Congratulations! You just installed WordPress. Now…what do you do next?
How do you turn this blank slate into a functioning WordPress site for your visitors?
Well, a lot of that will depend on your goals. But no matter what your goals are, there are some basic actions that you should take after installing WordPress.
In this post, we’ve collected everything in one place for you.
Follow along for a beginner-friendly look at 17 important actions you should take after launching a new WordPress site.
Let’s dive in:
1. Enter basic site details for title and tagline
To get started, you’ll want to set up your site’s title and tagline. This information is usually displayed prominently on your site, especially if you don’t have a custom logo.
To set this information, go to Settings → General in your WordPress dashboard:
2. Set your site’s timezone to your local time
Your site’s timezone plays an important role in managing your site.
For example, if you schedule blog posts to publish in the future, the time is based on your site’s overall time zone. So unless you want to do mental math every time you go to schedule a post, you’ll be happier if you pick your local timezone.
To set your site’s timezone, go to Settings → General and use the drop-down:
Below the timezone drop-down, you can also set your date format, time format, and the first day of the week.
3. Configure your URL permalink structure
Your site’s permalink structure affects how your URLs look, which is important for helping both humans and search engines understand your content.
For example, which is easier to understand?
It’s the second one, right?
Well, that’s what permalinks let you control!
To set your permalinks, go to Settings → Permalinks.
For most sites, the best permalink structure is Post name. With that being said, if you’re running a time-sensitive blog (e.g. news), then you might want to go with the Day and name structure as it includes information about the publish date in the URL.
4. Pick the perfect theme to control how your site looks
Your site’s theme controls how it looks. Think of your clothing – clothing doesn’t change who you are as a person, but it lets you quickly change how you appear to the outside world.
Themes are the same – you can install a new theme to instantly change up your site’s entire looks (though we wouldn’t recommend changing your theme every day as you do with clothing!).
If you’re just getting started, there are a ton of great free WordPress themes for you to choose from.
There’s nothing wrong with using a free theme from a reputable developer, especially at the beginning. But before you choose one, it’s worth taking a look at how themes affect the security of your WordPress website.
Once your site grows, you might want a premium theme to get access to deeper functionality. But for now – you might as well keep things free!
5. Delete default content, themes, and plugins
Once you’ve installed your chosen theme, you’ll want to go through and delete all the default content that’s included with a fresh WordPress install.
First, head to Appearance → Themes and delete the default Twenty X themes. Then, head to Plugins and delete the Hello Dolly plugin (if installed).
Finally, WordPress adds some default posts, pages, and comments that you’ll also want to delete:
6. Complete your user profile and bio
On most themes, you’ll have an “Author box” that appears after your blog posts and contains information about the author of the post.
To make sure that you control what shows up there, you’ll want to completely fill out your profile by going to Users → Your Profile.
Beyond adding names and biographical information, you’ll also want to set up a Gravatar account to control your profile picture.
7. Set up your main navigation menu
Your navigation menu plays a big role in helping users move around your site and directing users to your most important content.
Usually, you’ll want to add links to your most important pages, like:
- About page
- Contact form
To create your first menu, go to Appearance → Menus and fill out the information:
Then, you can use the options on the left to add content to your menu:
8. Add widgets to your sidebar or footer
Widgets are another useful tool that helps you add content to your site. Widgets help you add things like:
- Search boxes
- Lists of your most recent content or comments
- Lists of your categories or tags
Typically, you’ll be able to add widgets to your site’s sidebar. Some themes also let you use widgets in your footer.
To set up your widgets, go to Appearance → Widgets in your dashboard.
9. Set up a static homepage (if desired)
This one isn’t required, but it applies to a lot of sites so you should definitely consider it.
By default, your site’s homepage displays a list of your latest blog posts.
Now, if you’re running a blog, that might be what you want. If that’s the case, just skip ahead!
But for a lot of sites, a static homepage is a better option. You can still show your blog posts, they’re just located somewhere else, like “yoursite.com/blog”.
To set up a static homepage in WordPress, go to Settings → Reading.
Find the Your homepage displays setting and change it to A static page. You can then select one of your existing pages to act as the homepage and another to act like the blog page.
If you don’t have existing pages to use yet, I recommend creating pages named “Home” and “Blog”:
To help you keep track of these two important pages, WordPress will clearly mark them when you go to the Pages area in your dashboard:
10. Install an SEO plugin and configure the basics
SEO, short for search engine optimization, helps your site rank higher in search engines like Google. If you want other people to actually find your site, it’s essential that you set up some SEO basics because WordPress is not optimized for SEO out of the box.
