We run thorough this WordPress post-install checklist on every website we set up. It’s just good groundwork, which is always important before building something great.
If you’re installing WordPress yourself, it can feel like you’re done in 5 minutes. But we urge you to do as many of these as you can straight away. They’ll save you time and headaches later. It looks like a long list, but don’t be put off – it should take you about 30 minutes to complete.
1. Set the Title and Tagline
Don’t leave these as defaults, even if you or your theme replaces them with a logo in the website header. They can show up in surprising locations, like when someone shares your URL on Facebook. Go to Settings > General and set them properly.
2. Set search engines blocking preference
Under Settings > Reading there is an option called Search Engine Visibility. With this you can decide whether or not to discourage search engines from indexing your new website whilst you are setting it up.
3. Change the Permalink structure
Under Settings > Permalinks you have a number of options for the structure of blog post urls on your new website. I recommend the Post Name option, as it both keeps urls short and allows you to change your blog categories in the future without breaking all your links.
4. Set default permissions for Comments
Under Settings > Discussion you can set your preferences for blog post comments. For example, remove the comment function by default across the website, or restrict who can comment, etc.
5. Set your timezone
Set your local timezone under Settings > General, so that your blog publishing times are accurate.
6. Add Analytics tracking
The quickest way to do this (if you already have a Google Analytics account) is by installing the Google Analyticator plugin.
7. Add blog Categories and set a default one
The default “Uncategorized” category isn’t much use to visitors. Change it’s name, or add new ones depending on the content of your site. Go to Post > Category.
8. Remove the “Hello World” Post
WordPress adds a default published blog post called “Hello World” to your website. Either change it’s content and title or delete it in Posts.
9. Stop Media being organised by date
By default WordPress organises your uploaded Media files (images etc) into sub directories by date. That means they live at URLs like www.yoursite.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/image.jpg which is messy.
Instead, uncheck the setting at Settings > Media > Uploading Files to get cleaner image URLs like www.yoursite.com/wp-content/uploads/image.jpg
10. Activate the Akismet plugin
Akismet is a plugin that comes with WordPress which eliminates comment and trackback spam. However, you need to activate it with an API key from them, which is free at Akismet.com/get. Once you have it, go back to Plugins > Akismet and enter your key to activate it.
11. Install a backup system like VaultPress
It’s important to remember that WordPress is free open-source software. Therefore, you don’t get premium support such as regular backups of your website. I recommend VaultPress.com which is about $5/month for the Lite plan.
12. Install the Limit Login Attempts plugin
This plugin reduces hacking by locking your Login after a number of failed attempts. Worth installing and activating – I have seen plenty of WordPress websites hacked.
13. Remove the default “admin” account
WordPress creates “Admin” as a username for you, by default. This makes it easier for hackers to use in combination with guessing your password. It’s doing half their job for them. To avoid this, create a user with another name and give Administrator privileges to that account. Logout and and then login using your new account.
First, if you had any Posts assigned to the “Admin” account then re-assign them to your new account by editing each one. Then, delete the old “Admin” account in Users.
14. Delete “Hello Dolly” plugin
Remove this default plugin from your website – it has no use, so this is just de-cluttering.
15. Set default URL (www or no www)
Your website can live at either a www address or a non-www address, or both. However, Google considers them two different version of your website which affects your search rankings if you use both. Select a preferred version and stick with that. Enter it at Settings > General > WordPress Address (URL)
16. Install and set up the SEO Yoast plugin
For more advanced SEO control than WordPress gives you by default, I recommend installing and setting up the SEO Yoast plugin. Don’t feel like you have to go through all it’s numerous options – just do what you need, or can do.
17. Create an XML sitemap
An XML sitemap is a way for you to tell search engines about the pages that exist on your website. If you’ve installed SEO Yoast plugin, you can do this directly in its settings. If you don’t want to install the SEO Yoast plugin, install and set up the Google XML Sitemaps plugin instead.