Are you curious as to what it is like to start a blog using WordPress? Today I will take you behind the scenes and show you a few of the things that I did to set up this site.
Every WordPress blog will obviously be customized a little differently, but I think it is helpful to see what other people do.
Typical WordPress Set Up Steps
- Install a WordPress theme
- Change default WordPress settings
- Install WordPress plugins
- Set Up Google Analytics and Google Search Console
- Add Your Sitemap to the Search Engines
- Set Up Your Email address
- Customize Your WordPress Theme
- Start Writing
Just to be clear, in this post I am talking about setting up a self-hosted WordPress blog and NOT a blog on WordPress.com
A Word About WordPress Hosting
Because I use managed WordPress hosting at BigScoots (they are awesome by the way), I won't go into the actual WordPress install.
With managed WordPress hosting – your blog host takes care of all the back end techy stuff, so all you have to do is “move in”.
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Just an FYI – if you don't have the budget for managed WordPress hosting, BigScoots also offers shared hosting plans that are very reasonably priced.
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Install a WordPress Theme
On a brand new WordPress install, your blog will be wearing a default WordPress theme – mine was sporting the Twenty Nineteen theme.
One of the first things I did was pick new theme for my blog.
I am a huge fan of the Genesis framework for WordPress. This framework is managed by StudioPress/WPEngine.
With Genesis, you need to install both the framework (if this was a car, the framework would be the model) and a child theme (again with a car – this would be your color and interior options).
On this blog I chose the Monochrome Theme from StudioPress as my child theme.
Change Your Default WordPress Settings
Right out of the box your WordPress install will be configured with some basic settings that you should change right away.
The way to access the WordPress settings that I talk about below is to navigate to the Settings tab in the left hand column of your WordPress dashboard.
WordPress Permalink Settings
The first and most important setting is your permalink structure.
You should change this before you write even a single post.
What's a permalink? It is the post URL that shows up in the address bar in your browser.
On this screen, you want to select the “Post name” option.
This way any post or page you create will have a URL that similar to this:
nameofsite [dot] com/name-of-post-or-page
WARNING! Only change your permalink structure on a brand new site! DO NOT change this if you already have existing posts because it could negatively affect your SEO.
General WordPress Settings
Now that you have your permalink structure set, go back to the Settings tab in the left sidebar and configure all of the other options.
The first one, is your General Settings.
Here, type in your site name and tagline.
Also, double check that the time zone listed is correct for you. If it is UTC something – you can actually scroll all the way up to to the top of the pop up menu and choose your city (which is a lot easier than figuring out what UTC time zone you are in!).
All of the other options in this tab looked fine to me so I left them as they were.
Writing Settings in WordPress
I did not make any changes to my Writing Settings.
The default category is fine as “Uncategorized” and I do not post to my blog via email – so no changes needed.
Reading Settings in WordPress
Your Reading Settings in WordPress will vary depending on how your WordPress theme works.
It is best to review your theme instructions to get this right.
For the Monochrome theme, my homepage displays a “static page” as per the instructions.
However, some themes display “your latest posts” and use a widgetized homepage to get a static look.
The number of posts to show on your blog page is also dependent on your theme to some extent.
As to each article in a feed – I always choose the “Summary” option.
Discussion Settings in WordPress
This section is all about settings for the comments that people leave on your posts.
Much of it is personal preference, so I won't get into all of the options here. However, if you do have a question about a particular setting – please leave a comment (do you see the irony?) below and I will be sure to get back to you.
A few things that I changed were to:
- enable threaded comments only 3 levels deep – this is because anything deeper than this looks pretty bad on mobile.
- change the setting to show newer comments at the top – again personal preference
I do allow Avatars on my site – although there has been some discussion lately that Avatars can slow down your site speed. For now I will leave these on – but will revisit in the future.
Other WordPress Settings
You may see additional settings tabs for some of the WordPress plugins that you have installed.
Install Your WordPress Plugins
Now that your WordPress settings are good to go, the next thing to focus on are your WordPress plugins.
A few things to keep in mind:
- Fewer is better – so be judicious and only the plugins that you are really going to use.
