This blog post is a part of the “Start Your Own Blog” series.
Other posts covered in this series are
- Part 1: WordPress.Com Vs WordPress.Org: Which One To Choose
- Part 2: How To Buy Domain & WordPress Hosting
- Part 3: Beginners Guide: How To Install WordPress
- Part 4: Beginners Guide: How To Install A WordPress Theme
- Part 5: Beginners Guide: How To Install A WordPress Plugin
- Part 6: <<You are now reading this>>
After setting up our blog there are some essential WordPress settings that we need to configure immediately. These steps are actually not required for our blog to work. We can create new posts and publish them without doing any of the following actions. But in that case, our blog may not be optimized for both SEO and performance. Search engines may not even index our blog and so all our hard work is going to be in vain. The following steps will ensure that our blog is optimized for
- Secure against attacks
The below steps are not complicated and can be done even by newbie bloggers. I have tried to explain each of these essential WordPress settings in simple terms.
1) Ensure Image Optimization
Google considers page load time as an important parameter for ranking a website. The faster the site loads the better. The text content of our site does not take much time to load but this is not the same with images. We might be using multiple images in our blog post and hence the cumulative time for loading all of these images will surely slow down our site. Therefore it is quite essential to reduce the size of images before we upload it to our posts. I use Smush Image Compression and Optimization plugin for image compression. This is a very popular plugin with more than 1 million active installations.
This plugin will optimize all images that are uploaded to our blog and hence we need not worry about the image size issue ever. A few other popular image compression plugins are reSmush.it, ShortPixel Image Optimizer and EWWW Image Optimizer
2) Install Anti Spam Plugin
Once our site starts gaining visitors we will also get a lot of spam comments. These spam comments are generated by automated bots for gaining backlinks. It is quite difficult to filter out these spam comments manually. Luckily WordPress has some awesome plugins that do the task without our intervention. The two most popular WordPress anti-spam plugins are Akismet Anti Spam and Anti Spam Bee. I use Anti Spam Bee for BlogTriangle.
3) Modify Default Ping List
We need to notify certain services when we publish a new post. This can be done by modifying our WordPress default ping list. I have already explained in detail about the importance of ping services and provided a list of ping URLs.
Refer to the blog and update your site settings for better visibility.
4) Install a Caching Plugin
We know that WordPress is based on PHP programming language. Every time our site is loaded a number of PHP scripts are executed to render the webpage. Caching plugins help us to improve our site load time by generating a static HTML page of our website. It also helps to cache CSS and JS files thus minimizing the page load times. The most popular caching plugins are W3 Total Cache, WP Super Cache, and WP Rocket. Here at BlogTriangle, I use W3 Total Cache. Check this detailed guide on how to configure W3 Total Cache.
5) Configure Comments
Click on the Discussion menu under settings to view the comment configuration section.
Here we have to enable the corresponding check box to ensure that each comment should be manually approved.
This is essential to ensure that no obscene comment appears on our blog. Other options should be checked or unchecked depending on our blog requirement.
6) Add Google Analytics
Google Analytics (GA) is a very powerful but completely free service provided by Google. Once we install google analytics on our blog we can get a detailed view of our visitor number and behavior. This includes the details like age, gender, device, interest and geographic location of our audience. All of this information can give us detailed insight into our content creation and marketing strategies. Here is a detailed guide on how to install and configure GA on our WordPress blog.
7) Disable Directory Browsing
We need our visitors to only view our blog posts and pages. But users can easily view WordPress folder details by entering the correct URLs. This is known as directory browsing.
This poses a great security risk to our site as hackers can get detailed information about our plugins and site settings through this vulnerability. It is quite easy to disable directory browsing in WordPress sites. All we need is to add a single line of code to our .htaccess file. The .htaccess file is a configuration file used by the server.
For modifying the .htaccess file first we have to download this file using an FTP tool like FileZilla or CyberDuck.Now open the .htaccess file using Notepad++ or Notepad and add the following line of code at the bottom.
Save the file and upload it back to the server. Now go to the previous link.
As we can see the directory information is now not visible to the users.
8) Install SEO Plugin
SEO is the single most important factor that determines how our site shows up in search engine results. A site with good content and no SEO tactics is really not going to do well. WordPress has some really awesome free plugins that optimize our site for SEO. The two most popular plugins are Yoast and All in One SEO.
I use Yoast SEO for BlogTriangle.Here is a detailed guide on how to configure Yoast SEO plugin.
9) Install Security Plugins
It is quite essential to protect our site against hackers and malicious users. We can improve the security of our website through some simple techniques. It is also essential to use a security plugin to enhance our site security. The most popular WordPress security plugins are Sucuri, WordFence, and IThemes Security. Currently, I am using IThemes Security for BlogTriangle.
Install and activate any of these plugins for securing our website.
10) Configure Permalinks
Permalinks are the URL’s of the post or page we publish on our WordPress blog. For viewing the different options we have to go to the permalink menu under Settings.
Here we can see different permalink options as shown below.
