WordPress Hosting, Installing, and SEO Tips

(Updated 2015)
In this article we are going to discuss:

  1. Why you should install WordPress manually one day (maybe).
  2. WordPress hosting requirements and why free hosting is bad
  3. Tutorial (video included) on how to install WordPress manually.
  4. WordPress SEO tips
  5. Is A Google XML Sitemap Necessary With WordPress?

If you’re here to simply learn how to install WordPress manually, you may want to skip down to that part (click that link). Also, this tutorial is meant for new installs of WordPress only. If you want to learn how to “upgrade” WordPress manually, that video tutorial is coming real soon.

Part 1: Why You Should Install WordPress Manually

I’m sure many of you have heard of the popular application installer, Fantastico or some other application installer. It usually looks like this in cPanel:

web-application-apps-wordpress-installer

Pretty much every WordPress topic blog I read out there advises newbie bloggers to find a web host with easy installs of WordPress (WP Blog Host has WordPress Hosting which allows for WordPress to be pre-installed on your hosting account when you choose their Managed WordPress Hosting option).

I’m here to tell you that isn’t always the best way to go if you’re new to WordPress. The best way to go when you’re new is to take a stab at installing WordPress on your own, manually.

“What? Wait. No way… Are you trying to make my life more difficult?”

Trying to make your life more difficult, not exactly. What I’m trying to tell you is I’d rather teach you to fish than fish for you . . . or, you know – however that saying goes.

What new bloggers need to understand is that there is a huge learning curve when it comes to starting a blog. You not only need to learn how to blog and set up a time management system, you need to learn how WordPress works. And the best way to do that is to skip the easy “one-click” installer and install it yourself.

It’ll teach you the basic organization of how WordPress is set up and configured.

magentoAs an example, I recently rebuilt my wife’s e-commerce site.

It’s built on a platform called Magento.

Now I know a lot about WordPress, but Magento is a whole other beast – and I mean that literally.

It was eating me alive!

I must of installed it 3 or 4 times before I got it all to work right.

But you know what?

I learned all about its foundation and how it works with a database by doing so.

If you use an application to install WordPress for the first time with no effort on your part (and you’re new to all this), you’ll probably have no idea what or why there is a thing called a database. By installing WordPress manually, you’ll understand how all the pieces of the puzzle fit together.

Ok, enough rambling about what I think. Here’s the tutorial for you newbies out there.

Part 2: How to install WordPress manually

WordPress Hosting Requirements and Why Free Hosting Is Bad

WordPress is an awesome program and I really can’t believe it’s free.

I use WordPress almost every day in my life and it has helped me make money, expand my business, and meet lots of interesting people.

Since I showed you above how to install WordPress, I suppose I should have probably mentioned this before (oh well).

Hosting Requirements

To run WordPress on a hosting server, you need the following from your web host:

  • PHP version 5.2.4 or greater (recommended: PHP 5.4 or greater)
  • MySQL version 5.0 or greater (recommended: MySQL 5.5 or greater)

I like WP Blog Host, personally.

Why Free Hosting Is A Bad Idea

I frequently surf through online forums replying to people’s WordPress, design, and hosting questions. Of all the questions I answer, I see one that appears over and over again:

What are the drawbacks of free web hosting?

1. Bottlenecks

  • Free hosting accounts typically are packed onto 1 server with lots of other free hosting accounts. This clog of websites severely slows down the server with each one fighting for CPU time.

    Results:

    Your site may work slow and go offline from time to time.

2. Low Bandwidth and Limited Disk Space

  • You usually get 1-3GB of bandwidth with free hosting accounts. This translates to a site designed for very little traffic coming to it. If there is a lot of traffic coming to it (or another on your sever) your site may go down. Also, disk space is usually measured in megabytes (50-100mb). That’s basically enough space for a few pics and some text.

