Setting Up A New WordPress Blog – What You Need To Know

Setting Up A New WordPress Blog - What You Need To Know
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Setting Up A New WordPress Blog - What You Need To Know

Today I’m going to help you get the most out of your new WordPress blog. This post is mainly geared towards beginners, but there’s a ton of information here that even advanced users may benefit from.

In a previous post, I provided a guide on how to move from WordPress.com to WordPress.org with ease. This is a followup post to help newly relocated bloggers get set up.

There are a few important steps to take once you’ve installed WordPress, and I usually tackle them in this order;

  1. General settings (native to WordPress)
  2. Plugin installation and setup
  3. Theme installation and setup
  4. Design tweaking

There are additional parts to each of these steps, and I’ll try to include everything, but if you have additional questions (I’m sure you will) please ask in the comments and I’ll get back to you ASAP!

There’s a lot to talk about here, so let’s get started!

1. General WordPress Settings

Once you’ve installed WordPress, you can log into your blog by heading to yourdomainname.com/login and entering the username and password you set it up with.

After you’ve logged in, you will find yourself in a very similar dashboard to what you’ve experienced using at WordPress.com.

New WordPress Dashboard

The first place you need to go to, is the “Settings” section.

WordPress Settings Section

I’m going to go through each of these sections and show you how I have it set up and why.

I’m sticking with the same example I used in my WordPress migration post, and that is howtobookkeep.com.

General Settings

WordPress General Settings

Here are the options and what they do;

Site Title – This is what displays in the tabs of your site, and also what Google picks up as the name of your blog.

Tagline – This is what displays by default as the description of your blog, and also is picked up by Google. You should try to decide on a main keyword for your blog and include it in this Tagline, as it will help with SEO.

WordPress Address – this is the URL that your WordPress site will display at.

Site Address – this should be the same as your WordPress address in most cases, but if you have a WordPress blog installed within another non-WordPress site, then you may wish to change this.

Email Address – as it says there, this email address will be used to contact you with updates or other site notifications.

Membership – this lets WordPress know if you are allowing anyone to register an account on your site. This probably won’t be useful for you right now, but it’s important to be aware of for later.

New User Default Role – Sets the “role” of new members – as per the above option.

Timezone – this sets your local timezone. This is important because it will set the time stamps on your posts and pages, and if you schedule your posts it will rely on this.

You should not have to change anything for the “Writing” settings page, but you should still visit it and familiarize yourself with the options there in case you need to change it in future.

Reading Settings

Reading Settings Page

This one is pretty important, and will determine somewhat how your blog is displayed.

Front Page Displays;

Latest Posts – this will display your most recent posts on the home page of your blog. Your home page will be a blog post feed. Most blogs use this setup.

A Static Page – Use this if you want to have a different “Home” page and display a post feed somewhere else.

Blog Pages Show At Most – set how many posts will be shown in your feed (the rest will be shown in a “next page/previous page format). The same goes for the syndication feeds.

For Each Article In A Feed, Show – this allows you to show the full post in your feed, or just an excerpt.

Discourage Search Engines From Indexing This Site – this is for if you’re still developing your blog. You may want to ask search engines not to index your site yet, especially if all of your old content is still live on your old blog. If search engines see both, it may be flagged as spam.

The Discussion and Media settings sections are generally already set to what most bloggers need them to be. However, I do recommend looking through them in case you come across an issue you need to address later.

Permalink Settings

Permalink Settings Page

This part is important because it will determine how the links to your posts will be generated. For SEO purposes, you should make sure the links have (mostly) the same text as your post titles. To do that, you need to set the permalink option to “Post Name” or you can use the “Custom Structure”.

For example, you could put your posts at “yourdomainname.com/blog/posts/name-of-your-blog-post/ – that “/%postname%/” part is a piece of code that tells WordPress to just use the actual post name for the link.

2. Plugin Installation and Setup

One of the main benefits of switching to a self hosted WordPress site is the option of installing custom themes and plugins.

Plugins can add a ton of power and functionality to your blog, but use them wisely, as overdoing it will add serious load time to your blog pages.

Each time you add a plugin, you’re essentially adding code to your blog that users have to load each time they visit your pages. The more code you add, the more there is to load, the longer it takes.

If you have plugins that aren’t 100% essential, deactivate and delete them.

I’ve been refining my plugin list of the last few years and feel I now have a solid list of a mix of free and premium plugins.

Lets be clear here, some free plugins do as much as you need them to, whereas sometimes you need a premium plugin to really get the job done.

