So … what’s next?
Here are the basic settings that every blog needs. Take care of those while you prep for launch day:
Setting up a blog in 10 steps:
1. Choose your permalink structure
Permalinks determine the structure of the URLs on your site, which is important for both helping your blog rank higher in Google and making your website more user friendly for humans.
- How to set permalinks: Go to Settings → Permalinks in your WordPress dashboard
- What’s the best permalink structure? Choosing the Post name permalink structure is almost always the best option, unless you have a specific reason you need to use one of the others.
2. Make sure your blog is public
WordPress includes a setting that makes it so search engines won’t index your blog (the “noindex” tag). While this setting should be turned off by default, because it’s so massively important when setting up a blog (and you may have turned it on while building your site and forgotten about it), you should always check to make sure your blog is public when you’re ready to launch.
Yes – it might seem silly – but I’ve witnessed a hundred million dollar startup push its new site design live with a “noindex” tag on it. I was trying to do some research on the company before an interview and googled the name but didn’t see their site. Checked the source code and saw the noindex tag. Suffice it to say, it can happen to anyone – so better safe than sorry!
- How to make your blog public: Go to Settings → Reading and make sure the box for Discourage search engines… is unchecked.
3. Configure basic settings in the WordPress Customizer
The WordPress Customizer lets you quickly configure a number of small settings for your blog.
Here’s what to make sure you do:
- Set your Site Title and Tagline in the Site Identity tab.
- Add a favicon in the Site Identity tab.
- Explore theme-specific settings.
4. Create a navigation menu
A Menu lets you control the links that appear in your site’s main navigation areas.
- Why it’s important: Until you actually create a menu, the navigation area for your theme will be blank – this isn’t a great experience for your visitors! Your site gets much more usable with a helpful navigation structure.
- How to create a menu: Go to Appearance → Menus or use the WordPress Customizer.
5. Set up sidebar and/or footer widgets
Widgets let you add content to any widget area on your blog. Usually, this means your blog’s sidebar, but many themes also let you use widgets in your footer, as well as potentially other areas.
Not only do widgets let you provide helpful information, but they also help you avoid having weird blank spaces in your theme. And you can even find plugins that add additional widgets.
- How to add widgets: Go to Appearance → Widgets or use the WordPress Customizer.
6. Create a backup schedule
In the previous section, we told you that UpdraftPlus is a must-have plugin. Now that you have it installed, it’s time to actually set your backup schedule which is an important element of setting up a blog!
- How often should you back up? This depends on how active you are. If you’re planning to publish a new post once per week, you can probably back up weekly. But if you plan to publish a new post every day (or get lots of comments every day), you might want to back up daily.
7. Configure other must-have plugins
Beyond UpdraftPlus, we also laid out some other must-have plugins. To get the most out of some of those plugins, though, you’ll need to configure basic settings.
Here’s what to do:
- Follow the Yoast SEO setup wizard to configure basic SEO settings
- Choose where to display your Jetpack social share buttons
- Create an Imagify account to enable image optimizing
8. Decide if you want to allow comments
By default, WordPress is set up to allow comments on your blog posts. Most of the time, that’s good. But some people like to disable comments.
- The argument for comments: They allow your readers to engage with both you and other readers, which creates more of a community.
- The argument against comments: A large percentage of comments are spam, which can get annoying. It’s also hard to build an active comments section.
- Which is right? There’s no right answer – but you should decide whether you want to allow comments or not by going to Settings → Discussion.
9. Disable pingbacks and trackbacks
- What pingbacks and trackbacks are: Pingbacks and trackbacks allow other blogs to notify you whenever they link to you.
- Why pingbacks and trackbacks suck: Not only are they not very helpful, but spammers love them, and will happily send heaps of spammy trackbacks and pingbacks.
- How to disable pingbacks and trackbacks: Go to Settings → Discussion and turn off Allow link notifications…
10. Set your desired time zone
By default, WordPress uses UTC +0 for its time zone. But if you’re in a different time zone, that means WordPress will use different times than your local time, which makes it hard to do things like schedule posts in advance.
- How to set your time zone: Go to Settings → General
Now that you’ve got those basic settings out of the way, you’re ready to move onto the next step of setting up a blog – your core pages!