3. Lack Of Tools

  • Free hosting accounts are limited with the tools you are provided with and can use. Many don’t even allow FTP capabilities (which I could not live without). You usually won’t have the ability to run PHP scripts or have a database which translates to no blog, no forum, no good “contact me” form, etc. on your site.

4. Ads

  • You usually have to display banner ads on your site. Nothing is better than creating a nice website for yourself and flashing annoying banner ads at your visitors!

5. Little Support

  • You usually have to wait extended periods of time for any customer service help. Paid customers get first help.

6. No Personalized Domain Name

  • Usually you are not able to obtain your own domain name (e.g. no www.my-site.com). You are forced to use either a subdomain of your host or a directory (e.g. www.geocities.com/my-site [HA! Remember that old site]). This translates to bad SEO (search engine optimization) because it’s geocities that’s getting indexed, not your own personal site.

7. Bad SEO (search engine optimization)

  • You may have a hard time getting search engines to index your site well.

8. No Personalized Email

  • Many free hosting accounts don’t give you an email account. So no “john_doe@my-site.com”

*Bonus Tip #1 (Lost Contacts) – Imagine you decided to save less than $100 a year to go with free web hosting. Then one day a year later you realize that you have outgrown your free account and now it’s time to upgrade to a normal hosting account.

Oops . . . guess what?

For that entire year you spent attracting visitors, customers, and friends who have all bookmarked your website, it’s all lost. 80-90% of them will lose contact with you once you change domain names.

*Bonus Tip #2 (Undoing Your SEO) – For those of you who try to build a site that gets indexed well by Yahoo and Google, one of the most important things you can do is attract incoming links to your website.

Imagine you spend a year or so networking online and people link to you. This will help search engines find your website better.

The day you decide to switch to a real hosting account, you’ll lose all those incoming links to your website you spent a year attracting.

You have to start all over again.

Does free web hosting still feel attractive?

WordPress SEO Tips

I just watched an excellent speach (I’m writing this in 2009 so if you’re reading this, “hello future people”) on the topic of WordPress search engine optimization (SEO) given by Matt Cutts while speaking at the WordCamp San Francisco 2009 seminar.

Matt heads up the anti-spam team at Google and frequently speaks about search engine optimization issues. He talked a little over 45 minutes but I have to say, it is well worth taking the time to sit and listen if you’re at all interested in WordPress SEO.

I’ll highlight a few points Matt made which I thought you should know about. Rob Snell transcribed the speech if you’d like to soak it all in at your own pace.

Okay, so let’s look at some SEO Notes From The Matt Cutts.

I. WordPress is great for SEO

Take a look at this snapshot from his slideshow:

wp-80-90

By “mechanics”, Matt means how WordPress is built. It’s built intelligently for Google to crawl it (i.e. your blog) with ease and indexs what needs to be indexed. For example, the url structure by default uses hyphens “-” to separate words in the url, which is great for SEO.

II. PageRank

Matt defines PageRank as “the number of people that link to you and how important those links are.”

What exactly does a high PageRank do for you? Well, the more PageRank your site has means:

  • The faster your site will be found.
  • The deeper into your site Google will crawl.
  • The more often Google will visit your pages to see if they’ve been refreshed.

Obviously, those are some things you really would like Google to do. Google also crawls sites in a decreasing order of PageRank:

page-rank-crawl

III. Relevance & Reputable

relevance-reputable

Google wants to see that you’re relevant to something. If you focus in on a topic for your blog, it will learn that is what you talk about. In other words, don’t talk about a bunch of random stuff, otherwise may get lost in trying to figure out what exactly you want to rank for.

To build reputation, Matt mentions the following:

  • Be interesting.
  • Update your blog often.
  • Provide a useful service.
  • Do original research and reporting.
  • Give great information.
  • Find a creative niche.
  • Write some code
  • Live Blogging
  • Make list posts
  • Create controversy
  • Meet other people in social networks

IV. Keyword Notes

Matt mentions something I’ve said many times in the past, don’t “overstuff” your landing pages with keywords.

