Congratulations, your new WordPress blog is online and you’re feeling very excited. After all, it’s not every day you start a new blog!
If you followed the instructions from my previous post, How to Start a WordPress Blog, then you will have chosen your niche, a domain name and have your hosting set up.
Before you get into full swing and start publishing your awesome blog posts there are a few things to set up. Some of the default settings in WordPress aren’t ideal.
This post contains a list of the first things you should do when creating a blog with WordPress.
Although it’s not very exciting setting up these elements, it is necessary and will ensure you don’t have problems in the future. At the same time, you will discover more about the WordPress dashboard which is a good thing.
Let’s get started!
1. Blog Title and Tagline
Your website should have a title and a tagline that will give people a good indication of what your site is about.
To change the title and tagline navigate to Settings => General in your WordPress dashboard.
On the same page, you can also set your timezone. Not vital but it’s nice to have everything correct and it may make a difference if you ever schedule posts for a certain day and time
2. Set Up Your Permalinks
I’m sure you’re wondering what the hell is a permalink?
A permalink is the web address that links to your individual posts. In the image below the permalink is 11-tips-for-choosing-your-domain-name. Once you have the permalink for a page or post you shouldn’t change, it should be permanent. That’s the reason for the word permalink!
I recommend setting up your permalink structure before you even publish your first post. Once set up you should keep the same structure throughout the life of your blog.
It is possible to change later but is very messy. Essentially you break the links to every single post and page you have published. You will have to set up redirects to every page and post. Much better to select your permalink structure now, hit save and never change it again.
Now you know what a permalink is, you need to set up yours. WordPress will work fine if you don’t change your permalinks but your post names will look a little strange. By default, WordPress will give your posts a permalink structure that looks like this https://yoursite.com/?p=123.
As you can see the default permalink isn’t very user-friendly or SEO friendly. It’s better to refer one of your visitors to a URL such as https://yoursite.com/my-great-post rather than https://yoursite.com/?p=255.
This is a point many people new to blogging don’t know about.
The process of changing your permalink structure is very simple. In your WordPress dashboard navigate to Settings => Permalinks. On the permalinks page, you will see there are 6 choices.
Which Permalink is best to use?
I always use and recommend using “post name”. It creates a short memorable URL that may have a keyword in the post name to help with your SEO.
Some bloggers prefer to use category/post-name. To include the category, you select “Custom Structure” and change the value to
Once you have set up your permalinks don’t forget to save
Whenever you set up a new WordPress website, make sure you set up user-friendly and SEO-friendly permalinks.
3. Choose Your Comments Settings
You will want to allow comments on your website and there are several settings to configure. These settings can:
- Allow anyone to comment on a post
- Make sure a commenter fills out their name and email
- Close comments after a certain number of days
- Ensure that you receive an email when anyone comments
- Only allow comments after they have been manually approved
- And many other alternatives
All these options can be set up from Settings => Discussion. Simply tick the options you want and save changes.
4. Remove Sample Content
When you install WordPress it comes with the famous “Hello World” post and a “Sample Page”. You won’t need these so you might as well get rid of them now.
Go to Posts hover over the “Hello World” post and click on the Trash link that appears. Then navigate to Pages hover over “Sample Page“ and click Trash.
5. A Static Front Page or Blogroll (Your latest posts)
You will need to set up your front page as either a page that features your latest posts or a static front page. By default, WordPress will show your latest posts. If that’s what you want you don’t have to change anything, except select the show Summary option at the bottom of the page and then save changes.
What should you use?
If you want to showcase content and not your latest blogs on your front page then you should choose a static front page
For a business or e-commerce site, it may be better to use a static page, that highlights what your business is about and perhaps some of the products you are promoting. Your latest content and updates will feature on a “blog” or “posts” page.
If your site is a blog that’s always producing new content then a blogroll is probably a better option.
Setting Up A Static Front Page
Before you can set up a static homepage you have to create and publish a page that you want to use as your front page. Name it whatever you like but Home is a good choice!
If you want to have a blogroll on another page of your website add another new page and call it Blog.
Now navigate to Settings => Reading
Any page can be used as your front page but you can only select a page that has already been published. In our example, we would select Home as the Front page and Blog as the Posts page.
When done don’t forget to Save Changes.
6. Start To Set Up Your Categories
Although you can add new categories at any time you might want to add a category or two to get started. If you’re not sure what your categories will be, no problem, leave it till later.
Just one thing that you should change is the Uncategorized category. You can’t delete this but you can change the name and it’s better to do straight away.
To change the default category navigate to Posts => Categories, hover over Uncategorized and click Edit. Add the name you want and don’t forget to change the slug as well.
