This is my checklist of how to setup WordPress after installation. WordPress works fine out of the box, but a few tweaks can make it even more powerful. And on top of that there are a few things that all new websites need (like about and contact pages).
This article became fairly long (I wanted to include all the good stuff, just for you :)). So here is an index of the article for your convenience:
- Change WordPress Settings
- Set up Users
- Install Essential SEO Plugins
- Get Visitor Statistics
- Increase Security
- Prepare for Engagement
- Add Essential Pages
The first thing I change in the WordPress setup, is the settings found in the menu on the left.
WordPress General Settings
When you click the on “Settings” in the menu you will be taken to the “General Settings” page:
Make sure the “Site Title” and “Tagline” is what you want, that the URL’s are setup correctly and that there is a valid email address in the “E-mail Address” field. Also change the time/date settings if you like.
WordPress Writing Settings
Next go to “Settings” > “Writing”:
Here you have the option of making the size of the box you write posts and pages in bigger if you like. The default is 20 lines and I usually change it to 25 or 30.
But more importantly set your website to ping (inform update services about updates on your site). Here is a list of services you can add under “Update Services”:
And don’t change anything under “Post via e-mail” and “Remote Publishing” unless you need it, since it’s a security risk.
WordPress Reading Settings
Then go to “Settings” > “Reading”.
If you are setting up a WordPress blog you can either display your latest posts or a static page as the front page, depending on your preferences. But if you are making a static website you’ll obviously need a static front page. And if you want to add a blog (either from the beginning or later) just publish an empty page and choose it in the drop down menu next to “Posts page:”.
You can also change the other settings if you like, but it’s not important.
WordPress Discussion Settings
Next click “Settings” > “Discussion”.
The most important thing on this page is to make sure the “Attempt to notify any blogs linked to from the article”-option is checked. That way WordPress automatically notify blogs you link to in your articles and if they have the “Allow link notifications from other blogs (pingbacks and trackbacks”-option checked a link back to your article will be published on their website.
Also check the “Allow people to post comments on new articles” if you want people to be able to comment on your site. This is totally up to you and the type of website you have, but I personally don’t like comments and almost always turn them off. Remember to go through the comments settings below if you decide to allow people to comment.
WordPress Privacy Settings
Then click “Settings” > “Privacy”.
It’s super important to make sure you check the “Allow search engines to index this site.”. If the other option is checked you are basically telling search engines like Google to stay away from your site and not send you any visitors. So make sure the first option is checked.
The alert reader will notice I skipped over the “Media Settings”. That’s because I don’t usually change anything there, but feel free to customize.
WordPress Permalink Settings
And finally go to “Settings” > “Permalinks”.
Here you determine the link structure of your website. I usually just go with the “Post name” option, but you can pick any option you like or make your own as long as it ends with the post name (you’ll want the post name in your links for search engines and humans alike). Just make sure you don’t publish a post and a page with the same name if you go with “Post name” – then you will have to different pages with the same URL on your website.
When you have gone through the settings it’s time to set up the users of the website. Create a separate account for every person that needs to log in to the website with the appropriate roles. Here is an overview of what the different roles are for:
- Super Admin - Someone with access to the blog network administration features controlling the entire network.
- Administrator - Somebody who has access to all the administration features
- Editor - Somebody who can publish and manage posts and pages as well as manage other users’ posts, etc.
- Author - Somebody who can publish and manage their own posts
- Contributor - Somebody who can write and manage their posts but not publish them
- Subscriber - Somebody who can only manage their profile
Also create a new administrator account for yourself if your current user name is the standard “admin”. And delete the “admin” user when you have done so. Using the user name “admin” is a security risk because that’s what comes with a standard installation and hackers know that.
Remember to create a unique and secure password for every single user. You can use this password generator.
Next you want to make sure you are setting up WordPress for the search engines. To make it as easy as possible for them to determine what your website is about and send relevant traffic your way. That’s easily done with a few plugins (how to add plugins to WordPress).
All in One SEO Pack – The name says it all. This plugin will optimize your website for search engines and make it easy to customize the settings for every single page.
Broken Link Checker – The search engines don’t like dead links and this is an easy way to stay on top of it. This handy little plugin checks your outgoing links on a regular basis and lets you know if the page you are linking to no longer exists.
Google XML Sitemaps – This plugin creates a sitemap for the search engines that automatically updates when you add content to your website. It will help the search engines find and index all your pages and is a must have.
Link Juice Keeper – This simple plugin redirects all non existing URL’s to your front page instead of showing a 404 error page. That way you wont miss out on the value of invalid links to your site (either because you moved a page or someone linking to you made a typo).
