You’ve decided to start your own blog. You may have even purchased a domain name and installed WordPress. Hopefully my step-by-step guide helped. You create an article about your goals for the site or something you think your future audience is interested in. Then you hit the publish button and wait for the traffic to flood in. But nobody shows up.
Successful content marketing is not only about publishing a blog post. There’s a lot more groundwork to be done. WordPress features many customization options, even before you start considering all the different plugins. Let’s look at this to-do list I go through as soon as I install a new WordPress blog. Implement the following tips in order to launch your new blog with a bang and give yourself a better chance of success.
Replace the default “Admin” user account
(In Users > Your Profile)
- You don’t want “Admin” to be the name of the author in the byline of the posts you publish
- Create a new username which displays your full name in post bylines
- Delete the default admin username
- This will make your blog more secure from hackers as well. See here why
Clean up the generic content
- Delete the generic “Hello World!” post (In Posts)
- Delete the generic “Sample Page” page (In Pages)
- Delete Hello Dolly plugin (In Plugins)
Activate comment spam blocker
- Akismet is the best comment spam filter and it comes within your WordPress installation
- Activate the plugin and then you just need to “Create a new Akismet key“
- This is a great first step for spam protection but do check my detailed guide to eliminating comment spam
Fill in “Site Title” and “Tagline”
(In Settings > General)
- You don’t want your site to be “just another WordPress site” (the default tagline). That doesn’t tell your visitor much about what you do
- Write your title in “Site Title”. Explain what your site is about in “Tagline”
- Here’s my guide to choosing a name for your blog
Don’t allow user registrations
(In Settings > General > Membership)
- WordPress allows your visitors to register for accounts on your site
- This is not necessary if you’re not running a membership site and it leaves your blog open to hackers and spam
- This if off by default but just make sure “Anyone can register” is ticked off
Update ping services
(In Settings > Writing > Update Services)
- Pings help you automatically notify different online services when you publish a new post
- I don’t think I’ve ever received any visitors thanks to this but it’s a 2-min, one-time job so I keep doing it
- See more on ping services that WordPress recommends
Make your site visible to search engines
(In Settings > Reading > Search Engine Visibility)
- Make sure your site is visible to everyone, including search engines
- Your site is visible to search engines by default but it has happened that bloggers ticked this box and were later wondering why search engines didn’t index their sites
- Make sure the “Discourage search engines from indexing this site” is ticked off
No thanks to email updates
(In Settings > Discussion > E-mail me whenever)
- WordPress notifies you via email when there is a new comment on your site
- That might be a bit distracting for your productivity when you start getting many comments so I change the default option to no emails
Make permalinks short and pretty
(In Settings > Permalinks)
- Your permalinks are the URL’s of your articles. You don’t them to be called something like: domainname.com/123.
- I use the custom option field called “Post name” – it is a well-structured, short and search engine friendly permalink. My permalinks look like this: domainname.com/post-name
- The default permalink structure: /%year%/%monthnum%/%day%/%postname%/. It includes the date your post was published
- It’s not be the best if you publish timeless content as having a date in the URL might make people think the article is outdated
- Note that WordPress allows you to edit individual post permalinks before you publish. There is a permalink “edit” button just under your post headline. Use it on all your posts to make their permalinks shorter, more focused and nicer to look at – see more here
Start tracking visitor numbers
- Setup Google Analytics tracking profile for your new site. Use a plugin like this to help you insert the code into your site
- Here’s my guide on how you can use Google Analytics to optimize your blog
Create a sitemap to help Google learn about your content
- A sitemap is a file that lists URL’s for a site along with additional metadata about each URL. Information like when the post was last updated, how often it usually changes, and how important it is, relative to other URL’s on the site
- Google usually discover your pages from links within the site and from other online sites. Sitemaps supplement this data with more information
- The easiest way of implementing an XML Sitemap on your blog is to use one of the free plugins like this
- The plugin updates the sitemap automatically when you publish new content so there is no need to do anything after you activate the plugin
Add your site to Webmaster Tools
- Through Webmaster Tools Google gives you information they have about your site, your inbound links and search engine rankings. Learn more here
- Create your Webmaster Tools account and verify your blog
- Submit your XML Sitemap directly to Google
- Choose your site Preferred domain – either with or without www. Make sure this is consistent with the URL you use in your WordPress settings (In Settings > General > WordPress Address URL)
Setup social media accounts and other subscription options
- Create a Twitter profile, a Facebook page, and whatever else social media profile that is relevant to your audience
- WordPress has an RSS feed by default (yourdomain.com/feed/) but to be able to offer email subscriptions and to be able to track your feed stats, it is best to install couple of plugins. See this guide on RSS feeds.
- Include your social media profiles and subscription options in your sidebar to start building your loyal following
Get a great looking theme design
(In Appearance > Themes)
- Find the design theme you like and activate it – some help for finding the perfect design is here
- Setup your navigation menu in Appearance > Menus.
- Setup your sidebar in Appearance > Widgets
Setup the infrastructure of your WordPress site
- Posts are the main content of your site. Posts are the articles you are regularly writing for your visitors. They appear in your RSS feed, can be tagged and categorised. Posts traditionally feature a published on date in the byline and are placed in a reverse chronological order on your home page.
- Pages are more strategic and not updated daily. They are traditionally placed in navigational menu, contain more static information such as about page or contact page. These pages are some of the must-have elements when starting a new blog.
- Categories allow you to group your posts into topics and allow users to find your content easier. You can remove categories and add new categories by going to “Posts” and then “Categories”. If you go into “Settings” and then “Writing” in your admin interface you can select a new “Default Post Category” as well as otherwise all posts will by default go into “Uncategorized”. With categories you separate different topics that you write about in your posts. Now, your site of course has one main subject that it covers, but it still has sub-topics. A category page lists all the posts from that category. These pages are very useful in order to give your visitors a nice access point to dig deeper into your content.
- Tags are similar to categories but they are just used more specifically. They keywords that are much more specific than categories and while I might have a category called ”Celebrity style” I might put a celebrity’s name as a tag to a post. Tags are usually links which lead to a page showcasing all the posts that have been tagged with that specific keyword.
Watch the video below where I walk you through the WordPress settings and the admin interface:
And that’s it! Your site is now ready. You have adjusted all the settings and optimized your WordPress. Next step is creation and promotion of your content. Focus your content on a topic you’re passionate about. There are very few core, fundamental keys to blogging, and consistency is definitely one of them. Remain consistent with your site for at least 6-12 months. The reason most sites “fail” is simply because the author stops updating them. The hardest part is the initial hurdle, so decide now that you’re going to keep at it.
Make it easier on yourself by preparing a number of articles for the launch. If you want to keep to a consistent schedule, they’ll save you when life’s typical interruptions come into play. I always have a number of ideas in a draft document that I could work on and publish. Start your site with a bang by having some great content ready in the works. Go through this marketing routine after publishing each new post. Good luck!