It is not new that at this point WordPress is the platform par excellence to create almost any type of website, especially if you combine it with a powerful theme like Divi.
This is because an installation of WordPress.org with its own hosting, unlike free cloud platforms such as Blogger, WordPress.com or Wix does not have any limitations, it is incredibly flexible and allows 100% professional solutions.
So much so that among the WordPress sites you find many large and well-known sites, such as the New York Times or Fortune.
In addition, the problem with the free options is that they will fall short immediately and you will need to switch to their payment methods when your website is no longer a mere toy. This will happen right away and with basic things: your own domain, a few more design options, etc.
So for a serious project, a real project that is not a simple hobby, I would always recommend starting with WordPress with your own hosting.
In addition, there are good hosting providers like Ionos (1&1), for example, that not only offer hosting but also WordPress support.
Now, all this flexibility and potential that you access with WordPress.org also has its counterpart: the initial startup has a little more work than with the free options. However, remember that I am comparing pears to apples: a site with its own hosting plays in another league compared to the free options.
And that’s what I want to focus on today’s post. I’m going to tell you about the 10 tasks, the most important in my opinion, what you have to face and in what order and with what deadlines when you install a new site with WordPress.org and how to tackle them well.
A previous comment for beginners in WordPress
If you are not yet a WordPress user, the first thing you have to understand is that there are two versions of WordPress whose interface and basic handling are similar, but which are very different from each other, something that today continues to confuse many people when they speaks of WordPress:
- com: the version hosted on the WordPress website itself that exists in free mode (very limited) and paid mode (less limited, but limited).
- org: The core software is the same, but the philosophy is completely different. Here you download the software and install it on a server connected to the Internet, that is, a hosting service (or a corporate server if you have that infrastructure already created in your company, for example). The most important thing is that here there are no limitations, itis the way to access the full power of WordPress.
As my general recommendation is that you always use WordPress with your own hosting, the recommendations focus on such a WordPress installation.
However, a large part of these steps apply equally to blogs created on WordPress.com, the difference will be basically in those points that require the use of a plugin.
The reason for this is that since no plugins can be installed on WordPress.com, these actions simply cannot be carried out, although some of them (e.g.: copies of security, anti-spam measures, basic statistics) they are already resolved on WordPress.com.
So keep this in mind in the rest of the reading.
3 Necessary things before starting
Let’s start with the most obvious and necessary tasks in the short term:
1. Do a well done installation
Among the obvious things it is the most obvious, but it has its “little friend”. Let’s see it:
Clean and minimalist installation
Depending on the hosting you hire, you may have a series of very interesting bonuses in your hosting package. Ionos (1&1), for example, offers professional themes such as Genesis included in its hosting service.
These kinds of things usually involve using the specific installation wizards of the hosting in question.
However, my general recommendation is not to use them and follow the original WordPress installation process because it hardly saves time, they often install “crap” (plugins that you don’t need, etc.), you keep control of 100% of your installation and, in general, it looks much better what a WordPress installation is really like in a hosting, something that you should know.
In my experiences with this, things have also happened to me as the assistant made decisions on her own without my seeing them. That caused problems later like choosing an email address for the default administrator (which logically did not exist because it had not been created), etc.
This is what I mean by “keeping control.”
But … if you want to access additional hosting packages, it is often only possible with their own installers.
It is not dramatic because the possible drawbacks of a wizard installation can always be corrected afterwards, but my recommendation is: keep your installation as clean and light as possible.
Review everything (plugins, administrator user, administrator email, and installed plugins) to remove those plugins that are not really essential and change things that have not been configured well as the example of the administrator email that I put before.
Let’s talk now about some first plugins that, in my opinion, are essential and with which I recommend you have:
- Anti-Spam: Akismet is installed by default here, although at first you will not have spam problems, it is a must for the future (included in WordPress.com).
- Social buttons: essential for the dissemination of your content and an important aesthetic element in the design of your website. I personally recommend Simple Share Buttons Adder or the professional paid version that we use, Simple Share Buttons Plus.
- Basic statistics: it is essential to know how many people visit your website and what content. At first you will have enough with very simple statistics for which I recommend activating the Jetpack statistics module (included in WordPress.com).
- Fall detection: since you have Jetpack installed, I recommend activating this interesting service that alerts you when your website is not working.
- Custom CSS: another module that I highly recommend because it allows you to manipulate any theme at the CSS level. It is a bit technical, but affordable, and even with some very basic knowledge you can already do many things as you will see in this post (not included in free WordPress.com, it would already require the payment plan “Business” that already costs $ 25 / month…).
- Contact form: the contact page is an essential page for your blog. Jetpack includes a tool to build contact forms in a simple way.
