Since you are reading this post, I can safely assume that you have taken the decision to use WordPress for creating your blog. If that is correct, I congratulate you. You have taken the right decision.
However, if you have come here just randomly, I suggest you to take a look at this detailed CMS comparison post at first. The in-depth guide will help you to get an overall understanding about the existing platforms. After reading the post, you will be able to find out which platform is ideal for you.
Those who are certain about your decision, please carry on. After reading this post, you will know –
1. How to install WordPress,
2. What to do after installing WordPress,
3. Which plugins you need initially and
4. How to choose a theme for your blog.
Let’s start with the first one.
How to Install WordPress
There are multiple ways to install WordPress. You can do it manually or go for the automatic way. Since you are still a beginner, I recommend you to follow the automatic way. It is easier and simpler than the manual process.
Nowadays, most of the hosting companies provide cPanel as the control panel of your hosting package. And cPanel has a dedicated add-on for installing WordPress.
The add-ons make the whole process very simple. You just have to provide the site title, username, password etc. and the rest will be handled by the add-ons. However, if you still need help, you can refer to the Official WordPress guide about installing WordPress via cPanel.
What to do after installing WordPress
So, you have installed WordPress in your website, what’s next? There are some important steps for you. You need to take care of some specific things at this point.
1. Update Title, Tagline, Time Zone etc.
If you didn’t define the title, tagline etc. during the installation process, you should do it now. To change these things, go to Settings > General from your website dashboard. First of all, change the Site Title and Tagline.
Below, update the time zone according to your location. Additionally, feel free to make other changes as you see necessary. Click ‘Save Changes’ after making all the changes.
2. Change the Permalink Structure
This is a very important setting which is overlooked by most beginners. To change the permalink structure, go to Settings > Permalinks. By default, WordPress uses a number for the post URL. You should change it to get better SEO ranking and to provide a better user experience.
While you can choose any of the available options, ‘Day and name’ and ‘Post Name’ are the recommended options. You can choose either of these options.
3. Set up the Blog Page
In most of the cases, bloggers prefer to have a separate page for their blogs. If that is the case for you too, then you have to change the default settings. To do that, create two separate pages for the blog page and the home page. Then, go to Settings > Reading. From that page, select the front page and posts page for your website.
4. Create a Backup Schedule
Creating regular backup is a crucial task for your blog. However, this simple task is often neglected by the majority of blog owners. Most of them realize the importance of regular backups once something bad happens to their sites. But at that point, they have to start over because they did not make any backups.
Being a smart blogger, you shouldn’t make the same mistake. You should create a backup schedule and follow it closely. Luckily, you don’t have to this manually. There are lots of free plugins which can do this for you. I will introduce you to some of them in the ‘Required Plugins’ section below.
5. Delete the ‘Admin’ User
By default, WordPress creates the first administrator of your website by the name of ‘admin’. Being a commonly known fact, hackers can easily use this username and try to find out the password for that account.
To make your website more secure, it is definitely recommended to rename/remove the ‘admin’ account. You can do that by going to the Users > All Users page.
6. Remove Sample Content
A new WordPress installation comes with several sample content to help you get started. As there is no practical use of these contents, you should remove them immediately after creating a new WordPress installation. The sample content includes a post, a page, a comment and a plugin. You can remove all of them from the website dashboard.
Which plugins you need initially
Now that you have taken care of the basic things, let’s take a look at the plugins. While there are thousands of plugins available, you will need only a couple of them now. Let’s see which plugins you will need initially.
1. Cache Plugin
Cache plugins could be really useful for speeding up your blog. By caching your content, you are reducing the load on the servers and thereby, making your blog a lot faster. This will have a positive impact on your search engine ranking too.
WP Super Cache and W3 Total Cache are two of the most popular caching plugins for WordPress. Both of them uses advanced technologies to improve your website performance.
2. Security Plugin
While WordPress is already a secure platform, it does not hurt to take some extra security measures. After all, there is nothing called absolute security. Wordfence Security and iThemes Secrutiy are two of the most used security plugins.
Both plugins are provided with some powerful, unique features that can make your website more secure.
3. Anti-spam Plugin
Next, you will definitely need an anti-spam plugin for preventing loads of spam comments. As your blog grows, the huge influx of spam comments will become a major headache for you. Therefore, it is wise to use an anti-spam plugin from the beginning.
