I have been running WordPress sites for a few years now. I started with plain HTML, then moved to HTML/CSS, then started using Blogger to FTP pages to my domains, and then finally I moved to WordPress a few years ago. Here is a collection of the posts I have written on managing WordPress. Some reference specific plugins, some are more general. I hope you find this useful.
Most Important WordPress Plugins Reviewed
Feb 19, 2009
WordPress is possibly the best blogging tools for people who have their own domain, and PHP/MySQL capabilities on their server. Out of the box it is a solid performer, with a lot of useful features. However, what makes WordPress really good is the fact that as an open source content management system, there are many add-on modules available which enhance the core functionality. These add-ons are called Plugins in wordpress. There are far too many Plugins to list, a full list can be found on the WordPress.org website, under the extend menu. Here we review the most important Plugins to get you started. There is now no need to download Plugins and then FTP them to you web server, as the process can now be controlled via the WordPress control panel. Just search for Plugins and then install.
Askimet ships with WordPress, but you need to apply for an API key to activate from WordPress.com. Akismet checks your comments against the Akismet web service to see if they look like spam or not. You can review the spam it catches under “Comments.” To show off your Akismet stats just put in your template. It is without doubt an essential part of running a healthy blog, as once a blog becomes popular and hits the search engine radars, it will be inundated with automated spam.
All in One SEO Pack
This is an “out-of-the-box SEO” tool for your WordPress blog. This Plugin allows the blogger to add a custom description to any post. This is a very useful tool to improve search engine click through rate, as the page description often forms part of the test on search engine listing. Also a different title can be added, rather than using the default title, which will be the same as the post title. Finally keywords can be added. The tool also allowss you to customise posts automatically.
This is a highly customizable and user friendly plugin to create one or more alphabetical indexes of selected posts in your WordPress blog. It allows you to create a dynamic index for the whole site – we use it for our index – Webologist Index
Does nothing by itself but supplies common code for the Similar Posts, Recent Posts, Random Posts, and Recent Comments plugins. Make sure you have the latest version of this plugin.
Displays a highly configurable list of randomly selected posts. This is very useful for larger sites which receive a lot of random traffic, as it acts a bait to make people delve deeper into the site. Best used along the lines of “you may also like…”. Requires the latest version of the Post-Plugin Library to be installed.
Little basics for secure your WordPress-installation. Really these extra security measures should be part of the core files. Includes simple solutions such as blank index.html files to prevent people peeking into your directories.
Possibly one of the best Plugins available, especially for larger sites with a lot of simialr content. It can pick up posts made years earier on the same topic. Similarity can be based on any combination of word usage in the content, title, or tags. Don’t be disturbed if it takes a few moments to complete the installation — the plugin is indexing your posts. Instructions and help online. Requires the latest version of the Post-Plugin Library to be installed.
Simple Trackback Validation
This helps to reduce spam in the comments fields. It eliminates spam trackbacks by (1) checking if the IP address of the trackback sender is equal to the IP address of the webserver the trackback URL is referring to and (2) by retrieving the web page located at the URL used in the trackback and checking if the page contains a link to your blog.
A complete integration between your WordPress blog and Twitter. Bring your tweets into your blog and pass your blog posts to Twitter. This really helps you to build up a Twitter community around your blog as each post is Tweeted.
Essential for those who are not comfortable with MySQL command line or phpmyadmin. It allows you to manages your WordPress database from the control panel. Includes database optimization, repair, backup and restore database, drop/empty tables and the ability to run selected queries. Supports automatic scheduling of backing up and optimizing of database. You can even set it up to email your database to you on regular intervals.
This is an advertising Plugin which allows you to easily manage 125×125 ads within your WordPress Dashboard. Just input the location of an image and a URL and this Plugin will monitor clicks on adverts, alert you when adverts are about to expire.