7. Install Key Plugins
Before installing any plugins you might want to delete the 2 plugins (Askimet and Hello Dolly) included in the core WordPress software.
Plugins allow you to install almost any functionality you need to your WordPress blog and there are thousands of plugins.
To add a new plugin to your site navigate to Plugins => Add New
There are a few basic plugins you should install to protect you from spam and also to set your site up for SEO.
Here are the plugins I recommend you install when you are starting.
Askimet or Antispam Bee – to protect your site from spammy comments. Such comments are annoying and if you allow them they can also be bad for your website’s SEO.
All in One SEO or Yoast SEO – these are to help you get maximum results from your posts by optimizing them for the search engines. Both these plugins do a good job but my preference is for Yoast SEO. You can read more about both plugins in this post.
W3 Total Cache or WP Super Cache – their purpose is to speed up your site to improve user experience and SEO. WP Super Cache is slightly easier to set up so that would be my choice for a newbie. Here is a tutorial on setting up WP Super Cache.
Security plugin – security is an important issue for all website owners. If you are starting your website as a business then you should pay extra attention to the security of your site.
A hacked website may cause serious damage to your revenue and reputation.
Hackers can steal:
- Install malicious codes
- Send malware to your visitors
- You can even be a victim of ransomware
Although a security plugin is a good idea there are also a few basic steps that a beginner should know about when starting a WordPress blog.
- Keep the WordPress software, plugins, and themes updated. The updates released either by WordPress or third-party developers are crucial for the security of your site.
- Use strong passwords and don’t leave your username as admin
- Install a backup plugin and save backups to a remote location such as Dropbox. A backup will allow you to quickly restore your WordPress site if you do get hacked.
- Get some good hosting. Reputable web hosts such as Bluehost take measures to protect their servers but you will probably be using shared hosting which means another website on the server could be contaminated and spread the contamination to other sites. When your website is established you might consider moving it to managed WordPress hosting. This provides greater security and other advantages such as regular automatic backups. As my websites are hosted on managed WordPress hosting I don’t need a security plugin.
Wordfence Security is one of the most popular security plugins and they provide a wide range of features in the free version.
Back Up Plugin
Creating regular backups of your website is a good habit to get into. Backups can save you when your site gets hacked or you have some other problem such as your server crashes.
There are many free and paid plugins. Of the free plugins, UpdraftPlus Backup and Restoration is one of the most popular and BackupBuddy is the most popular premium WordPress backup plugin.
Social Media Plugin
Social Media is an important part of internet marketing. Integrating social media into your website gives your visitors a way to connect and interact with you directly. Also, it gives them a chance to share your content on the social media networks of their choice, thus increasing your exposure.
WordPress makes it easy to integrate social sharing into your website with many plugins available. The choice is yours, there are many free and premium plugins. I recommend using a free plugin when you’re starting. One of the most important points to consider is that it doesn’t slow down your blog. Therefore I favor lightweight plugins such as AddtoAny, Shareaholic or my favorite Social Warfare.
How Many Plugins Should You Install?
Only add plugins when you really need them, as the more plugins you have, the slower your site will become. This is bad for both search engine rankings and user experience.
Before you choose any plugin, research thoroughly. There will probably be several plugins offering the functionality you require. Choose one that has been updated recently, has a good user rating and an active support community.
8. XML Sitemap
An XML sitemap lists the pages of your website. The search engines use this sitemap to understand the structure of your site and crawl the new pages and posts you publish.
The XML sitemap also tells the search engines which pages are the most important and how often they are updated.
If the pages of your website are properly linked then the search engines should find all your pages but any pages that are not linked to may be hard to find. An XML sitemap will facilitate the crawling of your website. Meaning all your pages will be indexed and probably more rapidly.
This is especially true for a new website or blog, as there will be no backlinks pointing to the pages and posts making it harder for the search engines to discover your content.
Once your sitemap has been successfully created you need to submit it to the search engines. This post explains the steps.
9. Favicon Image
The favicon image is the little image you see on the browser tabs. Although only a small image it can help with branding, building trust, and some people may remember your favicon.
When we have many browser tabs open we may only see the favicon. The title of your blog gets hidden as we open more browser tabs. The favicon will help the user identify your website and open the tab required.
It can also be useful when looking through a list of bookmarks or your historic to find a website. It’s quicker if you search for an image rather than trying to read the text.
Install a favicon on your blog
Choose an image you want to use as your favicon image, this could be your logo. The image size should be 512×512 pixels. You can edit the image with Photoshop or Gimp and a transparent background may look better but this is up to you. The image can be in png, jpg or gif format.
You can add the image to your blog from the WordPress dashboard. Go to Appearance -> Customize and then click on the Site Identity tab. You will see Site Title, Tagline and then Site Icon. Click on the Select Image button and upload your image. Save the changes and you will now see your favicon image.
