You have your domain name, your hosting, you’ve installed WordPress, you know what you’re going to write about…
You need a WordPress checklist.
The first thing you should do is get some posts out the door. They don’t have to be perfect – you just need to get something out into the world so you can start building some momentum.
Bookmark this post and come back after you’ve published your first post. Don’t worry we’ll still be here.
Okay, now it’s time to do some more website setup-type-things.
These extra setup steps will make your website faster, more user-friendly, and it will just make it (and you) look more professional.
Just so we’re both on the same page, I’m going to assume you’ve done the following things:
- Got a Domain and Hosting
- Setup WordPress
- Installed a Theme
- Installed YoastSEO
- Installed the Google Analytics Tracking Code and Connected Your Website to Google Search Console
- Setup Email / GSuite
- Written Your First Post
Okay noooow you’re ready!
Your WordPress Checklist
These are all things that you shouldn’t have to worry about doing over and over and over again.
It’s like surgery. One-shot and then you’re out.
Delete the Junk WordPress Gives You
Goodbye Page, Post, and Comment
WordPress comes with a sample post (that has a comment), and a sample page. Deleting these should be at the top of your list. You won’t be using them for anything and you don’t want your audience stumbling onto them.
Delete the Page
Log into the admin side of your WordPress website, and go to Pages > All Pages and find the “Sample Page”. You can hover over the name and just click “trash” or you can click the checkbox and then go to “bulk actions” and change that to “move to trash” then hit “apply”.
Delete the Post and Comment
Deleting posts is similar to deleting pages, you go to Posts > All Posts, find the post you want to delete (the Hello world! one), and hover over it and click trash, or use the checkbox to delete it.
When you delete the post it will also delete the sample comment that came with it.
WordPress also has plugins that are installed automatically (Akismet and Hello Dolly), and certain hosts also have plugins that are installed when you have WordPress (like SG Optimizer and W3 Cache).
Too many plugins can cause your website to slow down, so you should definitely want to get rid of any unnecessary plugins.
Go to Plugins > Installed Plugins and delete Akisment Anti-Spam and Hello Dolly (if you have them installed already).
Hello Dolly just gives you a random lyric in the admin side of your WordPress website, and Akismet is a good plugin for dealing with spam comments, but it’s only free if you have a personal website.
Uninstall Unused Themes
Your WordPress will come with a few themes already installed (usually Twenty Nineteen, Twenty Seventeen, Twenty Sixteen), and since you already have a theme installed that you like, there’s no need to have the other themes taking up space.
Go to Appearance > Themes and find the themes you aren’t using (the theme your using will say “Active” under it).
Hover over the picture and click “Theme Details”, in the bottom right corner you will see “Delete”, click that to get rid of the theme. Easy.
Customize the Default Settings
Next we’re going to go into the settings and make sure everything is exactly how we want it. To get to your settings, log into WordPress, click on “Settings”.
Change Site Title and Tagline
Go to Settings > General, and the first thing you should see are places to change your site title and tagline.
Site title should be pretty self-explanatory – it’s just the title of your website. Tagline is a short description of what your website is about.
The site title and the tagline will show up in search engines (usually), so it’s important to make sure these aren’t the default “My WordPress Website” and “Just another WordPress site”.
Disable User Registration
After you have your site title and tagline figured out, scroll down a bit to the section that says “Membership”, make sure the box IS NOT CHECKED.
If you eventually want contributors you can always create an account for them in the “Users” section.
But while your website is new you don’t want people randomly registering to your website.
Timezone, Date Format, and Time Format
Next, we’re going to look at the time and date formats and the timezone. You can find these on the same Settings > General page that you found the site title and tagline on.
You might not have any strong preference on the Time Format and Date Format, but Timezone is super important. If you ever plan on scheduling posts you should have the timezone set correctly so everything is posted at the right time. Also setting the right timezone will make sure the updated / last modified / published times are all correct.
Don’t forget to hit “Save Changes”.
Discussion and Comment Settings
Okay time to figure out our discussion and comment settings, go to Settings > Discussion.
First you need to decide if you want comments. You honestly don’t need them. Most comments I get are spam, and if someone wants to get my attention, they’ll use the contact form.
If you don’t want comments, you can UNCHECK the box that says “Allow people to post comments on new articles”.
Other Comment Settings
If you do want comments you can follow the screenshot above, everything is pretty much the default EXCEPT the “Comment must be manually approved” – you can check that one.
For this, just do yourself a favor and UNCHECK the “Show Avatars” option. If you have them enabled, every comment will try to load a gravatar/avatar next to the comment (if the commenter has one) and that can seriously slow down your website.
Okay, go to the Settings > Permalinks section.
Don’t pick anything with a date in it (options 2 and 3). If you have a post from 2017 and you decide to update it in 2020, it will still have the old date in it, and it may look like it hasn’t been updated in a while. We don’t want that.
Plain and Numeric are okay, they just aren’t optimal options.
