So you’re the proud owner of a shiny new WordPress website – which is awesome by the way, I welcome you with open arms to the World Wide Web. Whether you’ve set it up you’re self or you’ve hired a web designer/developer to do it for you, all you want to do now is dive right in and start selling your darn stuff online already!!
But before you dive in, there are a few things you should really do to ensure that your website is running at its best, right from its very beginning.
People often ask me how I set up a fresh WordPress install, so I have put together this article to share with you my process. I use this process for every site that I do, regardless of the type.
Now I am not saying that my process is the one and only way of setting up WordPress, but its how I do it for my clients and I’d like to share it with you, to save you from some headaches further down the road and also so that you can get the very best out of your WordPress install right from the very beginning.
The very first thing I dive into is the WordPress settings option, the settings page is where I specify the sites title and the site’s description. The WordPress installation process allows you to enter the correct name and description, but I like to check for spelling mistakes and also that the pesky “Just Another WordPress Site” description text has been removed.
The next thing that I check is the reading section. There is a really important checkbox within this section called “Discourage Search Engines From Indexing Your Site”. Now I am sure that you’re already aware that if this is checked NO Search Engine on the planet will be able to see your website. So I always make sure that this option is not selected (unless you want a private website, like an intranet site).
Moving on, the next setting that I change is within the Permalink (that’s PUR-MAH-LINK) settings. Permalink’s play an important role when it comes to Search Engines crawling your website, as they structure your site pages.
My personal preference is to go with the Post name setting. This will set your websites URL to display in a more friendly way, like this www.mysite.co.uk/post1.
Once I have configured the settings correctly my next step is to choose a WordPress theme. Now one of the great things about WordPress (or worst things – depending on the way you look at it), is there is a tonne of pre-built Website themes to choose from. The options are seemingly endless – do you pick by design, ease of setup, price or features??
I gave up with this a long time ago and decided to simplify the whole process for myself by installing a copy of the Genesis Framework. The Genesis Framework is probably the best framework I’ve ever used, it has a great support community and the framework code is the best in the WordPress world. I use it for every website that I build. Depending on the project, I either build a child theme from scratch or use one of my own developed child themes.
This cuts out all of the crap when it comes to choosing a WordPress theme, I go with something I trust and I know that’s coded correctly, fast, and SEO friendly.
Once I have chosen a suitable theme for the WordPress project. I will then get my teeth into the plugins.
WordPress is like a digital Lego set, you can get different blocks to do different things on your website. Just like themes, there are many to choose from. So here is a list of my top plugins that I install on a fresh install of WordPress.
A Plugin to help SEO– There is really only one go too plugin for this and that is Yoast. Probably the most well known and used plugin for WordPress.
A contact form plugin– My go-to plugin for contact forms is Gravity Forms, like the Genesis framework, this plugin can literally do anything, from a simple form to integrate with payment gateways (Paypal and Stripe) and beyond.
A Maintenance Mode Plugin – To keep the website safe from prying eyes whilst I am getting it setup, I install a maintenance mode plugin. My favourite is Minimal Coming Soon & Maintenance Mode.
A Security Plugin –All though WordPress out of the box is secure, it is always good to bolster the built-in security with a rock solid plugin. My go-to plugin is … This is one of the best security plugins out there and takes care of areas such as Wordfence Security plugin.
I like to create a couple of dummy pages to flesh out the site a bit, I create an About page, Contact page and Services page. I just add the page and give them a title – I won’t worry about any other page options or content for now. If I have to visualise the content, I will pop in some dummy text from Lipsum.com.
WordPress comes with a default, Hello World post. I normally add another post to the mix. Like the page setup, I won’t worry about any other options when creating another post – I will just give it a title and some dummy text. By adding an extra blog post I can see how the blog page will look with multiple posts.
The reason I create a few pages at the start is so that I can create a menu. To create the menu I head over to the Appearance > Menu, enter a title for the menu and then hit the create button.
From the menu on the left, I then drag over my pages that I created. Depending on the WordPress theme, there will be different menu locations to choose from. I select a location to display the menu and save everything.
Where to go from here?
So, I’ve given you a peek behind the scenes of how I put together a WordPress install. What happens next in my process is filling in the details, making a few design tweaks and code customisations. I will then take care of technical SEO and on page SEO to ensure that the site is ready for launch.