The Ultimate Guide to Configuring Your WordPress Site
Congrats on getting WordPress installed on your new website! You’re almost ready to start writing content and generating income from your content.
In this next step of the process of setting up your website, you need to configure it. Going through the configuration process correctly the first time will save you countless hours and stress in the future.
Today, we are going to set up these areas of your WordPress site:
- Your dashboard
- Your WP theme
- Your plugins
This is a long post so make sure to bookmark it so you can refer back to it later.
Configuring your WordPress site will ensure you have a:
- Better SEO = Your site get gets ranked high in search engines
- Easy layout for your website visitors to navigate = more engaged visitors
- Secure website = No spam or hackers
- Good Analytics = Able to measure where your success is coming from
- High Converting = Website turns visitors into followers
- Worry-free site that you know works every time = peace of mind… Priceless
Still haven’t installed WordPress? Check out our quick WordPress installation guide.
Now, lets start configuring your website. I’ve outlined the 5 Key Areas to use to configure on your new website below.
Your dashboard is where you land when you first login. To access your dashboard, go to: http://yourwebsite.com/wp-admin.You can also bookmark your dashboard to quickly access it in the future.
There is often WordPress news and plugin updates that will show up on your dashboard for you to take notice. You can customize your WordPress Dashboard by clicking on the “Screen Options” at the top right when you log in.
Your WordPress Updates also live under your Dashboard and this is a very important page. Always keep WordPress, themes, and plugins updated to keep your website secure and free from potential hackers.
NOTE: Each update is usually prompted when WordPress updates its platform. Check to make sure the update meets the most recent WordPress update.
Getting to Know the Admin Panel in WordPress (See examples later in this post):
Posts – This is where you can create and edit blog posts. If you’re looking for your previously posted blog posts or drafts, this is where you will find them.
Media – Think of this as your photo and file library. Upload photos or files to this area and they will live on your server. You can also add “media” within your blog posts, but this is the final resting place for all media files.
Pages – When you create permanent pages on your website, you’ll do so through the “Pages” option. This area looks and feels very similar to the “Posts” area, but it’s different because you’re creating a different type of content. About Us, Products, Contact, Who We Are, and other similar pages are created in this section.
Comments – If you receive comments on your blog posts, they will show up in this area of your dashboard. You can then approve, delete, or flag them as spam. You will have notifications under this section if you have any comment that needs your attention.
Appearance – This is where you will edit the theme files and activate new themes. You will also create and edit your widgets here. If you like to edit code, the editor is located in this section and you have the option to edit CSS, PHP, and more.
Plugins – If you’re trying to find a good SEO plugin to install, the Plugins area is where you will find it. You can also activate and deactivate your plugins in this section on WordPress.
Users – In this area you have the ability to edit any of your login information and add new authors to your blog.
Tools – If you need to import your blog from another blog, this area is where you can do that import. You also have the ability to export your blog’s pages and posts if you need that option.
Settings – The Settings area is where you will setup your WordPress site’s title and tagline. You can update permalinks, plugin settings, and how your blog and homepage appear on your website.
On the WordPress platform, the appearance of your website is determined by the theme you have installed. Make sure you check out How To Choose The Best WordPress Theme For Your Blog for a step-by-step guide.
The process for installing a WordPress theme is surprisingly simple when compared to designing and developing a website outside of WordPress.
Step 1: Go to Appearance –> Themes.
Step 2: Search through the themes until you find one you want. WordPress has over 2,500+ themes to choose from in their database. I personally like using Theme Forest, which is the #1 marketplace for premium WordPress themes.
Step 3: Test the Live Preview and Activate the Theme.
Plugins on WordPress are ways to extend the use and functionality of the WordPress platform. Plugins range from SEO tools, to Social Media integrations, to Mailchimp opt-in forms, and thousands more.
To install plugins on your WordPress site, follow these quick steps:
Step 1: Go to Plugins –> Add New and search for plugins in their directory.
Step 2: Once you’ve found your plugin, click “Install Now.”
Step 3: Activate your new plugin.
Since this is a getting started guide, it wouldn’t be fair to not include the top plugins for your blog. The following plugins are broken down into five categories that cover all the main components of your website.
Your new website needs to show off to search engines. The best way to do this is to install proper SEO plugins that will assist you in making your WordPress site SEO friendly.