By default, WordPress uses the first option for all URLs
This option is not at all SEO friendly as the search engines as well as visitors are not able to identify anything from the URL. The URL should always provide the users and search engines some details of the content. Therefore it is necessary to change this default permalink structure. The most suited option from an SEO perspective is to include the post title in the permalink. We can do this by checking the radio button Post name as highlighted in the above image. So if we publish a post with the title “sample post” our permalink would be
Thus the permalink itself gives us a clear idea about the content of the post.
11) Add Categories
WordPress has a system to group content under categories. Categories help the site owners group their content more effectively especially for blogs providing articles on different variety of topics. It also helps us to identify related posts. For example, BlogTriangle mainly focuses on content related to WordPress, Social Media, Search Engines, etc. Therefore I have created categories such as WordPress Tutorials, Search Engines, Social Media, etc. Now let us see how we can do this easily. First, we have to go to the categories section under Posts.
By default, all posts would be tagged as Uncategorized. Now we can add a few categories according to our planned content and save it.
While publishing a new post we have the option to tag the post to the available category.
12) Add Social Sharing Buttons
Social media marketing has become an inevitable part of our marketing strategy. Our content should be easily shareable on major social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter. There are some awesome plugins that add social sharing buttons to all our posts. Some popular options for such plugins are Social Snap, Monarch and Social Warfare. I use Social Warfare here at BlogTriangle for adding social sharing buttons to blog posts.
13) Set Up Automated Backups
We may have spent days or months setting up a blog and creating awesome content for it. But all of this effort may go in vain if we do not set up a proper backup system. Most of the hosting providers have their own backup process that helps us to restore our content in case something went wrong. But this is not enough as there may be situations where the hosting provider back up will not be useful to us. Let us see a few such scenarios
- Our hosting agreement has expired and we want to migrate to a new provider
- The hosting provider server encountered physical damage or attack due to which all the content got erased
In all such cases, we need our own backup system to help us restore our site. Newbie bloggers might be under the wrong impression that taking manual backups is a solution to this problem. Manual backups will work but it might not be feasible for serious bloggers to invest time for regularly taking backups.
Luckily there are several WordPress plugins that automate this task. Once configured these plugins are able to take backups and upload it to third-party storage mediums like Google Drive or DropBox. I use the UpdraftPlus plugin to automate the backups for BlogTriangle. Refer to this guide to understand how to set up automated backups using the UpdraftPlus plugin.
Another popular WordPress backup plugin is BackupBuddy
14) Delete Default Content and Themes
Once we have installed and activated our WordPress theme it is quite essential to remove the unwanted themes from our installation. WordPress by default will have the Twenty Nineteen, Twenty Seventeen and Twenty Sixteen theme installed. Once we have our actual theme we do not require these default themes. For deleting the unwanted themes Go to Appearance =>Themes
Just click on the default theme to view the details and use the delete button to delete these from our installation.
Also, delete the default post that is created by default during WordPress installation.
15) Add About Us or About Me Page
This is not an essential step for blogging but is required if we need to establish a connection with our readers. It might be a surprising fact to newbie bloggers that one of the most visited pages on our blog is the About Us page. We need to build trust before readers start buying things from us. Therefore creating an About Us page is an essential step towards a successful blog. Here is a wonderful guide from HubSpot citing some of the best About Us or About Me pages. Also, see this guide on how to create an effective About Us Page.
16) Add Contact Us Page
A Contact Us page is another essential factor that improves the trust factor of our readers. This page provides our readers with an option to contact the site owner for inquiries. It is fairly simple to add a contact us page to our WordPress website. Refer to this guide for details.
17) Create a Gravatar Account
A gravatar is that small image that appears next to people’s names when they write a comment on a website. These images are provided by a service known as gravatar and WordPress by default recognizes gravatar signed up email addresses.
So after signing up for gravatar if we comment on any of the WordPress blogs our gravatar image would appear next to our name.
18) Create a Logo & Favicon
A logo is an essential requirement for branding our site. For this go to Appearance => Customize=>Site Identity=>Logo section.Here we can upload our logo image. Once the upload is complete click the Publish button to save the changes.
We can also upload a favicon for our website. A favicon is actually a small image associated with a website that appears on the browser bar when we access the site. This icon is basically providing an identity for our website. After creating a favicon image for our website we can upload it to WordPress. For this go to Appearance => Customize=>Site Identity=>Site Icon section.
Here we have an option to upload an image as a site icon. Once this image is uploaded click the Publish button to save the changes.
Now visit our site in any browser to view the favicon on the browser bar.
19) Configure General Settings
The very first thing to do after installing WordPress is to configure the general settings. We can access these options from the General menu under settings.
Here we have options to add a Site Title and Tagline.
These values appear in the browser bar when someone visits our site. These values provide uniqueness to our blog and hence must be catchy. In this section, we have also options to decide whether we need to allow people to register to our site. If we are running a multi-author blog then we should allow user registration by checking the Anyone can register checkbox.
One thing to be noted here is that we should set the New User Default Role as per our requirement. We should never give the Administrator right to registered users. Check this guide to understand in detail about WordPress user roles. Next, we have to configure the Time Zone, Date Format and Time Format as per our requirement.
So in the last part of this blog series, we have learned to successfully configure WordPress to ensure a secure and performance optimized blog.
Additional Reading: I recommend the following blog posts for newbie bloggers to get a better insight into WordPress features.