You’ve just decided you’re going to start a site. You may have even purchased your domain and installed WordPress. Hopefully my step-by-step guide has helped. You write an article talking about your aims for the site or something you think your future audience is going to want to read. Then you hit the publish button, and wait for the traffic to flood in. But nobody shows up.
If you want to follow the same process as many others before you then yes, you can do the above. But you’ll find the majority of people that followed the above process are no longer active. Instead you could learn from their mistakes and implement the following recommendations in order to launch your new site in style and give yourself better chance of success.
WordPress features many customization options and settings, even before you start considering all the different plugins. In this article I will look at the settings I adjust as soon as I install a new site and I recommend you do the same too. Watch the video below where I walk you through the settings first. Everything you will need to change will be within your WordPress admin interface. Do take some time to get familiar with it. On the left hand side you have the navigation menu which helps you navigate the admin interface. Let’s start in the “Settings” part of your navigation menu. Click on “General”.
Take also a look at 7 must-have elements to make your new site awesome.
Setup title and tagline
(In Settings > General)
- You don’t want your site to be branded as “just another WordPress weblog”
- Write your title and explain why your site is unique in the tagline
(In Settings > Permalinks)
- You don’t want your articles to be called something like: domainname.com/123
- You do want to make your URL’s unique, descriptive and user friendly
- On this site I use the custom option field like this: /%postname%/
- By doing this my permalinks look like this: domainname.com/post-name
Your permalinks are simply the URL’s of your articles. For example by default WordPress makes the post links be full of numbers. This doesn’t tell search engines what your page is about, and it doesn’t give users a clue either. Instead, if you go to Settings > Permalinks, you can make those URL’s far more attractive. I simply use /%postname%/ as I feel it’s the best for SEO and allows me to keep the links short, but go with what you feel is best for you. Now, when I write an article, I can have a structure like domainanme.com/post-name.
Change the admin nickname
(In Users > Your Profile)
- You don’t want “Admin” to be the name of the author of the posts you write
- Change admin nickname to your own name and have it displayed alongside each post
- Delete the default admin username
- This also makes your admin harder to break into
- Delete Hello World! generic post (In Posts)
- Delete the generic About page (In Pages)
- Delete generic blogroll (In Links)
- Delete Hello Dolly plugin (In Plugins)
Activate comment spam filter
- Akismet is the best comment spam filter and it comes with your WordPress
- You just need to get the free WordPress API key to be able to activate it
No to email updates
(In Settings > Discussion > E-mail me whenever)
- As default WordPress notifies you via email when there is a new comment on your site
- That might be a bit distracting so I change the default option to no emails
Update ping services
(In Settings > Writing > Update Services)
- Pings help you promote your content by automatically notifying different online services when you publish a new post
- I use the following update services on my site:
Make it visible to search engines
(In Settings > Privacy)
- Make sure your site is visible to everyone, including search engines
Get a different theme
(In Appearance > Themes)
- You may not want the WordPress default to be your theme
- Find the theme you like and activate it – some help with themes is here
Most newbies simply don’t have the time or the funds to have a unique, professional design in place. The most successful bloggers aren’t the ones with the best design. Your content does the talking, but at least stand out from the crowd a little. Many of the free themes you find online have been used by thousands of other websites and they’re just going to make it look like you don’t care about your website. Try to steer clear of ‘popular theme’ lists as these generally have the most users. I’m not saying free designs are bad, but I am saying that if you use one, at least tweak it so that you aren’t like the 1,000 other sites who use the theme. A design won’t make or break you, but don’t let it hold you back.
- WordPress has a default RSS Feed (yourdomain.com/feed/) but to be able to offer email subscriptions and to be able to track your feed stats, it is best to move to FeedBurner
- In Feedburner you can optimize your RSS footer to include links like Subscribe to comments, Tweet This, Stumble It and much more (Optimize – Feedflare).
- Many people don’t use RSS, so make sure to offer the email option via Feedburner (Publicize – Email Subscriptions)
Once you’ve set-up Feedburner so you can track the number of subscribers to your feed, make it easy for people to access your content. Have clear links to your feed, social media profiles and email subscription box (Feedburner can give you the code for this) from the start so that you can build your audience as quickly as possible.
Start tracking visitors
- Setup Google Analytics tracking for your new site and add the tracking code to your site. It is very important to track your visitors, how they interact with your site, how and where they find your content and much more.
Get a sitemap
- Having an XML sitemap is very important if you want Google to be able to crawl, find, and index your articles. See more about it here.
Add your site to Webmaster Tools
- Setting Google Webmaster Tools account and verify your domain name. This is a must for all bloggers. In Webmaster Tools Google gives you information they have about your site, your inbound links, search engine rankings and much more.
- Submit your XML sitemap directly to Google via Webmaster Tools. By doing this Google will crawl your new site and index it within a day or so.
- In Settings in your Google Webmaster Tools chose your site Preferred domain. I still use www version but have recently started liking no-www version so my sites in future may be without www.
Creation and promotion of the content
So now your site is installed and ready. You have adjusted all the settings and optimized the site. You have customized it by installing different plugins. Next step is creating and promoting your content. Focus on a topic you’re passionate about. You’ll hear most successful writers telling you to write about what you love and the advice isn’t anything new, but it’s still not always followed. To find out if you’ve chosen the right niche for your site, ask yourself these two questions:
- Could you generate enough ideas to write 100 articles on the subject?
- Would you accept the possibility that after 12 months, you could have made no money and have no audience?
If you answered yes to both questions, then you’re off to a good start. There are very few core, fundamental keys to blogging, but consistency is definitely one of them. Sign an agreement with yourself right now that you’ll remain consistent with your blogging for at least X months. The reason most sites “fail” is simply because the author stops updating them. You can’t consistently post bad content that nobody wants to read and hope to be a success, but you can aim to provide genuine value to people on a regular basis. Unless your passion dies, do not stop within the timeframe of your agreement.
The hardest part of blogging is the initial hurdle; so decide now that you’re going to keep at it. Make it easier on yourself, and better for your readers, by preparing a number of articles before launch. You don’t have to use them all if you have the time to write fresh ones, but if you want to keep to a consistent schedule, then they’ll save you when life’s typical interruptions come into play. I don’t leave any full articles in my WordPress Dashboard, but I do have a number of ideas that I could work on and push to go live. Start your site with a bang by having some great content ready in the works.