I’d go with Post Name. This will give you the cleanest looking URLs.
Username and Display Name
Now we’re going to make sure your display name and username are exactly how you want it. Go to Users > Your Profile
If your username is something like “Admin” and you don’t want that showing up as the author name on all of your posts, you can pick something else.
Just add what you want to be called in the “Nickname” section and you should be able to change the “Display name publicly as” to whatever you put in the nickname section.
Speed Up Your Website
Compress Pictures – Shortpixel
Pictures are great, they help break up text, and can help illustrate whatever point you’re making, but they take up TONS of space and can really cause your website to slow down.
Using something like ShortPixel will compress your images (make the file size smaller), so they don’t take up as much space and this will make them load faster.
To get ShortPixel go to Plugins > Add New, and do a search for ShortPixel. Then on the first result (ShortPixel Image Optimizer), click “Install Now”. After click “Activate”. Then you’ll be directed to the “Join ShortPixel” tab.
To get a free API key, you can enter your email and hit “Request Key”. You will then be directed to the rest of the settings, and you should get an email with your ShortPixel password.
The only thing you need to worry about right now, is just the “General” tab. The API Key box should have your API Key in it (if it doesn’t just add the API Key that you received in your email).
And go with these settings:
- You can just stick with “Lossy“, this will give you the best compression rate!
- Check the “Also include thumbnails” box (this also compresses thumbnails)
- Check the “Image Backup” box (ShortPixel will keep a copy of the original uncompressed image on your website)
- Check the “Remove EXIF” box (this removes any of the unnecessary data that gets uploaded with pictures).
After you have your settings sorted out, click the “Save and Go to Bulk Process” button.
Click the “Start” button to start the optimizing process. ShortPixel will go through and optimize all the images you have already uploaded (don’t close the page / tab until it’s done!). And going forward ShortPixel will optimize images as you upload them (so you never have to do the bulk process again).
ShortPixel will compress 100 images a month for you for free, there are various upgrade options (like 5,000 images a month for $4.99 and one-time credits like 10,000 images for $9.99), you can view the pricing here. (AppSumo sometimes has deals like 12,000 images compressed monthly for life for $49). To get started I’d go with the free plan, and get a one-time 10,000 images credit for $9.99
Secure Your Website
We’re going to make your website more secure (for free!). Go to Plugins > Add New, and do a search for Wordfence (should be the first result), and click “Install Now” and then “Activate”.
Then it will ask for a “Premium License Key”, you don’t need this (we’re just going to use the free version, so click the “No Thanks” at the bottom.
Annddd you’re done! Seriously that’s all. Wordfence will monitor things for you and will keep people who aren’t you from logging into your website, and since you entered your email you will get a daily email with any “issues” that were found (like failed logins and pages that were changed).
Your emails will include any URLs that were blocked, any failed logins, and a list of recently blocked attacks. You might also get emails if an admin account logs in, or if certain “activites” were blocked (sometimes Wordfence will block me from making certain changed on my site).
Downtime happens, sometime it’s a hosting issue (someone messed around with a server) or it’s something you did (why did you think uploading 5,000 high quality images at once was a good idea???).
It’s good to know exactly when downtime happens so you can do something about it. YOu can use UptimeRobot to keep track of downtime for free.
Go to https://uptimerobot.com/ and signup for the free plan (trust me you don’t need to upgrade), then activate your account by clicking the link in the email that UptimeRobot sends you.
After activating your account, log in. (You will see a slightly confusing dashboard).
The first thing you need to do is click the “Add New Monitor” button.
Change monitor type to “HTTP(s)”.
Friendly name is just a nickname for the website, this can be your website name. URL is your website URL, and for Monitoring Interval just keep it at 5 minutes (this means your website will be checked every 5 minutes).
After filling out the monitor information the bottom will have a “Alert Contacts to Notify”, click the checkbox next to your email (so they can email you when there’s an issue). Then you can just close the window. That’s all!
Now you’ll be notified via email if your website ever goes down for an extended period of time.
Favicon / Icon
This is something that’s totally optional, but it will help make your website look more professional (and it’s super easy to do).
See these icons on my tabs? Those are all favicons.
To get a free one for yourself, go to favicon.io. You can use the generator to make a favicon with text, or you can go to the “Emojis” link to get a favicon-sized emoji that you can use.
Once you download the favicon you can upload the image in the customize section of WordPress.
Click Customize, then go to Site Identity, then go to Site Icon and upload your image (make sure it’s the 512×512 one).
Now, you should have your email setup (email@example.com), so this will be easy.
Go to Pages > Add New, and create a contact page. You don’t need a plugin or anything fancy, you just need to say this: “If you’d like to contact me, please contact me at [email]”.
This will help you not have to use a contact plugin, and it helps weed out the spammers since they won’t go through the trouble of drafting an email through their own email client.
You just made your website more secure, faster, and more professional-looking. Awesome, right?
Congrats on the new website!