15 WordPress To-Dos To Start Your Site With A Bang

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Things to do after starting

You’ve decided to start your own site. 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 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 site. Implement the following tips in order to launch your new site with a bang and give yourself a better chance of success.

Wordpress site launch checklist

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 site harder to break into

Clean up the generics

  • 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

(In Plugins)

Fill in “Site Title” and “Tagline”

(In Settings > General)

  • You don’t want your site to be branded as “just another WordPress site” (the default tagline)
  • Write your title in “Site Title”
  • Explain what your site is about and why your site is unique in “Tagline”

Don’t allow user registrations

(In Settings > General > Membership)

  • WordPress allows your visitors to register for membership accounts on your site
  • This is not necessary if you’re not running a membership site and it invites spam
  • This if off by default but just make sure “Anyone can register” is ticked off
  • Users allows you the capability of running a multi-author site. Most websites are single-author but if you do want to post in a team or even have regular contributors like guest posters, WordPress has such a great interface for you to do this. Each user role is given different permissions and capabilities on what they can/cannot do or even see and access. Plugins like Members, Advanced Access Manager and User Role Editor allow you to manually select what capabilities each individual role has.

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 so I change the default option to no emails

Make permalinks short and pretty

(In Settings > Permalinks)

  • Your permalinks are simply the URL’s of your articles
  • You don’t want your article URL’s to be called something like: domainname.com/123. You don’t want your articles URL’s to be too long either. Traditionally permalinks were a bunch of numbers put together. This didn’t make much sense and wasn’t very user friendly. Who can remember 10 characters put together to form part of the URL of a post?
  • As URL’s are frequently visible to the people who click them, they should therefore be crafted in such a way that they make sense, and not be filled with incomprehensible parameters. You do want to make your URL’s unique, descriptive, short, user friendly and attractive
  • On this site I use the custom option field called “Post name” – it is a well-structured, pretty permalink. This is the shortest option, the most user friendly option and arguably the most search engine friendly option. By doing this 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. This way your readers can easily guess that the Permalink includes the date of the posting, and the post title, just by looking at the URL.
  • It might not be the best option to go for as some articles might be more timeless and do not rely on the date of publishing but by having a date in the URL your users might think the article is outdated and will not want to click on it.
  • The permalink link doesn’t necessary have to take the full post name. WordPress allows you to edit individual post permalinks before you publish those posts. There is a permalink “edit” button just under your post headline in the post writing field. 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

Create a sitemap to help Google

  • Having an XML sitemap is very important if you want Google to be able to crawl, find, and index your articles. The major benefit of implementing this is that it helps search engines learn more about your site and your content
  • XML sitemap is an easy way for an author to inform search engines about pages and posts available for crawling
  • In its simplest form, a Sitemap is an XML 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
  • Web crawlers usually discover your pages from links within the site and from other online sites. Sitemaps supplement this data to allow crawlers that support Sitemaps to pick up all URL’s in the Sitemap and learn about those URL’s using the associated metadata
  • Using the XML sitemap protocol does not really guarantee that your posts and pages are included in search engines, but it provides hints for web crawlers to do a better job when crawling your site
  • Your sitemap will never be listed publicly on your site itself, your visitors won’t be viewing or visiting it and you don’t have a need to do anything to keep it current and up to date
  • The easiest way of implementing an XML Sitemap on your site is to use one of the free WordPress plugins like this. This plugin generates an XML-Sitemap compliant sitemap of your page in format that is supported by Google, Yahoo and other search engines.
  • The plugin updates the sitemap automatically when you publish new content so definitely no need to do anything after you activate the plugin. Activate it, forget it, it will do the work it does while you can focus on the important tasks like creating content

Add your site to Webmaster Tools

  • Create a Google Webmaster Tools account and verify your domain name. In Webmaster Tools Google gives you information they have about your site, your inbound links and search engine rankings
  • Submit your XML Sitemap directly to Google via Webmaster Tools. By doing this Google will crawl your new site and index it quickly
  • In Settings in your Google Webmaster Tools 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, a Google+ page and whatever else social media profile that is relevant for your audience
  • WordPress has a 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 move to FeedBurner
  • In Feedburner you can optimize your feed footer to include links like Subscribe to comments, Tweet This, Stumble It and much more (Optimize > Feedflare).
  • Most people don’t use RSS, so make sure to offer the email option (Publicize > Email Subscriptions)
  • Include your new social media accounts and Feedburner subscription options in a widget in your sidebar so you can start building your audience straight away

Get a great looking theme design

(In Appearance > Themes)

  • You may not want the WordPress default theme to be your main design theme
  • Find the theme you like and activate it – some help for finding themes is here
  • Many themes would allow you to easily change the favicon
  • And would allow you to add your own unique header image in Appearance > Header
  • Most themes also have user-friendly navigation menus which you can setup in Appearance > Menus. Navigation menu is one of the key things for your visitors. If they are new to your site the navigation could help lead them to more information about your content, to more information about you and the other authors, to the archives of your site and to your most popular content.
  • Same with the sidebar elements which you can add in Appearance > Widgets

Setup the infrastructure of your WordPress site

Figuring out the infrastructure and the categorization of content cannot be forgotten:

  • 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 do not get updated daily. They are traditionally placed in your navigational menu and are updated less frequently so they don’t normally show a published on date. Pages contain more static information like a page that explains what your site is about, a page that features personal information about yourself, contact form where people can get in touch and a list of resources.
  • Categories allow you to easily group your post topics to allow your 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:

Creation and promotion of the content

And that’s it! Your site is now ready. You have adjusted all the settings and optimized your WordPress. Next step is creating and promoting your content. Get that “About me” page up. Include a contact form within it so people can get in touch.

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!

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