So you’ve finally decided to create your own website, huh? That’s great news! But hey, if you’re going to do it all by yourself, you better follow a guide like this and make sure you do it right, don’t you think? So today I’m going to share with you the 15 most important steps you need to take after installing WordPress.
#1 Setup Site’s Basic Information
The WordPress installation process has improved a lot over the years. Nowadays, chances are your website will be properly setup upon installation… but nonetheless I’d recommend you double check the setup in the General Settings and make sure it’s all set according to your preferences:
The most important things on this screen are:
- Make sure that the title of our website and the tagline are what you want and not the default text (which is shown in the screenshot).
- Decide if you want anyone to be able to register on our website or not (in general, you don’t want to).
- If you aren’t going to write in English and your website is not aimed at an English-speaking audience, you should change the language of your site to the one you are interested in (Spanish, for example). However, be aware that, since version 4.7.0, WordPress allows each user of your website to view it in their favorite language (provided you, the administrator, have installed each language).
- Make sure you’re using the proper timezone. This is very important, since when you schedule a post for a certain time (for example, 10am), the post will be published when the time comes (at the given time zone!). If, for example, you’re in Berlin and your timezone is set to UTC+0, your posts will be published one to two hours later than expected… so be careful.
#2 Discourage Search Engines from Indexing Our Site While We’re Working on it
After the installation process is over, it’s obvious that your website is still not ready for your audience. You’ll still have to produce all its content, upload images, try out different themes… which means it doesn’t make much sense if Google or other search engines index your site at this stage. To prevent this from happening, there’s a special checkbox in Settings » Reading that you should activate to tell search engines “hey, for the time being, just ignore this site, right? Thanks mate!”
#3 Setup Permalink Settings
Permalinks define the structure of the URLs we use to access the different contents of our website. By default, the WordPress structure is Post name (which you can see selected in the screenshot below), but you can change it to whatever you like.
Personally, I don’t like this default setting, because blog posts and regular pages end up having the exact same structure. For instance, if we had a pricing page and a certain post, the URLs would look like this:
https://example.com/how-to-install-wordpress/. As you can see, there’s no way to tell what’s a page and what’s a blog post (other than, of course, “guessing” what type of content might be behind a URL based on the name itself).
To solve this problem, the easiest way is to select one of the options that include the date, so that blog posts include the publication date in the URL. This way, our post will no longer be
Adding the date in your permalinks is great for news sites and blogs that generate content often, as the date in which a certain post was published is usually relevant. However, it’s important to notice that, if that’s not your case, adding the date in your URLs may prove counterproductive: the date shows how “old” a post is and people might think the content is outdated just because of that…
Another option for separating pages from posts is to use a custom permalink structure. Just use the structure
/blog/%postname%/ and your posts will look like this:
https://example.com/blog/how-to-install-wordpress/. As you can see, you get the best of the previous solution, but you’re not using the publication date in the URL 😉
One final note: it’s very important to choose a permalink structure that suits your needs from the very beginning. As the name suggests, this structure is (or should be) permanent. If you change it often, things will break—search engines indexed a URL that no longer exists, other people linking to your blog will end up having broken links too, etc.
#4 Configure Your Home Page
Now let’s talk about the home page. What content should be shown in our websites’s home page? Well, there is no right answer, but here’s what I usually see: if you’re mainly interested in having an online blog, then the best solution is to choose Your latest posts; this way, when someone comes to your website, they’ll see the most recent content and will be able to access it directly.
However, if you’re setting up a more “professional” or “corporate” website, then I recommend using a static page and leaving the blog as something secondary, accessible through the navigation menu. This way, you’ll be able to easily decide what should be shown in the home page, what’s relevant to you, what should get the attention of your visitors, etc. For example, you might describe from the very beginning the services or products you offer or show customer opinions, a portfolio of previous work, and so on.
An example of this type of website is ours: on the Nelio Software homepage you’ll see that we showcase some of our customers, share their reviews, introduce our plugins, etc. And what about our blog? A mention at the end of the homepage and, of course, a menu entry in the upper right corner of our web.
#5 Think About Your Content Structure
If you want to attract traffic and get people to visit your website, you have to give them something. And a website with outdated content isn’t enough—you’ll need to spend time and effort generating content. We talked about this earlier in the blog when we saw what inbound marketing and content marketing was.
WordPress allows you to organize the contents of your blog into categories and tags. Most people assign categories and tags “on the fly” and don’t pay much attention to them… but I think this is a mistake. The aim of organizing our content correctly is to help our visitors. The clearer and better defined the categories and labels on our website are, the easier it’ll be for a visitor to identify the topics you cover and move from one post to another one.
Take a look, for example, at our website. As you can see, there are only four categories:
- WordPress. Since we’re specialized in WordPress, it makes perfect sense to have a category devoted to this CMS. The post you’re reading right now is an example of content that fits in this category.
- Community. WordPress is more than just a CMS—there’s a huge community of developers and enthusiasts that use, develop, and love it. We’re part of this community and we like contributing to the project (by participating in WordCamps, translating strings, contributing to the core, etc). We use this category to share all our contributions.
- Online Marketing. The WordPress plugins we offer are in the online marketing sector. Therefore, it makes total sense to have a category devoted to this topic in particular, as here we can discuss any issue that’s relevant to our customers and that allow us to better define the value proposition we offer them.
- Business. Finally, we decided to create a Business category where we discuss and cover any topic that doesn’t fit the rest, including everything we do as a company, the decisions we make, etc. This allows us to be more open and offers a great opportunity to share our experience with other entrepreneurs and online businesses.
