In order to properly set up WordPress, there are some default settings and options that you’ll want to configure. These settings range from customizations to search engine optimization and security recommendations to general best practices. Often times, beginners aren’t aware of these steps, so that’s why I decided to make this WordPress setup tutorial.
Before going live with your website, here are 15 important things to do after you install WordPress.
1. Change the Site Title and Tagline
First and foremost, you’ll want to change the site title and tagline for your website.
From the WordPress admin dashboard, you can do this under Settings -> General. By default, these values are My WordPress Site and Just another WordPress site.
2. Use HTTPS and Change WordPress Address and Site URL
On the same page, you’ll see the WordPress Address URL and Site Address URL. If you have an SSL certificate installed, which is critical now since Google favors websites that use HTTPS, you’ll want these URLs to start with https.
If you don’t have an SSL certificate installed, you can install one for free with Let’s Encrypt. Otherwise, check with your hosting provider.
3. Discourage Search Engines from Indexing this Site
Unless you’re already at the point where you have a few blog posts and pages ready to go, you’ll have to tell search engines like Google that your website isn’t quite ready yet.
You can do this under Settings -> Reading by clicking the checkbox next to Discourage search engines from indexing this site.
Just remember to uncheck this box when you’re ready to go live.
4. Use Post Name Permalink Settings
By default, WordPress uses an ugly URL structure for your blog posts and pages. Search engines don’t like this either.
To change your URL structure to something that’s not only human readable but also SEO-friendly, go to Settings -> Permalink and select the Post name option.
5. Pick Your Public Display Name
By default, WordPress will display your username as the author for your blog posts. This is okay in some cases, but most people will probably want to change this.
From the WordPress admin dashboard, go to Users -> Profile and fill out the Name section. In doing so, you’ll have the option of choosing a customized Display name publicly as value.
6. Delete Sample Content
WordPress comes with some demo content including a sample blog post with a comment and a couple pages. You don’t want this on your website, so you’ll want to get rid of it.
To delete the blog post and comment, go to Posts -> All Posts and click on the Trash link that’s associated with the Hello World blog post.
To delete the pages, go to Pages -> All Pages. Click on the checkbox at the very top and from the Bulk actions drop-down menu, select Move to Trash and click on Apply.
7. Delete Unused Themes
WordPress also comes pre-installed with a handful of themes. You can only use one theme at a time, so get rid of the other ones which are just taking up space.
Go to Appearance -> Themes and for every theme that you are not using, click on Theme Details and then Delete.
8. Add a Site Icon (Favicon)
If you’re not familiar, a favicon is that tiny icon in your web browser that you see next to a website’s page title. To add a favicon for your WordPress website, go to Appearance -> Customize. Expand Identity, and upload your image. As it says, a site icon should be square and at least 512 x 512 pixels.
Don’t have a favicon? Create one online for free with Canva.
9. Choose a Theme for Your Website
A fresh install of WordPress comes with the latest default theme, typically the current year spelled out.
If you’re looking for a customizable theme that is notorious for its speed, then I recommend GeneratePress which is what I use for just about all of my websites. Otherwise, a great free WordPress theme is the Hello theme by Elementor.
10. Uninstall the Default Plugins
WordPress comes pre-installed with just two plugins: Akismet Anti-Spam and Hello Dolly. If you have more than two plugins, then your hosting provider installed additional plugins.
While Hello Dolly is completely useless and everyone should remove it, Akismet is worth checking out.
Although, I personally prefer to prevent spam with reCAPTCHA which brings us to
11. Prevent Spam with reCAPTCHA
The first of just a few plugins that I am going to recommend that you install is a reCaptcha plugin for WordPress.
This free plugin will stop bots from making spam comments on your blog posts. I have a full video on this topic, but real quick, to add this plugin simply go to Plugins -> Add New, type in reCaptcha by BestWebSoft, click Install Now and then Activate.
12. Add a Blacklist
What about humans though? They are 100% capable of spamming your websites, even with reCAPTCHA. So for that you can implement a WordPress blacklist, which is essentially a list of “bad” words that you don’t want appearing in your comments.
Again, I have another full video on how to do this, but just so you know, a blacklist can be configured by going to Settings -> Discussion and adding your keywords list in the Disallowed Comment Keys box.
13. Install an SEO Plugin
Another plugin that just about every WordPress website needs is an SEO plugin. If you’re not familiar, SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization which is just a fancy way to describe the process of helping search engines like Google include your website in search results.
I personally use the free version of the Yoast SEO plugin. Similar to before, simply go to Plugins -> Add New, search for Yoast SEO and then click on Install Now and Activate to add this plugin.
Yoast not only helps you craft better blog posts by analyzing your writing in real-time, but it also scans your content and gives you SEO tips and suggestions that will help your pages rank higher in search results.
14. Install Google Analytics
As your website grows in popularity, it’s important to understand where your visitors are coming from, what pages they visit, and how long they stay on your website.
Google Analytics is built specifically for this, and you can integrate it into your website with the official Google Analytics plugin called Site Kit.
Again, simply go to Plugins -> Add New, search for Site Kit and then click on Install Now and Activate to add this plugin. After linking to your Google Account, you will have more than enough data to understand the analytics for your website.
15. Optimize WordPress for Fast Page Speed
Plugins are great because they add functionality to your website, but too often, website owners will overdo it and install way too many plugins. I recommend having no more than 10 plugins installed at a time.
With that said, there are three performance-enhancing plugins that every WordPress website should have. They are:
- Page caching
- Image optimization
Rather than go into it here, check out this playlist for a detailed walkthrough of these critical plugins.