For more WordPress Plugins go to the WordPress website: http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/
Other plugins worth a mention are:
- WordPress.com Stats – keep stats on traffic in the control panel
- Google XML Sitemaps – create a dynamic sitemap for Google Webmaster management
- NextGEN Gallery – smarter way to display photos
- Contact Form 7 – add a secure contact form to your WordPress blog / website
How To Create Custom WordPress Category Pages
Aug 25, 2010
OK, so I am using WP for a big site. One problem I always have had is sorting out the content, i.e. site navigation. I resorted in the past to using basic category pages as menu items. But, only found out last night that you can easily, no plugins required, set up custom category pages. Then for each category page you can edit the template so that you showcase your best stuff in that category before all the latest posts for that category.
How do you do it? Just save a new category file as category-1.php for the first category, and so on. Then edit the part above the < ? php single_cat_title(); ? > and you have your own special category pages.
Very handy if you want people to see your most popular posts / pages first, or even add targeted advertising before the lists, or anything you fancy.
This is so simple and yet few people seem to know about it. I am updating my category pages as we speak! Very excited.
Changing WordPress Permalinks, Redirecting Links and Updating Internal Links
Sep 28, 2010
OK, for some reason I just decided that I did not want the old date structure for the site. It seemed a bit pointless. So in a rash move (2 glasses of wine) I changed the permalink structure to the good old tried and tested /%category%/%postname%.
I then thought, hmmm, must Redirect 301 the pages so Google does not leave people sitting on an error page. So I then decided to try to determine what the old URLs were…… (you can see that I did zero forward planning, again).
So this is what I did:
- I searched Google for site:www.webologist.co.uk sitemap – this led me to a cached version of my site index. Fortunately I keep all links on one page. So I viewed the Google cache, highlighted the links, right click and viewed selection source, copied, and pasted everything into an OpenOffice Calc spreadsheet.
- I then stripped all the junk from the results leaving just the URLs. This is how I did it, using simple Find and Replace:
- Each line started out like this: <li><a href=”http://www.webologist.co.uk/2009/08/10-key-seo-skills.html“><span>10 Key SEO Skills</span></a></li>
- First I replaced all <li><a href=” with blank so the line started with the URL. A good start.
- Then I deleted everything after the first ” with this command: “.* (ticking the “Regular Expressions” box in the More Options section). This left just the URL.
- I then copied the column of URLs to another sheet for safe keeping, as I was not done with these yet.
- Now that I had just the URL I wanted to strip it down to the new format. So I replaced the years, i.e. /2010 then back to the beginning, the first being /2006.
- Then I removed .html from each line (I actually did this first, but forgot to tell you. Makes no difference either way.
- This just left the URL in this format: http://www.webologist.co.uk/08/10-key-seo-skills
- That is the new resultant URL. What? with 08 as a category? Yes! WordPress is clever enough to redirect any “sub-directory” to the correct category for an article. So you can leave the months and they will help the redirect. To change them requires you to replace each one with the correct category, which turns a 10 minute job into a 10 hour job.
- So, back to that other sheet with the old URLs. Just do a find and replace for the domain, to leave the URL ready for redirect, i.e. /2009/08/10-key-seo-skills.html
- Now paste these URLs into the 2nd column of your first sheet, with the new URL in the 3rd column. Add Redirect 301 to the first column and copy down.
- Highlight all three columns and paste them into your .htaccess file.
- Upload, spot check.
- Next install the plugin Broken Link Checker.
- Force run it.
- Go to the results and choose all the Redirects. Highlight all (remove any affiliate links you may have!) and chose “Fix Redirects”. This will change all the internal links in your posts, pages and comments to the new format. You can take this opportunity to repair any broken links (I just unlinked all the external ones that are now broken, again, time saving).
- That’s it, job done.
I hope I did not forget anything there! The Broken Link Checker – http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/broken-link-checker/ – is really good. It will also send you emails whenever it discovered a broken link. Great.
Fixing external redirects is something you need to be careful with really, as you may link to something like www.a-website.com/page and they may redirect to a temporary page for promotional purposes. If you fix the redirect and they change it again, it will break (unless they redirect properly, which rarely happens!).
With Broken Link Checker you can easily change the links from the admin area too, no need to go fishing in the files for those broken links.
So there you go. If at 1am after a couple of glasses of wine you decide to change the permalink structure of your WordPress blog, you can now complete the task in just 10 (or 15) minutes with no worries. So long as Google has cached your index page…
Right, time to install the automatic Google Sitemap plugin to help prompt the big G to sort out the mess I created in its index. Sorry Google!
