WORDPRESS FOR BEGINNERS: IMPORTANT SETTINGS AND 7 MUST-HAVE PLUGINS FOR AFFILIATE WEBSITES

Plugin

Let’s imagine your website is a house. If you were to build a house and it had poor foundations, it could become unstable and fall down. The same can be said for a website; if you fail to get the foundations set up at the start, you could be making more work for yourself in the long run.

The aim of this article is to help educate you on the settings and plugins you need to have set up on your WordPress site before you start adding any content. Some things may be covered in a previous article, but this works really well alongside Emily’s recent article – 8 Steps to building your first money making WordPress website.

I have used all of the plugins mentioned, so I do recommend them. All the settings I’ve suggested are general settings and therefore may or may not be suitable for your site. They would, however, be fine for what you need 99% of the time. 

WORDPRESS SETTINGS

Below are the typical settings used for a WordPress site. I have chosen to use WordPress as I would say that’s what 99% of affiliates use. I have not included all options that you see in the settings; these ones are typically the ones you will want to edit.

General Settings

 

General Settings

 

Site Title: The main title of your website. This will appear as text on your blog unless you use an image header.

Tagline: A tagline that appears under your title.

WordPress Address: This is the URL address of your blog – this will be set to default to the URL you installed the blog on. If you have the blog installed in a sub-folder then that would also appear here.

Site Address: The URL of your website. 99% of the time this will be the same as the WordPress address. The only time it might be different is if you have a landing page/website outside of the blog and then use the WordPress blog as a sub-folder, e.g. www.url.com/blog.

Email address: Your admin email address goes here. Usually automatically here when you set up the blog.

Membership: Gives the option to allow people to register as a member. This is normally not needed for an affiliate site.

New User Role: What role users will have, i.e. subscriber or contributor. 99% of the time all users will be subscribers.

Time Zone: What time zone your blog is set to.

Date Format: How you want the date to be displayed on your blog.

Time Format: The format you want the time displayed in on your blog.

Week Starts On: What day the week starts on.
You don’t really need to change the last four options; the default values are normally fine.

Reading Settings

 

Reading Settings

95% of the time you won’t need to change anything on the reading settings. The only thing I have ever changed on it is how the front page displays.

You can set it to display your latest posts which is how a typical blog looks. The other option is to have a static page (like pre-WordPress HTML websites) and then have a page that displays all your blog posts.

Note: It’s really important that you make sure the search engine visibility is NOT ticked. Having this ticked could stop your site getting indexed.

Permalinks

 

Permalinks

 

Permalinks to me is one of the most important settings you can change. When you first create a blog, the default will usually be ‘Plain’. For each post this displays it as P=number. This is bad for both user experience (as it looks terrible) and SEO.

If you have a site that doesn’t have many categories, for example a single niche site, then I’d select the option ‘Post name’. This will use the post’s title as the URL – much better!

If you plan to have a number of sub-niches, then I would suggest using categories in the URL as well. This helps the user to see more of the site structure via the URL. As an example, the bodybuilding niche might have categories such as cutting, bulking, reviews and testosterone.

To set this type of permalink, in the ‘Custom Structure’ add the following:

/%category%/%postname%/ 

ESSENTIAL PLUGINS AND THEIR SETTINGS

Plugins are essential as they help to expand the functionality of WordPress and offer a number of features. There are literally thousands of plugins available and these vary in quality.

It’s important to keep the number of plugins to a minimum since too many can cause your site to slow down. Below are some of my recommendations and how to set them up.

CONTACT FORM 7

It’s important to be able to give visitors the chance to contact you. Many visitors will often have questions about a product and if they cannot get answers, then they may look somewhere else. Offering a basic level of support can really help increase sales. You can also use the initial communication to collect their emails to use at a later stage for email marketing.

Once you have installed the plugin, you will see Contact appear on the navigation in your dashboard. Select this and click Add New.

 

Contact Form

 

In the first box you want to name the contact form. If you have more than one then it’s useful to name it something you remember. More often than not you’ll just have the one.

The default form asks for four pieces of information: name, email, subject and the message. The default setup should be fine for 99% of cases. Click Save when done.

 

Contact Form

 

You will also notice three additional tabs.

Mail: This is used to send you the emails that you receive. You need to put in your own email address. The rest of the settings are fine as default. If you don’t put your email in then you won’t receive any of the messages.

Messages: These are messages the visitor will see when submitting a question, e.g. ‘Message sent’. I would just leave these as they are.

Additional Settings: Use these if you want to add any additional code snippets. Again, this can be ignored.

On the navigation, click Contact and it will take you to the Contact Form 7 settings page. It will show the newly created contact form. To add this into a post, simply copy the shortcode and add it to the post.

 

Contact Settings

 

YOAST SEO

SEO is very important if you want your site to rank well in the search results and to generate traffic. Without the traffic you won’t make any sales. Off-the-shelf WordPress is not great at helping to optimise content for SEO, so I therefore recommend installing a plugin to help with this.

The one I often use is Yoast SEO.

