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Last updated: August 27, 2020
WordPress is by far the most popular blogging platform. Countless of new WordPress-based websites go live everyday with no signs of slowing down.
WordPress is reasonably easy to use, but it can be challenging to find your way through so many different themes, plugins and configuration settings. It’s easy enough to install WordPress, but what do you do after installing WordPress?
Having installed and configured WordPress on so many websites over the years, I’ve learned what works for me and what doesn’t work so well. I now simply follow a process whenever I need to install WordPress, either for a website I own or for someone else.
In this article I am sharing with you the basic steps I always follow after installing WordPress on a new website.
- Change Username, Nickname, Display Name and Password
- Install a WordPress Theme and Uninstall Unused Themes
- Configure the Site Title and Tagline
- Set the WordPress Address and Site Address URL
- Configure the Front Page Settings
- Change the Blog Permalink Structure
- Delete Unnecessary Plugins
- Install a Website Optimization Plugin
- Install a Social Sharing Plugin
- Install an SEO Plugin
- Implement an XML Sitemap
- Configure Search Appearance Settings
- Implement a Backup Strategy
- Upload a Site Icon or Favicon
- Publish a Contact and About Page
Installed WordPress? Here’s What to Do Next!
The following 15 actions assume that you have successfully installed WordPress and you are logged into your WordPress admin dashboard.
1. Change Username, Nickname, Display Name and Password
WordPress websites get hacked everyday, and more than often this happens due to poor login credentials. Hackers don’t try to hack websites manually. They use brute-force scripts to try and get into your precious website. That’s why it’s crucial to configure a good username and a password that nobody else can possibly guess.
When you installed WordPress, you probably had to configure a username. In the WordPress admin dashboard, you can’t actually change that username. If you’re happy with the username, awesome. If you’re not happy, simply create a new user and configure it the way you want it to be.
The username is essentially the login name. If hackers can easily work out the login name to your website, you’re basically giving them a massive head-start. Therefore, you should never ever use the name “Admin”. This sounds very obvious, but you’d be surprised how many webmasters actually use this name for convenience reasons.
You should also configure a nickname and a display name. A nickname is exactly that. A simple name that you’d like people to call you. The display name is the name that your readers will see on the site, for example in the author bio and below a blog post. You can choose to have the username (login name) or the nickname to be the display name.
I recommend to pick a good nickname and to set that as the display name.
Some WordPress themes display the author name at the bottom of a blog post including a link to the author archives page. The author name in the URL of this archives pages is typically the same as the username. This is another way for hackers to work out what the login name for your website could be. Read this article for a technical workaround for that security vulnerability issue.
2. Install a WordPress Theme and Uninstall Unused Themes
By default, a WordPress installation comes with several free themes. One of these free themes will be the one that is activated.
Choosing a theme is an important step because a theme has a huge impact on the success of your WordPress blog. A theme should match your expectations in regards to look and feel. A theme should be a good reflection of your brand. In addition, a theme should be well-programmed and regularly updated.
You can either keep using a free theme, or you can decide to purchase a premium theme. It’s important to delete any themes that you’re not using, as they can make your website a lot heavier. Just like with plugins, only use what you really need. In other words, you should really just have one theme installed.
My favorite WordPress theme right now is GeneratePress, a super lightweight theme with tons of customization options. GeneratePress is highly regarded in the blogging community, with some of the biggest Internet marketing blogs out there using it.
Starting an affiliate site? Check out my list of best themes for affiliate marketing.
3. Configure the Site Title and Tagline
Go to General Settings within your WordPress admin dashboard to change the site title and tagline.
These details typically end up in the browser title so it’s important to enter something that makes sense. The site title is simply the name of your blog, website or e-commerce shop. The tagline describes in a nutshell what your site is about.
Although you can override these settings, for example with the Yoast SEO plugin, it’s still useful to have these details correctly configured here.
