Once you get your own domain name and hosting, that’s not it. You have to post content, yes, but there are some immediate steps that need to be taken right after installing WordPress.
Have you started your blog yet? If not, then read this detailed post to learn how you can start your own blog with WordPress and Bluehost.
The steps are important in determining how people will find your site. You may be wondering, ‘Can’t I just go ahead and publish content and complete those steps later?’ My answer to that would be an absolute NO. Imagine changing your permalink structure long after you have published? That could potentially lead to broken pages and the ranking of your site could also get affected. Imagine leaving your reading settings on private. Search engines will never find your blog. It’s better to get these little things before publishing so as to save yourself the agony later.
So, here we go with the essential WordPress settings that need to be configured before anything else.
Do the Updates
Having the latest version of WordPress and other plugins you may have installed helps protect your site from unfriendly bots with the intent of hacking your site. To do this:
- Backup your site
- Go to dashboard, click updates.
- You will see a blue Update button under WordPress. Click on it.
- Check all the boxes in the plugins sections and click update all.
- At the bottom of the page, find all themes that need updating as well.
How to change a permalink structure is a question that crosses every beginner’s mind. After starting your blog, your URLs will be such an eyesore—check this out: https://yourblog.com?p-6761336, thanks to the default WordPress settings. The problem with that link is it’s not only off-putting, it’s also hard to remember.
You will have to write such a URL on a piece of paper for anyone who’d be interested.
Another downfall about such a permalink structure is it doesn’t tell Google what your post or site is about, making it hard to rank.
A permalink structure like this: https://yourblog.com/how-to-start-a-blog is neater and lets anyone (including Google) know what your topic is about, thanks to the keyword you use. Note. Always use a keyword so that Google can rank the content.
Also note, changing your permalink structure after your blog is live results to broken links. This is because Google will have already indexed your content. So changing the permalink structure can give searchers a 404 error, thereby affecting your SEO. Negatively.
You can change your permalink structures in 2 ways. By adding category and title to your URL like so: https://yourblog.com/tutorial/how-to-start-a-blog or with just the title, like so: https://yourblog.com/how-to-start-a-blog. I WOULD NOT go with the first one because, should you, at some point, choose to change the category of the post, the result would be a new problem of creating redirects from the old URL to a new one. I would go with the second permalink structure because if I change the category of the post, my URL will remain intact.
So how do you change a permalink structure? Click on Settings>>Permalink>>Post name>>Save.
Delete the default posts and pages
On your dashboard, click on Posts>>All Posts>>Select the posts you would like to delete>>on the bulk action dropdown select Move to trash. Similarly, to delete the default sample page, click Pages>>All pages. Finally to delete the default comment, click comments then trash.
Edit your time zone and time & date format
Your time zone is important as it not only affects the time shown on your published posts, it also affects the times in future your scheduled posts will be published. Ensure that you use your local time zone. Also edit how you would like the time and dates displayed to your readers. To do this, click Settings>>General>>correct time zone>>date and time format.
Edit user registration
Decide whether you will be the sole author of your blog or there will be guest posts from contributors. If you will be the sole author, don’t select the ‘anyone can register’ box. If there will be other contributors, check the box, but be sure to use a plugin to avoid spammy registrations. To edit this setting, go to Settings>>general>> tick the ‘anyone can register box’ and set contributor as the default new user role.
WordPress Media Settings
This is to control how WordPress will handle your images. By default, WordPress creates multiple ratios for images uploaded and this can affect your site’s loading time. Smush would be a good plugin to add in order to compress images as they are being uploaded on WordPress.
This is a free but important program by Google. As your blog grows, you will need to see all the necessary data about your WordPress site—data like, where your traffic is coming from; bounce rates; devices used; user location and so on.
If this is your first time doing this for your website, you will be required to log in to Google analytics through your Google account.
If you have already submitted your website, at the top most right click Admin>>Choose account>>create new property. Next, you will be prompted to add your site details so as to get the tracking code. Upon clicking on Get tracking ID, you will see your tracking code or script. You will use either. Putting the code in WordPress can be done in 3 steps: through Google tag manager, WordPress themes or Google analytics for WordPress plugins.
Change reading settings
This is an important step as you want Google, Bing, Yahoo and other search engines to index your site. When your WordPress is up, you will see a dialogue that looks like this: Discourage sites from indexing this site. You can be tempted to turn this on thinking ‘oh well, I am just starting out. Who will read my posts anyway?’ Tempting as it may be, please don’t. If you turn it on, WordPress, by adding a special non-index script, will discourage all search engines from indexing your site. To ensure your site is indexed, click Settings>>Reading>>Uncheck the ‘Discourage search engines from indexing this site’ box>>Save changes.
Site name & tag line
The site name is basically the name of your site without the extension. For example, my site name is Help Monetize your Blog without the .com. The tagline is a little summary of what your blog is about. For example, the tagline for this site is everything new bloggers need to know about making money with a self-hosted blog. It is good to naturally add some keywords to your tag line and site name. To do this click Settings>>general>>site name>>tag line>>save.
Delete default plugins
Though it’s a harmless plugin, it is important to keep the number of plugins at a minimum so as to avoid slow loading time. To delete it, click Plugins>>hello dolly>>deactivate>>delete.
Edit admin username to a name of your choice
Past versions of WordPress were easier to hack into by bots because of the automatic Admin username. Thankfully, you can now protect your site from hacking by adding your own username+ password and deleting the Admin username.
If you are currently using WordPress with Admin as your username, please change it immediately.