How To Transfer a Whole WordPress Category to a New Blog
Aug 23, 2010
A little trick if you want to remove all posts from a blog of a particular category and transfer them to another blog.
- Create a new User, for example “Transfer”
- Navigate to the posts and then filter by the category you want to move
- Select all > Edit
- This opens a bulk edit section
- Just change the author to “Transfer” and all these posts will have a new owner
- Then export all posts by that author and import into the new blog
- Then select posts, filter by author and change the author back to your own name (or allow it to auto transfer name on Import)
- Then add a 301 Redirect to your .htaccess and check that the old post correctly links to the new one. If all OK you can delete the old post.
Simple. No plugins, no messing with the database, no comments or tags lost. Everything should work just fine.
An advantage of doing this method is that you have more control over the migration and can control any possible SEO damage caused by making massive changes overnight. For example, if you have 200 posts in your category you could transfer 20 a day for 10 days, which would give the impression of lots of new content. Of course, you could do less but you would then have to manually set a new author to each post. 20 posts is one page at a time.
BACK UP BOTH BLOGS BEFORE
Install WordPress for Windows
Mar 25, 2011
This looks handy for anyone wanting to test WordPress on a Windows machine. Not looked to deep into it yet, but certainly worth a look later (it is 1.30am, I woke up to check my son, who has a slight fever….).
“WordPress runs great on the Microsoft Web Platform. Microsoft is teaming up with the WordPress Community to make using WordPress on Windows even easier and Microsoft along with its hosting partners is working to make hosting WordPress on Windows a great choice for everyone.”
I saw the advert on Facebook of all places. Rarely do I click Facebook ads, this one was obviously well targeted, so well done Microsoft on that front!
Converting Categories to Tags
This short update was written when I first migrated from Bloggger FTP to WordPress.
Jun 20, 2008
After importing my Blogger blog into WordPress, I had hundreds of categories (converted from Blogger labels) and very few tags. This was obviously not right. So I thought that I would have to manually set up tags, or fiddle with the database, but no. Within the import menu on WordPress is the option to convert categories to tags. All done automatically in seconds. And I now have a lovely tag cloud – something that I have always wanted!
Starting to seriously consider converting Webologist over to WordPress now. Maybe a task for a rainy day.
WordPress Broken Link Checker is Awesome
Sep 7, 2010
I am currently managing a major site restructure and have moved about 1000 articles from a range of WordPress blog installations into on central installation. As you can imagine, this is not without a few hiccips.
One extremely useful tool I have discovered is the broken-link-checker. It will examine all your links, then report on broken or redirected. You can then manually edit the links from the plugin interface (rather than edit the pages).
Not just links in posts, but in comments too. Also you can also automatically update redirected links. You can bulk update all current 301 redirects to show the correct final URL, which will take the strain off your server.
So, in theory I may soon be able to clean up all my links, and use htaccess only for ensuring that external links are sent to the right home.
There are some other interesting WordPress plugins for links too.
I was also going to look at this: http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/search-and-replace/
a simple way to update links if you are resutructuring. But I have already set up the 301’s so hopefully the broken link checker will be quicker.
Have so far moved about 1000 articles in the last week. Still more to move. Everything is coming together and hopefully htaccess will not be too bloated.
A Million Google +1 Plugins For WordPress
Jun 3, 2011
Was just looking through the latest plugins for WordPress out of sheer boredom I guess. Cannot believe how many Google +1 plugins there are already.
I tried installing the Google +1 code straight into my theme yesterday and it did not work. No idea why. Maybe a plugin will work. I think I will wait a while to see which ones get voted up though as there is likely to be a lot of duds sitting there at the moment.
Damn My this is a short post. Um. OK, fill it out Jon. What plugins are there at the moment which look like they could be contenders?
First a search in WordPress for Google +1
Top of the list is Google +1 Button. 2 stars, comes with a shortcode [google+1] so that you can use it in posts and pages. I like shortcodes.