- Cookie Consent: if you live in the European Union you are advised by law to include a Cookie notice. With this plugin it will be easy to implement it.
2. Make your site safe
Same case as the previous one, it deserves a point of its own for its importance.
And the first thing, of course, is something both “silly” and that in the installation of WordPress you choose a good username and password.
As for the user, you should first make sure that the contents show your full name and not the username (menu Users / Your profile). This way it will be a little more difficult to guess it and, of course, no “admin” or “administrator” type users.
But the most important thing is a good password, with a “decent” length of at least 8-10 characters, impossible to guess (that is, no birthday, names of children, pets and the like …) and with the odd “strange” character ”Such as “@” or “#”, for example.
Otherwise I recommend special attention to these three things:
- A good hosting:with good anti-hacking measures frequent backups and security. Not in vain do I recommend Ionos (1&1) as option # 1 for WordPress hosting or other applications such as Joomla or Prestashop.
- Protection against access attempts as an administrator: a good hosting like Ionos (1&1) already protects you against these things, but it is useless to use tools such as the Jetpack Protect module within the blog itself.
- Frequent backups: this is something that also makes a good hosting, but in this case there is also a little redundancy with your own measures. Just in case the flies… In our case, for example, although Ionos (1&1) makes copies every 4 hours, even so, we use the UpdraftPlusplugin to have our own ones that are automatically uploaded to the cloud (to Google Drive).
3. Configure WordPress well
It could go perfectly in the previous section, but due to its importance it deserves to be with its own entity in the list.
Many people skip the initial WordPress setup when it contains some very important things. I am going to do a quick review of the options within the “Settings” menu, which I recommend changing the default settings, except for obvious options (such as the title or URL of the site, for example).
- The email address: WordPress sometimes sends important messages to the administrator. Be sure to use an email address that you actually check regularly.
- The time zone: I recommend that you set your city(or one within the same time zone) and not a UTC time. Why? Because in this way it will respect the changes of winter / summer time and there are many things in which this is important, for example, in the programming of the dates of automatic publication of a content.
- The time and date format: the differences between the American and European format can lead to confusion among readers, therefore, beware of this.
- Home page: this is the place where you indicate to WordPress whether to use the classic list of posts or a cover page created by you as the main page, which is the option that I recommend (choose the option “A static page”). To configure a static page you will also need to create two WordPress pages first: one that will be the home page and the other that will be the page on which to display the list of posts (it does not need content, only that the page exists). Typically the latter is accessed via a “blog” menu.
- Entries in summary mode: This will be important, above all, to determine if the entries in feed readers such as feedly, for example, will be seen whole or only as an extract of the first lines of the content. It is quite a debated decision and my advice will be to try both options for a while before finally deciding.
- Pingbacks and trackbacks: they serve for automatic notifications that appear as comments on links to your blog from other sites. In practice the vast majority will be spam although occasionally they could give you the hint of some interesting person to collaborate more thoroughly. My advice: try a time and evaluate if you are worth having them or not.
- Chronological order of comments: here personally I like the little one to reverse the order of the comments so that the most recent appear first. It motivates more new commentators and it seems more logical for readers who want to read the comments as well.
- Comment approval: never leave it on automatic, always in advance moderation. Otherwise you will not find out (or later) inappropriate comments to post and much worse: you will be a magnet for spam.
- Avatars: here I recommend using a plugin such as WP User Avatar to change the default image for commentators without an avatar image since the default WordPress images are truly horrible and will give you an undesirable air of curtness. Comments section of your blog.
This would leave it as it is, later you can qualify themes of image sizes, etc. according to the needs of your blog.
Here I highly recommend using the “Entry Name” option to remove elements that do not contribute anything to your URL such as the famous dates that WordPress.com puts. Apart from better aesthetics, you will also have optimized the SEO of each content a bit (if you then do your other duties at the SEO level).
3 Things to do ASAP
We talk now about the things you should focus on when you already have your blog operational and visible on the Internet.
As a deadline I would tell you to set yourself a period not exceeding 2 months to carry them out.
1. Plan, create and program the first 10 contents
I can’t stop insisting that when you start with a blog, the most important thing is to always create the first content. Everything else, like the design template, etc., is totally secondary at the time.
Therefore, nothing else started, I would follow this simple two-step strategy on the blog:
Write 3-4 initial shoot posts
The first contents are the ones that cost the most, here your shooting matters more than the publication itself.
Therefore, I would not demand too much of myself: I would simply write about 3-4 posts about the first topics that you can think of that you see that are relevant to your topic. Draw them without haste, but without pause and calmly give them a few laps if necessary, but without going over, that is not 20 laps either.