Yoast SEO -Yoast is the best all in one SEO plugin for your WordPress Blog. Their plugin is free and walks you through the entire setup process of using it to make your site SEO friendly. Our favorite part is the grading scale which shows colors red, yellow and green to indicate your SEO friendliness status on each page or blog post.
Like any web platform, hackers and spammers are always trying to break into your website. WordPress accounts for more than 20% of the websites online and this is why it’s important to protect your website from known security threats.
Akismet – This plugin comes standard with any new WordPress installation and all it requires is a quick free sign-up to get your “key” for your site. Installed by millions, this plugin is the leading spam filter for your contact forms and post comments.
WP Limit Login Attempts – To avoid potential hackers from attempting to figure out your login information, you can limit the amount of attempts to access your WordPress back end.
Sucuri – If you’re looking for total protection and willing to pay a little money, then Sucuri is your best choice. They will not only protect you from hackers trying to get into your site but will clean your website up if there is ever a breach.
Once visitors land on your website, you’ll want to capture their email address so you can continue to add value for them. This can be done with many paid plugins or email-specific plugins like MailChimp, but if you’re looking for a great free option, we like SumoMe.
SumoMe – Their plugin suite provides free tools you need to grow your WordPress site. They make it easy for your readers to join your email list, share your articles and optimize with analytics.
You can’t measure what you don’t track. These are the plugins we use on all of our websites.
Pretty Link – When you place links on your blog, don’t you want to know how many people are actually clicking them? With Pretty Link, you can shrink, track, manage and share any URL on or off of your WordPress website.
Google Analytics – After you setup Google Analytics for free under your account, install this plugin so your website can easily integrate with your Google Analytics account.
W3 Total Cache – W3 Total Cache helps you optimize your WordPress site for speed and performance, without having to upgrade your hosting.
Header and Footer – Many widgets or third party tracking apps require you to place a snippet of code on your website. Instead of digging through the WordPress editor, use this plugin to easily paste the code all in one place.
Backup Buddy – It’s always nice to keep a copy of your website around in case something bad happens. Backup Buddy automatically makes copies of your WordPress site. For a free backup tool, also check out BackWPup Free.
NOTE: Each of the mentioned plugins should work with the latest WordPress Version. However, there is a slight chance one or more are not up-to-date. Make sure you are getting the latest version of the plugin to avoid any potential issues.
In case you ever need to update your user information, this is where you can edit your profile, add new users, or delete users.
In many cases when you first create your profile it will combine your first and last name as the author of the post. For example; John Price might show as johnprice. Change the “Display the name publicly as” to what you want for each post.
You can assign roles for each user. Keep your profile as the administrator and unless you trust others with your website, try not to add any additional administrators.
Here are the user roles:
Subscriber – The basic level role of a user is a subscriber. This is the default role that wordpress assigns to a user and their access is the most limited.
Contributor – Great for guest writers, the contributor role is suitable for those who don’t need much access. Contributors can edit and delete only unpublished posts by that particular user, and each blog post must have approval before it goes live.
Author – An author has a limited role which allows them to add, edit, and remove only the posts that they’ve written in the past.
Editor – This role is perfect for anyone that needs access to the content on the website but not to anything else like plugins, widgets and so on.
Administrator – This user holds the keys to the castle. They can change themes, edit code, and have free range to do anything throughout the website. Only assign administrator rights to those you really trust.
NOTE: Working with a developer? Set them up as Administrators to give them access to edit themes and plugin development code. Be sure to make a backup of your website and consider only giving them access to your staging website, not your live one. This is easy when you’re using WPEngine as your hosting company.
The last, but definitely not least, part of this setup is the Settings area within your WordPress site. The Settings area is where you’ll do three major edits:
1. Update information and tagline.
2. Tell WordPress where to show your blog posts and homepage.
3. Set up permalinks to boost your SEO value.
Now that your WordPress site is configured, you’re ready to start writing for your blog!
Other helpful posts to check out at this point:
- 12 Step Template for Writing the Perfect Blog Post
- 7 Questions To Ask Before You Start Blogging
- How to Stay Motivated and Focused When Starting a Side Project to Make Income
Having issues with your design or development? We recommend using WPCurve for all your WordPress issues. They’re an affordable solution and their quick turnaround makes them the best in the space.