Blogging Challenge - Lorelle on WordPressIn Lorelle’s latest blog challenge, she asks us to describe our favorite WordPress tip. She says to think back to when we started experimenting with WordPress, and try to remember what tips we found valuable.

I started WordPress Garage in order to document my discoveries about WordPress. It was meant to serve as an online manual of sorts. So I decided to go back in time to see what I was blogging about close to the beginning of my WordPress journey.

I can see that the issues that interested me most at that time were related to optimizing blogs for search engines and readers. Here are the tips that most interested me at that time:

  • Tags – Tags are useful for more detailed categorization of posts, search engine optimization, and user navigation. I wanted to find the perfect tagging plugin that not only would add tagging, but enable me to create tag clouds and list related posts based on those tags, so that I could use one plugin for three features. First I tried Jerome’s Keywords Plugin, only to find that it didn’t work once I upgraded from WordPress version 2.1.1 to 2.1.2. I then tried out Simple Tagging, which works wonderfully and does everything I want it to do, and now use it on all WordPress blogs and sites that I build.
  • Excerpts – if you use <?php the_excerpt() ?> instead of <?php the_content() ?> in your template files so that certain pages automatically display excerpts instead of the full text of the post, all html tags are stripped from the text. That means that if you have images or links in the first paragraph or so of text, they are removed from the excerpt. Annoying. I searched for a solution and found The Excerpt Reloaded plugin. Only, it didn’t work quite right – if my excerpt had a bulleted list in it, for example, the entire page following that excerpt would be styled as one long list. But Rob, a blessed plugin developer, created a mod of the plugin that fixed this problem. I highly recommend using this plugin if you want to automatically display excerpts and retain the formatting.
    Excerpts and videos: even with Rob’s plugin, videos that are embedded in the beginning of any post will not appear in excerpts – only the code will. So far, the only way that I have found for displaying videos in excerpts is to stop using <?php the_excerpt() ?> and to manually insert excerpts.
  • Future posting – this is a tip that I learned from Lorelle. When I first started blogging, I would write five posts on one day, and then publish nothing for the next couple of days. Not a very good strategy, since people, and maybe even search engines, like to see new content on a daily basis. So I started future posting whenever possible, which gave me some peace of mind for a few days where I knew I could take a break from blogging.

The above tips are pretty basic, but I think they can mean the difference between a well optimized and usable blog, and one that doesn’t reach its potential.