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1.4 General Site Quality

People come back to qual­ity. If your site looks sloppy you can kiss good­bye to return visits.

1.4.1 Improve the built-in search

The built in search isn’t par­tic­u­larly good. My advice on this is exactly the same as that giv­en on Yoast — Show res­ults by rel­ev­ance not date, show an appro­pri­ate excerpt, show more res­ults per page and offer typo cor­rec­tion. These can all be achieved with the plu­gins recom­men­ded on the Yoast art­icle

1.4.2 Avoid broken links

Broken links are annoy­ing. They’ll also knock your search engine rank­ing. To avoid them, use the broken link check­er plu­gin. In addi­tion, to save any future hassle if you change your domain name or your permalink struc­ture — use RB Intern­al Links for any intern­al site links. This also makes it pos­sible to apply a styl­ing to intern­al links that is dif­fer­ent from styl­ing applied to extern­al links. Using such styl­ing is also user-friendly — mak­ing it pos­sible to see instantly if a link is going to an extern­al site.

1.4.3 Provide content ratings

Con­tent rat­ings help reduce the chance that your site is blocked by par­ent­al secur­ity set­tings. Equally, if any of your con­tent is unsuit­able for some audi­ences, the rat­ings will pro­tect those audi­ences. It is simply good prac­tice. I have heard, but haven’t been able to con­firm, that con­tent rat­ings can be bene­fi­cial for your search engine rank­ing too.  The best way of doing this is via a PICS.rdf file, rather than meta entries in the head­er. This will also avoid any inval­id code prob­lems, and avoid the data being loaded unless it is required, sav­ing band­width. There is an excel­lent guide to this at SixRe­vi­sions.  See these con­tent rat­ing sites for more inform­a­tion: ICRA, RSAC, Safe­Surf and WebUr­bia.

1.4.4 Paginate long posts

Really long posts and pages are harder to read, and los­ing your place is com­mon. Pagin­at­ing your longer art­icles improves read­ab­il­ity, is bet­ter for SEO, and provides more places to put ads. Simple insert the code <!–nex­t­page–>

1.4.5 Provide a contact method

People like to be able to get in touch, so it’s import­ant to provide a quick and easy meth­od. Unfor­tu­nately because of e‑mail being har­ves­ted for spam, just provid­ing an e‑mail address is not recom­men­ded. I sug­gest provid­ing a ded­ic­ated page with a con­tact form. This func­tion­al­ity can eas­ily be added with the Con­tact Form 7 plu­gin. I also advise provid­ing a vCard, but only as part of your microformats.

1.4.6 Use appropriate categories and tags

Includ­ing appro­pri­ate tags in your posts improves your list­ing on blog dir­ect­or­ies like tech­nor­ati. It also makes it much easi­er for vis­it­ors to find related posts. Using cat­egor­ies also makes nav­ig­a­tion easi­er for vis­it­ors. Both tags and cat­egor­ies can con­trib­ute to your SEO.

1.4.7 Spelling, Punctuation & Grammar

Poor writ­ing is harder to read and under­mines your cred­ib­il­ity. This is bad news for mul­tiple reas­ons. Users are less likely to trust your con­tent, are less likely to remain on the site, and less likely to return. Google have already said that there is a strong cor­rel­a­tion between sites with high qual­ity SPG, and rank­ing. Every­one makes the occa­sion­al mis­take so I recom­mend using the after the dead­line plugin.

1.4.8 Create an ‘About’ page

Your read­ers want to know a bit about you. A per­son­al feel is more likely to get people back for return vis­its. Being open about who you are also helps your cred­ib­il­ity. You can also use the about page to provide inform­a­tion about or links to copy­right inform­a­tion, your pri­vacy policy, author archives, and any oth­er policies (e.g. com­ments and advert­ising) as we have here on DIY Media Home.

1.4.9 Use images and styling

No-one likes see­ing pages full of text. Get some images, illus­tra­tions and col­our on your pages. Set your­self the tar­get of hav­ing at least 1 image asso­ci­ated with every post. For more thoughts about images see sec­tion 2.1.2.  You can also apply styles to extern­al links and use head­ings to break up blocks of text. Videos (see sec­tion 2.1.3) will also bright­en things up.

1.4.10 Be authoritative and credible

If you are thor­ough, clear and con­fid­ent in what you say, your read­ers are more likely to have con­fid­ence that you know what you are talk­ing about. Whilst you should avoid com­ing across as arrog­ant, it is equally import­ant not to appear to be provid­ing a poorly thought through piece or not hav­ing con­vic­tion. Where pos­sible enhance your cred­ib­il­ity by provid­ing ref­er­ence links to sources (see sec­tion 1.4.11). Whilst many of your read­ers may be happy to just accept whatever they hear, many of them will be “crit­ic­al” read­ers. These read­ers will assess what you say and if they find it not cred­ible they will be less likely to return. Where pos­sible you should enhance your cred­ib­il­ity by sup­port­ing your asser­tions in the fol­low­ing ways…

  • Self-evid­ent state­ments: These are state­ments that no “reas­on­able” per­son would be likely to dispute
  • Sub­ject­ive state­ments: These are state­ments about you, your exper­i­ences, your beliefs etc.
  • Sup­por­ted state­ments: These are state­ments that you sup­port by provid­ing ref­er­ences to oth­er cred­ible sources (see sec­tion 1.4.11). This is easy online — simply include links to oth­er cred­ible experts. In this art­icle for example there are fre­quent links to extern­al resources.
  • Self-sup­por­ted state­ments: These are state­ments that you sup­port by provid­ing your own evid­ence. Be as open and clear as pos­sible with any evid­ence that you present.