4. Set the WordPress Address and Site Address URL
The WordPress address can be with or without the “www” bit.
For example, if you choose “yourdomain.com” without the “www” bit, and someone tries to navigate to “www.yourdomain.com”, it will redirect to “yourdomain.com”.
From an SEO perspective it doesn’t really matter which version you choose, so it’s mostly a personal choice. Google Search Console used to have a setting where you can configure your preferred version, but that feature was dropped in 2019.
But you should still set it properly in your WordPress admin dashboard. Simply navigate to Settings and the General, and submit your preferred site version in the WordPress URL and Site Address URL fields.
If you have a HTTPS website (and you should!), make sure you set the HTTPS version of your site in those two fields.
5. Configure the Front Page Settings
The home page of your brand new WordPress blog can be either a custom made page, or it can simply be a summary of the latest blog posts.
When you’ve just installed WordPress, you won’t have any content so this setting isn’t all that important yet. But it’s good to know that this setting exists.
You may want to prioritize creating a custom home page (even if it only says “coming soon”) and set that to be the front page for the time being.
6. Change the Blog Permalink Structure
The permalink settings determine what the URL structure will look like for your permalinks and archives.
For example, you can choose to have the day, month and year included in the blog post URL. Or you can have a numeric value instead of the blog title in the URL.
The best option? Just the post name. No dates or numeric values. Unless you find the date to be useful for your readers, there is no benefit to have this included in the URL.
Numeric values are even worse, because they don’t mean anything. In addition, the search engines will frown upon it too.
In general, search engines like short and descriptive URLs. Dates and numbers don’t add any value and can harm your SEO efforts.
7. Delete Unnecessary Plugins
Plugins can have a big impact on both the security as well as the performance of your website. The more plugins you have installed, the more impact it will have on site speed.
In addition, plugins can create mysterious website bugs and errors that are tough to trace and resolve, not to mention the fact that plugins are the number 1 reason why WordPress sites get hacked.
By default, a WordPress installation will have several plugins installed. Your hosting provider may also include several plugins if they install WordPress for you. The only default plugin that is useful is Akismet, one of the best anti-spam plugins available.
Once your WordPress blog is live, you will soon start receiving a lot of spam comments. A plugin like Akismet helps identifying these comments so you don’t have to waste your time.
You can safely delete most, if not all, other plugins that were installed for you.
8. Install a Website Optimization Plugin
A caching plugin helps to increase the performance of your website. While there are many factors that can have an impact on how fast your site loads (such as having too many plugins), a caching plugin is very effective in speeding things up.
Not only do visitors drop out when your site loads very slowly, site speed is also a Google Search ranking factor on mobile.
Navigate to the plugin section within your WordPress admin dashboard, click Add New, and search for “cache”. You’ll then see quite a lot of cache plugins listed.
I recommend two caching plugins. WP Rocket is a premium website optimization plugin, which consistently achieves great results for WordPress blog owners.
The other plugin I recommend is W3 Total Cache, which is free. It can take a bit of time and effort to configure all the settings, but W3TC really does help.
Another important thing to consider is image lazy loading, which can further optimize the performance of your WordPress blog. If your chosen website optimization plugin doesn’t include a lazy loading feature, I strongly recommend to use a3 Lazy Load.
9. Install a Social Sharing Plugin
One way to promote the content on your website is by using social media. You don’t even need your own social media accounts to achieve this.
Social media share buttons allow visitors to your website to share content on their own social media channels. Social media signals are actually also a ranking factor, so it’s important to have functional share buttons available on your website.
There are literally hundreds of different plugins available for this, some really good, others not so good. I have used a lot of different plugins over the years, and the one I would like to recommend is Social Pug. It has a free and a paid version.
10. Install an SEO Plugin
SEO plugins help you with optimizing pages and posts by considering keywords, on-page factors and readability. A good SEO plugin will also include features such as sitemaps, social media settings, and site-wide settings.
