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If you’ve just installed WordPress for the first time you may be a little confused or even overwhelmed.
Don’t worry, WordPress is pretty easy to use and you’ll learn quickly. But there are a few things you should do after installing WordPress, and I want to go over them in this article.
This article assumes you’ve already installed WordPress on your own domain, but if that’s not the case please see my page on How to Start a Blog, which walks you through the process of setting up a web hosting account and installing WordPress.
Now, here are 11 things that I recommend you do after installing WordPress.
→ Related reading: How I’ve Made Over $1 Million Blogging
1. Get an SSL Certificate Installed
An SSL certificate will add security to your site and protect both you and your visitors. In years past, the SSL certificate was only necessary if you were collecting any kind of personal data from visitors (like processing credit card transactions), but today every site or blog should have an SSL certificate. If you don’t want your site to be marked as insecure by Google or web browsers you should have an SSL certificate installed.
It may sound intimidating, but if you’re using a good hosting company there is really nothing to it. I recommend Bluehost for new bloggers and they’ll provide you with a free SSL certificate. You can simply contact Bluehost support and ask for help getting the SSL certificate set up.
Once you have the SSL certificate installed your URL will start with “https” instead of “http”. I recommend doing this first before setting up other things on your site, but really you can have the SSL certificate installed at any time.
2. Choose a WordPress Theme
A “theme” is essentially the template that controls the look and feel of your WordPress-based blog or website. When you install WordPress it will come with a default theme, but you will want to change this or else your blog will look very generic.
Regardless of the purpose and goals you have for your blog or website, the appearance matters. You’ll want it to give a positive first impression to new visitors so they are more likely to come back.
When it comes to WordPress themes you can use a free theme or you can buy a theme. I don’t recommend using a free theme unless you’re starting a personal blog and you have no aspirations of growing a large audience or making money with the blog. With a free theme you will get no technical support from the theme developer, so if you run into issues you are on your own, or you may be lucky and get some help from other WordPress users. Free themes are also less likely to be updated in the future. As new versions of WordPress are released your free theme may no longer be compatible and your site will break. Even worse, free themes are often poorly and inefficiently coded, which creates problems with many plugins, leads to slow loading pages, and could even pose a security risk.
One of the reasons I recommend that you go with a premium theme right from the start is because you can get a good theme for a very reasonable price. And most of the leading WordPress themes today allow you a great deal of flexibility to customize the look of your site without touching any code.
There are a lot of different designers and companies offering WordPress themes. For the past few years I’ve only used themes from two different companies, and I use them on all of my websites. I highly recommend both Elegant Themes and Thrive Themes (read my review of Elegant Themes here).
Elegant Themes customers get access to two different themes. Divi is an extremely versatile theme that you can use for portfolio sites, small business sites, and even blogs and e-commerce sites. It comes with several different layouts and you can completely customize just about everything without touching any code.
The Extra theme from Elegant Themes is my personal favorite, and it’s the theme I use here at VitalDollar.com. It’s perfect for blogs and news/magazine style sites. It’s well designed, gives you a great deal of flexibility in the layout, and allows for a ton of easy customization. I use Extra on several websites and I love the theme.
You can get a membership to Elegant Themes for $89 per year. That membership entitles you to updates whenever their themes or plugins are updated, customer support, and the right to use their themes and plugins on multiple websites. They also offer a package that gives you lifetime membership and access for $249. I purchased a lifetime membership several years ago and it has been a great investment. I can continue to use their themes and plugins and I’ll never have to pay for them again.
Thrive Themes offers a Theme Builder that gives you full control to completely customize the look of your site with a drag-and-drop editor (no coding required). A membership to Thrive Themes will cost you $19 per month and will provide access to their Theme Builder and a nice collection of premium plugins.
3. Configure the Basic Settings in WordPress
There are a few settings in WordPress that you’ll want to change. In the left sidebar of the WordPress dashboard go to Settings > General.
In the General Settings you want to make sure that you’ve entered your Site Title and Tagline. If you’re stuck on the tagline don’t worry too much about it, you can always change it later. Also, check the “WordPress address” and “Site Address”. If you had the SSL certificate installed already be sure that these URLs start with “https”. If you haven’t installed the SSL certificate it would be “http”.
Lower on the General Settings there will be some other things to change. I recommend making sure that the box for “anyone can register” is unchecked. Also, set your timezone and the date and time format that you want to use.
When you are done with that, click on the “save changes” button.
Next, go to Settings > Discussion. A lot of these settings are personal preference. I prefer not to get emails about comments, but you can set that however you prefer. I also like to auto approve comments if the comment author has a previously approved comment.
Click the “save settings” button when you are finished.
The last settings we’ll change are the permalink settings. Go to Settings > Permalinks. I recommend checking the box for “post name”.
Click the “save settings” button when you have selected the permalink structure.
4. Set Up Your User Profile
Next, click on “Users” in the left sidebar. If you’ve just installed WordPress there probably will only be one user account listed here, which is your own. But later on you may add user profiles for other writers, editors, or members if you have a membership site.
If your username is “admin” I highly recommend that you use a different username. Over the years many hackers have targeted the admin username, so using something different can help for security purposes. You can’t change the username once the user profile has been set up, so if your username is “admin” you will need to create a new user and give it the role of administrator. Then logout and login with the new profile and delete the profile with the name “admin”.
In the user profile you can enter your first and last name, as well as the way you want it to be displayed publicly. Be sure that the email address listed in your profile is a good email that you have access to. The email address is not publicly listed on your site, but if you forget your password and need to reset it you will need access to your email.