Next up is Google +1 Button. This appears to be a widget which means for most people its a sidebar job. Not the best place to stick your social button. It does have almost 4/5 from 5 votes though.
Then we have the WordPress plugin – Google +1 Button. This is the button which Mashable.com tested. 7 ratings, over 4/5. “Position it Before, After, Before/After on post or page”. Sounds like a winner to far.
Now a search in WordPress for Google Plus 1
First new one is the WordPress Google Plus One Button. 1/5 rating. The description tells us nothing about it other how to upgrade it, which is odd for something new.
Next is the Google Plus One Widget, which is another widget, but not in the “widgets” but adds it to the posts and pages. Why do people call things widgets when they are not the things that go in the sidebar? Anyway, does not appear to be any way to configure it.
Google Plus One Button gets a few stars. Once installed you have to add
<?php google_plus_one(); ?> to your theme. Allows more control for people confident with the web design stuff, not for your average plug-and-play WordPress bloggers though.
Finally (for now) is the Plus 1 – Google +1 Button (which although using both “plus” and “+” have failed to rank above the others in the WordPress search engine, a lesson for Plugin developers there!). It does offer shortcodes though – [plus1 size=’standard|small|medium|tall’ url='[custom url’] so that could be good.
There you go. Already a few Google Plus + One 1 Plugins out there. I suspect that the one tried and tested by Mashable will win. Not really sure what more can be done with a button.
Am I Adding Google +1?
No. Because although there are plugins, I will wait until it is integrated into a plugin that provides several voting buttons in one. Probably will see the AddThis, AddThat, ShareThis etc. updating their plugins very soon and these will do the trick and not create even more Web 2 clutter on our blogs.
W3 Total Cache and Bad Bahaviour Plugins Removed
Jun 22, 2011
I had two issues today on two different sites and both were resolved after uninstalling Bad Behaviour and W3 Total Cache.
Here on Webologist this theme broke. I had no idea why, but upgrading WordPress seemed to have been the cause. I had flushed the cache several times, uploaded the theme again, reinstalled the latest version of WordPress, but in every case the theme was broken. The stylesheet was just lost.
Then on another site one of the pages came up blank, just a white page, often refereed to as the WordPress White Page Of Death. All other pages loaded OK. Again, I emptied the W3 Total cache, I reinstalled WordPress, I edited that post and changed the publication date – i.e. I tried a bunch of random things to try to kick it back into life.
I then checked the code in the post to make sure something odd had not been inserted, I checked the comments to make sure nothing odd was going on. I only discovered the problem because I had a new comment in the moderation queue.
As a last resort, shortly after 6pm, I contacted a friend on Skype, just to see if he was getting the white page too. He was. And he could see the other pages all OK. Fortunately for me, Mat knew what he was doing, and he told me after how he investigated. Needless to say, he proposed the changes that fixed the site. I guess it is this sort of fast and accurate diagnosis that has given Brit-Net Web Design such as good reputation down on the South Coast.
So, what was the problem. First Mat suggested that I uninstalled Bad Behavior. I did. That did not actually fix the problem. Next suggestion was to uninstall W3 Total Cache. That fixed it straight away. I then did the same on Webologist and tried activating this theme again, and hey presto, old theme is back. The new theme I was using was not very nice, so glad to get my old one working again.
So if you get the WordPress White Page Of Death then first check to see if these plugins are installed, and if they are, uninstall them.
So what did Mat do? He checked the headers of the page in this tool: Rex Swain’s HTTP Viewer
This showed to him that there was a problem being reported with Bad Behaviour and then after that was deactivated, W3 Total Cache. I do not know exactly what was shown. Actually, he did Skype me this:
it is returning an error 403…[17:52:54] Mat : Brit-net: (i wasn’t seeing that, were you?[17:52:55] Mat : Brit-net: p>We’re·sorry,·but·we·could·not·fulfill·your·request·for(LF)/lose-weight/how-to-lose-cat-flap-in-1-week·on·this·server.</p>(LF)<p>An·invalid·request·was·received·from·your·browser.·This·may·be·caused·by·a·malfunctioning·proxy·server·or·browser·privacy·software.</p>(LF)<p>Your·technical·support·key·is:·<strong>4524-be30-1756-6707</strong></p>
Then there was a link to this error message:
Your request was intercepted by Bad Behavior, security software which protects the Web site you visited from malicious activity, such as hackers, spam and viruses. We apologize for the inconvenience, but your request matched a profile of suspicious activity. This problem is usually quite easy to fix.