At first glance it can be a little intimidating due to all its options and settings. Many of these settings can be ignored and left as the default options. However, the screenshots below show the settings that can, and probably should, be changed.

Dashboard – General

On installing Yoast SEO, there is a handy wizard that allows you to quickly go through the setup, and most of the settings are ideal. You can just run through the settings below to make sure they match up.

 

Yoast Seo

 

General – Your Info

Google will use your website name in the search results, so you can add this here. You can also add an alternative name if you want it to be displayed under another name. You also want to add your name as the company/person as this will appear in the metadata.

 

General Yoast

 

General – Webmaster Tools

If you have not yet verified your site in Webmaster Tools, you can do this directly within Yoast. More often than not you will only use Google Search Console, although I would also recommend adding Bing Webmaster Tools as well.

 

Yoast Webmaster Tools

 

Titles & Metas

The title and meta tags are important as it’s these that show in the search results. They are also very important for your website’s SEO. You’ll be able to add the information for individual posts when you do the actual post, however this section sets your website’s main title and description tag.

 

Titles & Meta Tags

 

Post Types

Here we can set the templates for different post types. These are:

  • Posts
  • Pages
  • Media

I would usually leave these blank since as I’ve mentioned above, you will be updating them manually within the posts.

The important part of this is the Meta Robots. Index or noindex is what the search engines use for deciding whether or not to index a specific page or post within the search results. You therefore want to make sure that both Posts and Pages are set to Index.

I would hide the date in the Title Snippet and then also make sure to Show the SEO Meta Box, as this is where you will add the post’s content, i.e. title/description.

 

Posts

 

Pages

 

Media is, however, a little different. When we upload an image to WordPress, it also creates a post with that attachment in it. There is a chance it could get indexed by Google which could potentially cause people to click off, or you could be penalised for it being thin content.

You therefore want to set it as noindex – as you can see below:

 

Media WordPress

 

Taxonomies 

Taxonomies are how posts or pages are grouped and organised. For example, we will put posts of a specific subject into a category taxonomy. We would also use the tags taxonomy to tag posts that are of a similar subject but are not in the same category.

Category and tag pages can be indexed and will usually display a sample of the post. This could cause duplicate content issues and may not offer much value to the visitors. I would therefore recommend setting both categories and tags to noindex.

 

Categories

 

Tags

 

Social – Accounts

You can also add your social accounts to Yoast as this helps Google to see which social accounts are associated with your website. You can then add further data on these in the next tabs if you want to, although I tend to leave them set to default.

 

Social Yoast

 

XML Sitemaps

Sitemaps are important for SEO and for helping to get all of your pages indexed by the search engines. A sitemap is an XML file that lists all of the content on your site, as well as the date it was published.

Yoast provides an XML sitemap of your site that you can grab and put into Google Webmaster Tools. You just need to make sure it’s enabled. The additional tabs are optional changes; I personally have not used these.

 

XML Site maps

 

Yoast SEO Settings On Posts 

As I said before, you will want to add all of the SEO content for each post on the actual posting screen. You can find the Yoast section below the actual posting area.

There are two tabs, the first being the readability of your post.

This ranks the post based on how easy it is for your visitor to read. For example, making sure it’s formatted with enough headers, it isn’t too passive and that sentences don’t contain too many words. In theory, the more readable your post is, the greater the chance of visitors reading it, and in turn the more likely they will be to purchase.

 

Yoast Blog Post

 

The next tab is Keyword.

This is the main SEO tab, where you’ll deal with the title and description. You’ll need to add your focus keyword into the focus keyword box. You will then see the bullet points below update based on the particular keyword being used.

It will give you an idea of what you need to edit or change in order to try and turn all points from red and orange to green.

First we want to update the title and description. Click the ‘Edit Snippet’ button.

Here you can edit the site title to make sure it has a green line under it instead of an orange one. Edit the slug if it’s too long or short and also add the description for the post.

Again, once you close this you will find the bullet points will update.

Run through the bullet points until they’re all green.

 

Yoast Approved

 

PRETTY LINK

The Pretty Link plugin allows you to mask your affiliate links, making them look more attractive for people to press. It’s also a good way of keeping your links organised. And if for any reason the link changes, instead of updating all your content you can just update the link within the plugin.

On the navigation you will find Pretty Link; click this and you will see the dashboard.

Click the ‘Add Pretty Link’ button to create your first link.

 

Links

 

Fill in the following information for your link:

Redirection – Set this to 302 as you want it to be a temporary redirection.

Target URL – This is where you want to send people, i.e. your affiliate link.

Pretty Link – The link you want people to use instead of your affiliate link.

Title – The name of the link, making it easier to find.

Advanced options

Group: If you have a lot of links you may want to group them. I personally haven’t used this.

No Follow: Whether you want the link to be a ‘nofollow’ link or not. Note: I would recommend setting all affiliate links as ‘nofollow’.

Tracking: Whether you want to enable tracking or not. Note: this also tracks bots so isn’t accurate.

 

Tracking Links

 

Clicks

 If you did opt to track clicks, then under the Pretty Link plugin you can select Clicks. This will allow you to get a report on the clicks that each of your links has received.