If you write about furniture, there’s no need to repeat that word 400 times. After mentioning the word 2 or 3 times and perhaps have that keyword in your title and/or url, Googlebot catches on and gets the idea that you’re writing about furniture.

Contrary to what many SEO bloggers think, bolding the keyword doesn’t really help much; instead, concentrate on a writing style that a human can read and not feel like they are being YELLED AT!

When trying to optimize your article for a given keyword or keyword phrase, realize that what you might think is the best keyword for your article might not necessarily be the best or only keyword people will use to find your product, service, or article. Use the Google Keyword Planner Tool to find alternative keywords people are using to find your product and try to incorporate those keywords into your article as well.

Just be sure that when you insert those other keywords that after reading your article, everything sound and reads naturally – don’t forget to do that!

seo-keyword-tips

V. WordPress URL Structure

Matt gives a great tip on how you can do one little tweak to help with your SEO.

First, try to incorporate your keyword in your blog’s title and next, change that word slightly in your Permalink structure to another word someone might use in the search box (for example use the word “Changing” in your title and “change” in your url permalink.

teaking-titles-urls

Another tip he gives us which is probably the easiest search engine optimization check you can do for your blog is to use the /%postname%/ permalink structure for your blog.

permalink-structure

I realize this topic isn’t much fun for many of you and many times you might think you have more important things to do (like read other blog articles or tweeting about your day), but consider how much time you put into building your blog. Isn’t it worth your time to learn something so valuable to you?

The images above are snapshots I took from Matt’s video. I give him full credit for the images I used for this article.

Is A Google XML Sitemap Necessary With WordPress?

Is it necessary to have one?

Will it affect my search engine rankings if I don’t have one? Will Google visit my website less because I don’t have one?

Let me see if I can clarify some of the questions people have when it comes to the widely known, but little understood, xml Sitemaps.

A xml Sitemap is a sitemap generated for your website that you have created for our buddy Googlebot to read and get to know your website.

gb

There are some arguments out there as to whether or not a Sitemap is really beneficial to your website. The obvious advantage of having a Sitemap is to help Google index your site better, but does that really have any say in search engine optimization or PageRank?

Does Having A Sitemap For WordPress Sites Help My Search Engine Rankings?

It’s a crappy answer, but the answer is yes and no.

Having Googlebot crawl your website – and – getting ranked near the top of searches are two different things.

This means having a xml Sitemap does not necessarily affect your search engine rankings. If your website is well laid out through links, Google (and other search engines) will spider your website just fine; so in this case, the answer is no.

However, if your site is not well laid out for search crawlers to index your site, some of your web pages might not get indexed at all. In this case, if you had a xml Sitemap which filled in that missing page, it would now be indexed and thus have a search ranking.

Does Having A Sitemap Get Google To Spider My Site More Often?

Not as a standard setting, no, but . . .

By submitting a Sitemap and using Google’s Webmaster Tools, you can see how Googlebot is indexing your site, how many pages, any problems that might be occurring, and tell it to visit and spider your site more or less often. Keep in mind that with each visit by Googlebot, some of your bandwidth will be used. This could be an issue if your site is already getting a lot of traffic.

Where Can I Get A XML Sitemap For WordPress?

There are a number of free Sitemap generators out there, just go to your favorite search engine and type “free xml sitemap” and you’ll be taken to a few sites where you can generate one for free.

Note though that if you have a large website with over 500+ pages, you may have to purchase a generator to index your entire site. If you’re using WordPress, you can download an easy plugin to generate your Sitemap automatically.

I like the “Google XML Site Maps” plugin or the Yoast SEO plugin which includes the XML sitemap option.

Once you have a xml Sitemap generated, upload it to your root directory (or if you’re using a pluing then no need to do this, the plugin will do it for you) and then head over to Google’s Webmaster Tools (accounts are free, but you need a username and password) and tell Google where your Sitemap is.