Let’s talk about setting up a WordPress blog.
Setting up WordPress can be pretty overwhelming for beginners. One look at the sidebar provides you with tons of options that can either make or break your blog.
These things are super important if you want to set your blog up for success. Things like optimizing your site for speed, search engine compatibility, and user experience are crucial if you want to hang with the competitors.
I can’t even tell you how much I wish someone had told me these things when I started blogging. The further along you get in your journey, the harder these things are to change.
Trust me… it’s best to get them right from the start.
But have no fear! This post is all about the ten most important steps to take when starting a WordPress blog. So pull up a chair and grab a notepad… you’re gonna want to write these down…
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*This post contains affiliate links meaning that if you make a purchase after using them, I earn a small commission, which helps support this blog at no additional cost to you. Keep in mind that I only link to quality products that I use myself and feel would be beneficial for my readers. Read my full affiliate disclosure for more information.
1. Kick Jetpack to the Curb
This might be hard for you to do, but you gotta ditch Jetpack.
Jetpack is the generic plugin that comes with all WordPress installations. It does a bunch of different things like showing real-time traffic stats, brute force protection, image hosting, and downtime monitoring… to name a few.
It was designed to bridge the gap between WordPress.org and WordPress.com.
Sounds great, right? Well, the problem is that it’s full of bloat that drags down your website.
Even though you can deactivate the modules you don’t use, it’s still a colossal plugin. It’s much more efficient to replace the modules you use with faster alternatives.
Site speed is a HUGE factor of SEO (search engine optimization) and shouldn’t be taken lightly. Not only does Google favor the quicker websites in search results, but you’ll also lose readers when the speed is lacking.
If you want to get serious about speed, you have to lose Jetpack.
2. Set up Google Analytics
Now that you deleted Jetpack, you’ll need a way to keep track of your stats. The good news is that Google Analytics is way more useful, so be sure to set it up right away.
The easiest way to do this is to download a free plugin called Insert Headers and Footers, which allows you to insert additional code into the header or footer of your blog.
For a full tutorial on how to do this, check out WPBeginner’s Google Analytics installation guide.
Some quick tips:
- Install Google Analytics in the footer (instead of the header). It runs the same but better for speed.
- Make sure not to add the code to multiple plugins; you only need it once… otherwise, your stats will be incorrect.
- Download the Google Analytics app on your phone to check your stats on the go.
3. Change Your Permalink Structure
The closer your keyword is to the base URL, the heavier weight Google puts on it. For instance,
is easier for Google to understand than
In the second example, the words at the end of the URL probably won’t even be read by Google. And anything you do to help Google understand what the article is about is beneficial for SEO.
Furthermore, people don’t like to read old content. Having an old date tied to an article might give the reader the wrong impression… even if you keep the post updated.
But want to know what’s worse than dates in your permalink? Not using keywords at all
WordPress’ default permalink structure is to add a “?p=123” to the end of the base URL. This is a really bad thing.
is a million times better than
Making The Change
To change your permalinks, go to the Settings > Permalinks option on the sidebar.
Change it to the Post Name option, and then, voila! You’re all set!
If you already have a lot of content under a different permalink style, don’t try to change it yourself. The damage from the broken links will significantly outweigh the benefits of a good permalink structure.
This setting should only be
4. Adopt The Right Theme
The theme of your blog is the aesthetic part that the user sees. It’s imperative to have a clear, organized theme that draws the reader in.
Would you ever take advice from a website that straight out of 1997? I sure wouldn’t.
The good thing about themes is that there are so many options available, and you can find something to fit any style you desire.
But do remember that not all themes were created equally; it’s definitely worth investing in a high-quality theme.
Here are some things to look at:
- SEO: Your theme should be optimized for search engines if you ever want to show up on Google.
- Lightweight: While it may be tempting to go with a bunch of different features (like a live Instagram feed, large image carousels, fancy sidebar widgets, etc.), remember that these things slow down your site. Speed should be a top priority.
- Responsive: Most of your traffic will come from mobile devices, and Google prioritizes mobile-friendly sites. A responsive theme will resize to look better on mobile devices.
- Brand: Does your theme resonate with your brand? A cohesive website is essential for a successful business.
I use GeneratePress on both of my websites; I couldn’t even bring myself to use something else if I wanted to.
A while back, I had a speed audit done on my website, and the first suggestion was to change my theme to GeneratePress. As soon as I did so, my PageSpeed score increased by several points.
Not only is it super lightweight, but it’s also highly customizable, incredibly fast, responsive, optimized for SEO, and really easy to use.
5. Set Your Sidebar
I always put a picture, a small blurb about myself, and social media links at the top of my sidebar. This shows readers who I am and why they should trust me.
You can add a few widgets here as well, but remember that it’s best to keep it simple. Too much clutter looks unprofessional and will quickly overwhelm the reader.
While things like “popular post” widgets and live Instagram feeds look cool, the reality is that they kill site speed. Plus, I’ve found that most readers never even interact with them.
Of course, you should always test things and find out what works best for your site. If Instagram is a huge part of your strategy, you might have more success than I did.
I suggest using Hotjar to see how users interact with your website. If certain widgets aren’t getting engagement, get rid of them.
