WordPress - New Blog Checklist

Free WordPress Tutorial

The problem with starting something new is that you don’t know what you don’t know. It takes a while before you’ve got the foundational knowledge it takes to gain some proficiency and…efficiency.

I’ve made my share of WordPress websites, but man, that first one? I felt like a pure genius just signing into the back-end of the site. Never mind that my tag line remained “Just another WordPress webblog” for weeks, I knew how to make an ‘About’ page, so I was good. :)

It took me a good long while before I began standardizing certain things that, over time, I realized were part of every new site build. But, alas, I smartened up, and now I’m going to share with you the little things I do with every new WordPress site I make. So without further delay, I present to you (in no particular order)…

WordPress - New Blog Checklist

This checklist assumes you’ve got a shiny new WordPress Installation on your host and your site is live. If that’s not the case, you may wish to hold off on this until it is. Or, if you’re having trouble getting to that point and think you could use some WordPress Help, by all means track me down. Now then.

  1. First things first, change your tag line
  2. When you visit your brand new site for the first time, you’ll notice it says “Just another WordPress weblog” at the top right (assuming you still have the default theme - 2010 - if not, it may be positioned somewhere else). Change this (immediately :) ) by going to the SETTINGS menu (along the left menu, towards the bottom) and then the General submenu. On that page, you’ll see the field labeled ‘Tagline”. Change the text in that field to something more representative (and keyword rich if appropriate) of your blog/topic/interests. Save and move on.

  3. Add Update Services
  4. These are simply sites that WordPress automatically notifies every time you publish a new blog post. By default, there’s only one service listed. My list has 50. There are some other ways to skin this cat (Feedburner, for example, automatically notifies ping svs as well for those using its feed service), but if you’re utilizing the native WordPress functionality, why not optimize it by stuffing as many ping services in there as possible?

    Shoot me an email if you’d like my list to cut/paste into your site. However you get them, paste them into your site by going to SETTINGS>Writing (Settings menu, Writing submenu) and look for the field that says Update Services. Put them there and click Save Changes.

  5. Decide How To Treat Comments
  6. Do you want anyone to be able to comment and have their comment appear automatically? Or do you want to approve any comments before they are viewable by site visitors? You designate this (and a few other things) by going to SETTINGS>Discussion, and checking/unchecking in accordance with your preferences. HINT: if you want comments to appear without approval/moderation, uncheck the boxes next to the “Before A Comment Appears” heading.

  7. Activate Akismet and get an API Key
  8. Akismet is a spam filtering service that comes pre-loaded on any WordPress site. Without it (or some other spam filter), your site will get inundated with spam comments. No bueno, trust me. For Akismet to work, though, you need to get an API Key, which can be done by registering for one at WordPress.com. Next to the first field, be sure to click on “Sign up for just a username”. You don’t want to create a new WP.com blog, you just want an account.

    Once you have it, you will sign in and click on My Account, and you should see a link to get an Akismet API Key. Click it, copy the Key, and then come back to the admin side of your WordPress site and click on the PLUGINS menu. On the next screen you’ll see a list of your Plugins. Akismet will be at the top. Click Activate, and then you’ll get this message across the top of your site: “Akismet is almost ready. You must enter your Akismet API key for it to work.” Click on the link (enter your…) and you’ll see a screen with a few different things on it. The only thing you need to do is paste your API Key into the 1st field and then click Update Options. You’re good, it will automatically start filtering out spam comments.

  9. Change Your Permalink Structure
  10. Permalinks refer to the actual address of any page or post on your site. For example, the permalink for this post is - http://howtomatter.com/wordpress-new-blog-checklist/. You can see it by looking at the address bar of your browser. It’s the specific address on the internet that someone will type into the address bar of their browser to get to your site.

    By default, WordPress uses a post numbering system that doesn’t look very nice. So, your first post may have a permalink that looks something like this: www.yourdomainname.com/?p=1. Goofy. Not only that, bad for SEO (that is, bad for Google Love). In most cases, you want your Permalink to make sense, and to give a reader (and a search engine) a good idea as to what your page/post is about. How?

    Go to SETTINGS>Permalinks, and you’ll see the Default structure is checked. If you change that to the one right below it, you’ll that the Permalink will include the year, month, day and post title. If you like that, cool. Or choose from one of the others. You can also choose a custom Permalink (bottom option) by clicking on Custom Structure and putting in the structure tag of your preference. An example of one might be /%postname%/, which will list just the post name without any date info (ie. www.yourdomainname.com/post-title). It’s totally up to you how you structure it, but at the very least, change it from the default.

  11. Set Up Some Post Categories
  12. You may not be thinking much about how your site content is organized right now. But as your site grows this organization becomes more important. One way to keep things tidy is to ensure that all your posts are put into a Category. By default, everything is put into the category Uncategorized. That’s not ideal.

    Think about your site and come up with a couple (no more than a handful is my recommendation) of overarching categories that your posts can fit into. If you had a cooking blog, you might have Meats, Veggies, Breads and Desserts as categories (just an example). This will help visitors to your site navigate more easily to the information that they find interesting/valuable.

  13. Install Some Plugins
  14. Naturally, the plugins you use will depend on your topics and preferences. But, there are a few that I would recommend for just about anyone. They include:

    • Google XML Sitemaps
    • All In One SEO Pack (only if you don’t use the Thesis Theme)
    • Contact Form 7
    • Quick Cache

  15. Create a New User Account
  16. By default, most installations of WordPress create a single user account with the Username of Admin. Because of this, the unscrupulous hackers of the world recognize this as a weakness and may exploit it. There’s an easy fix. Go into USERS>Add New and create a new user. It’s a simple process. Once completed, click on USERS>Users, check the box next to the Admin user, from the ‘Bulk Actions’ drop down menu at the top choose delete and then click Apply. Gonzo.

While this list is certainly not exhaustive, it represents some good practices that should create a good foundation upon which to build a thriving website/blog. I purposely did not go into tremendous detail about the use of the plugins, so if you have any questions about them, please reach out or leave a comment below.


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