Oh, congratulations! You just have WordPress installed. Now…what are you going to do next?
How do you turn this blank canvas for your guests into a working WordPress site?
Yeah, a great deal of that is going to depend on your priorities. But no matter what your priorities are, after downloading WordPress, there are certain simple steps that you can take.
We’ve collected everything in one place for you in this article.
After launching a new WordPress account, follow along for a beginner-friendly peek at 17 critical steps you can take.
Let’s dive inside:
Enter basic site details for title and tagline
You’ll want to set up the title and tagline of your site to get started. This material, particularly if you do not have a custom logo, is usually displayed prominently on your website.
To set this information, go to Settings → General in your WordPress dashboard:
Set your site’s timezone to your local time
The timezone of your domain plays an important part in handling your site.
For example, if you plan blog posts in the future to be written, the timing is dependent on the general time zone of the site. So, whether you want to do mental math any time you go to plan a message, if you choose your local timezone, you’ll be happier.
To set your site’s timezone, go to Settings → General and use the drop-down:
Below the timezone drop-down, you can also set your date format, time format, and the first day of the week.
Configure your URL permalink structure
The permalink layout of your site determines how your URLs appear, which is important for allowing users and search engines to understand your content.
This is simpler to understand, for instance?
- yoursite.com/? P=235
That’s the second one, huh?
Well, that’s what helps you to monitor permalinks!
To set your permalinks, go to Settings → Permalinks.
The better permalink structure is the post name on most pages. With that being said, if you are running a time-sensitive blog (e.g. news), then you may want to go with the layout of the Day and Name as it contains detail in the URL on the date of publication.
Pick the perfect theme to control how your site looks
The style of your web influences how it feels. Think about your clothes-clothing does not alter who you are as a person, but it helps you to change how you look to the outside world easily.
Themes are the same, you can add a new theme to alter the whole look of your website immediately (although we would not suggest changing the theme every day like you do for clothing!).
There are a lot of wonderful free WordPress themes for you to pick from if you’re just getting started.
There’s nothing wrong with using, particularly at the beginning, a free theme from a reputable developer. But it’s worth taking a look at how themes impact the WordPress website’s security before you pick one.
You might want a premium theme to get access to deeper features as your site expands. But you may as well leave stuff open for now!
Disable the default content, plugins, and themes
You’ll want to go through and uninstall all the default content that is included with a fresh WordPress instal until you’ve installed your preferred theme.
First, head to Appearance → Themes and delete the default Twenty X themes. Then, head to Plugins and delete the Hello Dolly plugin (if installed).
Finally, WordPress adds a few default stories, sections, and comments that you’ll want to uninstall as well:
Complete your user profile and bio
You’ll have a “Author box” on most themes that appears after your blog posts and includes information about the post’s author.
When going to Users ⁇ Your Profile, you will want to fully fill out your profile to ensure that you monitor what ends up there.
You’ll probably want to set up a Gravatar account to monitor your profile image, beyond adding names and biographical details.
Setup your main menu for navigation
In helping users navigate through your site and guiding users to your most relevant content, your navigation menu plays a major role.
You’ll generally want to add links to the most relevant sites, such as:
- About page
- Contact form
To create your first menu, go to Appearance → Menus and fill out the information:
Then, you can use the options on the left to add content to your menu:
Add widgets to your sidebar or footer
Widgets are another useful tool that helps you add content to your site. Widgets help you add things like:
- Search boxes
- Lists of your most recent content or comments
- Lists of your categories or tags
Typically, you’ll be able to add widgets to your site’s sidebar. Some themes also let you use widgets in your footer.
To set up your widgets, go to Appearance → Widgets in your dashboard.
Set up a static homepage (if desired)
This is not mandatory, but it applies to a lot of places, so you can certainly take it into account.
The homepage of your site shows a list of your new blog posts by default.
Now, if you run a blog, maybe that’s what you want. Only skip forward, if that’s the case!
But a static homepage is a great choice for a lot of pages. You can even screen your blog entries, like “yoursite.com/blog”. They’re just somewhere else.
To set up a static homepage in WordPress, go to Settings → Reading.
Find and change the Your Home Page view configuration to A Static Page. To act as the homepage, you can then pick one of your current pages and another to act as the blog page.
I suggest building pages called ‘Home’ and ‘Blog’ if you don’t have current pages to use yet:
To help you keep track of these two important pages, WordPress will clearly mark them when you go to the Pages area in your dashboard:
Install an SEO plugin and configure the basics
In search engines such as Google, SEO, short for search engine optimization, makes the blog rank higher. If you want other people to really find your site, since WordPress is not designed for SEO out of the box, it’s important that you set up some SEO basics.
