So you've finally made the decision to start a blog! That's really good news and I want to be the first to congratulate you.
And since you're on a roll, I'd like to share with you my 9-point checklist for starting a new blog.
These are just a few of the essential things you need to do after installing WordPress, and before committing to write your first post.
Note: This post is literally for people starting a blog for the first time, however, if you're not new to blogging, maybe you're starting a second blog, you can still use the checklist below as a refresher.
I'll assume that you have already purchased your domain name and web hosting and that you have WordPress installed successfully into your new blog.
If you haven't got this far yet, then click here to read my full WordPress setup guide.
Right, let's get started, shall we?
Now, this is entirely optional, but what I like to do when I start a new blog or website project with WordPress is discourage search engines from indexing my new site.
Your blog, for the most part, will be under construction and I always recommend that if you're not going to have a great deal of content for your new blog yet, just tick the "Discourage search engines" box which you'll find by navigating to Settings > Reading > Discourage Search Engines. See image below.
When your blog is ready for launch, don't forget to uncheck the box.
If this is your first ever WordPress blog you might not know to do this.
When starting a new blog with a fresh WordPress installation, by default, you'll see there will be "hello world" post and sample page that's already been published.
What you need to do is to immediately delete both the sample post and the sample page, you really don't need them. See image below.
Simply hit trash and then head over to the trash folder to delete them permanently.
When you're ready to start writing your first post, you can just head over to Posts > Add New as per normal.
The next thing you want to do is head over to Plugins and delete all of the default plugins that came with your WordPress installation.
You may see plugins such as "Hello Dolly", "Akismet", and "JetPack". In my honest opinion, you don't need any of them.
Note: I probably wouldn't completely remove the Akistmet plugin.
You'll probably need that one much later on when you start getting a few comments to your blog. For now, though, you can just deactivate it if you wish.
If you decide to use a third-party commenting plugin like Disqus or Thrive Comments, then you won't need the Akismet plugin at all.
This one is entirely up to you again, however, I would highly recommend that you consider changing the permalink structure to a more simple format.
To change your permalink, simply head over to Settings > Permalinks and change from the default permalink to either 'date and name', or 'month and name'.
The setting I'd personally recommend using is just 'post name', as this is a more 'human' and 'search engine friendly' permalink structure to use. This is also the setting we use here at Magnet4Blogging.
Once you're done, hit save changes. See image below.
Note: On latest versions of WordPress, the "post name" is already selected by default, so you don't have to make any changes in this case. But just double check to be sure that this is the case, it doesn't hurt.
After deleting the plugins you won't need in tip #3, it's time to install the plugins you will need.
If this is your first ever WordPress blog and you're not too sure what a plugin is or does, let me briefly explain.
If you don't need to read this, just skip this it entirely and move onto Tip #5.
What are plugins for WordPress? - WordPress plugins are like add-ons that you install/plug into your hosted WordPress site.
The purpose of plugins is to extend the functionality of your WordPress website for both admins and users.
For example, adding the WordPress SEO by Yoast plugin will allow you to accurately optimize your site, content pages, and blog posts, for better search engine visibility and performance.
If you want to add a functionality to your WordPress blog or website, the simplest way to do it is to install a plugin. The WordPress plugins repository has over 50,000 plugins to choose from.
Alternatively, if you don't wish to plague your site with plugins, you can hire a WP developer to perhaps hardcode a specific function or feature into your site. Remember, though, this option usually takes time and will most likely cost you money, so using plugins are a much better and cost-effective approach.
OK, so here is a list of the top plugins I'd personally recommend installing into a brand new blog.
You won't need all of these, just pick a few that you think will serve your needs the most.
Now, for the burning question.
How many plugins should you have installed in your WordPress blog?
Well, that greatly depends on several factors and what you want your blog to do.
As a rule, I don't usually install more than around 30 plugins on my blog, that's my top number.
To some folks, that might be a little too much, however, it depends on what kind of hosting plan you're using as well. Because the more plugins you add to your blog, the more your page load time and general website performance will be affected.
I'm using managed WordPress hosting through SiteGround (GrowBig plan), so I'm able to run a few more plugins without doing too much damage to my page load time.
What I would also recommend, is that you try and only install and use plugins that are regularly maintained and frequently updated, and avoid any plugins that haven't been updated for the last two years or more.
Premium plugins are great because they're coded with security, performance, and stability in mind, and, they are updated a lot more frequently.
For a brand new blog, you don't really want anyone to be able to subscribe just yet.
Perhaps later on if you decide to accept guest posts or create membership pages. For now, though, this setting can be left un-ticked.
With new versions of WordPress, as default, this is disabled in any case, but do double check this.
Go to Settings > General and check that the membership box is left un-ticked. See image below.
You can choose whether you want to accept comments on your blog or not, and also make any other changes to your blog's preference.
Perhaps you don't want anyone to comment on your blog, or you only want registered users to comment.
To change your preferences go to Settings > Discussion.
Again, if you're starting a new blog for the first time and aren't sure what a theme is all about, or where to get one even, let me explain briefly.
Skip this part if you don't need to learn about WordPress themes.
What is a WordPress theme? - A theme is simply a 'skin' that you install into your WordPress blog to make it more personal to you and your blog's identity.
There are dozens of free and premium themes available online. I'd personally recommend checking out Genesis Theme Framework as far as premium themes go.
I often get asked what theme I'm using for Magnet4Blogging, and it's a custom built child theme for Genesis. If you'd like one of these for your blog, check out this page.
To install a theme simply go to Appearance > Themes.
In Tip #5 I recommended a list of useful plugins to install into your WordPress blog.
One of these plugins was the Google Analytics for WordPress.
This plugin makes installing and configuring your Google Analytics tracking code or script, a lot simpler than trying to paste the code manually into your Header.php file yourself.
Once you've installed the GA for WordPress plugin, simply go to your Google Analytics account and generate a new code.
Then come back to your WordPress dashboard and go to Insights > Settings and add just the UA-XXXXXXX-XX part of the script provided, into the box, as shown below.
If you do not want to do this manually, you can just click the Authenticate with your Google Account button and go through the process quickly.
That's it, you're done, nine simple but very essential things to do after you've installed WordPress on your brand new blog.
You can now officially start writing your first blog post.
Best of luck with your brand new blog.
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