As I was saying, the goal of the exercise is just filming, no matter if they are a little better or worse. It is about experiencing the first feelings when writing, how you look in all this and that you start to feel comfortable.
Of these contents I would publish, for the moment, only two, the ones that you like the most. These would begin to move them as much as possible through social networks, social network groups, ask friends for honest opinions about these contents, help in the dissemination of them, etc.
It is not yet about reaching a wide spread, but simply getting first feedback from third parties, trying a little how they work with people.
The other two, schedule them for future dates, you have a small editor for publication dates next to the “Publish” button to do that. It will give you a little air so you can tackle other tasks as well.
For the rest, get organized
From there, I recommend that you start organizing. This goes through three essential points for me:
- Learn basic SEO to know what your niche demands and prepare your content so that they are positioned in searches related to that demand.
- Learn basic Copywriting to write in a way that pushes people to click on them.
- Organize yourself with an editorial calendar so as not to improvise with each post, but to think in advance about what groups of topics you want to tackle and decide what specific content to create. It costs a little at first, but everything will work much better.
We are talking about tasks that you can complete perfectly in a few hours, to say the least, I would say that they should not take more than 5 hours each. Remember that it is not about becoming the mega-crack, but about understanding the basics.
Once these bases were established, I would set myself the specific objective of writing 6 more new contents , thus reaching a total of 10 contents , a round figure for a first content base for your blog and small enough to be achievable in the short term.
Focus 100% on this content without paying attention to other things.
Thus, you will have advanced a cushion of content that you can publish and / or schedule for automatic publication and dissemination at the speed that suits you.
While it lasts, it allows you to focus on the following tasks such as creating your mailing list, choosing the template for your blog, etc. If for a month you have been able to forget about creating content and focus on these things, you will pay much more.
And once you have been able to tackle these tasks of initial creation of your blog, you will have to return to the editorial calendar topic to decide on a periodic publication rhythm and the specific contents.
In my case, two posts a week have been ideal in my case for the first 2-3 years and then 1 a week.
2. Create the basic pages your blog needs
In a blog there are two types of basic content:
- The contents that are published periodically and that are the essential characteristic of a blog. They are very dynamic content because new posts are constantly created, although that does not mean that the previous ones disappear.
- The contents that form the “framework” or the base of the site, that is, essential content for new readers such as the “About” page, the contact page or the legal notice.
In WordPress jargon, the first are posts and the second are pages.
A good page structure is simply essential because, apart from a professional image, it will help you a lot to connect with the new readers who are getting to know your blog and, therefore, to build a quality audience faster.
3. Create a good menu
To organize these pages well, so that they are visible and easy for the user to find, you will need to configure a menu.
WordPress “comes from the factory” with menus, but the final result will depend on the theme (template) you choose, since, depending on the WordPress theme you use, you can have one or more menu locations which can contain different menus (or the same, although this would be somewhat absurd).
4 Things that can wait a little longer, but not too long
We are now talking about important things that would have to be done, but for which you can give yourself a little more time.
As a deadline I would tell you to set yourself a period not exceeding 6 months to carry them out.
1. Create a landing page cover
Within the basic pages, the cover occupies a very special place.
A newly installed WordPress blog has by default the classic list of the latest published posts.
The fact of the matter is that the cover ends up being typically one of the most visited pages of your blog; normally, it is in the “top 10” of the most visited. In our case, for example, it usually oscillates around the 7-8 position typically.
Here comes the crux of the matter: of the people who make it to the cover of your blog, probably the vast majority have no idea what your site is about and a simple list of arbitrary posts does not respond well to this situation.
Theirs is that this page focuses on the essence of your blog theme. It is about a person who does not know it takes in a matter of seconds (more time is not going to give you) a good idea of what it is about.
This is much easier to get a cover designed expressly for it than with an arbitrary list of posts and is what the ” landing pages ” ( landing pages) pursue by removing all the elements such as sidebars, social buttons, etc. to focus the reader’s attention on one thing.
And if that person agrees that they have related interests, you have a great opportunity to build loyalty by offering an attractive and related incentive to these interests in exchange for being registered on your mailing list.
A good cover is simply an ideal place for this and you should therefore take advantage of it. In addition, it gives a much more professional look to your blog than the typical list of posts.
Therefore, landing pages are used not only on the main pages of a site, but also on pages dedicated to products and services (for sale or even for free products such as downloadable eBooks, etc.).
If you look at our cover, although it already needs a turn, this part can be seen very clearly.
WordPress does not have by default tools to create landing pages in conditions, for that you will need a good professional theme like Divi that also contains a separate plugin for creating landing pages that is valid for any other theme than Divi .