To do this, you’ll need a WordPress SEO plugin.
There are several quality options out there, but the most popular (and most beginner-friendly) is Yoast SEO.
Once you install and activate the Yoast SEO plugin, it will take you through a simple setup wizard to configure all of the most important SEO basics.
Beyond that, you’ll also want to use the Yoast SEO “meta box” to control important SEO settings for all of the content that you create going forward:
11. Set up an automated backup solution
When you’re running a website, “stuff happens” (this is a PG-friendly way of saying a lot of things can go wrong). By “stuff”, I mean unfortunate incidents like:
- Malicious actors trying to hack into your site.
- An update that causes an issue.
- A mistake where you accidentally delete something or cause an error.
- Plugin compatibility issues where the combination of two otherwise-safe plugins causes an issue.
Now, hopefully, none of these things ever happen to your site! But you need to account for the possibility that they might.
That requires taking regular backups so that your site’s data is always safe and secure.
You can sleep easy because, if anything ever goes wrong, you can always restore a working copy of your site from the backup.
Rather than relying on your memory to manually back up your site (you will forget!), a better approach is to use an automated backup solution like BlogVault.
BlogVault automatically backs up your site every day to a secure off-site location. Better yet, you can also restore any of your backups with a few clicks. Learn more about BlogVault backups here.
12. Make sure your site is safe and secure
While taking regular backups will help you get back on your feet if any security issues do occur, you also want to be proactive in protecting your site from hackers or other malicious actions.
One of the best ways that you can do that is to always keep your WordPress site updated. That alone will eliminate most security issues.
For everything else, you can use a security plugin like MalCare.
Beyond implementing security hardening rules to protect your site and login page, MalCare also automatically scans your WordPress site for malware every day. And if it does find any malicious files, it can help you fix the issue with a click of a button.
13. Add a contact form so that people can get in touch
No matter what your site is about, you’ll want a contact page so that your visitors can get in touch with you.
To add a contact form to WordPress, you’ll need a contact form plugin. There are a lot of good options out there, but the most beginner-friendly option is the free WPForms plugin.
You can build your form using simple drag-and-drop. Then, it includes a button to help you embed your form anywhere on your site (usually, you’ll want to put it on a dedicated “Contact” page).
14. Install an analytics tool (like Google Analytics)
An analytics tool helps you understand where your visitors come from and what they do on your site. It’s not an absolute necessity, but it’s really helpful for figuring out:
- Your most successful content
- Where your visitors are coming from (e.g. search engines or social media)
- How long people stay on your site
You can then use these insights to optimize your site and marketing efforts.
For example, you might find out that your site does really well on Pinterest. As a result, you might want to focus even more on sharing your content on Pinterest because it generates such a good return.
To get started, you can sign up for a free Google Analytics account. Then, you can use a free plugin like Analytics Cat to add the tracking code to your WordPress site.
To set up this functionality, go to Settings → Privacy and then click the button to Create New Page:
This will open the regular WordPress editor with some pre-filled information based on the data that WordPress automatically collects:
You should fill in some additional information based on the template. For example, you might want to expand the Who we are section.
Additionally, you might want to add some information about any analytics tools that you’re using – basically, you’re trying to give visitors a clear picture of what data you collect and store.
If you need some help, you can click the Check out our guide link at the top for a deeper explanation.
16. Configure how your comments section works
By default, visitors to your site are able to leave comments on your blog posts. If you want to disable that functionality or tweak how it works, you should go to the Settings → Discussion area and look over all of the settings.
Now, the default settings should be fine for most sites, but you can also:
- Only let registered users comment
- Automatically close the comments section on posts older than X number of days
- Set up comment moderation rules and notifications
17. Set up anti-spam functionality (if you’re allowing comments)
If you do opt to allow comments on your site, you’ll want to put some anti-spam measures in place to ensure that you don’t waste your time moderating automated spam comments.
To do that, you’ll need an anti-spam plugin like the free Antispam Bee plugin.
This plugin runs incoming comments through a number of checks to filter out spam without any manual effort on your part.
Enjoy your new WordPress site!
And that wraps up some of the most important things that you need to do after installing WordPress.
By working through this checklist, you should have a site that’s ready for prime time – all you need to do is add content and start attracting visitors!
Written by Adam Connell: Adam used to manage marketing & website development projects at a UK based agency. Now he teaches bloggers and business owners how to get more customers online. Find more from Adam at Blogging Wizard and Funnel Overload.