10. Set Up Google Search Console
Google Search Console is a selection of free tools to help website owners monitor the performance of their site in the Google search engine. Google Search Console was previously known as Google Webmaster Tools.
The Search Console provides information on how many people are visiting your website, what pages are getting visits and their rankings, what devices your visitors are using mobile, tablet or desktop and much more.
You can also see how many sites are linking to your blog, any errors your website has and you can upload a sitemap which will help you to get your pages ranked quicker. Lots of reasons to take advantage of the Google Search Console!
11. Set Up Google Analytics
Google analytics will help you get to know your audience through the traffic stats for your blog. As it’s a free tool it’s something you definitely should use.
Some of the data available are site visits, page views, bounce rate, time on your site, number of pages viewed per visit, real-time visitors, the source of your visitors and much more.
The video below takes you through the process of setting up Google Analytics for your site.
12. Set Up Your Social Media Accounts
Social media can be a great tool for promoting your posts, growing and communicating with your audience. In addition, it can also help with your branding and may help with your search engine rankings when you get shares or other interaction with your visitors.
The different social media channels also give you the opportunity to run inexpensive ads. Today they cannot be ignored!
I recommend setting up profiles on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and Pinterest at the very least. Use the same social media handle for all platforms if possible and standardize your descriptions.
13. Set Up Your Essential Pages
When you start a new website it’s important to add these essential pages.
Your “About us” page is one of the most important and often one of the most visited pages on your website. It’s an opportunity to introduce yourself to your visitors. Most people will visit your About page as they are considering your recommendations and they want to know if they can trust you.
A good “About” page should answer:
- Who you are
- What you are trying to achieve with your website
- What makes you different
Every website should have a contact page. Your visitors should be able to contact you easily so make sure your contact page is visible in the main menu. Your contact page can just include your contact details or can be a form.
As social media is important you can also include links to your social media profiles.
You are offering information on your website and if that information is inaccurate or damaging in some way then you could find yourself facing a lawsuit. A disclaimer can help to protect you from some form of legal liability.
If you are promoting products or services on your site through affiliate links then you need to disclose your relationship with the merchant or manufacturer of those products. This basically means you should tell your visitors that you will get paid if they purchase the product via your affiliate links.
You can include an affiliate disclosure page and then link to this from your posts with affiliate links. In this way – This post contains affiliate links, for more details visit my disclosure page.
For up to date information on affiliate disclosures check out Tricia Meyer’s post.
14. Change Your WordPress Admin Username
The default WordPress username is admin. Leaving your username as admin makes your blog vulnerable to the hackers. So it should be changed!
The easiest way to do this is to create a new user profile to replace the default admin profile. It’s quick and easy.
Navigate to Users => Add New
Fill in the required information. Include a username that’s hard to remember to make it more difficult for someone to get into your site. In the Role drop-down menu choose Administrator the hit Add New User.
Now log back into your website but with the new username and password. Navigate to All Users in the Users section, hover over Admin and click Delete. Confirm the deletion after you attribute any content on your blog to the new admin username.
Choose the name you want to display as author of your posts
Your user profile will let you set up how your name appears on your blog. If you leave it as it is, by default WordPress will show the username you have just set up. You may want to use something more human, for example, your name.
This is quite easy to set up!
Navigate to Users => Your Profile. Scroll down until you get to the username you just set up.
Fill in the First Name, Last Name and then the Nickname fields. Normally you would use your first name or full name but you can create any name you want by filling in the nickname.
To select the name that you want to display on your website click the drop-down menu next to Display name publicly as. This will give you the choice to use your first name, last name, first and last name or nickname.
Whatever you choose this will be shown on all your posts, pages and comments.
You will also need to add an email address in the Contact Info section. Your blog will use this address to notify you when new comments are left on your blog posts.
The last section you should complete is About the user, add a short biography. This isn’t imperative but depending on your theme, this information may be displayed at the end of your posts. The About the author box at the bottom of all my posts is an example.
15. Set Up an Opt-In Form and Start Building Your Email List
This isn’t vital to the smooth running of your blog but website owners who put this off always regret it.
I waited a couple of years before I started building my list and needless to say I wish I had started from day 1. So I recommend you set this up right away, there are some free options available so it doesn’t even have to cost you any money to get started.
There’s a great free course from Pat Flynn to help you everything set up. Pat recommends using ConvertKit, as your email service provider (autoresponder) but there are cheaper or even free options you can choose.
It’s your choice but if you don’t do it now it’s best not to wait too long!
You’re Set To Go
You are now all set up and ready to start adding content. Do you have any other tips or things you do after installing WordPress? Please share them in the comments section below.