website setup checklistYou know you need a website and you know that WordPress is an excellent platform for managing a website. (If you don’t know these things, just trust me. You do and it is.) The question is how do you set up WordPress to work for you? Here is a handy checklist you can use to set up WordPress and configure it so that your website is up and running in no time.

  1. Choose a topic – Okay, many of you will already have this down – particularly if you are starting a website for your business or organization. If not, pick a topic that interests you, that’s focused, and that has a potential audience. If your aim is to make money, pick one that also has some advertising or affiliate potential.
  2. Secure a domain name – Check to see if your preferred domain name is available. If so, secure it immediately.
  3. Find a web host that offers free scripts to automatically install WordPress for you. This should not be hard. In fact, we offer great deals on hosting with automatic installation of WordPress.
  4. Install WordPress using the automatic scripts. With NetFlint hosting simply go into your hosting control center and click the big “Your Applications” button. Click the WordPress quick install script under the Blogs heading. Click the big “Install Now!” button and follow the instructions. It may take a few minutes for installation, database creation, and configuration to complete.
  5. Log into WordPress for the first time – Webmaster, meet WordPress Dashboard. Dashboard, meet your new Webmaster. There’s a lot here so don’t get overwhelmed. This is where you will control your whole site.
  6. Configure all General Settings – Click the “General” link under the “Settings” header at the bottom of the far left side. Type in your blog name and tagline and make sure you like the the rest of the settings. Click the “Save Changes” button when finished.
  7. Configure Discussion Settings – Click the “Discussion” link under the “Settings” header at the bottom of the far left side. Comments are one of the great benefits of using WordPress for your website. Comments allow interaction with your audience.
    • I recommend allowing comments, pingbacks, and trackbacks on your posts. Check the first three boxes to allow these.
    • Check the box next to “Comment author must fill out name and e-mail”. This may prevent some frivolous comments and spam and will allow you to interact with individual audience members outside of your comments section if necessary.
    • Check the box next to “Enable threaded (nested) comments” if your theme supports it. Threaded comments are very handy. I recommend finding a theme that supports this feature and using them.
    • Allow comment page breaks if you prefer.
    • I like to be emailed when someone comments or a comment needs moderation. Check these two boxes if you want to be responsive to your audience too.
    • I like to moderate first time commenters and then give them the benefit of the doubt, so I uncheck the box next to “An administrator must always approve the comment” and check the box next to “Comment author must have a previously approved comment”
    • You shouldn’t need to change anything under Comment Moderation or Comment Blacklist at this point. If you see a lot of abuse, keep in mind that you have these options available to you. Using the Akismet Spam blocker prevents most of this automatically.
    • Avatars are the little pictures that sometimes show up next to comments. Using them is a matter of preference. I like them. Even if you have this option enabled, you will not see avatars if your theme doesn’t support them.
    • Don’t forget to click the “Save Changes” button when finished.
  8. Check your Privacy Settings – Click the “Privacy” link under the Settings header at the bottom of the far left side. If you want the world to find your website in search engines (and most website owners do), make sure that you select the radio button next to “I would like my blog to be visible to everyone, including search engines (like Google, Sphere, Technorati) and archivers”. This is important if you are trying to run a business.
  9. Set Permalinks to something SEO and user friendly. This small change can do a world of good to your search engine relevancy and rankings. Permalinks are the URL address convention used for the site. These show up in the address bar of your browser. By default your permalink structure is “″. This doesn’t mean much to people or search engines. You want to change it to include the post title to make it more useful. Click the “Permalinks” link under the Settings header at the bottom of the far left side. Click the radio button next to the Permalink structure that best suits your site.
    • If you are running a blog or news site then click the radio button next to “Day and Name” or “Month and Name”. Both are excellent choices.
    • You can also use a custom structure.  I sometimes use /%post_id%/%postname%/ on WordPress Sites where the information is timeless and I don’t want to emphasize the date of the post.
    • Whatever you choose it is important to have a number field (like %year% or %post_id%) at the beginning of your Permalink structure and the Post Title (%postname%) at the end of your structure. You can find more information about Permalinks on the WordPress Codex.
    • Click “Save Changes”
    • In order to complete the permalink structure change, you need to make sure that the .htaccess file in your root directory is writable. You can do this using an FTP client like Filezilla or the web based file manager provided with your hosting account.
    • For more information about editing the .htaccess file check out the WordPress Codex.
  10. Check out the rest of the Settings categories if you are not already familiar with them. I didn’t mention them specifically, because I leave the default settings. You may have other preferences.
  11. Install and activate the following plugins: Go to the Plugins section. You can find and install plugins by clicking the “Add New” link under the Plugins section header. These are the plugins I use on every site. On some sites I add other plugins to make them unique. Feel free to use these or any alternate plugins that give you the features and functionality you need. Make sure you read the installation instructions and FAQ for each plugin you install.
    • Akismet Spam Filter – This should come with your installation and will be listed in your Installed Plugin list. In order to activate it, you must enter an API Key. You can get this key for free by signing up for a account.
    • WordPress Database Backup – This is an important plugin that you want to configure right away. I set up a Gmail account and configure this plugin to email a database backup on a daily or weekly basis. I do this in addition to other manual and automatic backup plans.
    • Stats – This is also from Akismet and requires the same key. There are better stats packets, but this one is simple and convenient because it is accessible from the dashboard.
    • Google XML Sitemaps – This is a great plugin. Install it, activate it, configure it, and make sure you register your site and sitemap with Google Webmaster Tools
    • Google Analytics for WordPress – This is more than a great free stats package. It’s sophisticated analytics. You must sign up with Google and register your site before you can configure your plugin. Analytics reporting integrates directly with Adwords. If you are running Adwords campaigns you would be foolish not to take advantage of it.
    • FeedBurner FeedSmith – Sign up for Feedburner and then configure this plugin. It lets you track all of your RSS subscribers.
    • Yet Another Related Posts Plugin – There are many related posts plugins. I happen to like this one because it lets you add related posts to your site and your RSS feed. This is a simple tool for keeping interested people on your site longer.
  12. Upload a theme.  You can download a free theme, buy a premium theme (Good choices are: StudioPress or WooThemes), use the #1 WordPress Theme Generator, or create your own from scratch. Look for a theme that has good SEO built in, that looks sharp, works with all modern browsers (and some not so modern browsers because a good percentage of your customers are still using them), and takes advantage of all the latest features of WordPress like threaded comments and sticky posts. Generally you will upload your theme files into the /wp-content/themes/ directory and then activate it in your WordPress dashboard by clicking “Themes” under the “Appearance” heading. Always read the installation instructions that come with your theme.
  13. Write an about page – No really. Write it. Write it now. The about page should state your mission, identify you or your organization, establish credibility and give basic information about the purpose and use of the site. People look there. Really. Even if you have your doubts, write your about page to help you formulate and understand the mission of your website. This allows you to stay focused and inspired.
  14. Write relevant static pages. Do you have any important information that should go on a static page? Write those now. Some ideas for static pages include:
    • Contact information or Contact Form
    • Location, directions, and a map
    • Descriptions of products and services
    • Information for potential advertisers
    • Any important information about your site to which people need easy access
  15. Create Categories. Creating your categories now allows you to organize your thoughts and understand how you expect your website to take shape. Categories are essential to organizing your information. They also keep you focused on your topic and may help you with post ideas when you get stuck. The “Categories” link is under the “Posts” header in your dashboard.
  16. Write good posts. Congratulations! You’ve set up a WordPress site. Now get to work writing great content!

Do you have any other essential steps you use in creating your website? Are there any plugins you can’t live without? Let me know in the comments.

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