’t. They’ll leave;
- An email signup for your Blog Feed – some people just prefer email to an RSS reader. A good free option is Feedburner (yes they have an email option);
- Social Networking Links – Twitter, Facebook, Stumbleupon, and others. In order to get people to your site you need to promote your travel blog in a variety of media;
- A sitemap – so that search engines can easily index all of your content and site visitors can find what they’re looking for;
- The comments box – surprisingly I hear from some blog owners that they don’t want comments. WTF?!? That’s like an actor saying that they don’t want an audience. Comments are the lifeblood of blogs. Moderate comments and use a CAPTCHA if you like, but don’t make it hard to converse with you, or no one will.
We’ll be discussing several of these, such as list building and using social networking, in future installments, but this is a solid foundation upon which to build as you construct your travel blog, and are the Plugins and components that Suzy has incorporated into hers. Now she can focus on writing good content, which is the topic for next week’s installment. Stay tuned!
What Plugins and features do you use in your travel blog? Share your comments!