- Consider using Premium plugins – you want plugins that are supported by their developers so that they are continuously updated – be wary of plugins that have not been updated in a long time
That being said – here are some of my go-to WordPress Plugins.
- Akismet – for filtering out spam comments
- Atomic Blocks Gutenberg Blocks Collection – this pumps up the functionality of the blocks in the WordPress Gutenberg editor
- Genesis Simple Edits – this plugin makes it easy to customize your meta details (I use this to add in my affiliate disclosure after my post title), and also your site's footer text.
- Pretty Links Pro – this plugin is good for creating custom affiliate links
- Short Pixel Image Optimizer – a nice plugin for image compression (it's also on AppSumo right now as a lifetime deal!)
- Simple Social Icons – to add social follow icons to my sidebar
- Thrive Leads – to create all my sign up boxes
- Yoast SEO – for optimizing my posts for the search engines and creating my XML sitemap for Google Search Console
- I plan to add Social Pug in the near future.
Set Up Google Analytics
The next step to start a blog using WordPress is to install Google Analytics on your new site.
Google Analytics is the industry standard when it comes to getting traffic data for your website.
There is so much information in there and I definitely don't know how to use it all.
For now I use it to see how many visitors I get to my blog. At this stage in the game, my time is better spent creating content for my blog and not diving in to the 5 or so visitors I get daily (remember this site is brand new).
However, it is important to install Google Analytics right from day one. This way as you will have access to historical data in the future, when you need it.
If you already have a Google Analytics account, you can add your new WordPress blog as a new “property”. Otherwise you should set up an “account” and then add your blog as a property.
Google Analytics will generate a snippet of code that you need to embed in the head section of your blog.
Google Search Console Set Up
Once you have your Google Analytics all set – go to Google Search Console and either set up an account or add your new blog to your existing account.
You will have to verify your domain on Google Search Console.
This is really easy if you already have Google Analytics set up.
Just choose the second method and (not the DNS one) and verify your main web address.
Google search console will use your Google Analytics code (which is already installed) to verify your site.
Add Your Sitemap to the Search Engines
Luckily, the Yoast plugin makes adding a sitemap to the search engines pretty easy.
This article on the Yoast website explains how to do it.
Set Up Your Email Address
This step in your WordPress blog set up circles you back to your web hosting provider.
Some hosting plans provide email addresses and some don't.
However, it is a good idea to have an email that ends with your domain name.
yourname [at] yourdomain [dot] com
It looks so much more professional than a free personal email address – especially as you start to grow your email list and send out regular updates. (Read this article: Why you need an email marketing service for your blog.)
If your host does not provide email, you can buy a plan using Google Apps to make it happen – you will have to change your MX addresses at your domain provider or your host.
Customize Your WordPress Theme
You don't need a custom built WordPress theme to make it your own.
Most WordPress themes have options for customization.
- change your website colors
- add widgets
- add your author bio
- populate your sidebar
- set up your homepage
- and lots of other things.
Add Your Policies
Before you start writing, you will need to add a
- Disclosure Policy, and
- an FTC statement to your blog posts.
I am not a lawyer so I can't guide you on what to put in these. But Amira at A Self Guru IS a lawyer and she has an awesome Legal Bundle that includes the 3 most important disclosures that every blog should have.
Start Adding Content to Your New WordPress Blog
Last but not least, it's time to start adding content to your new blog.
You can delete the standard “Hello, World” post that comes with WordPress and start to add your own amazing content.
Your first posts, especially, should really be spot on for your blog topic and your audience.
Ruth Soukup in her popular blogging course – Elite Blog Academy – calls these posts your pillar posts.
They are the foundation for your new blog.
Make sure you follow these blog organization tips to maintain a clean structure for your site.
And You Are Off To The Races!
As you can see, to start a blog using WordPress is not a short process.
That is why I like that my blog hosting is managed by Big Scoots – it's one less thing for me to worry about.
Installing a WordPress theme, configuring your settings, installing plugins, submitting your site to the search engines, verifying your site everywhere, getting your email set up, customizing your site, and creating lots of content will completely fill your available time!
As always, if you have any questions please ask away in the comments below.