5 really useful WordPress tips

Obviously in my line of work I get the chance to see many different self-built websites and discuss them with their owners.  The following are some of the most common minor tweaks I find myself suggesting to people.  (They apply only to WordPress sites.)

1. "Posted by admin."

I see this really often and it bothers me a lot as it's just so easy to change!  Who wants to be known publicly as "admin" when they've authored a blog post? All you need to do is change your "label," either to your first name, your full name, or a nickname. Even if you don't feel it appropriate to put your own name, why not choose your business or website name - or even just your initials?  To make this change, go to Users > Your Profile, scroll down a little and type in your name or "nickname" - the name you want to appear as the author of the blog posts - in the "Name" area. Select your choice from the "Display name publicly" dropdown, and save the change.

2. Re-name your "Uncategorized" blog post category.

Yes, of course you do need a "catch-all" category for blog posts that don't fit in anywhere else. But it looks so uncaring not to name this default category something more meaningful than just "Uncategorized!"  Again, it's easy to change the name of the default category to "Blog" or "Updates" or "News" - and you'll find that all the posts that have already been filed under this category will automatically appear under the new classification, so there isn't even any sorting out to do. Go to Posts > Categories, mouse over "Uncategorized" where you see it in the list of blog post categories, click on "Quick Edit" and change the name and the slug (just type the same thing twice); click "Update Category." Now your blog posts look so much more cared-for!

3. Change your permalinks.

Warning - you'll want to do this at the beginning of your setup - if you do it once you have any amount of content on your site, you'll mess up your menu and any internal links - plus anyone who's bookmarked your pages or posts won't be taken back to the right place in future.  So do this before you launch, and preferably right from the beginning.

WordPress automatically saves pages and posts with a web address that looks like this: http://www.yourdomain.com/?p=123

This doesn't look very elegant if you're quoting a web address to someone in an email, for example - and more importantly, it doesn't mean anything to Google. What you want is a web address for each page and post that looks like this:


as Google will be able to make sense of whatever page title you have given the page or the post (of course, you'll have considered the search engines when you decided on the page title).

To do this, just go to Settings > Permalinks, select the radio button entitled "Post name," and save the change.

4. Display your email address.

I'm always pointing out the necessity of displaying your email address to site visitors in case they're unwilling to contact you via an email form (a big percentage of my workshop participants tell me that they are always suspicious of using email forms). But at the same time, you do need your email address to be protected.  We often see email addresses displayed as email AT yourdomain.com - this works, but it looks rather clumsy, and the email address isn't an active link.  Far better to install the Email Protector plugin (by Pixeline) and have your email address appear as a link (this happens automatically once the plugin is installed) that's protected from spam harvesters.

(Note that your email address may not be protected by the plugin if you type it into a sidebar widget.)

5. Make use of short menu item labels.

Menus that wrap onto two lines are a particular bête noir of mine - unless, of course, your theme accommodates them easily, or was especially designed for a double row of menu items. One way to save real estate in your menu area is to cut down on the length of the navigation labels, while still keeping the longer title on the page itself, if necessary.  (Of course, the title you give to a page is by default the label that's given to that page when you add it to the menu.)  FAQ is a good example - it doesn't make any sense to take up all that space by writing "Frequently Asked Questions" in the menu area, whereas you'll probably want it to appear in full on the page itself.

Your home page is another example of a situation when you're likely to want a different label in the menu to what is written on the page. You'll want to have "Home" in the menu as it's what people expect (plus it's short) - but you certainly don't want "Home" written as a title prominently at the top of your home page - it looks terrible, and is completely meaningless. (Note, this only applies if your theme doesn't let you remove the title on the home page - all premium themes will allow you to do this, or the home page layout will automatically be set up not to show the title.)

What to do in these situations? First change the title of the page to the longer version of the title that you want to appear on the page (or save it directly with a long title if you are creating the page from scratch). So, create a page that is called "Frequently Asked Questions," or give your existing home page a new title that you won't mind seeing written very visibly at the top of the home page (perhaps a one-sentence introduction containing your main keywords - or at any rate something that sounds engaging to your visitors).

Then go to Appearance > Menus and add the new page to the menu (if it isn't there already). When the item is in the central area, you'll see that it has the long name you've just given it; click on the small triangle to the right of the menu item next to "Page," write the shorter label that you want to see in the menu in the "Navigation Label" field ("Home" or "FAQ," to continue with the same examples), and save the menu. Now check your live site, and you'll see the change - plus a shorter, neater-looking menu.


I hope you find these five easy-to-implement WordPress tips helpful.

How to prevent hacks on your website

Hacks do happen occasionally, so I asked my friend Claire Gallagher of Claire Creative to write this short low-down on what you can do to keep yourself out of trouble. -------

As a site owner, it is important to protect your website from unwanted attacks. Hacking is unfortunately something that does occur in the world of websites, no matter who hosts your site and no matter its subject matter, and you can’t ever be sure you are 100% safe.  However, there are a number of precautions that you can take to reduce the risk of attack. Here are five points to address to improve your site’s safety.

1. Your computer.

The computer that you use to log in to your website should be secure.

  • Use anti-virus software.
  • Don’t download files or applications from sources that you don’t know.
  • Use spam filters on your email account.

2. Your host.

Choose a reputable host that offers customer support. Before deciding on a host, check online reviews to ensure that the host is reliable.

3. Your passwords.

Choose a secure password for your hosting account and your admin area (if your site uses WordPress or another content management system). It is also a good idea to change your passwords regularly.

Note that if you use a WordPress site, you should avoid the default “admin” as your user name.

Your hosting company will most likely provide you with a complex password for your FTP – you should change this from time to time as well, whether or not you use FTP to upload files to your website.

4.  Your version of WordPress and plugins.

Your site, just like your computer, runs on software that requires occasional updates. WordPress updates are released regularly to protect against hackers and generally improve the performance of your website. It is highly recommended that you keep WordPress and plugins up to date - it’s one of the best ways to protect your site from attack. With any software update, there can be compatibility issues, so take a backup before you do your update.

The same advice goes for any other content management system or open source software you may be using on your website.

5. Your backup copy.

Despite your best efforts, your site may still get attacked. Never fear! If you have a backup copy, your site can be restored in all its former glory, with limited downtime – all you need is a back up copy of your site and your database (if your site uses one - WordPress sites do use a database).  Your hosting company will advise as to how often they take security backups, and if you use WordPress, it’s a simple matter to set up an automatic backup system from within your admin area.  Updraft Plus is one of several free WordPress plugins available.  (You should make sure you keep a backup on your own computer, as well as stored on your host, just in case anything ever happens to your host!)