Justin Tadlock

Cleaning Up Your WordPress Blog & Other Extreme Sports

With the summer ending and the autumn chill in the air, which is actually quite nice, I felt that it was time to do some major housecleaning. No, not by breaking out the mop and broom—but my brain, fingers, keyboard, and sheer force of will (I should probably break out the mop and broom too, but I’ll save that for another day).

So, you wanna clean up your WordPress blog? Here are six tips that I think might help. These are recent updates to my blog that have motivated me to get back to blogging on a regular schedule.

  1. A New WordPress Theme

    If you haven’t updated your theme in a while, say for at least the last six months or year, maybe your look’s getting a little stale. Since I haven’t updated my theme since March, I felt it was time for something fresh. My regular readers will automatically notice the new look. Do you like it? I call it Harmony because I was trying to balance dark and light. Maybe you don’t want to scare off anyone with a completely new theme. You could possibly tweak some of the files, add something extra, to your blog. It’s always best to freshen things up a little every now and then. Change the colors, font size, or header image.
  2. Unclutter Your Blogroll/Links

    This section can easily get unruly if you don’t pay careful attention to it. Before I dared touch my links page, I cleaned my favorites/bookmarks folder on my computer. Get rid of those sites that you never visit anymore. Remove sites that no longer exist. I finally just started erasing everything. It felt liberating. Your site have music in the background? Delete. 8,000 icons in your sidebar? Delete. Haven’t updated in the last few months? Layout looks like something from a six-year-old’s geocities page? Delete. Delete. (I must point out that after a while, I almost went insane. Several times, my browser crashed because of the blogs I was going through. Yes, those sites were deleted.) After organizing my favorites, I easily updated my links. I added all the links from my favorites and deleted those that were no longer of use to me. I made two categories: Blogroll and Dailies. You might want to organize these in another manner, but some kind of organization is key.
  3. Clean Out Your Plugins Folder

    I probably had 50 plugins in my plugins folder while using less than 10 (I do a lot of testing). With the release of WordPress 2.3, this shot to the top of my to-do list. The new tags feature allowed me to get rid of Bunny’s Technorati Tags. Canonical URLs and Pretty URLs let me delete the No WWW and Permalink Redirect plugins. So, you should definitely clean out those unused plugins. Make room for the next plugins you might want to use.
  4. Add Fresh Features

    It’s important to keep adding new features to your blog as time passes on. Give your readers a little something extra. With the advent of the tags feature, I needed to update my theme a little. Now on each page’s single post, I have added a tags section near the bottom of the post. I also have a nifty little Tags page, which is basically just a tag cloud. I also have a new Topics page. Maybe you’ve been waiting for a moment to implement that cool, new plugin you’ve found, but haven’t gotten around to it. That was the case when I added Flickr RSS, Paged Navigation, and Related Posts. The latter two gives users easier access to older content on my site, and I think that’s ultimately what I wanted to do when looking for new plugins.
  5. Learn To Use Custom Fields

    Custom fields are a powerful feature of WordPress, but I rarely hear of anyone using them. You can automate so many things that you usually input every time you write a post. Plus, there are many other cool things you can do with them. I’ve always used custom fields on my reading page to return a book author’s name. However, I wanted to do a little something more. Look at any post in my Book Reviews and you will notice a few things immediately. Take, for example, my Review of Thomas L. Friedman’s The World is Flat. At the top left of the post, there is an image. It doesn’t look like much, but there’s a lot of information along with that image. I used custom fields to display the image, alt text, link to Amazon’s page, and size and alignment of the image. Now, each time I write a new book review, I don’t have to write all that code. It’s automatically generated for me. I just input information into the custom field boxes. If you want a detailed “how-to” article on this, I plan on writing one in the next few days.
  6. Update Your Pages

    We’re constantly updating our blog by writing new posts, putting fresh content out there. But, sometimes we forget about our pages. By definition they are “static,” and many times, users don’t return to them after the first view. Some people never write anything more than an About and Archives page, which is all right if that’s your cup of tea. I, however, have a lot of content that doesn’t belong in blogs posts. I recently revamped the Projects section of this blog. I used custom fields to display an image and description of each subpage. Sure, it’s only a new look, but it adds a little bit to the blog. Whatever you decide to do, keeping new content in your pages is also important. If users see that you rarely update pages, then they probably won’t return to them when you do actually update them.

Keeping your WordPress blog updated, not just in blog posts, but in other areas as well, can sometimes be a daunting task. However, it is something that needs to be done every now and again. Readers like the blogger who “goes the extra mile” or “gives “110%” to their blog.

Updating your blog can also motivate you. I feel like a new blogger now. Like that first day I started my Expage almost five years ago, which was lost because their servers crashed. I just want to write and write and write and…

So, give your WordPress blog the cleaning that it deserves. Your readers will like it better. You will feel better. Do you have any useful tips to add? I’d love to hear your ideas.