15 Point Checklist: WordPress Start-Up Guide After Installation

15 Things You Should Do Before Writing a Word

Some people install a new WordPress site more often than they change their underwear. And some people, of course, might install a WordPress site only once or twice in their lives. (And some people, unfortunately, fall into both of these categories.)

Whichever type you are, after you’ve installed WordPress on your domain, there are still a number of things you should do before you ever write a word. Below is a checklist of the fifteen most important steps you should go through before hitting “Publish.”

The Experienced Installer

For the experienced installer, getting your site set up can be somewhat tedious. You know WordPress backwards and forwards, and so there are no decisions you need to think about for your blog. You know what should be on it and what shouldn’t. Installing a new site is just a matter of going through the steps.

But have you ever laid those steps out in a checklist fashion? Or do you need to try to remember everything each time you set up a new site?

If you’re like most, you just go through the process and try to remember everything. And then typically, of course, you forget something until down the road when it starts causing some type of issue for you.

If you are an experienced WordPress installer, then you can take the Quick and Dirty List below and be on your way. You may change it up to suit you, but it’s a good place to start.

The Beginning WordPress User

If you are a beginning WordPress user, or you’re someone who installs a new site infrequently, then the amount of choices you have when beginning a new site can be overwhelming. Some decisions are critical, of course, but some things can wait for later. But which are which?

Not to worry. This set up checklist will highlight the critical areas that you’ll need to address.

How This List is Organized

Some things on this checklist are more critical than others, but instead of listing them in order of importance, we will list them in the order that you find them on your Admin Menu in the Dashboard of your site. This way you’ll be able to start at the top and then just work your way down in a quick and systematic way.

 

The Quick and Dirty List
(Extensive details below for less experienced installers.)


POSTS SECTION

1. Trash “Hello World” Post
Posts >> All Posts >> (hover over title) Trash

2. Set Default Category
Posts >> Categories >> (hover over title) Quick Edit

LINKS SECTION

3. Delete Links
Links >> All Links >> (click “Name” to select all links) >> (choose “Delete” from pull down menu titled “Bulk Actions”) >> Apply

PAGES SECTION

4. Trash “Sample Page”
Pages >> All Pages >> (hover over title) Trash

APPEARANCE SECTION

5. Install Your Preferred Theme
Appearance >> Themes >> Install Themes tab (default view is “Manage Themes” tab – you will need to select “Install Themes”) >> Activate

6. Install Google Analytics / Statistics
Appearance >> Editor >> (on the right-hand side click “Header (header.php)” >> in your header.php file, find the code </head>) >> (paste your Analytics code directly before </head>) >> Click Update File (at the bottom)

PLUGINS SECTION

7. Delete Default Plugins
Plugins >> Installed Plugins >> (check the “Plugin” box to select all – or manually select what you’d like) >> (choose “Delete” from pull down menu titled “Bulk Actions”) >> Apply

8. Install Desired Plugins
Plugins >> Add New

SETTINGS SECTION

#9-13: Settings >> General

9. Title
10. Tagline

11. Set Your URL to WWW

12. Membership / Registration

13. Timezone

14. Allowing Comments or Not
Settings >> Discussion >> (check or uncheck the boxes according to your preferences) >> Click Save Changes

15. Set Up Permalinks / Pretty URLs
Settings >> Permalinks >> (choose permalink structure or create your own) >> Click Save Changes


Set-Up Checklist with Explanations

For those who may need more explanation, please see the expanded list below.


POST SECTION

“All Posts” Subsection

1. Trash “Hello World” Post

By default, WordPress comes with one post already published titled “Hello World” in order to show you what a post (and a comment) looks like once it’s published. You’ll want to trash this.

Posts >> All Posts >> (hover over title) Trash

 

Once you trash the post, you will see Trash (1) near the top of the page. Click on that to go to the Trash section, and then hit the “Empty Trash” button.


“Categories” Subsection

2. Set Default Category

With a new WordPress install, the default category is called “Uncategorized.” You should change this to something more appropriate for the theme of your site.

Posts >> Categories >> (hover over title) Quick Edit

After changing the title, remember to hit the “Update Category” button.

LINKS SECTION

“All Links” Subsection

3. Delete Links

WordPress comes with a number of links in your Links section. All of these can be deleted.

Links >> All Links >> (click “Name” to select all links) >> (choose “Delete” from pull down menu titled “Bulk Actions”) >> Apply

PAGES SECTION

“All Pages” Subsection

4. Trash “Sample Page”

Like the “Hello World” post, WordPress also comes with a published “Sample Page” to show you what pages look like. You should delete this page in the same manner you deleted the “Hello World” post – trash it and then go empty your trash.