I have heard people before say that Bad Behavior sometimes locks good people out of their own websites, and clients also!
We started chatting about how WordPress is becoming a bit bloated in general now and that premium wordpress themes are killing WordPress for some sites, then we realised it was time to stop working and go home. Well, Mat went home, I blogged this.
WordPress Database Backup Made Easy with WP-DBManager 2.30
Jun 20, 2008
My main concern regarding the running of a MySQL database driven website is that servers to die, and having a backup is essential. However, without an automated backup solution, you are likely to find that when you most need it, your backup is old.
Fortunately a plugin has been written for WordPress which not only allows you to manually backup your database from your site control panel, but also allows you to set up an automated backup that is emailed to a destination of choice. So you could if you desired, back up your database to a gmail account, where it should be safer than a home pc or the same web server that your website is hosted on.
I am still testing WP-DBManager 2.30 now, but have set it to automatically backup my database every 12 hours, then GZip it and email to myself. The auto backup can be set in minutes, hours, days, weeks or months, so depending on how active your site is there should be a backup solution for you. Hopefully testing will prove positive.
In addition to backing up the WordPress MySQL database, WP-DBManager 2.30 also allows you to restore a database, manage existing backups, run SQL queries, repair the database and drop or empty tables. Emptying a table could be useful if you find that you suddenly have thousands of unwanted spam messages. Just empty the whole comments table, and the message will all go. Drastic, but if you have a backup, you could then just import the comments, rather than importing the entire database.
Finally WP-DBManager 2.30 has the function to optimise the database to ensure smooth running and fast responses.
If I find any problems with this plugin I will report it here, but so far it looks like a very useful plugin for any WordPress bloggers.
WordPress Woes With Secure WordPress and Related Posts
Jul 20, 2011
Had a strange day. First I noticed that one of my pages was coming up blank. This happened before, strangely on the same page. Before I had Bad Behaviour and W3 Total Cache installed, and removing these fixed it. I blogged about it here.
So today I had to try something new. I assume that the problem has been there since I updated to WordPress version 3.2.1 the other day. The first thing I tackled was plugins which needed updating, so I updated Secure WordPress. This failed to update and caused a bunch of errors which are documented on the WordPress site here: Fatal Error when Update. I removed the plugin completely (it failed to install anyway) and for a moment I thought that it worked, but it did not.
Next was the cache, so I deleted all the cache (now using WP Super Cache). That failed to make a difference, the white page of death continued.
I then looked at the most recent plugin changes. I had been running Contextual Related Posts until earlier today when I installed Yet Another Related Posts Plugin (YARPP). This seemed to work OK, but I reckon it broke one page from the start. I only spotted the white page when moderating a comment today.
So I uninstalled the YARPP and tried Similar Posts which I always used to use. That caused a billion errors. I then tried Better Related Content as they claimed to fix a few things (or someone on a forum / blog said it did) but that did not help. Note, every time I uninstalled a related posts plugin the error (white page) went away.
So next I reinstalled Contextual Related Posts (By Ajay D’Souza). I cannot actually remember why I changed it, I think that I needed to use a plugin that was easier to position, but some other template changes meant that I could use it again. Hey presto! Everything working again.
I then discovered (thanks to beyercenter on WordPress.org) that it was only the latest Secure WordPress which was broken and we could download the previous version here: http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/secure-wordpress/download/ – I never knew all previous plugins were stored, I used to sometimes back them up locally, but that seems not to be required.
So a strange day really. Very annoying when things in WordPress break. But learnt a couple of things along the way.
No idea what caused the white screen of death though. Another dodgy upgrade it seems, maybe. The problem with WordPress is that there are so many plugins that every now and then something will break after an update.
Update – some plugins seems to cause it (WSOD), not always the same. I suspect that sometimes too many plugins cause too many server / database look ups and this is killing the site.