So, you've finally made the decision to start a blog! That's great news and I want to be the first to congratulate you on this.
And since you're on a roll with your new blog, 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 writing your first post.
It doesn't matter if you've already begun writing content for your blog, you can still implement some of these to get the most from your blog.
Note: I created this post for folks who are starting a new blog for the first time. If you're not new to blogging and perhaps you're starting a second or third blog, hopefully, this post will provide you with some value also.
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.
However, if you haven't gotten 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 fresh new blog or website project with WordPress is to discourage search engines from indexing my new blog.
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 the search engines to crawl through, just tick the "Discourage search engines" box which you'll find by navigating to Settings > Reading > Discourage Search Engines. See the 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 notice there will be a "hello world" post and sample page that has 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 the 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. Unless you want to keep them.
You may see plugins such as "Hello Dolly", or "Akismet", and even the "JetPack". Depending on who you are hosting your blog with, there may be others. In my honest opinion, you won't need any of these plugins.
Quick update: I would recommend no uninstalling Akismet or JetPack but perhaps deactivating them instead. You may need them later.
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 I use here at Magnet4Blogging.
Once you're done, hit save changes. See the image below.
Update: On latest versions of WordPress, the "post name" is already selected by default, so you shouldn't have to make any changes in this case. But just double check to be sure that this is the case, it never hurts to.
After deleting the plugins you don'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 what it does, let me briefly explain.
If you don't need to read this part, just skip and move onto Tip #5.
What are plugins for WordPress? - WordPress plugins are like add-ons that you install/plug into your WordPress blog or website (hosted only).
The purpose of plugins is to extend the functionality of your website for both admins and users.
For example, adding the WordPress SEO by Yoast plugin will enable you to accurately optimize your site, content pages, and blog posts, for better search engine visibility and performance.
Adding the WooCommerce plugin will enable you to turn your WordPress site into an eCommerce platform, where you can sell products.
If you wish to add 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 too many plugins, you can hire a 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 option.
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 20 plugins on my blog, that's my top number. I currently have 19 active plugins on Magnet4Blogging.
If you want to use more than 20 plugins, that's perfectly fine, however, be aware that the more plugins you have installed the more resources your site will use to load up. And talking of page loading, the time it takes for your blog to load could also be affected.
Of course, all of this depends greatly on what kind of hosting plan you're using as well.
I'm using managed WordPress hosting through SiteGround (GoGeek plan), so I know I have the resources available to run some extra plugins.
What I would also recommend is that you try and only install and use plugins that are well 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 professionally coded with security, performance, and stability in mind, and, they are updated a lot more frequently than many free plugins.
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 the 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.
Do check out my walkthrough video of Thrive Comments for bloggers.
Again, if you're starting a brand new blog for the first time and aren't sure what a theme is, 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. This is part of 'branding'.
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. Genesis is one of the most secure, robust, and easily customizabled themes available for WordPress today.
I often get asked what theme I'm using for Magnet4Blogging, and the answer is, I don't actually use a premium theme. I use a custom designed framework crafted using Oxygen Builder. If you would like a custom design for your blog, click here to see how I can help you.
To install a premium 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. This only works if you have a Google Analytics account and profile for your blog set up.
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. If you enjoyed this post, please feel free to share it with your friends on social media. You can also subscribe for more blogging and WordPress tips below.