Pages >> All Pages >> (hover over title) Trash

APPEARANCE SECTION

“Themes” Subsection

5. Install Your Preferred Theme

If you have a theme that you would like to use, then install it and activate it. If you are planning on looking for a new theme, then it’s recommended to skip this step for the time being and go searching for a theme after you have completed the other steps in the set up process.

Looking for a theme you like can take a long time, and you are likely to get sidetracked if you go searching for a theme at this point.

Appearance >> Themes >> Install Themes tab (default view is “Manage Themes” tab – you will need to select “Install Themes”) >> Activate

If you have a theme on your computer that you would like to use, then choose the “Upload” link. All the other options on this page are for searching the WordPress theme directory.

Once you have chosen a theme, remember to “Activate” it.
“Editor” Subsection

6. Install Google Analytics / Statistics

Of course you’re going to want to check out all your site’s statistics, even from Day 1. Google Analytics is probably the best free way to do that.

If you aren’t registered with Analytics, then you can get signed up here. You can find instructions on the site for setting up a domain and getting your Analytics code. Once you have that code, you will need to insert it into your theme’s header file before it will begin tracking your site.

(Note: If you prefer not touch your theme’s code, then there are plugins you can get that will insert the code for you. See the plugins section below for a few suggestions. … Some themes also have a space for Analytics code in the theme, so you may want to check for this.)

Appearance >> Editor >> (on the right-hand side click “Header (header.php)” >> in your header.php file, find the code </head>) >> (paste your Analytics code directly before </head>) >> Click Update File (at the bottom)

PLUGINS SECTION

“Installed Plugins” Subsection

7. Delete Default Plugins

Currently WordPress comes with two plugins by default – Akismet and Hello Dolly.

Akismet is an anti- spam plugin. It requires an API key (i.e. you have to sign up to use it). If you are planning on making money with your site, then you’ll also need to pay for it. Many people who make money with their sites prefer to use a free anti-spam plugin. If that’s your case, then you can delete Akismet. (You can always reinstall it later if you decide you want to use it.)

Hello Dolly is plugin that inserts random lyrics from the song “Hello, Dolly” on your blog. Why do you need this, you ask? You don’t. It’s a holdover from the very beginning days of WordPress. And while it can be configured to do other things, you probably won’t ever get around to it. That being the case, it’s better to say, “Goodbye, Dolly.”

Plugins >> Installed Plugins >> (check the “Plugin” box to select all – or manually select what you’d like) >> (choose “Delete” from pull down menu titled “Bulk Actions”) >> Apply


“Add New” Subsection

8. Install Desired Plugins

While you don’t need the default plugins, there are a few plugins you should install.

Anti-Spam Plugin – If you choose not to use the default Akismet plugin, you should get some other type of anti-spam plugin. Even if you don’t open up your comments to the public, spammers will still spam your comments file with automatic bots.

ANTI-SPAM PLUGIN SUGGESTIONS


SEO Plugin
– WordPress is pretty good out of the box for SEO (search engine optimization); however, having a good SEO plugin can still help you get more traffic from the search engines.

SEO PLUGIN SUGGESTIONS

Google Analytics Plugin – If you prefer not to touch your theme’s file in order to install your Google Analytics, you can get a plugin to install the code for you. Below are two plugins that will do the trick.

GOOGLE ANALYTICS PLUGIN SUGGESTIONS

Plugins >> Add New

Like the themes directory page, if you have a plugin on your computer that you’d like to use, you should choose “Upload” in order to install it.

You can search the WordPress plugin directory for these types of plugins or others you might want. All the other options on this page are for searching the WordPress plugin directory.

Once you have chosen a plugin, remember to “Activate” it.


SETTINGS SECTION

“General” Subsection

#9-13: Settings >> General

9. Title

Make sure the title of your site is what you’d like it to be.

10. Tagline

Make sure the tagline of your site is what you’d like it to be. The tagline is typically printed just below your title in the header section of many themes if you choose to use it. The tagline is a good place to put keywords related to your site and/or a USP (unique selling point) – a slogan that sets you apart from your competition.


11. Set Your URL to WWW

On the General Settings page you will see your site’s URL listed twice (“WordPress address” and “Site address”). There is a good chance that your URL is NOT the WWW version. In other words, it probably looks like this:

http://example.com

Your site will work either way, but it’s better to have only one version of your site (www or non-www). One reason for this is that if others link to your site’s homepage in two different ways, the authority of those links may get diluted. (Some of the authority will go to the www version, and some of the authority will go to the non-www version.) The reason to choose the www version of your site is that many people naturally think of web addresses as being www.something.something.