You may not be willing to put a little money into buying the right plugins, but honestly, you should.

You’re looking to make money from this blog right? Well then you have to view it as a business. Putting a little money into getting it right will yield much greater rewards than if you try to do it all for free.

Here’s a list of plugins that I’m currently using on Blog Traffic Builder – and also a little about each one, plus whether they’re free of premium. Click the links to see the plugin’s webpage, and note that most of the free versions also have more powerful premium versions available.

Akismetfree – adds security to your blog. Makes it harder for hackers to login, and also helps you to moderate comments on your blog posts.

Broken Link Checkerfree – checks your blog for broken links and alerts you of which link and where it is if it finds anything.

Contact Form 7free – easily integrate contact forms into your posts and pages via a shortcode. Warning – basic coding knowledge may be needed to set it up, but you could definitely follow a guide.

ConvertPlugpremium – adds email signup forms in various places. Allows you to test different forms on your users and provides stats to help you make decisions on where to focus your efforts. I’ve tried quite a few of these plugins, both free and premium, and ConvertPlug is by far my favourite.

Easy Social Share Buttons for WordPresspremium – awesome social sharing plugin for WordPress. Has multiple default setups to choose from and also has cool functions like bringing back Twitter share counts (my favourite part) amongst a ton of other things. If you’re looking to increase your social shares, this plugin is the one you want.

EWWW Image Optimizerfree – optimizes your images so that they load faster, and therefore your blog loads faster. This is my favourite because it’s free, and requires little to no setup.

Force Regenerate Thumbnailsfree – allows you to regenerate all of your default image sizes in case you ever change it so that images show up properly on your blog.

Jetpack by WordPress.comfree – has a bunch of useful tools with it. I like that I can log into my blog from my phone, get automated sharing amongst other things.

Optin Catpremium – the best email signup form plugin I’ve found. I like the templates that come with it, and it’s easy to use with the provided shortcodes.

Redirection free – allows your redirect any of your URLs to anywhere else. For example, you could make yourblog.com/blogtrafficbuilder link to my blog’s home page.

StarBoxfree – my favourite author box plugin. Looks great, and adds social links to your author boxes.

WP Fastest Cachefree -adds speed by decreasing file sizes and caching files in users’ browsers.

WP-Optimizefree – optimize your database tables to eradicate bloated data. Be careful with this one, if you don’t know what you’re doing you could irreversibly screw things up.

Yoast SEOfree – the best SEO plugin for your WordPress blog.

Those are all I have installed right now. Sometimes free plugins stop getting updated, or stop being compatible, and then you may have to find something new. Luckily there’s thousands out there, so usually that’s no too much of an issue!

There are tons more premium plugins that do pretty much anything you can think of – take a look at Code Canyon to see if there’s a plugin you’re looking for.

So, now you know all of my favourite plugins, how do you go about installing them?

The free plugins are simple. You can do that through the WordPress dashboard – here’s how.

First, go to Plugins > Add New

Install Free Plugins

Here you’ll have the option to “Upload Plugin” or “Search Plugins” – uploading plugins is for your own/premium plugins, whereas you can search the WordPress directory for free plugins.

All of the free plugins I’ve listed above can be downloaded and installed this way.

Installing Plugins

If you get one of the premium plugins I’ve listed, then you’ll need to install those slightly differently. Once installed, they work the same as plugins downloaded straight from WordPress, there’s just currently no platform to buy plugins directly through WordPress.

Once you’ve purchased your premium plugin (I’m not going to walk you through the purchase process, that would be insulting) you need to download and install it.

First, go to your Code Canyon account and click on Downloads from the main menu. You’ll be presented with a screen that looks like this, with all of your purchased themes, plugins etc.

Code Canyon Download Page

Click “Download” and you’ll be given a few different options. All you need to download is the installable WordPress file.

Installable WordPress File

Now, you can go back and install this through WordPress using the “Upload Plugin” option mentioned earlier. Or, you can do it manually – which is actually fairly straightforward.

To get started, go to your hosting provider login. As I’ve mentioned before, I use BlueHost.

The first thing you need to do is to upload the file to your server. There are two ways to do this;

  • Direct file upload through hosting file manager
  • File upload via FTP

FTP requires a little knowledge but is equally as simple as uploading directly once you know what you’re doing.

For this example I’m just going to upload directly to save this process from getting too complicated.

Once you’ve logged into your hosting provider, head to your cpanel and find the button for the “File Manager”.

