4 things I wish I'd done when I started my WordPress blog

3 months in and all is not well

Darn!

You know what it's like when you get hold of a new bit of online kit, jump right in, then a couple of months later realise you should have done it differently?

Well, I've just realised that with this blog.

There are things I should have done from the outset, but didn't ... and now I either have a lot of work on my hands to put it right, or I just have to accept that I've missed the boat.

Not all things are irretrievable, but I'll pass on what I've learnt here in case it helps other new bloggers.

Three small ones that I can put right

1) Using Akismet to stop spam

At first look, Akismet didn't look like a sexy enough spam blocker to me.

I like spam blockers with macho titles like 'Spam Terminator', 'Leave no spam alive' and 'Even the cute spam gets killed'.

Akismet just didn't sound like it was what I was after, so I went for WP-SpamFree which is a notch up at least on the machometer.

The problem with WP-SpamFree, although it certainly stopped the spam dead in its tracks, was that I couldn't actually work out how you check the spam to make sure I hadn't missed any proper comments.

A friend who runs his own blog via WordPress called ablogfrommydog.com happened to mention that he was very happy with the basic Akismet, so I decided to give it a try.

He was right, I was wrong, Akismet is now my spam tool of choice.

It gives me decent spam statistics and I can easily check that it hasn't caught any legitimate messages.

Maybe they could change the name to 'Akisment blasts spam'?

2) Using Google XML Sitemaps

Okay, how to create a sitemap for something as organic as a blog.

For more static websites I've used something called sitemapspal which I've been very happy with.

I wasn't really sure what to do with a blog, as it's being updated constantly.

In the end - and don't laugh - I created a sitemap using sitemapspal, then manually updated it every few days ... at least it had got me started and Google wasn't knocking me back via its fussy sitemaps dashboard.

My pal who runs ablogfrommydog.com came to the rescue once again ... it's amazing what you learn via a bit of nerdy chit-chat in the office.

If we were proper men we'd be talking about women, motor cars and how big our salaries are ... we prefer website tips and passing on interesting websites.

Now I use Google XML Sitemaps because it's extremely straightforward, it automatically submits your sitemap to Google, Ask.com, MSN Search and Yahoo and you can create a new map instantly by clicking on one link.

So don't struggle with your sitemap, just get the Google XML Sitemaps plugin and take the 5 minutes required to set it up.

3) Backing up your blog

It quickly became apparent to me that I was writing a lot of stuff and it would be a disaster if it got lost - to me at least!

So, how to backup your blog?

Initially I used the built-in 'Export' function, but I was craving something more substantial.

I looked around and found BackUpWordPress which I'm very happy with.

I like it mainly because I can administrate it from within WordPress rather than, say, having to backup via PHPAdmin.

I get a visual display on my main WordPress dashboard showing me when I made my last backup, so as I'm writing my next batch of 'words of wisdom' (or otherwise!) I can rest assured that they're going to be available to mankind for evermore. How delighted mankind will be to hear the news!

One big one that I can't put right

4) Getting your Permalinks right

This is the big one, and I only 'got it' when I was writing my last post on Tim Ferriss.

I was trying to work out how he'd got his blog links to look so good with his blog titles becoming part of his blog URLs.

Take this URL by way of an example:

http://www.fourhourworkweek.com/blog/2008/05/19/
5-tips-for-e-mailing-busy-people/

That's a lovely descriptive URL, much better than a load of numbers like I've got.

So I go to the Permalinks section in my WordPress dashboard and change from 'Numeric' option to 'Month and name' and get the following wonderful and descriptive URL just like Tim.

The only trouble is any cached search engine pages now throw up errors and all the links I've distributed to this blog don't work properly anymore.

Arrrrrrggghhhhhhhh!

I either have to start again or leave things how they are.

I can't face starting again, but it's niggling me now leaving things as they are.

So learn from me, when you're setting up your WordPress blog, in the Permalinks section select either 'Month and name' or 'Day and name' and then you too can have cool URLs like Tim Ferriss and not rubbish ones like me.

(March 2010 update:  My technical skills have improved since writing this post and you'll notice that the URLs for this blog are now in my preferred format).

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