Another thing to think about is ad revenue. If you plan to monetize your blog with ads, a minimal sidebar is necessary for higher RPMs.
Some ad networks will even request you to have a clean sidebar. For instance, one of the best performing ads on Mediavine goes there, and the longer it’s in the reader’s view, the better it performs.
Shorter sidebars translate to more money for you and them.
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6. Pick Your Plugins
Plugins are smaller modules of software that increase the functionality of your WordPress blog. For example, professional bloggers often use social sharing or SEO plugins to get more traffic.
While some plugins are required for success, be careful not to overdo it. Having too many is just another way to drag down your site.
There are thousands of plugins out there, but I’ll show you my top five favorites for the sake of time. To see all the plugins I use, check out my ultimate list of blogging resources.
✓ Yoast SEO – This plugin is a MUST! It helps optimize your blog posts for a targeted keyword/phrase (like “setting up a WordPress blog”), which will help you show up in Google searches. The paid version is awesome, but the free one works just fine for beginners.
✓ Grow Social Pro – This one adds social media share buttons to your posts, “pin it” buttons to your images and even allows you to customize what will be shown when someone shares your post.
✓ WP Rocket – Remember how vital page speed is? This plugin speeds up and optimizes your site with just a few clicks.
✓ ShortPixel Image Optimizer – In our ultra-visual world, it’s essential to use images that break up your posts. But, on the other hand, too many pictures will kill your site speed. ShortPixel compresses and optimizes images to help your page stay fast.
✓ Insert Headers and Footers: This allows you to add code to the headers and footers of your site. Useful for setting up things like Google Analytics without adding another plugin.
7. Format The Menu
One of your main goals should be to keep people on your site for as long as possible. To do this, you’ll need an easy way for the reader to navigate your content.
A clean menu bar is necessary for a successful blog.
The first thing you should have on your menu is a link to your home page. This can simply say blog or even home.
Next, you should have a solid “about me” page. Trust me… your readers want to know more about you and what you can offer them.
What is your experience with
The next thing you should do is link to different tags or categories in the menu. This filters out certain topics and helps your readers navigate your content more efficiently.
Last but not least, link to a contact page with all your deets. This can be short and sweet, but make sure it’s there.
It’s totally acceptable to add whatever else you want to the menu as long as you keep it clean and simple. Too much chaos will drive the people away
8. Make Sure Google Can Find You
This part of setting up a WordPress blog is incredibly straightforward but equally important.
Click the Settings option on the Sidebar, and then navigate down to Reading options. At the bottom of that page, make sure to uncheck the Discourage search engines from indexing this site option under Search Engine Visibility.
You NEVER want to discourage search engines from indexing your site unless you have a specific reason to do so. If that box is checked, you’ll never show up in any Google searches… and that’s a bad thing.
These next few steps will protect you from legal issues; get them taken care of as soon as possible.
First things first… if you plan on using affiliate links on your blog, you’ll need to link to a disclosure page in the footer. You’ll also need to add a short disclosure statement to every post that contains affiliate links.
If you don’t, the FTC could sue you. Yikes.
It’s always a good idea to throw in a disclaimer page as well. Again, you should link to all of these pages in the footer so that people can easily find them.
It’s important to point out that I don’t know much about law. If you need further help with these pages, I recommend consulting with a lawyer or looking into pre-made templates.
10. Tags and Categories
The last thing I recommend is to have your taxonomy structures set up before you start writing.
I really messed this part up when I started blogging – I had way too many categories and tags. I even had a tag for every keyword variation (ex: hair dye, hair color, hairdye, etc.)
This is bad practice. Everything should be clean and simple to follow.
Site structure is
What to do instead:
Categories should be broad; this helps group your content into smaller sections. For example, this blog has Life Hacks, Side Hustle Ideas, Personal Development Tools, Manifestation Tips, and Positive Vibes as categories.
The categories are the main pillars of your blog.
Tags are used as additional ways to break down the categories. For instance, Side Hustle Ideas can have tags like Blog Tips, Business Ideas, and Social Media Marketing.
You can also use them to break up your content in other ways, like Latest Blog Posts or Summer Decor.
WordPress has different options. You can get a free blog from WordPress.com. However, if you ever want to turn your blog into a business, you’ll need to self-host a blog through WordPress.org… which does have some upfront costs.
I use SiteGround to host both of my blogs. Here, you can find packages that start at $3.99 per month.
You can have your blog installed within a few minutes through SiteGround. Once you get to that point, you need to do some housekeeping… like installing a theme and plugins, setting up your menu, and everything else mentioned in this post.
I’d recommend doing some research first. What niche do you want your blog to be in? How do you plan to get traffic to your blog? What will you write about? Are people searching for these topics?
You’ll also need a computer or laptop once you have that all squared away. See all the tools I use on my resource page.
Setting up your WordPress blog is super exciting… but it takes specific steps to get it right. Optimizing your plugins, speeding up your site, and making it Google-friendly are things you definitely don’t want to skip on.
Follow these crucial steps in the beginning… and your blog will be well on its way to success.
Until next time,
Your Turn: Do you feel comfortable setting up a WordPress blog now? Are there any other steps I should add to this list? Drop your thoughts in the comments section below! 👇🏼👇🏼👇🏼
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