To edit this, create a new administrator account with a new password and username, login with the new account and delete the Admin user.
To do this: Click Users>>add new>>email address (not the one you used in the initial installation of WordPress)>>Check user notification>>Add first name, last name and website (optional)>>Administrator role>>show password (write password down)>>Add new user.
Next, after logging out of WordPress, log in again with the new username you have just created and delete the old admin.
To log in to WordPress, use the new details you have just created.
Setup user profile
Complete setting up your user profile by adding a gravatar. A gravator is a picture that appears whenever you comment on any post using the email address associated to it. On the user profile, you can also edit your log in details, change your bio and so forth.
Select a good theme
A theme is essential to the success of your blog. But that doesn’t mean choosing any free theme you find. Google and other search engines give the most priority to blogs on premium themes BUT if you cannot afford one right now, there are three free themes every blogger swears by: Astra, GeneratePress and OceanWP. This blog is powered by Astra.
Setup your mailing list
Many successful bloggers wish they had a mailing list right from the start. Just because you are starting out does not mean you aren’t supposed to have a mailing list—you may miss out on strong signups.
People on your mailing list love your content and may need more nurturing in order to buy your product or click on the links leading to your blog posts. Top of the list as recommendations are Convertkit and Mailchimp.
As a beginner, I would suggest Mailchimp for you as it’s free for the first 2000 subbies.
Favicons are the little icons that appear on the left of the site title after a search in the browser. Trust me, something as little as this can reduce or increase traffic to your site depending on how well set up it is.
You can add your logo as a favicon–never leave it with the WordPress logo. To do this: Click Appearance>>customize>>site identity>>site icon>>select image>>choose favicon from media gallery>>save.
Setting up categories
Categories are a great way of organizing all your related posts. Your posts can additionally be added to different categories, giving your readers flexibility. You may want to add your categories in your menus, widgets or directly on your WordPress theme.
To add categories, hover over to Posts on your dashboard, click categories on the dropdown that appears. You will be led to a page that allows you to create categories-add the category name, the slug, description and click the Add new category button.
Keep in mind that the slug is what appears on the category url. Great! Your new category has been created. On to the subcategory. Once the category has been created, add a name and slug as you did when creating new category, then select the category you created as the parent of the subcategory you’re creating. Press Add new category to save the subcategory.
Set up commenting
By the time a reader is commenting on your post, it means s/he has read your content to the end. Make it count by making the commenting process hustle-free. By default, WordPress comment system is usually off so it’s better to activate it now instead of waiting for a later date when you will have so many posts whose commenting will have to be set up individually.
To set up comments, click on Settings>>discussion then:
- Check the Comment author must fill out name and email address box. It’s good to know the names of those commenting, ey?
- Check the Show comments cookies opt-in checkbox allowing comment author cookies to be set box. This allows commenting authors to comment again in future without typing their details again—those details will have been saved in a cookie.
- Check the Enable threaded (nested) comments 5 levels deep box. This indents replies to comments.
- Check the Break comments into pages with 50 top level comments per page box.
- Ensure the newest comments are displayed at the top.
Set up navigation menu
The navigation menu makes it easier for your audience to find posts that suit their intent. To create a menu, you need pages, of which, if you haven’t created yet, you are at liberty to do so later. Do not forget, the categories you created can be added to this menu.
When ready to create a menu, on your dashboard, click Appearance>>menu>>create menu name>>select all pages>>add to menu>>save.
Setup privacy page
The kind of content you put on your privacy page is determined by the data you collect, how you collect it and what you do with it. Thankfully you don’t have to start from scratch with this because upon installation, WordPress creates a sample for you to edit to your preference.
To add a privacy page, go to Settings>>Privacy.
Remember to periodically update your privacy, especially if some functionalities have been added to your WordPress site.
Setup about me page
Setting up an about page is very important as it gives you a chance to not only introduce yourself to your readers but also let them know how your blog can help them.
By the time someone’s clicking on your about page, it means they find you interesting enough to want to even submit their subscription details. While creating this page, it’s advisable to:
- Add a picture of you so that people can know who they are dealing with.
- Include your interests.
- Mention how your blog can be of benefit to readers.
- Encourage people to follow you on social media by adding your preferred icons. I prefer Facebook, LinkedIn and IG.
To add this page, click Pages>>Add new. Create title and ad your content. Next, add your about page to the menu. Click Appearance>>menu>>Select header or footer menu>>add about page to menu.
Add Yoast SEO plugin
This is a must-have if you are keen on optimizing your blog for search engines. Any serious blogger should be. Yoast SEO adds metadata to all your blog posts, making them indexable by search engines. It’s also a must have plugin if you intend to use Pinterest for traffic.
Add antispam plugin
Enabling comments on your posts exposes you to spam. But worry not as your site can be protected by adding Akismet.
Add security plugin
Your site will need protection from hackers and the best plugin for that would be Wordfence.
Add social sharing plugin
After all the hard work, you will need readers to share your posts to their social media platforms like Facebook or Instagram by the simple click of a social media icon. To make it easier for you and them, plugins like social warfare or social pug are the best for this. Why? They are super lightweight. You may go the free way or the premium way. Keep in mind that paying for either gives you more choices.
Add a backup plugin
Backing up your site will help you restore your content in future in case your host disappears or your mistakenly delete any work. No one want the hustle of retyping everything from scratch—so save yourself the agony. You can use Updraft for this.
To conclude, these are key things you should do before launching your site. May seem cumbersome, especially if you are a beginner, but, it is worth the effort.