Tags is another taxonomy we can use to organize our content. Again, most website owners create new tags often and are very, very specific to their posts. We, on the other hand, defined a few tags that we thought were relevant to properly organize our contents and sticked to it: Tips, Examples, Interviews, Events, Content Marketing, Plugins, Themes, Tutorials…
#6 Get Rid Of Unnecessary Themes and Plugins
The default installation of WordPress usually comes pretty clean, but there are always a few things left over. My recommendation is: delete everything you’re not going to use. Hello Dolly? Out. The Twenty Seventeen theme? If you’re not going to use it, get rid of it. And do so with everything you’re not going to use. The fewer unnecessary components you have, the better.
#7 Install Your Favorite Theme
A few days ago we discussed how to choose the perfect theme for your WordPress. Take a look at the different alternatives (free themes in the WordPress theme directory, premium themes in websites like Themeforest or Elegant Themes, or even hire a professional team to develop your theme), select the theme you like, install it, configure it, and move on 😉.
There are many aspects to consider when choosing a theme: its price, the support it has, whether it suffers from the so-called “theme lock-in” effect or not… We covered all these issues in the post I was telling you about earlier, so I’m not going to repeat them here today. But, hey, if you still have questions, don’t hesitate to comment down below 😇.
#8 Create the Navigation Menu
Another important part of configuring the website is to define a good navigation menu. By default, some themes will use your published pages and automatically create the navigation menu with them. Others will simply show an empty menu. Whatever the case is, this result is far from ideal. So please create your own custom menu.
In Appearance » Menus you’ll find everything you need to create your own menu. The user interface is super simple to use: you select the page you want to appear on the menu, add it, and drag and drop it to set its exact location. It’s that simple! 💪
Oh! And if you’re wondering what should you add in your menu, I recommend you read this post by Neil Patel where he explains what the most common mistakes are when creating a menu and how you can solve them.
#9 Install a SEO Plugin
Another very important step for the proper functioning of our website is the installation of a SEO plugin. These plugins are in charge of adding metadata to our website so that search engines like Google understand better what it’s about and, therefore, increase the possibilities of appearing among the first results. I’m not going to lie to you: using an SEO plugin does not guarantee that you will be one of the outstanding results, but they are a prerequisite for achieving it.
One mistake I see among novice users is following the mantra “more is better”. They think that if one SEO plugin can help them, two or more of these will guarantee their success. Well, I’m afraid this is a huge mistake. I strongly recommend you to read this post by Antonio, where he analyzes what happens when you install multiple SEO plugins in a single WordPress. Don’t miss it!
#10 Make Sure Your WordPress is Safe and Sound
Even though WordPress is secure, the fact that it’s the most widely used CMS in the world makes it a honey pot for attackers. So whether we like it or not, we must take it for granted that at some point our website will be compromised. Or, well, at least you’re going to screw it at some point and compromise your own website… 😅 That’s why we must take the necessary measures to (1) protect our websites and make them stronger and (2) have a plan B in case everything else fails.
In order to protect your website and make it more secure I recommend that you use an anti-spam plugin such as Akismet or Antispam Bee to reduce the number of junk comments that enter the web. It is also crucial to install a security plugin such as WordFence or All In One WP Security to protect against possible hacks and malware, fraudulent access attempts, actively monitor our installation, etc.
The Plan B is something we should never, ever have to resort to, but we need it nonetheless. I’m talking about backups, of course. There are several plugins for backing up your WordPress installation, but I recommend that you choose a hosting provider that integrates this functionality into its own plan. Having a backup to go back to a safe version of your site when everything else has failed is priceless, believe me.
#11 Install a Plugin to Create and Manage Your Editorial Calendar
As I mentioned before, if we want to have traffic on our website we have to offer something useful to our potential visitors. Unless we have an online store and they come to buy our products, our best asset to attract traffic is to generate quality content.
Organization is key to writing content assiduously and with a minimum of quality. With the right tools, it’s easy to find ideas to write about and define a successful editorial calendar. That’s why I recommend you to use plugins like Nelio Content to manage all the content of your website and promote it.
#12 Install a Forms Plugin so that Visitors Can Contact You
This is a topic I am going to talk to you about in the coming weeks, but let me discuss it here briefly. Your web should not be a board where you share your thoughts and opinions only, but a two-way platform where you can talk to and interact with your audience. That’s why I consider of paramount importance the inclusion of contact forms in your website through plugins such as Contact Form 7 or Gravity Forms.
#13 Configure Google Analytics
Another very important thing is the installation of a web analytics tool like Google Analytics. Having metrics about our website, seeing how it evolves, the traffic we have, the type of audience it receives, etc., is paramount if we want to be able to make informed decisions. If you want to know how to install and configure Google Analytics on your website, don’t miss this basic guide from WPBeginner.
#14 Produce the Basic Content of Your Website
Once you have everything set up and ready, you simply have to produce all the content. That is, you’ll need to design and write your home page, contact page, pricing page, maybe a couple of initial blog posts… Easier said than done, right? But it’s very important you do it! There’s nothing that gives a worse image than launching a website with parts of it “under construction”.
#15 Go Live!
And finally, the last, extremely important step: go back to point #2 and deactivate the checkbox so that search engines can index your website. From this moment on, things are getting serious: your website is already something real and tangible. You’ll soon get some real visitors… so take care of your website and keep working on it.
Good luck, my friend! 🤗