Anyway, in this too, as with the plugins for attracting subscribers, for example, the good ones are practically all of payment. However, in some cases you also have “freemium” versions such as the case of Forge, for example, which gives a free limited entry option.
2. Create a mailing list + lead magnet
If you ask any blogger what is the biggest mistake they have made, almost everyone will reply “not having created a mailing list with a good newsletter from the first day”. Along with a good lead magnet (incentive to subscribe, the famous free ebook, for example).
There is another very typical phrase about the importance of the mailing list on a blog (and on any website): “The money is on the list.”
And, although it is a phrase that I do not like at all, due to the connotation of greed that it transmits, the truth is very true because, in fact, it continues to be the most powerful sales channel within online marketing.
You may be surprised that a technology as “old” and “primitive” as email works so well in this and you want to know why this is so.
3. Create a solid brand image
I will not tell you anything new if I tell you that to achieve visibility your brand image is key.
Before talking about this, it should be clear that the concept of brand image is divided into tangible elements (logo, corporate colors, etc.) and intangible elements (trust, friendliness, etc.)
You will determine the intangible elements fundamentally with the value that your content contributes and the actions that you carry out with your audience , actions such as, for example, the language that you use, your more or less aggressive selling style in case of selling through your blog , etc.
This is the main theme in a WordPress blog, but the other part, the visual image is also not very important. They would not put it on the same level with the content and actions, but a good aesthetics and organization of your content transmits professionalism and thus gives you points of trust from the outset to whoever visits you.
So without obsessing over it, you shouldn’t take too long to deal with this topic, either.
My recommendation to tackle it is a “lean” approach, a first version of minimums, and then, letting a reasonable time pass (around two years, for example) and then a second phase of consolidation.
What do I understand by a minimum version?
I would tell you this:
- A “semi-professional” logo, that is, without being a logo made by a professional designer that cost you $ 3,000, it no longer has that air of “home bungling”that is seen in so many blogs. This even on a site as cheap as Fiverr, you can get it if you are looking a little calmly.
- A consistent color scheme that you choose a limited series of colors (3-4 or so) to use in your blog for the elements of the same (titles and text, buttons, boxes, etc.)
- Careful typefaces, both ergonomically and aesthetically. Luckily, in Google Fonts there are a lot of high quality and free. With a good theme like Diviyou can integrate them without problems and if not, you may find a plugin like, for example, Easy Google Fonts.
4. Measure your progress
And finally, in a project in which you invest time, effort and (where appropriate) money, you need to have clear indicators of your progress.
Among the first step plugins we have already taken a first step with the installation of a plugin to obtain basic statistics of visits such as those provided by the Jetpack plugin and for a few months you will not need more.
But when you start to have some visibility, let us focus on more than 100 visits a day, this information falls short.
At this point, especially if you start selling, you need two things to measure your progress well:
Analytical information about your visits
This means information that better analyzes your visits and information derived from them.
I will give you three concrete examples so that you understand it well:
- % of recurring visits(people who return to your site): this is an important indicator of the quality of your content and other loyalty factors such as your success in attracting subscribers.
- Bounce rate(people who leave your site immediately): it goes along the same lines as the previous one, but this indicator is also very interesting to use broken down by content. You will see huge differences between one and the other content. In some they will spend a lot of time and in other seconds they will not stay a minute. This information is gold to then analyze in each content why it happens and have an overview of which topics are the most interesting and which the least for your audience.
- Conversion rates: the% of shares you get for specific actions. Very important conversion rates are, for example, the registration rates to your mailing list or the different conversion rates of purchases of products or services that you are offering.
SEO information (from Google)
The other crucial information is related to your visibility in Google (and other search engines) because if you do a good SEO job and your niche is good in traffic potential, it is normal that most or, at least, a very important part of your visits, come from search engines.
In practice we can limit ourselves to Google because against Bing, Yahoo and others it is practically a monopoly.
And this means that you should be connected to the Google Search Console (formerly: Google Webmaster Tools), on the one hand, it will help your content to be indexed earlier in Google and, on the other hand, it has tons of critical information at the SEO level such as, for example, the specific searches through which traffic is reaching you and where the links to your site come from.
In the end, a post that was intended to be a simple list of points to keep in mind, has gotten out of hand (once again…) and has become a WordPress mini-course.
So much so that, if you follow these steps rigorously in the depth they deserve, and in which here obviously I did not intend, nor could I enter, I assure you that in the end you will have a blog set up with a professional level. Furthermore, many professionals widely fail to comply with this list.
That way, do not worry, here there are many hours of work and you have to tackle them step by step assuming that you are not going to be able to do all this in a week, although obviously it is not a matter of relaxing excessively either.