Then, enter a short bio in the “biographical info” field. Most WordPress themes will display the author bio at the end of blog posts. Some themes will give you the option of whether or not you want the bio to be displayed.
5. Set Up a Gravatar
A Gravatar is the small photo that is associated with your email address. Gravatar is owned by Automattic, the company that owns WordPress. Most WordPress themes will display Gravatars for comments on your blog. So if you want your comments to show your photo (or your logo) you can set up a Gravatar. A lot of themes also use the Gravatar in the author bio.
All you need to do is go to Gravatar.com, create a free account, and then upload your image.
6. Upload a Favicon
A favicon will be associated with your website and will show up on browser tabs. Most people will have multiple tabs open in their internet browser, so the favicon can help for branding and to help people find your site among several open tabs in their browser.
Setting up your favicon is easy. From the WordPress dashboard go to Appearance > Customize. Then go to “Site Identity” and you’ll see the option to upload an image for your favicon. Once you’ve done that, click on the “publish” button at the top.
7. Delete Sample Posts and Pages
When you install WordPress it will include a sample post with a comment, and a sample page. You may want to leave this content on the site while you’re getting your theme set up because it’s helpful to preview how a post or page will look on your site. But once you have your theme set up you’ll want to delete the sample text before you start publishing your real pages and posts.
In the left sidebar go to “Pages” to see a list of the pages. Below the name of the sample page you’ll see a link to “trash” the page. Then go to “Posts” and trash the sample post as well.
8. Delete Unused Plugins and Themes
WordPress usually installs with a few different themes. If you’re using a different theme, like any of the themes from Elegant Themes or Thrive Themes that I recommend, you can delete all of the other themes that came installed with WordPress. To do this click on Appearance > Themes in the left sidebar of the WordPress dashboard. Here you’ll see a list of the themes that are installed. To delete the unused themes, first hover over the theme and click on “theme details“.
Then when the theme details page opens you can click on the “delete” link at the bottom right.
WordPress also comes with the Hello Dolly plugin pre-installed. I’ve been using WordPress since 2007 and I have no idea why they still include Hello Dolly with every new install. The plugin displays a Louie Armstrong lyric in the top corner of the WordPress dashboard when it is installed. It’s unnecessary and I recommend that you delete it.
From the WordPress dashboard, go to Plugins > Installed Plugins and you’ll see a list of plugins that are currently installed. If Hello Dolly is listed you can delete it. If it is currently active you will need to click on the “Deactivate” link first.
Once it is deactivated there will be a link to delete the plugin.
9. Install Recommended Plugins
There are a few plugins that I recommend you install. The process of installing is the same regardless of which one you are installing, so I’ll show the process and then list the plugins that you should install.
In the left sidebar of the WordPress dashboard go to Plugins > Add New. Here you can search plugins by typing in the name of the plugin in the search field (shown below).
The first plugin I’ll search for is called Antispam Bee. When it comes up in the search results, click on the “install now” button.
Then once it’s installed you’ll click on the “activate” button.
I recommend going through that process for the following plugins:
- Antispam Bee
- Yoast SEO
- Contact Form 7
- EWWW Image Optimizer
WordPress comes with an anti-spam plugin, Akismet, installed. But it’s not completely free. You can either leave Akismet installed and forget about Antispam Bee, or delete Akismet and install Antispam Bee, which is free.
Yoast SEO is a plugin for improving the search engine optimization of your site. See this beginner’s guide to Yoast SEO for more information about what it can do.
Contact Form 7 will allow you to add a simple contact form to your site so visitors can get in touch with you.
EWWW Image Optimizer will help to optimize the images that you add to your site, which can help the pages to load faster.
10. Set Up Automatic Backups
Backing up your website is important, especially if you’re doing this for anything more than personal reasons. It would be tragic if you put a lot of time and effort into building a website and blog and then you lost it because it wasn’t backed up. Most hosts offer backups, but I recommend having it backed up somewhere else as well to be safe. I’ve heard of situations where the host’s backup is corrupted and cannot be restored.
Fortunately, setting up automated backups is pretty easy. I use VaultPress, which is a service owned by Automattic/WordPress. WordPress usually comes with the JetPack plugin installed, if not you can install it for free.
In the left sidebar of the WordPress dashboard go to Jetpack > Settings. Then click on “security“. From here you can upgrade to get backups. The cost is currently $39 per year.
I like the backups handled by VaultPress because everything is done automatically and there is nothing you need to do. If you don’t want to pay for backups there are also some free plugins that will allow you to do it, although they are not quite as convenient. I don’t have experience with any of the free backup plugins so I can’t personally recommend any of them, but two of the leading options are UpdraftPlus and Duplicator.
11. Add Google Analytics Code
Now that you have a site set up you’ll want to know how many visitors are coming to your site, how they are arriving there, what pages they are viewing, and how long they are staying on your site. You can do all of this for free with Google Analytics. If you don’t already have an account you can set up a free account and it will give you a snippet of code that you need to place on your site. Some WordPress themes, like those from Elegant Themes and Thrive Themes will give you a place to enter the Analytics code. For example, with Thrive Themes you can go to the Theme Options > Analytics / Scripts and then paste the code in the “header script” field.
If you’re theme doesn’t give you an easy way to insert the analytics code you can use the free Google Analytics for WordPress plugin.
Now that you have your WordPress website or blog set up it’s time to start driving some traffic to it. Please see my article 7 Ways to Get Traffic to New Websites and Blogs.