There’s no use fighting the tide. It’s better to change your site’s address to the www version.

http://www.example.com

Remember, there are TWO places to change this:

Settings >> General >> WordPress address (URL)

AND

Settings >> General >> Site address (URL)


12. Membership / Registration

You will need to decide if you are going to let visitors register for your site or not. In most cases for WordPress sites, this depends on whether you will require visitors to be registered in order to post comments. (We will talk about more comment controls later.)

If you are planning to allow comments on your site, and you are also planning to require visitors to register in order to comment, then you will need to enable registration. If not, you can skip this step.

General >> Membership >> (check box titled “Anyone can register”)


13. Timezone

You will want to make sure your site has the right timezone for you. By default, you will see your Timezone set to UTC. (UTC stands for Coordinated Universal Time. It is a standard by which time is regulated worldwide.)

Your time zone is either 0 UTC (if you live in Greenwich, England, for example), or it is number ahead or behind 0 UTC (such as UTC-5 or UTC+7), depending on where you are in the world.

But you do not need to know any of that. WordPress has made choosing your time zone easier by including a number of major cities from around the world. Simply use the pull down menu to find a city that is in the same time zone as you.

Settings >> General >> Timezone >> (use pull down menu to select a city in the same time zone as you)


>> CLICK “SAVE CHANGES” – Most likely, you have made a lot of changes in this section. Don’t forget to click the “Save Changes” button at the bottom of the page!


“Discussion” Subsection

14. Allowing Comments or Not

One big decision you will need to make is whether you are going to allow comments or not. By default, WordPress is set up to allow comments. If you do not want to allow comments (or don’t want to allow them yet), you will need to edit this section.

In this section, you can also put other parameters on commenting such as requiring visitors to register in order to comment. (Remember, if you do this, you will need to check the “Membership” box that we talked about in Step #12.)

Settings >> Discussion >> (Check or uncheck the boxes according to your preferences.) >> Click Save Changes


“Permalinks” Subsection

15. Set Up Permalinks / Pretty URLs

The last thing to do is to turn your URLs from ugly web addresses (like http://www.example.com/?post_id=2) into web addresses that make more sense to both your visitors and the search engines (like http://www.example.com/top-5-recipes-for-chocolate-cake).

WordPress currently gives you a way to easily change your URLs three different ways. However, there are many more ways to set up your URLs if you use the “Custom Structure” option available to you.

One of the biggest advantages to have a “pretty permalink” is that it can help (at least somewhat) with SEO. Because of this, most people like to include at least their title in their permalink, like the example above:

http://www.example.com/top-5-recipes-for-chocolate-cake

In this case, the title of the post was “Top 5 Recipes for Chocolate Cake.”

But you might also want to include your category too, so it might look like this (if your category is “Cakes”)

http://www.example.com/cakes/top-5-recipes-for-chocolate-cake

Or it would look like this if your category is “Desserts.”

http://www.example.com/desserts/top-5-recipes-for-chocolate-cake

If you choose to set up a custom permalink structure, then there are a number of tags for you to use. You can find a list of different available tags here. (You can also find a link to this page on your Permalink Settings page.)

We’ll go over a few common permalink structures that many people like to use. If you find one that suits you, then you can just copy these tags into the “Custom Structure” box on the Permalink Settings page.

1. Postname only

Looks like this: http://www.example.com/top-5-recipes-for-chocolate-cake
Tags (put this in the box): /%postname%/

2. Category/Postname

Looks like this: http://www.example.com/desserts/top-5-recipes-for-chocolate-cake
Tags (put this in the box): /%category%/%postname%/

3. Category/Postname/Date

Looks like this: http://www.example.com/desserts/top-5-recipes-for-chocolate-cake/2011/10/20
Tags (put this in the box): /%category%/%postname%/%year%/%monthnum%/%day%/

You can obviously switch any of these tags up in any order. Just remember to put /% before the tag and %/ after the tag (but DON’T DOUBLE the slashes //).

Settings >> Permalinks >> (choose permalink structure or create your own) >> Click Save Changes


The Advantages of Checklists

Checklists are great. They keep you on track and keep you from wasting time trying to remember everything.

This checklist may not be suited exactly to your tastes, but it should at least provide a starting point for you. I’d encourage you to go through it the next time you set up WordPress and edit it to your liking. Every install you do thereafter should go at least twice as smooth.

 

 

(Thanks to alancleaver_2000 for the image.)