If you’re not well-versed with SEO, don’t expect that just installing an SEO plugin will get you organic traffic from Google.
SEO is complicated and requires a lot of hard work. Installing an SEO plugin is a good first step in the right direction and will help you better understand how on-page SEO works.
They are all good plugins, but I personally prefer Yoast, simply because I’m used to it and it does what I want it to do.
11. Implement an XML Sitemap
An XML sitemap is very important as it allows search engines to better crawl your website.
When you submit your website to Google Search Console, it will ask you to submit a sitemap, so it’s important to have this sorted out right away. Once your sitemap is set up, it will update itself automatically every time you publish new content.
One of the easiest ways to configure an XML sitemap is with Yoast SEO. In fact, Yoast will do this automatically for you, all you need to do is enable this option.
What’s awesome is that Yoast also allows you to include or exclude certain elements in the sitemap. For example, you can choose to exclude tags, categories, or even specific blog posts if you don’t want Google to find these.
12. Configure Search Appearance Settings
I use the Yoast plugin to configure various search appearance settings, such as how titles and metas should be displayed, and what types of pages I don’t want indexed by Google.
For example, you can configure what the title separator should be. Title separators appear between your post title and site name. If you look in the title of your browser, you will notice that I use this “|” symbol as the separator.
You can also configure which post types, archives and taxonomies you would like to have indexed or not indexed. I personally don’t want tag archive pages to be indexed, as they can lead to a duplicate content and thin content issues.
I also have Author archives and Date archives set to disabled. They don’t add value, and they can also lead to duplicate content and thin content problems.
13. Implement a Backup Strategy
One of the most important things WordPress bloggers fail to do is regularly backing up their websites.
Unfortunately, websites do crash, blog posts do get lost, hosting service providers can go out of business, and most importantly, blogs do get hacked every single day. The most basic thing you can do to protect yourself against this kind of misery is to have a backup strategy in place.
Most hosting companies provide backup options. Most of my websites are hosted with DreamHost and within my DreamHost panel all I need to do is press a magic button and everything related to my hosting account gets backed up automatically.
This backup includes websites files, databases and mailboxes, and remains on the DreamHost server available for download for a period of two weeks. Very convenient.
There are also several WordPress plugins that can take care of your backup procedures if you don’t want to rely on your hosting provider.
14. Upload a Site Icon or Favicon
Often overlooked, a site icon, or favicon, helps to give your site a bit of an identity. In addition, Google likes it too.
Configuring a site icon in WordPress is very easy. Go to the home page of your website (while logged in) and click customize from the top bar. Navigate to site identity and simply upload an image that meets the requirements.
The image needs to be square and at least 512 pixels in width and height.
15. Publish a Contact and About Page
To kick off the content creation work that now awaits you, it’s good practice to start with an about and a contact page.
These pages don’t have to be massive articles. Just briefly describe what your website is about, add an image, and hit publish. Boom, you have your first piece of WordPress content live.
The contact page can be very simple too. I recommend you install a simple contact form plugin, such as Contact Form 7. It lets you configure and customize a contact form within minutes.
Don’t forget to include the about and contact pages in your menu structure. Once you have that all set up, your brand new WordPress blog is slowly starting to take shape!
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Installing and configuring WordPress is the fun part. Well, for me at least, but that’s because I’m still a bit of a tech head and I enjoy getting things right.
After installing WordPress, and setting everything up, the hard work now begins. Now it’s time to start producing and promoting content, set up your social media channels, and so forth.
If you’re new to the world of blogging and affiliate marketing, trust me when I say that this is seriously hard work.
Never underestimate the time, energy and perseverance that is required to grow a website into something big. It doesn’t happen overnight.
And this is also the main reason why so many new WordPress blogs and websites die out after only a few months. As long as you are willing to put in the work, you can succeed. And of course, keep following best white-hat SEO principles.