Shareaholic | email, bookmark, share buttons – You’ll want to make it easy for visitors to share your pages on social networks etc. And there are a ton of plugins that’ll add sharing buttons to your website, but this is the plugin I use and I’m happy with it (see how it looks at the bottom of this page).
W3 Total Cache – Caching is good for both visitors and search engines as it makes your website load faster.
The last thing I do for SEO when I start a new website is to setup a new project at Keyword Strategy (affiliate link) and install the Keyword Strategy Internal Links plugin. Internal links are important for SEO and Keyword Strategy automates the internal linking on your website, keeps track of all your keywords in a database, tracks with keywords you rank for in the search engines and has a lot of other cool features (they have a 30 day free trial if you’re interested). Alternatively SEO Smart Links is a great free plugin for internal linking.
There’s no point in a website without visitors. And to optimize your results you’ll want to know how people find your website and what they are doing once they get there. So you’ll need to install software to track your visitors. I use two different pieces of software for different purposes.
Google Analytics is a great free website traffic tracker that should be installed on any website. Go to Google Analytics to set up your account if you don’t have one already. Then use a plugin to integrate it into your website. I use Google Analyticator.
If you’d like real time stats as well and the ability to view them directly from your WordPress Dashboard, then Statcounter Stats is what you need. Go to Statcounter and setup an account if you don’t have one. And then install the Statcounter plugin. I use both options for most websites, because they compliment each other well.
There are a few things you can do to set up WordPress for maximum security, even though it’s pretty secure out of the box. The two most important things to do are to backup your website on a regular basis (at least every time you update) and keep your WordPress installation, Plugins and Themes up to date (WordPress will notify you when something needs to be updated).
BackupBuddy (affiliate link) – This is the backup plugin I use. It allows me to set up everything once and then forget about it until the day I might need it – knowing my website is secure and automatically backed up on a regular basis. Alternatively you can backup your website manually or perhaps find a free plugin that’ll do the job (I’m not aware of a free plugins that does a good job of backing up both your database and files automatically).
Make sure to backup both the database and your files, no matter what option you choose. And don’t skip this step as you will loose everything if you get hacked (my brother’s site got hacked a while back even though it only is a small site with about 25 visitors a day) or something goes wrong in the update process (that happened to me less than a month ago, and without a backup my website would have been gone). So remember to backup before you update if you don’t have an automatic setup.
Antivirus – Your website can get a virus, just like your computer. This plugin automatically scans your website on a daily basis.
WordPress Firewall 2 - And just like it’s a good idea to have firewall installed on your computer, the same goes for your website. This plugin blocks attacks before they get to your website.
Limit Login Attempts – By limiting the number of allowed login attempts this plugin makes it a lot harder for hackers to gain access to the back end of your website.
Askimet (if you allow comments) – This plugin checks your comments for spam and will filter a good portion of annoying spam comments.
And if you haven’t removed the “admin” user already – you can see how it’s done here.
You need to connect with your readers if you want to realize the full potential of your website. And you might as well set it up from the beginning.
There are three main ways you can connect with your readers and get them to come back to your website and they are:
- Social media
- RSS Feed
I personally prefer to build an email list and that’s usually the only option I implement.
The best placement of email sign up forms, social media connect buttons or RSS subscription buttons is after your content, at the top of your sidebar and on your about page.
Email is by far the best medium for connecting with your readers. If you only choose one way of engaging your visitors this is the way to go (and limiting it to email might not be a bad idea). I use and recommend Aweber (affiliate link) for building and managing an email list.
And if you’re not on my list already, you can sign up below to receive exclusive tips and practical advice about how to make your own website.
If you have a Facebook fan page, a twitter account or a Google+ profile you might want to give your readers the possibility to connect with you on those platforms (and later use them to drive traffic back to your site).
If you run a blog you might want to give your readers the option of subscribing to new posts by RSS or email.
WordPress comes with built in feeds, but many prefer to use Feedburner instead. It allows you to get statistics about your RSS subscribers, display the amount of subscribers publicly, allows people to receive your posts via email and much more (you can also send posts as email with Aweber). Here is a good Feedburner setup guide.
And last but not least you’ll need to add a few essential pages.
Every website needs an about page to let visitors know what the website (yep, you guessed it…) is about. In most cases you’ll want to write about the website first and possibly add something about the people behind the website after that. See my about page for inspiration.
A contact page is another essential part of any website and all you have to do is add contact form plugin. I use Fast Secure Contact Form and it does the job.
Other Legal Documents
And if you need any other legal stuff on your website, now is the time to add it. Examples could be a disclaimer or terms of service.
Now you know how to setup a WordPress blog or website after installation, or at least how I do it :).
When you are all set, head back to the main guide to learn more about how to build a website from scratch.