 

Clicks

 

WP AUTHOR BOX LITE

This plugin presents information about the author in a box. This is a great way of building authority and introduces the person behind the content which can help to build trust.

The plugin uses content from the ‘User’s’ profile. You therefore need to make sure you have added a profile picture and biographical info in the ‘About Yourself’ section.

Display Settings

The Display Settings enable you to control how this information will appear on your post. You can decide if you want it to display at all in Posts or Pages. You can also decide if you want it at the top, bottom or both. (I would personally recommend at the bottom.)

 

Author Box

 

Appearance Settings

 The Appearance Settings tab enables you to alter the way it looks. You can edit colours, background etc., allowing you to customise it to match your website’s theme.

 

 

Tab Settings

There are two tabs on the author bio. These are: ‘About Author’ and ‘Latest Posts’. This option allows you to edit the one you want to be displayed. You can rename them and also alter how many latest posts are being displayed.

 

Tab Settings

 

Social Settings

If you have added your social accounts to your profile in ‘Users’, these will be displayed in the author box. This is a great idea if you are looking to connect with people on social platforms.

 

 

Wp Author

 

WP SOCIAL WIDGET

Social is important for your website for several reasons. It can be a great way of generating traffic and of increasing brand awareness and authority. It also shows Google you have the social signals.

I would therefore recommend adding icons for the popular social accounts on your site. These are different from the social icons in posts, as in the posts they’re for people to share your content on their social channels. WP Social Widget is there to link people to your social channels for them to follow.

WP Social Widget can be found in Appearance > Widgets. Depending on your theme, you can then place this widget above the header, sidebar or in the footer.

When you add it to a widget area, you will see the below settings. Here you can add a title, change the appearance of the icons to match your theme and then add in the links to your social networks. There are a lot of networks; more than likely you will only use 4-5 maximum.

 

WP Social Widget

 

SOCIAL WARFARE 

If you have some content that is shareable, adding social icons to your posts makes it easy for people to share your content. Having your content shared across social networks could dramatically increase traffic.

Social Warfare is a plugin that allows you to add the social icons to your posts. You can choose to position them on your post at the top, bottom, both and even floating along the side. This will hopefully encourage people to share your content.

When installed, you will see Social Warfare on the WordPress navigation.

Display Settings

There are three sections within the display settings. The first is the Social Networks. Choose which you want to be active or inactive, although I wouldn’t set too many to active. Just focus on the most common/popular ones within your niche.

 

Social Networks

 

You can also decide whether you want to include how many times the content has been shared on a specific network or show the overall amount of shares. If your post has been shared a lot, then it can encourage more people to share, as it shows it’s popular content.

 

Share Counts

 

The section below allows you to choose where the share buttons are going to be. This can change depending on if it’s the Post, Page or Home Page. You can select whether you want the icons above or below the content, or you can manually place them in your content.

On Posts and Pages you can also opt to have the floating buttons on or off.

 

Share Buttons

 

Styles

The Styles section allows you to set the styling for them. You can choose the amount of decimal places used for shares, the separator and how it is aligned.

You can also turn the floating share buttons on and set their position, width and how they appear on the page. You can set them to appear on the side, top or bottom and to slide or fade in.

 

Total Counts

Social Identity

Here you can add your social profiles to promote your social identity across the entire website. This is a good way of showing Google what social accounts are associated with your website.

 

Site Wide

 

The final section is Advanced, however this can be ignored as you will most likely not use this.

RELATED POST THUMBS

We want people to stay on your site; we don’t want them to just read your page and then leave. One way of keeping them on-site is to add some similar posts to yours at the bottom. If they’re interested in your post, then they may be interested in related ones.

Related Post Thumbs is a great plugin to showcase similar content. It formats it well at the bottom of your post with an image and the option to add an excerpt of text.

To access the settings for this plugin, in the WordPress navigation go to Settings > Related Post Thumbs.

You won’t actually need to change most of the settings, as the default settings will do for most cases. 

General Display Options

These can generally all stay the same. The main one to change is the number of related posts to be shown. You may want to increase this depending on the theme and the amount of posts you have in that category. If you only want to display posts from the last few months, you can also add this into the date section. Leave it blank if you want to include all posts.

Related Posts

 

Thumbnails Source

This is used to work out where the Related Posts plugin is pulling the image from. I would keep this as it is set, using the thumbnail from the post. I would, however, select the option that only displays related posts that have an image (it’s the image that grabs attention… all posts should have an image).

 

Thumbs Setting

 

Relation Builder Options

This section tells the plugin how to relate suggested posts to your post. You can choose Categories, Tags, Categories and Tags, or set it to be random. I would recommend sticking to categories, as this is normally the most accurate.

 

Relation Builder

 

I hope this article has been of some use to you and you have either managed to learn more about key WordPress settings or about plugins you have not previously used. I do find all these plugins useful and have personally used them all at some point or other.

 

I would love to hear your thoughts or questions on this article or on the plugins used, so please feel free to comment below.

 

 

 

Senior Affiliate Manager