When you get inside of File Manager, navigate to the following folder – Your WordPress Install (whatever it’s called) > wp-content > plugins.

Upload your downloaded file here and then extract it into the folder. Then, go back to your WordPress dashboard and go to the Plugins settings page.

You’ll see your plugin there, and you just need to click “Activate” to get it working.

3. Installing And Setting Up A Theme

Picking a theme is pretty important. The theme you pick is going to determine the look and feel of your blog.

Free themes generally have set layouts with a limited amount of customization. They’re sufficient to get started, but you should definitely consider getting a premium theme.

There’s no point in me showing you how to set up your theme after installation, because every theme is different, and you’re going to have to play around with it to get it right.

Finding and installing a theme though, is pretty easy to do.

Take a look at Theme Forest to find a theme that works for you. Just make sure you check the description, the reviews and any demo sites they may have.

I use BeTheme for most of my sites (including this blog).

You can install free themes through a very similar method to installing plugins – which is through the WordPress dashboard.

Premium themes are installed in the same way as premium plugins too. Except for when you upload the files you put them under wp-content > themes as opposed to wp-content > plugins.

The reason I use BeTheme is because of the flexibility. Everything is extremely easy to use and it makes it a breeze to change the look of your blog.

BeTheme Configuration

There are so many options (shown on the left) that I couldn’t fit them all in this one screenshot.

BeTheme allows you to have full control over the look and functionality of your blog, without having to know any code.

4. Tweak Your Design

Getting your design right could take a while, but it’s worth spending the time to perfect it.

Your next steps after filling out your WordPress settings, finding and installing plugins and finding and installing a theme; should be to optimize your blog any way you can.

I suggest taking a look at other blogs you read, and seeing how they have them set up.

For example, most blogs have a sidebar on the right, which includes an email signup form, social media links, and links to other posts (check mine out).

Most blogs also have a small footer with a few key links in it.

You should think about what pages you want to include on your site. I would include at least an about page and a contact page. But you should also consider a product/services page and possibly a resources page/get started page.

In my eBook, I go through all the aspects of designing your blog to work for you and how to start getting traffic. If you’ve made it this far, but now you’re stuck for ideas, I think my eBook would be a good place to start.

My resources page should also help you get going, there’s a ton of services and ideas there for new bloggers and old bloggers alike.

If you like this post please share it on social media and leave a comment below.

Are there things I missed? Questions left unanswered? Please tell me below!

Tom Watts
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Tom Watts

Blogger from England, living in Canada. I blog about blogging, SEO, Social Media, Web Design etc. Monday lover, coffee consumer. The glass is always half full. Read my full story here: Read More
Tom Watts
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17 Comments

  1. Lisa Sell says:

    This is so useful! I’m passing this on to friends who ask me how to do it. I have a WordPress blog but sharing this will spare me hours of explaining!

    • Tom Watts says:

      Thanks Lisa! I wrote a post previously on how to migrate from WordPress.com to self hosted and had a TON of Followup questions, so it made sense to put it all in a post 🙂

  2. This is very informative! I am new to the blogging world so I’m still learning the ropes. Thank you!

  3. Drew Berman says:

    Very helpful post! This helped alot thanks for sharing this.

  4. Very useful. Thanks for sharing this Tom!

  5. Lynda Kenny says:

    Very detailed and informative post Tom, You have obviously mastered this subject and now sharing that knowledge with those that need it.
    Thanks for sharing.

  6. We were all newbies once and may take this stuff for granted now – but you did a thorough job. Good stuff.

  7. Louisa says:

    I totally needed this! I’m about to migrate to WordPress. Bookmarking for sure. Thanks

  8. Wumi says:

    Thanks Tom, this is very insightful, just what I’ve been on the lookout for as an aspiring blogger, I’m definitely sharing this post.

  9. Lee says:

    Hi Tom, this post along with your first part was really helpful. I wanted to fire a quick question and maybe it will be food for thought towards an additional post. I am trying to set up a blog site but also a secondary portfolio site. My blog has been set up now for over two months. The main domain name is the name of my site, BteSize Writings, not my personal name. How can I add an additional site under the same domain? Or if better How can I transfer BiteSize Writings to be under a different domain name?
    Does that make sense?

    • Tom Watts says:

      Hi Lee,

      Do you need to keep it as 2 separate sites, or would it make more sense to have your blog at bitesizewritings.com and then have an additional page for your portfolio? i.e. bitesizewritings.com/portfolio I think that’s how I would do it, but if I’ve missed the mark here let me know and we can discuss it further!

      Tom

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