Note: I have para­phrased these state­ments based on the chapter “Reli­ab­il­ity, valid­ity and cred­ib­il­ity” by Dr. J Scaife, found on pages 58–72 in “Doing edu­ca­tion­al research” by Dr C. Opie.

1.4.11 Credit your sources with links

If you got an idea from anoth­er site, espe­cially if it’s from anoth­er Blog­ger then say so. Give cred­it where it is due, and you can expect oth­ers to do like­wise, increas­ing the num­ber of incom­ing links. If you just copy oth­ers work without adding much value you are likely to get black­lis­ted by oth­er blog­gers. If you do provide prop­er links it puts you in a pos­i­tion to con­fid­ently chal­lenge any claim of plagiarism.

1.4.12 Don’t use www

Most sites still use www at the start of the name. This is point­less, it lengthens the address and adds noth­ing. You site should always accept requests with or without the www, but it is bet­ter to host your site primar­ily without the www, and redir­ect the www requests to the www-less ver­sion. You’ll notice that this site is DIYMediaHome.org, not www.DIYMediaHome.org. Redu­cing the length of the address of art­icles also reduces the chance that e‑mailed links will get broken by a line wrap (see 2.2.4). I per­son­ally think non www sites stand out bet­ter in google search res­ults too.

1.4.13 Get the dot-com

You may not want a .com domain — but some of your vis­it­ors may not remem­ber you TLD and just type in your-site-name.com regard­less. You don’t want a domain troll grabbing the .com and steal­ing your traffic, so if you choose to have a non-dot-com domain then buy the .com as well and redir­ect it. Just like we have.

1.4.14 Create a favicon

Just about every pop­u­lar site has one, and word­press includes one, but you should cus­tom­ise it. You need a png or ico file which is 16x16px. Icons with alpha trans­par­ency look bet­ter if you can cre­ate one. The free util­ity IcoFX (on our down­loads page) may prove use­ful. Include a meta line in the head­er to spe­cify your favicon if your theme does­n’t offer a way to set it. Name the file favicon.ico or favicon.png and put it in the web root. Add the fol­low­ing code to your head­er <link rel=“icon” type=“image/png” href=“http://your.domain/favicon.png”>

You can also provide an icon for apple devices, which should be rect­an­gu­lar and 57x57px. Ref­er­ence it with the code <link rel=“apple-touch-icon” href=“path-to-your-apple-icon.png” />. You can also use .ico or .gif formats for the Apple icon.

1.4.15 Tables

Only use tables where they’re needed — for tab­u­lated data, nev­er for page struc­ture. Make sure you use the full fea­tures of tables prop­erly. You should usu­ally include head­ings with <th> tags, and you may want to break your table into <thead> <tbody> and <tfoot> sec­tions too. Also con­sider adding a script to enable your read­er to manip­u­late your tables, e.g. sort them by the data in vari­ous columns if this is appro­pri­ate. Finally — con­sider how your tables are presen­ted — it can be easi­er to read the con­tent of tables where altern­at­ive rows are dif­fer­ent shades.

1.4.16 Semantic HTML

Use HTML prop­erly. For example, start by includ­ing <acronym>, <abbr> and <dfn> tags to define words and to explain what all those abbre­vi­ations and TLA’s mean.  This is good for your read­ers and search engines.  If you are happy delving into HTML then see sec­tion 1.1.5 for more about Semant­ic HTML.  If you’re too lazy to manu­ally insert acronym tags you can use the Acronyms 2 plu­gin to do it for you.  W3Schools has a help­ful sum­mary of the most use­ful semant­ic tags and Joost de Valk (of Yoast fame) has writ­ten an excel­lent art­icle with more inform­a­tion on using semant­ic HTML properly.

1.4.17 Use a humans.txt file

Rather than embed­ding a lot of code with cred­its and details of con­trib­ut­ors or authors of your site in the main code, put it in a humans.txt and ref­er­ence this in the head­er of your site. For more inform­a­tion see the guide on SixRe­vi­sions.

1.4.18 Locate yourself

Keep things per­son­al by loc­at­ing your­self on google maps. This is espe­cially import­ant if you are a busi­ness, but even if you aren’t it is worth doing. To do this cre­ate a Geo.kml and Geo.rdf. More inform­a­tion is avail­able at SixRe­vi­sions.

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