Whether you've recently installed WordPress or have been using the popular content management system for a while now, you need to make sure your site is optimized. If it isn't, visitors and search engines will neglect your WordPress blog or website--no matter how awesome your content is. To keep that from happening, here are 15 tips for effectively using WordPress.

1. Change General Settings

After installing WordPress, you want to visit the General Settings page located in the WordPress Admin dashboard. In this section you'll be able to change some of the most basic configuration settings for your site, including:

2. Optimize Titles

The title of your blog, which is the contents of your page's <title> tag, is what search engines use to rank your site. To make sure your site is easily found, Aaron Wall suggests that your titles be under 70 keywords, descriptive, and invoke an emotional response.

Joost de Valk also suggests that titles include:

3. Install a Cache Plug-in

If you want to prevent your site from crashing during periods of heavy traffic, then you'll need to install a cache plug-in. Not only will this keep your site up and running, it will also improve the experience of your visitors by improving the speed of your site. W3 Total Cache is one of the most popular and trusted cache plug-ins.

4. Optimize Images

By optimizing the images of your site you'll boost its speed and improve your SEO. You can do this by giving your images appropriate names (use a keyword, not PHOTO202.jpg) and the proper size (300 x 300 ), and by adding alt and title attributes to images.

WPExplorer notes you can also install plug-ins such as EWWW Image Optimizer, CW Image Optimizer, WP Smush.it, Lazy Load, or SEO Friendly Images. Try WordPress's free option for hosting.

5. Do Some Housekeeping

Everything from unused themes to drafts to post revisions to spammy comments will increase the size of your database. Since WordPress 2.9, there has been a trashcan feature that easily allows you to safely delete comments, posts, and pages--which you can reduce to the default of 30 days.

If you have any unused themes, simply go into the themes section in Appearance and select the theme that you are no longer using. Just hover over it until a window appears giving you the option to delete it.

You can also limit the amount of revisions by adding the code
define( 'WP_POST_REVISIONS', 3 );  (you can change 3 to any practical number you want) to your wp-config.php file. You can also use plug-ins like WP-DBManager or WP-Optimize to automatically remove auto-drafts, spam comments, or trackbacks.

6. Schedule Backups

If you've used WordPress in the past, then you're aware that you can schedule posts--you can even republish older posts--but you should also schedule backing up your entire site. By backing up your WordPress site you're making sure you won't lose any valuable information that could set your website back to square one.

You can do this by installing a plug-in, BackUpWordPress or Backup Scheduler.

7. Clean Up Your Sidebar

As Joost de Valk asks, "Do you really need to link out to all your buddies in your blogroll sitewide? Or is it perhaps wiser to just do that on your front page?" He goes on to point out that search engines now "heavily discount sitewide links," which will not help improve your site's ranking. De Valk suggests instead of having a loaded sidebar, you use two sidebars--one on the homepage and the other on subpages.

8. Install a WordPress SEO Plug-in

Speaking of Joost de Valk, you should also install his plug-in WordPress SEO by Yoast. While this plug-in won't automatically boost your search rankings, it will help improve your SEO efforts by helping you select effective keywords and write better content. Other suggested SEO plug-ins would be All-in-One SEO Pack, SEO Ultimate, or Google XML Sitemaps.

9. Use Social Media Buttons and Widgets Wisely

While social media buttons and widgets are extremely important, since they will help visitors easily share your content on their social media platforms, they can also slow down your site. This is because official sharing buttons have to make calls to external services.

To make sure your page loads quickly, consider using social media buttons only for the networks where your audience members spend most of their time. For example, if they are rarely on LinkedIn, but very active on Twitter, then you would not want to include a LinkedIn button. You can also use text links as opposed to the official buttons.

10. Make Use of a Content Delivery Network

Raelene Wilson of WPMU DEV has a clean definition of a content delivery network:

"A CDN is a network of servers, usually located at various sites around the world, that cache the static content of a site, such as image, CSS, and JavaScript files.

The CDN provider copies your site's static content to its servers, so when someone lands on your site, the static content is delivered from the server closest to him or her."

She suggests using networks like MaxCDN, CloudFlare, Rackspace Cloud Files, or CacheFly.

11. Install an Antispam Plug-in

Spam-filled comments aren't just annoying, they can also harm your rankings--spammy comments containing shady links aren't exactly preferred by search engines like Google. To save you from some serious aggravation, consider installing an antispam plug-in like Akismet or Antispam Bee.

12. Create an Editorial Calendar

Maintaining a site on WordPress requires a lot of organization and management. That's why you should have an editorial calendar to help you plan and schedule your posts ahead of time. One way to accomplish this is by installing the plug-in Edit Flow. It will allow you to create a visual editorial calendar, monitor comments, view the status of posts, and assign tasks to team members.

If you need a little more help in generating an awesome editorial calendar, then you should review this post from WPBeginner.

13. Build an Email List

When you build an email list, you'll be able to reach your targeted audience and increase your revenue. To begin building your email list, start by choosing an email marketing service, such as MailChimp or Aweber. After that, you'll want to integrate an email subscription form onto your WordPress site. WPBeginner suggests using a plug-in like OptinMonster, a floating footer bar, side-ins, and contact forms.

14. Add New Users or Authors

There's a very strong possibility you won't be able to handle all of your WordPress needs by yourself. After all, managing, writing, and editing daily posts can be time consuming. At some point you'll have to bring other people on board.

You can simply add a new user or author by filling out the form in the Users Add New section on your WordPress Admin page. Once you fill out the form, make sure you select the role for that individual. WordPress gives you the following options: Administrator, Editor, Contributor, Author, or Subscriber. Only provide as much access as necessary.

15. Monitor Your Plug-ins

While plug-ins are one of the best ways to improve your WordPress site, you want to make sure you download plug-ins that have been coded correctly. Incorrectly coded plug-ins can slow down your site.

You can examine this by seeing how much CPU plug-ins are using and installing a performance plug-in like P3 (Performance Plugin Profiler).

Content continues to play an important role in creating a website that people actually visit. These 15 tips will help ensure you are getting the most out of using WordPress--so your hard work doesn't go to waste.

Published on: Jan 8, 2015