You’ll need a WordPress SEO plugin to do this.
There are a variety of quality alternatives out there, but Yoast SEO is the most common (and most beginner-friendly).
If the Yoast SEO plugin is enabled and triggered, it will take you through a quick configuration wizard to customise all the most important fundamentals of SEO.
Beyond that, you would also want to use the “meta box” of Yoast SEO to manage essential SEO settings for all the content you make in the future:
Set up an automated backup solution
When a website is running, “stuff happens” (this is a PG-friendly way of saying a lot of things can go wrong). I say, by “stuff”, tragic events such as:
- Malicious actors who are trying to hack the website.
- An upgrade that triggers a problem.
- A mistake when something is mistakenly deleted or an error is caused.
- Compatibility problems with plugins where the combination of two otherwise-safe plugins creates a problem.
Now, ideally, none of this stuff will ever happen on your pages! Yet you need to take into account the probability that they might be.
This needs frequent backups to ensure that the information on the website is both safe and secure.
You can sleep peacefully, and you can still recover a working copy of your site from the archive if anything else goes wrong.
Instead of depending on your memory to back up your site manually (you’ll forget!), using an automatic backup system like BlogVault is a smarter way.
Your site is periodically backed up by BlogVault to a safe off-site location every day. Best still, all of your copies can even be recovered with a few taps. Read more for backups with BlogVault here.
Make sure your site is safe and secure
If any security vulnerabilities arise, though taking daily backups will help you get back on your feet, you also want to be vigilant in defending your site from hacks or other suspicious acts.
One of the easiest ways you can do so is to keep the WordPress account updated at all times. That alone is going to eliminate most security problems.
You should make use of a protection plugin like MalCare for anything else.
MalCare also automatically checks your WordPress account for ransomware every day, in addition to enforcing security hardening rules to secure your site and login page. And if it detects any malicious files, by pressing a button, it will help you fix the problem.
Add a contact form so that people can get in touch
You’ll want a contact page no matter what your blog is about, so your guests can get in touch with you.
You’ll need a contact form plugin to connect a contact form to WordPress. There are a lot of good choices out there, but the free WPForms plugin is the most beginner-friendly alternative.
Using easy drag-and-drop, you can create your shape. Then, it contains a button to help you insert your form somewhere on your website (usually, on a dedicated “Contact” page you will like to position it).
Install an analytics tool (like Google Analytics)
You can consider where the guests come from and what they do on your web with an analytics tool. It’s not an utter must, but to find out it’s very helpful:
- Your most powerful material
- And where the guests come from (e.g. search engines or social media)
- How long do individuals stay on your platform for?
To refine the web and marketing campaigns, you can then use these insights.
You might figure out, for instance, that your site performs pretty good on Pinterest. As a consequence, since it provides such a strong return, you may want to concentrate even more on sharing your content on Pinterest.
You should sign up for a free Google Analytics account to get started. Then, to apply the monitoring code to your WordPress account, you can use a free plugin like Analytics Cat.
To set up this functionality, go to Settings → Privacy and then click the button to Create New Page:
This will open up the daily WordPress editor with some pre-filled data based on the data automatically obtained by WordPress:
Based on the prototype, you can fill in some extra material. You may want to extend the Who we are segment, for example.
In addition, you may want to incorporate any details on any analytics software you use-basically, you are attempting to give guests a simple view about what information you gather and store.
You can hit the Check out our guidance link at the top for a deeper description if you need any assistance.
Configure how your comments section works
Visitors to your site are allowed to leave views on your blog entries by default. You can go to the Configuration / Forum section and look at all the settings if you want to uninstall the feature or tweak how it works.
Now the default settings for most pages should be fine, but you should also:
- Only allow registered users to comment on the
- Close the comments section automatically for posts older than X, the number of days
- Put up guidelines and reminders of comment moderation
Set up anti-spam functionality (if you’re allowing comments)
You’ll want to put some anti-spam measures in place to ensure that you don’t spend your time moderating automatic spam comments if you choose to accept comments on your web.
You would require an anti-spam plugin, like the free Antispam Bee plugin, to do so.
Without any manual work on your side, this plugin runs incoming comments through a variety of tests to screen out spam.
Enjoy the latest WordPress platform of yours!
And that sets up some of the most important things after downloading WordPress that you need to do.
You should have a platform that is ready for prime time after going on this checklist; what you need to do is add content and start drawing guests!