To this day, WordPress remains one of the most popular content management systems, which powers millions of blogs and websites. The best thing about WordPress is that even if you do not have enough coding knowledge, you can quickly get started with it and learn it along the way. WordPress works on the concept of plug and play and provides one click options to customize the backend of your website, the way you want it to be.
However, novice webmasters who have never worked within the WordPress administration area, often find it rather confusing. This is because of the overwhelming number of features WordPress provides, there are so many settings to configure and so many possible tweaks that beginners think it is really geeky and they don’t know where to start.
If you like this article, you might be interested in some of our other articles on WordPress Plugins That Power A-Lists Blogs, Why Use Premium WordPress Themes (And Why Not), and Translation Plugins For WordPress, and Professional WordPress Themes.
If you are new to WordPress and want to know the important things that should be done right after installing the self hosted WordPress package on your website, here is a checklist worth referring to:
1. Edit The Permalink Structure For Your Posts And Pages
By default, the URL of your posts will be something like www.example.com/?p=23, where 23 is the unique ID of the article. This is not at all an seo optimized permalink structure and you should change it to a more seo friendly one.
There are different opinions about choosing an seo optimized permalink structure but my advise would be to choose /%post_id%/%postname%/.
To change the permalink structure of your WordPress blog, login to your WordPress administration area and go to Settings > Permalinks.
2. Install An Automatic Database Backup Plugin
The database which stores all the settings and data about your WordPress installation, is the heart and soul of your website. If it ever happens that your database is deleted from the server or it becomes corrupt and unusable, you will lose all the posts, pages, comments, settings and everything.
Hence, it is really important to take scheduled backups of your database and save a local copy of the SQL file on your computer. If something goes wrong, you can use the database backup file and migrate to a separate hosting provider.
There are different ways to backup the WordPress database but I prefer using the Wp-DB Manager WordPress plugin. Install this plugin, choose an email address and set up a scheduled database backup job from the plugin options panel.
The plugin will continue to work in the background and will email you the database backup as an attachment, every single day.
3. Install Akismet
When your blog starts gettting a few hundred hits, spammers will start trying their luck by posting irrelevant comments on different posts of your blog. These comments can sometimes be very disturbing, vulgar or abusive in nature and it is your responsibility to avoid such behavior on your website, which might piss off your loyal readers.
The problem with spam comments is that they are generally large in number and it is practically impossible to check each and every comment manually. Enter Akismet – a powerful spam comment filter for WordPress which will automatically filter spam comments for you.
Akismet lets you automaticallty identify and separate the bad guys from real ones, so you can install it once and forget about the issue.
4. Change The Media Uploads Directory
By default, WordPress stores all the files and images in the wp-content/uploads/ folder. However, you can upload all the media files to a subdomain or to a custom directory of your choice.
To do this, login to your WordPress administration area and go to Settings > Media
Enter a custom directory or subdomain in the text field “Store uploads in this folder” and check the selection box “Organize my uploads into month and year based folders”
5. Move the Core WordPress Files To A Custom Directory
By default, all the core WordPres files are stored in your website’s root directory, which is not a very safe practice. There are chances that spammers and hackers might guess your WordPress installation folder and try to hijack your blog or gain unauthorized access.
This is a really big security threat and the best way to make sure noone knows where the core WordPress files are located is to use a secret folder within your website. You can follow this tutorial which describes all the steps required for moving your WordPress files to a custom folder of your choice.
6. Change The Default Username And Password
The default administrator account of any WordPress installation is admin and the password of this account is alphanumeric, usually more than 8 characters. There is a high chance that you might forget this password so right after installing WordPress, you should create a new user, grant it administrative priviledges and assign this username a memorable password.
When you are done creating the second administrator account, login to your WordPress administration area using this username and delete the default “admin” user.
To create a new administrator account, login to WordPress and go to Users > Add new.
7. Create A Contact Us Page On Your Website
A contact us page is a necessity for every website, however large or small it might be. In fact, this is the only way readers, customers, advetisers or visitors of your site may contact you, in case they need your help or want to inform you something.
A contact us page usually consists an embedded contact form which anyone can use to send you an email message. There are good number of advanced contact form plugins available for WordPress, but my personal favorite is the one by Contactme.com. If you need advanced features such as conditional email forwarding, file uploads and other form specific features, go for C Forms.
8. Choose A Clean WordPress Theme
The design of your blog direct impacts user behavior. The styles, fonts, colors and layout of your site’s theme should feel good to the eyes, so that your readers enjoy reading the content you post. There are so many websites who publish interesting content but their designs are really out of the world. Dark backgrounds, green fonts, low font size, narrow layouts are a big no-no!
In early days, you don’t have to design or code the theme yourself, as there are hundreds of free WordPress themes available in the WordPress themes directory. Browse through this directory and find a good theme which matches with the voice of your website.
Tip: Don’t use the default theme that comes bundled with WordPress. You want your blog to stand out from the crowd, no?
10. Install Yoast SEO Plugin And Create A Sitemap
Getting found to millions of readers and customers is one of the key goals of any webmaster. You want to drive traffic to your blog and without any doubt, nothing beats organic traffic obtained from search engines. You publish unique and interesting content on your site, optimize it properly and when your pages get the proper rankings, potential readers will find it from Google, Yahoo, Ask and other search engines.
But getting organic traffic from search engines isn’t that easy because you have to optimize your posts with meta information, keywords, sitemaps amongst other technical things. Yoast’s SEO plugin for WordPress makes on page optimization a breeze, it allows you to define the following things on your WordPress powered site:
- Define a unique title and meta description for each page on your website.
- Configure which pages should be indexed and which pages shouldn’t be.
- Specify canonical URL’s to avoid duplicate content penalty.
- Add Breadcrumbs support in your theme
- Clean up bad permalinks and redirect to a better one.
- Create an XML Sitemap on your website.
- Enhance your RSS feed
- Edit your robots.txt and .htaccess
- Clean up the head section of your template.
All these settings comes bundled in one plugin and once you have properly configured everything, your site will be much more “Google friendly”.
On an ending note, remember that WordPress is an open source content management system and if you ever get stuck and need help, don’t be shy and post your problem in the WordPress support forum.