For this regard, Akismet could be your first choice. Developed by Automattic, the parent company of WordPress itself, the plugin comes with the WordPress installation. You just need to activate it and get a free API key from akismet.com to run the plugin properly.
4. SEO Plugin
If you really want to be successful with your blog, there is no way that you can ignore SEO. In order to ensure the maximum exposure to search engines and to get better rankings in the search results, you should use a dedicated SEO plugin.
Like the other fields, WordPress has multiple widely used SEO plugins too. However, WordPress SEO by Yoast and All in One SEO Pack are the most popular choices among them. These plugins provide access to advanced SEO techniques and enable you to get better search engine rankings.
5. Social Media Plugin
As you are using WordPress, you should also take advantage of the excellent social media plugins that are available for the platform. Don’t follow the myth that you should wait for your audience to grow before using social media plugins. Rather, using a dedicated social media plugin right from the beginning will help you in maximizing your social media presence. Among the numerous available options, I recommend Social Media Feather, WP Socializer or Floating Social Media Icon. You can choose any one of these plugins.
6. Backup Plugin
I have already discussed about the importance of creating regular backups above. Just to remind you once again, maintaining regular backups of your blog is an absolute must for you. There is no chance that you can skip this part and consider your blog safe.
As usual, WordPress has lots of backup plugins with different types of options. However, for the beginners, I suggest either UpdraftPlus Backup and Restoration or BackWPup Free. Both of these plugins are capable of creating scheduled backups and saving the backup in cloud storage services.
7. Analytics Plugin
As your blog will grow in the future, you have to analyze and compare your website performance against other sites and sometimes, to the old version of your blog. To do this type of job, you need to use analytics data. Google Analytics by Yoast and Google Analytics Dashboard for WP are two of the most popular analytics plugins for WordPress.
These plugins will provide you with detailed analytics and timely reports about your website performance. Both of them allow you to connect Google Analytics with your website.
How to choose a theme
Choosing the perfect theme for your website is another crucial task for you. If you fail to choose an appropriate theme, there is a high risk that you might lose a significant amount of visitors despite having excellent content.
While this topic demands a separate article itself, let me give you some quick pointers. Maybe we will publish an in-depth guide on choosing the perfect theme for your blog sometime in the future.
1. Select a Suitable Theme for your Niche
There are specific themes for different types of niche. Therefore, you should try to pick up a theme which is appropriate for your niche. Before going theme shopping, try to make a list of all the features you need. Then, when choosing the theme, make sure that your selected theme has all or most of these features.
2. Choose a Mobile-friendly Theme
While most, if not all of today’s premium themes are fully compatible with WordPress, you should absolutely make sure that your selected theme works perfectly in mobile devices. Especially after Google’s recent focus on mobile friendly design and its impact on your search engine ranking has made the thing more important than ever.
3. Check Compatibility Issues
Before taking the final decision about the theme, don’t forget to check the compatibility issues. These issues include compatibility with various browsers and different WordPress plugins. It is a known fact that your visitors will visit your website by using different types of web browsers. Therefore, you need to make sure that your website looks perfect in all of these browsers. You should also ensure that your selected theme works perfectly with the popular WordPress plugins.
4. Easy Customization Options
Your chosen WordPress theme should provide easy customization options for controlling different aspects of your website. While it is almost impossible to test this thing before actually buying the theme, you can search for reviews of the theme. If there is any major problem with your chosen theme, you will be able to find out with some research.
5. SEO Features
You need to make sure that your chosen theme is optimized for providing you with maximum SEO benefits. If your theme can complement your SEO effort, then your work will become a lot easier. You should also check out whether your chosen WordPress theme comes with a decent loading speed or not. A slower theme will annoy the users and will have negative impacts in your search engine rankings.
6. Support and Updates
Make sure that the theme developer is providing regular updates and instant support. While there is no direct way to find out this on your own without purchasing the theme, you can definitely check out the theme reviews and the rating. If there is any serious issue with the theme developer, you will find something in the reviews or see a bad rating for the theme.
Now that you have chosen your theme and installed it in your website, you are ready for publishing some great content. From now on, it is up to you to manage your blog. If you have followed all the steps described above, then you are already on the road to success.
Let me know if you have any question about this post. Also, don’t forget to share which plugin(s) you are using in your blog regularly.